Monthly Archives: January 2014

Tales of a renovation (RMCA, Tervuren)

Jo Van De Vijver © KMMA - MRAC.

Jo Van De Vijver © KMMA – MRAC.

For a blog documenting the renovation of the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), click here, a site to bookmark.

The RMCA museum building closed its doors on 1 December 2013 for an extensive renovation and will reopen to the public in mid-2017.

What happens when a museum closes for renovation? That’s what this blog is for – to share stories of the ins and out of this enterprise, from the last days of the ‘old museum’ to the development of the new permanent exhibition, and everything in between: visits made by our collection pieces to other museums, as well as accounts of the renovation itself from the architect and the contractors.

The wide array of bloggers include members of the education service, museologists, restorers, project managers, collection managers, guest curators, our partners, and more.
Posts are written alternately in Dutch, French and English.

Jo Van De Vijver © KMMA - MRAC

Jo Van De Vijver © KMMA – MRAC.

What Happened On Easter Island ?

Easter Island by Ester

For a new, nicely brought, scenario about Easter Island’s past, click here.

People can’t remember what their great-grandparents saw, ate and loved about the world. They only know what they know. To prevent an ecological crisis, we must become alarmed. That’s when we’ll act. The new Easter Island story suggests that humans may never hit the alarm.

It’s like the story people used to tell about Tang, a sad, flat synthetic orange juice popularized by NASA. If you know what real orange juice tastes like, Tang is no achievement. But if you are on a 50-year voyage, if you lose the memory of real orange juice, then gradually, you begin to think Tang is delicious.

On Easter Island, people learned to live with less and forgot what it was like to have more. Maybe that will happen to us. There’s a lesson here. It’s not a happy one.

As MacKinnon puts it: “If you’re waiting for an ecological crisis to persuade human beings to change their troubled relationship with nature — you could be waiting a long, long time.”

Field-photo(s) of the day: Maurice Delafosse – Les nègres (1927)

Maurice Delafosse, Les nègres planche_01_75

It’s amazing how many rare African art books can be found online these days; I just stumbled upon Les nègres by Maurice Delafosse from 1927. You can download the book here or directly go to plates here – including incredible field-photo’s from Delafosse himself, Petit, Muraz and the Citroën Expedition. Reminds me that I still have to make an appointment for a dental check-up 🙂

Maurice Delafosse, Les nègres planche_23_50

Kotoko Putchu Guinadji

Kotoko figure on horseback. Height: 4,8 cm.Image courtesy of Sotheby's (Sotheby's, New York, "Masterpieces of African Art from the Collection of the Late Werner Muensterberger ", 11 May 2012. Lot 58.).

Kotoko figure on horseback. Height: 4,8 cm.Image courtesy of Sotheby’s (Sotheby’s, New York, “Masterpieces of African Art from the Collection of the Late Werner Muensterberger “, 11 May 2012. Lot 58.).

I just discovered an interesting article on the process of making Putchu Guinadji talisman by the Kotoko people in Cameroon and Chad. Apparently the process of making such talisman had not been recorded up to now.

After putting together a fine collection of “Putchu Guinadji”, miniature horsemen or warriors made of bronze, silver, copper, or brass, for my museum, I became curious about these talismans that were supposedly used by mad people among the Kotoko people in Cameroon and Chad, near the Lake Chad basin, along the Logone and Chan rivers.

There is as good as no literature on the Putchu Guinadji or on their makers, the Kotoko people. Pierluigi Peroni, a collector in Italy, has published two beautiful art books on his outstanding collection but has no description of how these horsemen were activated or used. My curiosity was awakened. No photos exist of these pieces being used, and no texts explain their spiritual activation or how they are used. On December 7,2012 I flew to Cameroon with the goal of unraveling the secret of the Putchu Guinadji.

Continue reading here.

Ethnographic Museum Antwerp Collection Online

Nkanu panel. Height: 43,8 cm. Image courtesy of the MAS (# AE.1961.0077)

Nkanu panel. Height: 43,8 cm. Image courtesy of the MAS (# AE.1961.0077).

The Antwerp MAS – Museum aan de Stroom, which holds the collection of the former Ethnographic Museum, recently launched their online collection database. You can browse it here. Note that the data describing the content is only in Dutch. So figure becomes beeld and mask, masker. Unfortunately only the basic data for all of the items held in the collection database is shown; provenance and acquisition date (information so valuable) aren’t listed (yet) – I would for example love to know when the kifwebe mask below entered the collection. The images are also only in low resolution, but at least the items that are not on display in the museum – over 95% of the total – are now accessible. What is also nice is that you can leave comments with additions or reactions if you spot mistakes or gaps. Note that not all of the 400,000 objects in the collection of the MAS have already been added to the database. Happy browsing*, there’s plenty to discover! (*best not with safari since there are still some small bugs in the software)

UPDATE: both acquistion date & provenance are now also visible in extended display (info) !

Mbuun cup. Height: 20,5 cm. Image courtesy of the MAS (#AE.0281).

Mbuun cup. Height: 20,5 cm. Image courtesy of the MAS (#AE.0281).

Songye figure. Height: 40,5 cm. Image courtesy of the MAS (AE.0744).

Songye figure. Height: 40,5 cm. Image courtesy of the MAS (AE.0744).

Songye kifwebe mask. Height: 36 cm. Image courtesy of the MAS (#AE.0338).

Songye kifwebe mask. Height: 36 cm. Image courtesy of the MAS (#AE.0338).

Agenda Fairs Europe 2014

The agenda for the new year:

Winter BRUNEAF: 22-26 January 2014

BRAFA: 25 January – 2 February 2014

TEFAF: 14-23 March 2014

Paris Tribal * : 3-6 April 2014

BRUNEAF XXIV: 4-8 June 2014

Parcours des Mondes: 9-14 September 2014

Frieze Masters: 16-19 October 2014

Apparently there will be also a BRUNEAF in Hong Kong this year from 23 to 26 May 2014; I still need to find out more about this. UPDATE: apparently Bruneaf will have a booth at a Hong Kong art fair and its members are given the chance to participate with an object from their inventory.

* A new event of the Parisian tribal art galleries. Participants: Aethiopia, Galerie Bacquart, Galerie Alain Bovis, Galerie Olivier Castellano, Galerie Dulon, Entwistle, Galerie Yann Ferrandin, Galerie Flak, Indian Heritage, Galerie Kanaga, Galerie Alain Lecomte, Galerie Cédric Le Dauphin, Pascassio Manfredi, Galerie Mermoz, Galerie Anthony Meyer, Galerie Alain de Monbrison, Galerie Noir D’Ivoire, Galerie 29 Lucas Ratton, Galerie Ratton, Galerie SAO, Galerie Schoffel-Valluet, Galerie Renaud Vanuxem, Voyageurs et curieux.

Winter Bruneaf IV, 22-26/01/2014

Winter Bruneaf 4

 

The catalogue of the next Winter BRUNEAF is online; you can download it here.

My favourite object is the Ubangi headdress below (offered by Pierre Loos). Similar headdresses are illustrated on a famous painting by Alexandre Iaocovleff (also illustrated below – La Gan’za. Danse d’initiation, 1926). The sharp points of these rare headdresses are usually interpreted as symbols for phalluses. A similar example is published in Grootaerts’ magnus opus Ubangi (p. 239, #5.4).

Ubangi gaza headdress Bruneaf Loos Ameloot

Field-photo of the day: Efé children of the Ituri Forest

Image courtesy of Jean-Pierre Hallet.

Photo by Jean-Pierre Hallet, 1960s. Image courtesy of Susan Fassberg.

This beautiful field-photo was taken by Jean-Pierre Hallet in the the 1960’s. Efé children of the Ituri Forest in D.R. Congo begin the osani game sitting in a circle, feet touching, all connected. Each child in turn names a round object like the sun (oi), the moon (tiba), a star (bibi) an eye (ue) and then goes on to name a figurative expression of “round” like the circle of the family, togetherness, a baby in the womb, or the cycle of the moon. As players fail to come up with a term that is “circular” they are eliminated from the game. Eventually, only one remains. Tradition has it that this player will live a long and prosperous life. Susan Fassberg currently holds the rights and is selling posters and cards of it here.

African art from The Barnes Foundation

Standing male figure. Bini or Edo, Nigeria. Height: 56,5 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A230).

Standing male figure. Bini or Edo, Nigeria. Height: 56,5 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A230).

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, best known for its French modernist paintings, also houses one of the earliestcollections of African art in the US. Its founder, Albert C. Barnes, regarded African sculpture as the purest example of three-dimensional form, acquiring over 100 works during an intense three-year period leading up to the opening of the Foundation in 1925. Most of the African art was acquired from the Paris dealer Paul Guillaume; who also introduced Barnes to the work of Amedeo Modigliani, Giorgio de Chirico and many others.

You can browse the collection here.

Further reading: Representing Africa in American Art Museums -A Century of Collecting and Display, edited by Kathleen Bickford Berzock and Christa Clarke, which features an essay on The Barnes Foundation & Paul Guillaume and African art, by Solveig Pigearias and Michèle Hornn, Tribal Art Magazine, no. 59, Spring 2011: pp. 78-91.

Seated couple. Baule, Ivory Coast. Height: 43 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A276).

Seated couple. Baule, Ivory Coast. Height: 43 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A276).

Seated couple. Dogon, Mali. Height: 70 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A197).

Seated couple. Dogon, Mali. Height: 70 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A197).

Mask. Guro, Ivory Coast. Height: 32,5 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A106).

Mask. Guro, Ivory Coast. Height: 32,5 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A106).

Pendant (ikhoko). Pende, D.R. Congo. Height: 6,4 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A133).

Pendant (ikhoko). Pende, D.R. Congo. Height: 6,4 cm. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation (A133).