Tribal Sculpture from Africa and Melanesia

Tribal Sculpture from Africa and Melanesia

February 1, 2019March 30, 2019


Our current exhibition features late 19th to early 20th century tribal sculpture from Africa and Melanesia.

Highlights include a group of Yoruba pieces from Nigeria: a Veranda Post from Nigeria attributed to Areogun of Osi. This beautifully carved post depicts the nurturing power of women, and was featured in major European museum exhibitions; a Horse & Rider sculpture which would have been the main piece in a Shango (god of thunder) altar. The rider represents the original hunter warrior who brought his people to their current home. He is the founder/father of the clan; an Egungun Mask depicts a person afflicted by facial paralysis subtly alluding to Obatala’s faulty molding of humans. The Egungun are thought to be the materialization of the dead who return to dance amongst the living in order to keep in touch with their descendants.

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo we present a significant Songye Male Power Figure nkisi, formerly in the collection of contemporary art dealer Allan Stone. It is a magnificent example of a fetish which includes a profusion of cavities filled with magic material. At 3 feet tall this protective figure for a village was a supernatural response to cope with the disintegration of society brought on by Swahili slavers and European encroachment.

Once a prized possession of Andre Breton is a polychrome Good News Bay Mask from Alaska. This shaman’s mask, tuunrat, shows the transformation of man into the animals that help him communicate with the gods while in a trance state. Initially in the collection of the Heye Foundation and then exchanged with the famous New York dealer Julius Carlebach, Breton purchased this mask in 1944 during his New York exile. This piece was key in the development of Surrealism for Breton and other artists such as Roberto Matta, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst and Enrico Donati.

From Melanesia we feature a monumental ancestral figure from the Abelam people of Papua New Guinea. Known as nggwal, this sculpture was formerly in the Masco Collection and has been exhibited nationwide. It exemplifies the essence of Abelam art.


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