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MFA Images: African

  • MFA Images: African - Slide

  • Stool

    early 20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 36.8 x 23.5 x 49.5 cm (14 1/2 x 9 1/4 x 19 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood and pigment

    Classification

    Furniture , Seating and Beds

    Accession Number

    2005.1195

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Necklace

    early 20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Diameter: 215.9 mm (8 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Glass beads, metal chain, and string

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Beads

    Accession Number

    2005.1199

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Jewelry

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  • Beaded Bag

    late 20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 25.5 x 17 cm (10 1/16 x 6 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Beads, shells, fiber

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Beads

    Accession Number

    2004.2242

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art , Jewelry

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  • Beaded Apron (Cache-sexe)

    late 20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 20.8 x 47.5 cm (8 3/16 x 18 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Beads, shells, fiber

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Beads

    Accession Number

    2004.2241

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art , Jewelry

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  • Baule Face Mask

    20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall (h x w): 31.8 x 19.1 cm (12 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Carved wood, iron peg, fiber

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    2004.2238

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Beaded Collar

    early 20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 23.5 x 10.8 cm (9 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Glass beads, buttons, and string

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment , Beads

    Accession Number

    2005.1202

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Jewelry

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  • Stool

    early to mid-20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall: 49.5 x 49.5 cm (19 1/2 x 19 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Furniture , Seating and Beds

    Accession Number

    2005.1210

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Ritual pounder (dal)

    20th century

    Description

    This female deble figure is utilized in Poro society initiations and in the memorial ceremonies conducted long after actual burial that initiate the soul of the dead into the society of the ancestors. Poro society members carry it by its arms while rhythmically beating the ground with its base to purify the earth and/or to communicate with the other world. Such figures are usually carved as a male-female pair and are preserved within a sacred grove. The slender torso and enormously attenuated arms accentuate the negative space, while curves in the frontal view contrast with angularity in profile. This figure from the Boundiali region was collected in 1956 and was included in the 1963 Senufo exhibition curated by Robert Goldwater (but arrived too late to be included in the catalogue).

    Details

    Dimensions

    88.9 cm (35 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, shell

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.390

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Beaded crown (Adenla)

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description
    Details

    Medium

    Glass beads, fabric, thread

    Classification

    Personal accessories

    Accession Number

    1998.566

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Yoruba house posts

    early 20th century

    Carved by Obembe Alaye, Nigerian, about 1869–1939 Nigerian

    Description

    Yoruba cities are often dominated by extensive, centrally located palaces with verandas and courtyards. Roofs are supported by wooden posts, sometimes carved with images of royal stability and power. Obembe Alaye carved this pair for the Efon-Alaye palace. Each post is composed of one warrior and two female figures. All are large-headed and sharp-featured three-dimensional forms encased in a darkened patina of red, green, and black paint. Three of the women hold infants; one warrior is on horseback; the other bears a spear and musket. One base is rectangular, the other dome-shaped, and the tops terminate with reliefs of spears.

    Details

    Dimensions

    210.82 cm (83 in.)

    Medium

    Wood and pigment

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.388

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • House post

    early 20th century

    Artist Obembe Alaye, Nigerian, about 1869–1939 Nigerian

    Description

    Yoruba cities are often dominated by extensive, centrally located palaces with verandas and courtyards. Roofs are supported by wooden posts, sometimes carved with images of royal stability and power. Obembe Alaye carved this pair for the Efon-Alaye palace. Each post is composed of one warrior and two female figures. All are large-headed and sharp-featured three-dimensional forms encased in a darkened patina of red, green, and black paint. Three of the women hold infants; one warrior is on horseback; the other bears a spear and musket. One base is rectangular, the other dome-shaped, and the tops terminate with reliefs of spears.

    Details

    Dimensions

    207.01 cm (81 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigments

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.387

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Bowl bearer (mboko)

    late 19th–early 20th

    Description

    A kneeling female bowl-bearer called mboko is one of several important sculptural genres found throughout the wider area of Luba influence. Commonly placed before the house of a woman who has borne her first son, these works were also employed in divination contexts. This heavily patinated example from the central Shankadi region has a distinctive cruciform coiffure and raised diamond-shaped keloids on the torso. The detachable lid of the bowl bears a similar head with slit eyes and composed features.

    Details

    Dimensions

    46.99 cm (18 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.386

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Vessel for serving beer (Izikhamba)

    20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Height x diameter: 12 1/2 x 15 Diameter in. (31.8 x 38 Diameter cm)

    Medium

    Blackened terracotta with incised decoration;

    Classification

    Ceramics , Pottery , Earthenware

    Accession Number

    2000.1237.1

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Ancestral figure

    20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Overall (h x w): 43.2 x 8.9 cm (17 x 3 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, camwood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2003.792

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Mask (bwoom)

    20th century

    Description

    This forceful helmet mask performed at initiations and other ceremonies related to the foundation of the Kuba kingdom and its ruling Bushoong dynasty. Depending on the context, such masks might embody nature spirits, commoners, nearby Mbuti (pygmy) forest dwellers, or the founder Woot's contentious brother Bwoom, who competed for the affections of Woot's wife-sister. The bulging forehead and lips are sheathed in copper, and lavish strands of beads ornament the surface, beard, and ears.

    Details

    Dimensions

    33.02 cm (13 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, copper, beads, cloth, shells, and seeds

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1994.414

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Punu Mask (Okuyi)

    20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    White-faced masks were emoyed by several Ogoew River peoples, chiefly he Puna and Lumbo, and also were traded widely by the coastal Mpongwe. They are said to embody the personas of past community elders and were worn by costumed stilt-dancers at Mukuji society funerary rites. This example has the characteristic three-part black coiffure, arching brows over slit eyes, and pursed red lips. The haunting combination of beauty and balance was much admired by early European collectors.

    Details

    Dimensions

    29.21 x 17.78 cm (11 1/2 x 7 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigments

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1994.394

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Mask (pwevo)

    19th–20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    This mask represents a beautiful young woman, the original female ancestor of the Lwena people. A male dancer wore the mask as he performed highly acrobatic movements, often using poles set into the ground for assistance.

    Details

    Dimensions

    39.37 cm (15 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, vegetable fiber, string, metal

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1991.354

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Mother and child (ntadi)

    19th century or earlier

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    The Kongo kingdom encountered by the Portuguese in the early 1480s was an extensive, well-organized state encompassing a diversity of affiliated peoples. The Kingdom exchanged emissaries with the Portuguese court. The elite converted to Christianity and maintained a trading partnership with Europeans for years. The power of the kind and court was affirmed by a wealth of prestige objects and emblems, including royal funerary sculptures called ntadi, which were carved from steatite and placed on graves as memorials. Intended as conceptual likenesses, they also exude the monumental composure appropriate to a person of importance. This ntadi portrays a mother nursing a child. Her headdress incorporates four leopard claws, a reference to the kind of the forest and thus a symbol of royal authority. While some ntadi represent men, many are of women, who were honored in this matrilineal society as founders and propagators of the dynasty. Some ntadi originally were painted, and flecks of green remain on this figure.

    Details

    Dimensions

    35.56 cm (14 in.)

    Medium

    Steatite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1991.1063

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Power figure (nkisi nkondi)

    19th–20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    This sculpture, called nkisi nkonde, functioned as a hunter-healer of conflicts. The figure was commissioned, owned, and activated by the nganga specialist, who was trained and tested as a counselor or mediator skilled in treating afflictions of the body and spirit. Nails or blades were hammered into the work to seal a vow or to awaken its power to solve a problem or dispute. Whitened with pigment and leaning subtly forward, the figure has an open mouth suggesting the uttering of judgments, and mirrors in the abdomen and eyes to deflect danger.

    Details

    Dimensions

    61 x 30.5 x 20.3 cm (24 x 12 x 8 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, glass, iron nails, pigment, sacred material

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1991.1064

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Diviner's Bowl (opon igedeu)

    Artist Arowogun (Areogun) of Osi-Ilorin, Nigerian (Yoruba...

    Description

    One of the most prolific Yoruba artists was Arowogun of Osi-Ilorin, whose commissions included palace doors and pillars as well as smaller objects, such as this bowl, which was used for the storage of ritual materials in Ifa divination ceremonies, widely practiced among the Yoruba. It was used by the babalawo (father of secrets), a priest and diviner for Ifa, the Yoruba god of wisdom and divination. Reliefs around the side include images of the trickster/messenger god Esu, a warrior, a drummer, and women. On the lid, Esu-his book and pipe nearby-is depicted as a bicycle rider, a signature of Arowogun's work and a reference to the role divination continues to play in modern life.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height: 31.11 cm (12 1/4 in.) Diameter: 29.21 cm (11 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment traces

    Classification

    Ritual Objects

    Accession Number

    1991.1066

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Mask (bikeghe)

    Late 19th to early 20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    Masks such as this one appeared in Fang initiations and at other ceremonial occasions largely concerned with community crisis and protection. Some of these masks are elongated, others have two or four faces. Both types frequently show white, heart-shaped faces framed by arching brows. This large mask with variegated coloring is called bikeghe and is said to represent a part-human, part-animal force responsible for ensuring social order. Its aggressive projecting brow and sharp nose may have been intended to induce respect or fright.

    Details

    Dimensions

    48.26 cm (19 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1991.1067

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Figure

    Late 19th to early 20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    According to Dogon cosmology the creator god Amma and the female earth joined to create the Dogon primordial ancestors, known as nommo. Wooden sculptures said to represent these nommo spirits or their worshippers were carved by blacksmiths and placed on family altars. This figure illustrates the typically Dogon elongation of torso and neck, and the contrasting interplay of curving and angular, vertical and horizontal, elements. The combining of both male and female characteristic is also common.

    Details

    Dimensions

    height: 50.8 cm (20 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1991.1068

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Male ancestor figure

    19th–20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    Forceful images such as this one were created by Mambila artists as foci for protective spirits in the healing rituals of the Suaga association. The human type, known as tadep, usually has a large face and often displays the hand-to-mouth gesture implying deference. These characteristics were radically simplified in the unusual example shown here. The small concave face seems to be compressed by the triangular ears and overhanging brow. The body has been transformed into an inhuman cylindrical form of deep angular planes with serrated edges, creating an effect of explosive energy.

    Details

    Dimensions

    66.04 cm (26 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1991.1082

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Gelede headdress

    late 19th century

    Artist Master of Anago, Late 19th century

    Description

    The Gelede society honors the creative and potentially destructive powers of women, especially elderly women (referred to as "our mothers" and identified with sorcery). At annual celebrations marked by elaborate dance performances, paired male and female masks worn by men appear in rich textile costumes complete with wooden breasts. This mask, with delicate incising but no paint, presents an aesthetic contrast between the sharp-bladed headpiece and beard, and the round-featured, serene face. It is one of several distinctive pieces credited to an unnamed late-nineteenth century carver in the Anago area of what is now the Republic of Benin, near the Nigerial border.

    Details

    Dimensions

    41.91 cm (16 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1991.1081

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Shango staff

    early to mid-20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    The Yoruba religious world has a pantheon of deities called orishas, whose identities and attributes are recorded in ritual objects. Priests and devotees of Shango, the fiery god of thunder and lightning, commission dance staffs to invoke his striking power and protection. These usually depict a sensuous female figure bearing on her head the twin celts or double-axe emblem of Shango. This polished staff, which includes a child on the woman’s back, may have come from the Agbegi compound of Ijomu in the Igbomina-Oro region.

    Details

    Dimensions

    54.61 cm (21 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1991.1070

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Female figure

    19th–20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    More than a hundred chieftaincies are identified with the Grasslands. These were often rivals for both territory and self-aggrandizing arts. Probably from a court in the Bamileke area, this expressive, seemingly pregnant female figure most likely represents a royal wide or mother. Wearing royal anklets, she shows the hand-to-chin gesture meant to temper speech in the presence of the fon, or king. A large square hold in the back suggests that this work may have been detached from a palace facade, or that it once contained empowering medicines.

    Details

    Dimensions

    93.98 cm (37 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment, traces of red and white camwood powder

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1991.1069

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Helmet mask

    late 19th to early 20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    Commissioned and worn by women, although carved by men, this mask was associated with the education and socialization of young Mende and Vai females, as supervised within the Sande society. Senior women wore these masks at the termination of initiation ceremonies in order to embody their patron spirit persona of fecundity and grace, known as Sowei. The high forehead, compressed triangular face, and voluminous neck rolls, the latter of which signifies both wealth and beauty, are characteristic. Carved from light bombax wood, the mask is blackened and oiled to approximate supple skin.

    Details

    Dimensions

    36.19 x 20.8 (width) x 27.3 (depth) cm (14 1/4 x 8 3/16 x 10 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Wood with black pigment and metal

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1992.401

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Altar (asen)

    mid-19th to early 20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    Forged iron staffs were placed in Fon family shrines as memorials to the dead. This example comes from Ouidah, an important coastal trading town. The platform tableau consists of a central figure with top hat and pipe, seated before a table arrayed with containers and flanked by sacrificial animals, French flags, and a cross. The central figure probably represents the special minister called Yovogan, who was named by King Guezo (1818-1858) to oversee foreigners and trading houses in Ouidah.

    Details

    Dimensions

    160.02 x 43.18 cm (63 x 17 in.)

    Medium

    Iron, iron oxide encrustation

    Classification

    Ritual Objects

    Accession Number

    1992.400

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Attie figure

    late 19th–20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    The Attie are a coastal Akan group in close contact with their Baule neighbors. This weathered figure was probably commissioned by a priest to represent an attendant of a deity and was housed in a shrine along with other sculptural works. While most African figures are carved from a single block of wood, this one has separate arms, pegged to the shoulders, which might be manipulated during rites. The outstretched hands suggest a supplicant's gesture.

    Details

    Dimensions

    41.91 cm (16 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1992.402

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Description

    The Bembe, Buyu, and Lega share traditions as hunters, as well as socio-religious associations such as the Bwami grade society. Initiations in the male Alunga association were marked by the appearance of a masquerader in a spherical helmet mask of abstract conception. Carved from a single block of wood, the Janus faces are defined by huge concave pairs of whitened oval eyes with black, starlike pupils. Decorated with plumes, feathers, and raffia, these evoke the powerful spirit of the forest and are kept apart from the village women and children.

    Details

    Dimensions

    35.56 x 33.02 cm (14 x 13 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigments

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1992.403

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Mask (soko mutu)

    20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    Following a long mourning period, Hemba funeral rites marked the settlement of inheritances and the celebration of restored social balance. This mask, of a type known as soko mutu, was worn at such rites on the forehead or waist of a costumed performer. At other times it would be kept in a dwelling as a protective device. The combination of chimpanzee and human features alludes to other parallel and contrasting realms; the civilized and the untamed, the living and the dead. More humanized than many such works, the wide, threatening mouth is here balanced by the curving lines of brows and eyes.

    Details

    Dimensions

    18.41 cm (7 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1992.407

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Description

    Containers such as this one integrate human features into an elegant object of personal use. Superb craftsmanship affirmed the owner's status, wealth, and aesthetic sense. Interlocking strips of bark form the central hollow core, while the wooden legs and uplifted face are carved in the round. Collected in the 1890s, it was formerly in the Hamburg collection of Umlauff, an importer and exhibitor of zoo animals who also brought an array of African groups to Europe to perform during that same period.

    Details

    Dimensions

    39.37 cm (15 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, bark, vegetable fiber

    Classification

    Boxes

    Accession Number

    1992.408

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Mask (kifwebe)

    20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    Both Songye and Luba masking societies employed a dramatic mask called kifwebe, whose linear patterns are said to allude to history, power, and a constellation of other esoteric meanings. The aggressive Songye male type like this example has a sharp crest, protuberant angular features, and red coloring; the female type is round in shape and black in color. The overall incised and whitened striations on both types enhance their sculptural power.

    Details

    Dimensions

    50.8 cm (20 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment, and hair

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1992.409

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Head crest in elephant form (ogbodo enyi)

    20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    This type of mask called ogbodo enyi (spirit elephant) refers to the strength and endurance of this majestic animal. Elephants feature prominently in the thought of many African peoples and are often associated with political and spiritual power. In northeastern Igbo country, male members of associations that grouped men according to age wore elephant headpieces such as this one horizontally on top of their heads. They danced in fast-paced solo performances during annual festivals. The masquerade, which celebrated the contribution of different groups to the well being of the community, is primarily an entertainment today.

    Details

    Dimensions

    52.1 cm (20 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood and pigment

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1992.419

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Double mask (enyi ima)

    19th–20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    The round masks of the Eket are worn at funerals and agricultural festivals for the Ekong Society. Studies by anthropologists suggest that their shape may symbolize the moon. Double masks such as this one are rare.

    Details

    Dimensions

    52.5 x 28 cm (20 11/16 x 11 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment, fiber

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1992.510

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Sakalava grave post

    19th–20th century

    Description

    Separated from the African continent by two-hundred-and-fifty-mile straits with powerful currents, Madagascar has a mixed population of Africans, Asians, and Arabs. Some Bantu speakers maintained family grave compounds where they erected large, wooden grave posts commonly called aloala, translated as "shadow of death." These works are sometimes carved with geometric motifs that suggest Islamic influences; others show human figures whose proportions are more realistic than those of most African sculptures. This weathered female figure from the top of the Sakalava post has one arm bent behind her back and a raised face topped by a knobbed coiffure.

    Details

    Dimensions

    83.82 cm (33 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.395

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Bow harp

    20th century

    Description

    Musical instruments and other utilitarian and prestige objects were made and exchanged among the Azande and Mangbetu kingdoms of the northeastern Congo region. At court entertainments, itinerant minstrels and retainers played gracefully curved bow harps to accompany their stories, poems, and songs. This harp, with four tuning pegs to tighten the strings (now lost) to the leather sounding box, has a sculptured head that suggests an Azande origin. Larger instrumental forms such as drums and gongs were used to communicate between villages in the area.

    Details

    Dimensions

    81.28 cm (32 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, leather, fiber

    Classification

    Musical instruments , Chordophones

    Accession Number

    1994.401

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art , Musical Instruments

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  • Mask

    20th century

    Description

    Interlocking spiders and chameleons surmount the gorilla head on this mask, worn in dances that stressed the power of the chief. The mask represents Mabu, one of the chief's emissaries.

    Details

    Dimensions

    38.73 cm (15 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1994.402

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Stool

    Late 19th to early 20th century

    Description

    The vital role of women in the structure and expansion of Luba influence is suggested by female caryatid stools, which may have featured centrally in investiture ceremonies. Women were linked to Luba legitimacy, and they served as emissaries to and diplomatic figures in surrounding chiefdoms when Luba suzerainty expanded over large parts of southeastern Congo. This kneeling figure's polished form and quiet expression embody the serenity of a bearer of authority. The four-lobed coiffure and scarification are indicative of beauty and rank, while the enlarged hands are reminiscent of the Buli style.

    Details

    Dimensions

    43.18 cm (17 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.405

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Male figure

    20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    53.34 cm (21 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigments

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.407

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Helmet mask (gipogo)

    19th–20th century

    Description

    The eastern or Kasai Pende employed several large helmet masks associated with the power of the king and chiefs. This gipogo type appeared at village healing/nurturing rituals. A boldly carved, almost spherical form, it displays protruding features and a shelf like horizontal beard edged with diamond motifs similar to Chokwe and Kuba decoration. Black and white details highlight the dominant red color.

    Details

    Dimensions

    33.02 cm (13 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1994.408

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Figure

    20th century

    Description

    Neighbors of the Mbala, Yaka, and Pende, the Hungaan were renowned for their work in iron and ivory, but little is known about the function of their distinctive wood figures. Some may have been protective spirits; others may have had a role in healing practices. This figure on short thick legs displays a swelling body and raised arms supporting the chin and crested head. Graceful braids sweep down the back. The ears have holes for attachments, and some Hungana figures were augmented by figurines or amulets.

    Details

    Dimensions

    60.96 cm (24 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.409

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Figure in the form of a hornbill (porpianong)

    20th century

    Description

    This large sculpture was borne aloft as an emblem of Poro society leadership during initiation rites. Sometimes called "the mother of Poro children," it represents the hornbill, a bird that mates for life, one of the five Senufo primordial animals. The bold juxtaposition of shapes-flat rectangular wings, round swelling stomach, elongated neck and phallic beak-creates a compelling image. Polychroming is geometric on one wing, curvilinear on the other, and covers the back entirely. The holes in the wings accommodated cords to steady its movement, and the beak bears native metal repairs.

    Details

    Dimensions

    160 cm (63 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, metal and pigment

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.415

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Power figure (nkishi)

    20th century

    Description

    Songye power figures known as minkishi range from small, privately owned images to such large community guardians such as this expressive work. They are periodically brought forth and consecrated by the nganga (ritual specialist), who charges the potency of the medicinal-sacrosanct substances packed inside or appended to them. This massive elevated figure is festooned with metal facial attachments, necklaces of beads and skins, a wooden truncheon like pestle, and metal edging of the navel and cranial cavities. The work was brought to Belgium before 1918 by M. Reisdorf, envoy to Belgian Congo, and retained in the family collection.

    Details

    Dimensions

    60.96 cm (24 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, metal, fiber, leather, beads, skin

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.413

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Mask

    20th century

    Description

    Masking forms were often exchanged and assimilated among the Igbo, Idoma, and their neighbors. Idoma mask identities also sometimes vacillated from village to village, the roles changing with each performance. This originally white-faced mask is notable for its near-perfect symmetry: matching keloids on the cheeks, a vertical forehead mark extending down the nose, and blackened lips outlining the teeth.

    Details

    Dimensions

    40.64 cm (16 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigment

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1994.412

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Head crest in the form of serpents

    20th century

    Description

    This vertical head crest is linked to a dance called nama tyétyé performed by secular village associations called Ton, which concern themselves with success in agriculture and encourage their young members to become good farmers. Part of masquerades during these Ton dances, head dresses often represent animals whose characteristics provide opportunities for moral lessons about human behavior. This zigzag serpentine form is said to refer to the deviousness of the hyena (nama), an animal also associated with imperfect knowledge.

    Details

    Dimensions

    55.88 cm (22 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, fiber

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.416

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Carved stone (atal or akwanshi)

    18th–19th century

    Description

    Sculpture in hard stone is somewhat rare in sub-Saharan Africa, yet some three hundred have been documented in the forested region of the middle Cross River. About forty groupings, often set up in the center of a village, are known to the present inhabitants. The Ejagham (or Ekoi) call them akwanshi (dead person in the ground); Bakon-speakers call the monoliths atal (the stone). The ovoid forms were carved out of volcanic boulders by grinding or pecking with stone tools to leave raised features of a human face and simplified body. A long, raised nose divides this symmetrical face. Beneath the brow, the circular eyes are emphasized by hatched borders, from which tearlike bands or keliods extend down the cheeks toward the open mouth. A V-shaped jaw or beard line points down toward the prominent ringed navel.

    Details

    Dimensions

    73.66 cm (29 in.)

    Medium

    Basalt

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.419

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Mask (deangle)

    20th century

    Description

    Masks appear among the Dan for both entertainments and as materialized symbols of spirit powers for adjudication and social control. Originally owned by individual families, masks were given specific names and promoted or demoted according to the wearer's status. This deangle mask represents a female forest spirit, with its oval face, slit eyes, full lips, and smooth surface suggesting an ideal of beauty. The headdress with cowries is but one part of the masquerade costume that consists of a tall fabric cap, colorful cape, and raffia skirt.

    Details

    Dimensions

    41.9 cm (16 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, vegetable fiber, shell

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1994.420

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Male figure (ikenga)

    about 1910

    Artist Oroma Etiti Anam, Nigerian (Igbo peoples) Nigerian (Igbo...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    109.22 cm (43 in.)

    Medium

    Wood and pigment

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1994.421

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Cup

    19th–early 20th century

    Description

    Titles and status in the elaborate Kuba court structure were signified by prestige objects of handsome form and intricate detail, such as this vessel used for drinking palm wine. The head shown on the cup bears delicate geometric bands and a matched coiffure, the small face is enhanced by a copper strip and sweeping coiffure edges identified with the Ngeende sub-style. Such cups were often carved to order by specialized artists.

    Details

    Dimensions

    22.86 cm (9 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, copper, porcelain

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    1994.423

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Helmet Mask

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    40.64 x 20.32 x 22.86 cm (16 x 8 x 9 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, vegetable fiber

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1996.121

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Chi Wara Headcrest

    mid 20th century

    Artist Unidentified, African

    Description

    The Bamana Ci wara association with which this work is identified celebrates the vital spirit of agriculture and, by extension, the fruitfulness of both the earth and humans and the ideas of regeneration. Antelope headdresses, which like nearly all Bamana wood carvings are made by blacksmiths, appear as male and female pairs at sowing and at harvest competitions, as well as at marriages. The female here displays a baby on its back, a feature typical of the type. Affixed to basketry caps, both horizontal and vertical genres exhibit stylized pierced shapes with degrees of abstraction, and are best seen in profile.

    Details

    Dimensions

    53 x 60 cm (21 x 24 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, fiber

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.369

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Female Figure

    20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    60.96 cm (24 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.370

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Seated female figure (jonyeleni)

    20th century

    Description

    Featured in Jo and Gwan society events linked to initiation, healing, and social responsibilities, idealized female figures such as this one vary in size and style, from geometric angularity to more rounded forms. This seated figure with appended earrings and beads is probably from the Segou region, though it is less elongated than some others. It shows the characteristic pointed breasts with scarification, paddlelike hands and arrow-shaped nose. Geometric incising bands the face and defines the surface of the coiffure.

    Details

    Dimensions

    45.72 cm (18 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, beads, and metal

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.371

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Male Figure

    20th century

    Description

    Fang beliefs honor the preeminence of clan elders and the vital powers of those now deceased. While the muscular, blackened Fang reliquary figures are well known, this pair, carved from a light wood and bearing traces of white kaolin, is slender and sticklike. The figures probably served as protective images for a family or village near the Cameroon-Gabon border. The heart-shaped face that recurs throughout the equatorial region has, in this case, been defined by lightly incised features.

    Details

    Dimensions

    41.27 cm (16 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigments

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.372

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Female figure

    20th century

    Description

    Living near the Bamana in southern Mali, the Malinke carve figures and masks that closely resemble those of their neighbors. This small, delicately carved figure standing on a domed base bears intricate geometric incising. A visual tension is created between the round crested head with its heart-shaped face and the vertical body with its scarification. Such figures, sometimes called dyonyeni, are thought to be idealized expressions of women and were displayed at Jo society events, among other contexts.

    Details

    Dimensions

    54.61 cm (21 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.374

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Seated female figure

    20th century

    Description

    In the widespread villages of the Senufo, a female association called Sandogo promotes women's knowledge of healing, divination, and social order. Sculptures such as this one were featured in funeral rites and other ceremonies that promoted social cohesion. This figure, carried in funerary processions by an elderly female, shows a woman seated on a birthing stool and bearing on her head another stool that may symbolize the rebirth of her spirit in the next world.

    Details

    Dimensions

    53.34 cm (21 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.375

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Female Figure

    20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    24.13 cm (9 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.376

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Dangling Male Figure

    20th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    46.99 cm (18 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigments

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.377

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Female figure

    19th–20th century

    Description

    This is a rare example of stone figurative sculpture from the Toma people, who inhabit the border region of Guinea and Liberia, where they are called Loma. It is identified as Toma primarily by the simplified face, of which the flat ovoid plane, short nose, slit eyes, and ridged brow appear on Toma wooden masks. While these latter are common to the Poro men's society, figurative sculpture was privately owned and associated with divination or protection against sorcery. Alternatively, this statue may derive from the practice of neighboring Kissi and others, who unearthed small steatite human images while farming and look on them as ancient reminders of their forefathers.

    Details

    Dimensions

    26.67 cm (10 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Stone, cloth

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.378

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    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Mask (Goli)

    20th century

    Description

    The Baule assimilated a number of their neighbors' masquerade forms: a naturalistic face mask, a horned helmet mask, and a flat circular mask called kple kple. The last of these, a male mask of junior rank, is one of several paired works that would perform sequentially in Goli society entertainments or funerals. It impersonates an unruly nature spirit that is considered to be both frightening and amusing. The flat, disk-shaped face with ringed eyes and rectangular mouth is surmounted by ears and large curving horns. The bold red coloring has contrasting touches of white, while the complementary female mask would be painted black.

    Details

    Dimensions

    72.39 cm (28 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigments

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1996.382

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Mask (mwana pwo)

    20th century

    Description

    This female mask, called mwana pwo, was identified with beauty, fertility, and other qualities. Softly modeled with an open mouth, slit eyes in oval sockets, and delicate scarification, the mask's male dancer would have worn a costume of a skirt, feathers, and false breasts. The mask is sometimes a dialogue with a male mask, called cihongo, which is emblematic of strength and wealth. The pair appears in itinerant performances that travel from village to village.

    Details

    Dimensions

    19.05 cm (7 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, fiber, metal, and pigment

    Classification

    Masks

    Accession Number

    1996.379

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Memorial screen (duen fubara)

    late 19th century

    Description

    Early contact with Europeans introduced carpentry skills that may have been appropriated by the Ijaw Kalabari in large memorial screens called duein fubara (foreheads of the dead). Commissioned by great trading families, these consist of marionette-like wood figures with separately attached arms and legs, lashed to a backing of bamboo slats (missing in this example). The colorful assemblages memorialize a seated family elder flanked by smaller attendants and emblems of prestige. Attendants here in this screen, which was collected in Buguma, wear European top hats with the feather emblem of the eskine society; the central figure has an Alagba headdress with pegs. The Pokia family of sculptors is credited with a number of late nineteenth-century screens, eleven of which were collected by Percy Talbot in 1916, ten of which are now in the British Museum.

    Details

    Dimensions

    93.98 cm (37 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, pigments, fiber

    Classification

    Sculpture , Coins

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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  • Male figure

    19th–20th century

    Description

    The Jukun are thought to be descendants of the Kororofa, a regional state that lasted from the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries. For coronations of Jukun kings and other ceremonies, paired figures were brought from shrines to receive prayers and offerings for the well-being of the community. This embodiment of a lineage founder has abbreviated legs, hands on the hips of a cylindrical torso, and an overhanging facial plane marked by large ear ornaments and metal eyes. The surface of the hard wood is unpatinated and weathered.

    Details

    Dimensions

    72.39 cm (28 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Wood, metal

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.384

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania , Contemporary Art

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  • Head

    In the style of 16th century

    Description

    Life-size heads such as this one have sometimes been called mahena yafe (spirit of the chief) by the Mende, who unearthed them in the course of farming, then preserved and venerated them. Evidence suggests that these, like smaller steatite figures, were fashioned by the Sapi people who inhabited the region when Portuguese navigators explored the coast. The handsome Afro-Portuguese ivories of this era are credited to Sapi artists as well. The coarse grey texture bears tan discolorations and scattered abrasions. Because the Sapi kingdoms were terminated by Mande invasions in the sixteenth century, these heads are often dated to about 1500. The rings on the nose and ears may be marks of status. The heavy-lidded eyes, wide mouth, and pointed teeth add to the aggressive appearance.

    Details

    Dimensions

    25.4 cm (10 in.)

    Medium

    Stone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1996.385

    Collections

    Africa and Oceania

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