A couple of years ago, when I was working for a local art-event, I was pleased to discover the above painting at one of the participants. It was made by Fernand Allard l’Olivier (Tournai, 1883-Yanongé, Belgian Congo 1933), one of the most important Belgian Africanists (the artists, not the scholars in this case). It features a pair of Songye kifwebe masks, accompanied by multiple musicians and dancers. Curiously enough women are present during the depicted masquerade – perhaps an addition by the painter to fill the canvas? Anyhow, the detail in which the scene is depicted is remarkable – check those costumes! Painted between 1928 and 1933, it is a very early in-situ recording of these mask’s existence. In 1928 Allard l’Olivier made his first trip to what was then the Belgian Congo where he made copious sketches and drawings – scenes of daily life, dancers, musicians, rituals and so on. Allard l’Olivier’s second mission to Congo was also his last, brought to a tragic end when he drowned in the River Congo. The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp has some of his monumental paintings, and his works hang in the museums of Tournai and Tervuren as well.
(Click the image to zoom.)