Heather James Fine Art - Ethnographic Art
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Antiquities ofAfricaChinaJapanPre-Columbian South East Asia
Face Mask (Gunye ge)Dan, Ivory Coast / LiberiaWoodHeight: 20 in.2173 / AF223
Dan farmers of the Ivory Coast used this mask to represent the spirit of the bush, and to fulfill a variety of social, political and religious functions. The dark patina of this mask is typical of the northern Dan as well as its high forehead and strongly protruding mouth and full lips. The circular eye holes permit full visibility to the wearer and are characteristic of the racer mask (gunye ge) or fire mask (zakpei ge). The gunye ge hold weekly running contests in the dry season to test the prowess of young warriors. The zakpei ge also appear at the same time of year to inspect cooking fires and to chastise careless women with a switch and levy fines.
Face MaskBete People, Ivory CoastWoodHeight: 10 in.AF254
The Bete carvers are well known for the Nyaba, which goes back to the time of the Gla society. This type of mask is mainly used during funeral processions, to instill fear or detect sorcerers that can bring harm to the community. Typical of these masks are the protruding forehead, large mouth, narrow eyes and hornlike protuberances to protect the face. The Bete tribe also carved elegant statues, which have mainly been influenced by the Guro, Yaure and the Senufo people of the region. The Bete tribe lives in the southwestern part of Cte dIvoire, between the Sassandra and Badama Rivers, close to the Guro and Akan tribes.
Face MaskBete People, Ivory CoastWoodHeight: 11 in.AF 268
Bete carvers are renowned for one particular type of face mask, the gre or nyabwa, which has exaggerated, grimacing distorted features a large protruding mouth, facial protuberances, bulging forehead, elongated nose, with nostrils sometimes extending to each side of the face, and globular or bulging slit eyes set beneath a high-domed forehead carved with a medium ridge. In earlier days, this mask presided over the ceremony held when peace was restored after armed conflicts and it participated in sessions of customary justice. This type of mask was also worn to prepare men for war; the masks offered magical protection by instilling fear and terror in potential enemies. Nowadays, it is worn for a variety of ceremonies, including entertainment dances.
Deformation Face MaskPende People, CongoWoodHeight: 11 in.AF 277
Provenance:Morton Dimondstein Collection, Los Angeles
The Pende carve numerous types of masks, most of which are associated with education and initiation rituals. Wooden figures are sculpted in the northwest part of the territory. Carved stools, staffs, chairs, and swords are used by chiefs and other important people to signify their power. Pende masks, made in a realistic style, are among the most dramatic works of all African art. Like the Yaka, small Pende masks fit over the head, helmet-style. Representing the mysterious powers to which boys are introduced at initiation, Pende masks are worn in comic entertainments performed during the ceremonies.
Forehead MaskIjo People, NigeriaPainted WoodLength: 24 in.AF 291
Numbering 200,000 to 350,000, the Ijo people live mainly in the creeks and mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta area. Being fishermen and traders they depend upon the water for food and communication. The Ijo are divided into two groups: the Kalabari-Ijo, east of the Nun River, and the western or central Ijo, who live to the west and northwest of this river. Also found in the western area are more realistic masks in the form of fish or animals, which are worn on the forehead. However, the best known forehead masks of the central Ijo, which embody water spirits (owuamapu), contain depictions of human heads built up of geometric shapes and combined with zoomorphic or abstract elements.
Mask with RaffiaMbuti Tribe, Ituri, ZaireWood and RaffiaHeight: 18 in.AF 296
The Mbuti Tribe is from the Ituri Rain forest of Zaire, and has some of the smallest pygmies, with an average height of under 4 6. The Mbuti are nomadic hunters and gatherers, originating from equatorial Africa, and their weapons range from the bows and arrows of a relative tribe, the Efe, to spears and nets. Mbuti Tribes have no chief or any specific person or persons to settle their disputes; they simply have discussions and work out their differences. They celebrate important occasions such as birth, death, the maturity of boys and girls, and marriage with music, mime, and dance. No archeological evidence as of yet has been found of the history of this tribe, but early records by the Egyptians show they were known 4,500 years ago.
Face Mask (Gunye ge)Dan People, Ivory Coast / LiberiaWoodHeight: 8 in.AF 299
Dan farmers of the Ivory Coast used this mask to represent the spirit of the bush, and to fulfill a variety of social, political and religious functions. The dark patina of this mask is typical of the northern Dan as well as its high forehead and strongly protruding mouth and full lips. The circular eyeholes permit full vision of the wearer and are characteristic of the racer mask (gunye ge) or fire mask (zakpei ge). The gunye ge hold weekly running contests in the dry season to test the prowess of young warriors. The zakpei ge also appears at the same time of year to inspect cooking fires, the ever-possible conflagration, to chastise careless women with a switch and levy fines.
Kam Mask, Helmet Crest (Ngoin)Bamum People, Western Grasslands, CameroonWoodHeight 14 in.AF 301
Ngoin helmet masks from the Grasslands of Cameroon, which are so highly esteemed in the west, are the possessions of family associations. These masks never have eye holes, as they are worn atop the head. The hairstyle is reminiscent of a style reserved only for queens. This three dimensional Ngoin mask is worn on top of the head of a male dancer whos face is concealed by a thin cloth. Ngoin masks are one of several types that appear in memorial ceremonies held for important deceased persons in the kingdoms of the Cameroon grasslands. They are danced before the entire community, who view the masks with awe and reverence. They are often sculpted with different types of coiffures such as buns or spider motifs or, in this case, carved faces.
Helmet Mask (Maung)Ibo People, NigeriaWood and PigmentsHeight: 35 in.AF 303
Provenance:The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, de Young Art Trust: #71.8.1
Literature:Dwyer, The Traditional Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, 1973, p. 7.
Igbo masks are numerous and are used for initiation ceremonies and entertainment. They typically display a central crest and an elongated face. The Igbo-Izi people live in the North-Eastern part of the Igbo territory and carve an elephant spirit mask, called Ogbodo, which has tusks and an otropaic function.
Headdress Mask (Tji Wara)Bamana People, MaliWoodHeight: 19.5 in.AF 323
The tji wara society members use a headdress representing, in the form of an antelope, the mythical being who taught men how to farm. The word tji means work and wara means animal, thus working animal. There are antelopes with vertical or horizontal direction of the horns. In the past the purpose of the tji wara association was to encourage cooperation among all members of the community to ensure a successful crop. In recent times, however, the Bamana concept of tji wara has become associated with the notion of a good farmer, and the tji wara masqueraders are regarded as a farming beast. The Bamana sponsor farming contests where the tji wara masqueraders perform. Always performing together in a male and female pair, the coupling of the antelope masqueraders speaks of fertility and agricultural abundance. According to one interpretation, the male antelope represents the sun and the female the earth. The antelope imagery of the carved headdress was inspired by a Bamana myth that recounts the story of a mythical beast (half antelope and half human) who introduced agriculture to the Bamana people. The dance performed by the masqueraders mimes the movements of the antelope. Antelope headdress in the vertical style, found in eastern Bamana territory, have a pair of upright horns. The male antelopes are decorated with a mane consisting of rows of openwork zigzag patterns and gracefully curved horns, while the female antelope supports baby antelopes on their back and have straight horns. The dancers appear holding two sticks in their hands, their leaps imitating the jumps of the antelopes. From the artistic point of view the tji wara are probably the finest examples of stylized African art, for with a delicate play of line the sensitive carvings display the natural beauty of the living antelope.
Helmut Crest, Elephant MaskBamileke People, Western Grasslands, CameroonBabanki StyleWood and PigmentsLength: 21 in.AF 343
This lineage mask would have been worn principally at memorial services for the dead. The elephant, like the leopard, is considered a royal animal, and wearing an elephant mask is therefore the special privilege of only certain lineages. An elephant masquerader assumes the second most important position after the human kam masquerader. The elephant masquerader is the first to appear on the dance floor and is the last to leave, and he dances in slow and stately movements.
Face MaskYaka People, CongoWoodHeight: 12 in.AF 345
Literature:Segy, Masks of Black Africa, 1976, Ill.218
The eastern Yaka mask is called kakunga, the chief, and is considered one of the most important masks in the circumcision ceremony. The mask is generally surmounted by a richly ornamented, abstract construction sometimes resembling a Thailand pagoda; sometimes in animal shapes, made of twigs, covered with fiber cloth, and finall