Monthly Archives: September 2014

Objects of the day: three Dogon pendants from Mali

Dogon pendant not ring Bruno Claessens collection

Pendants? Yes, pendants! Commonly referred to as rings – even by the Metropolitan – these are in fact pendants. They were strung on a cotton band and tied around the waist by women during dance performances. Sometimes there were more than thirty on one belt. While they used to be quite easy to find, they are becoming much more rare nowadays, even generating a production of poorly made copies.

Opinions of what the two cone-like finials represent vary. The most common answer is that these ‘rings’ were symbols of fecundity, representing the breasts of a woman – ‘titty ring’ being used as a colloquial name. Others refer to the breasts of goats or cows. One source state that the form is based on the antlers of antelope masks (walu). Some say the resemble the typical shape of traditional Dogon granaries with pointy roofs. Or, as an informant said to André Blandin (quoted in Bronzes et autres alliages, 1988, p. 37): “I do not know what it represents, but it is part of the beauty”.

The three pendants above I received as a gift from Guy van Rijn; one for me, one for my wife and recently (this fertility object clearly doing its work) another one for our son. We use them as keychains. Since our son doesn’t have keys yet, his – the left one – has still the same color as when we got it. My wife keeps her keys in her purse, so her pendant (in the middle) only got a bit of patina, while my example (on the right) is always in my pocket. After three years the brass got very shiny again with lots of wear on both cone’s incisions and a smooth patina. File as: ‘experimental African art research’ 🙂

The Dogon build four types of granaries: two for the men, and two for the women. The most common type is the square guyo ya (female) granary. There the wife keeps her personal belongings. For some special harvest, the women use a less common round granary (guyo totori). The man of the compound has at least one high granary, the guyo ana (male), with two levels inside, for the storage of millet and sorghum. The second male type of granary, the guyo togu (shelter) serves as a dwelling for a very old man." [Hollyman S. and Van Beek W., 2001: Dogon, Africa's People of the Cliffs. Harry N Abrams, Inc.]. During his trip to Mali, Elisofon visited the Dogon people in Sanga (Sangha), a group of thirteen villages lying east of Bandiagara at the top of an escarpment. The most important villages are Ogol-du-Haut and Ogol-du-Bas. This photograph was taken when Eliot Elisofon was on assignment for National Geographic and traveled to Africa from January 19, 1972 to mid April 1972. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art, Washington.

The Dogon build four types of granaries: two for the men, and two for the women. The most common type is the square guyo ya (female) granary. There the wife keeps her personal belongings. For some special harvest, the women use a less common round granary (guyo totori). The man of the compound has at least one high granary, the guyo ana (male), with two levels inside, for the storage of millet and sorghum. The second male type of granary, the guyo togu (shelter) serves as a dwelling for a very old man.” [Hollyman (S.) and Van Beek (W.), Dogon, Africa’s People of the Cliffs, 2001]. During his trip to Mali, Eliot Elisofon visited the Dogon people in Sanga (Sangha), a group of thirteen villages lying east of Bandiagara at the top of an escarpment. The most important villages are Ogol-du-Haut and Ogol-du-Bas. This photograph was taken when he was on assignment for National Geographic and traveled to Africa from January 19, 1972 to mid April 1972. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art.

Dallas Museum of Art’s African art collection available online

Dallas Museum of Art Collection online

Great news today, the Dallas Museum of Art announced the launch of its redesigned digital database for the Museum’s collection. Last year an anonymous $9 million gift enabled the Museum to start digitizing its entire collection. The announcement today marks the first milestone of this project – to be completed by 2016 or earlier. Prior to this launch, only 7,000 works of art were published online. Of those, approximately 3,000 were illustrated with images. Today, the Museum’s entire collection of over 22,000 objects is available to the public here, and nearly 11,000 of those objects are illustrated with digital images. More information here. You can browse the African holdings here (totaling 1,885 objects). Happy clicking !

ps you can download a catalogue featuring 110 objects from the DMA’s African collection for free here.

Postcard of the day: a Yombe diviner

Postcard Yombe diviner Nail fetish nkisi nkondi

Above a fantastic old postcard, previously unknown to me, showing a collector of African art specialized in Kongo nkisi nkondi smoking a pipe in his living room. 🙂 I count four big statues, two smaller in the corner and a dog on the ground in front of them. On the right, there also appears to be hanging a zoomporphic figure on the wall. I have never see so many figures together owned by a single diviner. This picture somehow reminded me of Dennett’s drawing of a Vili diviner at work, as illustrated in his Seven years among the Fjort and shown below.

Maloango Pongo falls sick seven years among the fjort Dennett nkisi nkondi

Tribal Art Reference

Previously known as African art books, Christophe Evers’ reference website about the literature on African and Oceanic art was recently completely revamped and rebranded as Tribal Art Reference. This website is a very helpful tool if you are searching for references to articles and books on a specific region or ethnic group. Presently the main focus is providing with indexes to more than 10,000 articles of the main journals on the subject. Below an alphabetical list of the indexed magazines:

Abhandlungen und Berichte der Staatlichen Ethnographischen Sammlungen Sachsen 2005-2012
Abhandlungen und Berichte des Staatlichen Museums für Völkerkunde Dresden 1962-2002
Africa Museum Tervuren 1993-1994
African Arts 1967-2014
Africa-Tervuren 1961-1990
Art Tribal – Tribal Art 2002-2005
Art tribal (Barbier-Mueller Museum) 1987-1998
Arts d’Afrique Noire 1971-2004
Arts et Cultures (Barbier-Mueller Museum) 2000-2014
Baessler-Archiv. Beiträge zur Völkerkunde. Neue Folge (Berlin) 1952-2013
Connaissance des arts tribaux (Barbier-Mueller Museum) 1978-1986
EEthnologica – Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum der Stadt Köln 1909-2012
Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Ethnographischen Sammlungen Sachsen 2007-2010
Jahrbuch des Museums für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig 1968-2007
Mitteilungen aus dem Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig 1974-1989
Monographien zur Völkerkunde / Hamburgisches Museum für Völkerkunde 1943-1992
Münchner Beiträge – Jahrbuch des Staatlichen Museums für Völkerkunde München 1988-2012
Precolombart (Barbier-Mueller Museum) 1998-2000
Primitifs 1990-1991
Tribal 2002-2005
Tribal Art Magazine 2006-2014
Tribus – Jahrbuch des Linden-Museums Stuttgart 1951-2013
Veröffentlichungen des Museums für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig 1907-1988
World of Tribal Art 1994-2002

There’s so much knowledge available, but one has to know about its existence in the first place – and this website surely makes the search a lot easier !