Monthly Archives: October 2014

“Kongo: Power and Majesty”, upcoming at the Metropolitan (2015-2016)

Kongo nkisi nkondi power figure (mangaaka).  Height: 118 cm. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008.30).

Kongo nkisi nkondi power figure (mangaaka). Height: 118 cm. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2008.30).

In 2008, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s African Art department made a landmark acquisition: a highly important Kongo nkisi nkondi power figure, attributed to the Chiloango River Master, previously in the Kegel-Konietzko collection (info). Ever since, its commanding presence welcomes visitors entering the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. The exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty, running from September 2015 to January 2016, will for the first time assemble twenty Kongo figures attributed to this artist. These nineteenth-century works will be historically grounded in relation to some 100 other Kongo masterpieces from both private and public collections. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue; for now, you can already read Alisa Lagamma’s interesting article about this figure and its maker in the Metropolitan Museum Journal here. A room full of these power figures surely will be an epic experience; many compliments to the Metropolitan for making the effort to temporarily reunite them.

Kongo nkisi kozo dog figure. Image courtesy of the Manchester University Museum.

Kongo nkisi kozo dog figure. Image courtesy of the Manchester Museum.

Agenda Fall/Winter 2014-2015

The agenda for the coming months:

“Refined Eye, Passionate Heart: African Art from the Leslie Sacks Collection” out now

African Art from the Leslie Sacks Collection

Refined Eye, Passionate Heart: African Art from the Leslie Sacks Collection, a 320 page catalogue on the modernist art dealer Leslie Sacks’ collection of African art, is finally available on Amazon. Together with Frank Herreman, I wrote an introduction about Primitivism which explores the relationship between African art, modern and contemporary art. Furthermore, I am also responsible for four texts on several objects from the Dan, Diomande and Wè. Read more about the book here (including some pictures from the inside).

Objects of the day: two Keaka headdresses from Cameroon

Keaka headdress. Image courtesy of the Linden Museum Stuttgart. Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Stuttgart, Germany (#45.455). Height: 22 cm.

Keaka headdress. Image courtesy of the Linden Museum Stuttgart. Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Stuttgart, Germany (#45.455). Height: 22 cm.

As discussed last week here a lot of heavily encrusted figures from the southern Nigeria-Cameroon border are mistakenly identified as Keaka. I illustrated my text with such a Kaka figure, but wanted to take this opportunity to show two headdresses from the Keaka (or Eastern Ejagham) to give an idea of the art they in their turn created. Just as their neighbors the Banyang and Anyang, the Keaka adopted several mask types from the Boki, most notoriously the headdresses (sometimes called crest masks) covered with antelope skin and with a basketwork cap as the base for the dancer’s head. The two examples illustrated here belong to Stuttgart’s Linden Museum in Germany. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any additional information about them but they can most likely be dated as late 19th century (as many similar examples in German museums). Unless the exact provenance is given, It’s not always easy to determine the precise origin of these headdresses, that’s why we often find them listed as Ekoi (the common language in this area). Keaka examples generally distinct themselves by their naturalism (notable in the oval eyes, nose and mouth).

Keaka headdress. Image courtesy of the Linden Museum Stuttgart. Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Stuttgart, Germany (#33.286). Height: 29 cm.

Keaka headdress. Image courtesy of the Linden Museum Stuttgart. Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Stuttgart, Germany (#33.286). Height: 29 cm.

Map from Blier (S.P.), Africa ́s Cross River. Art of the Nigerian-Cameroon Border Redefined, L. Kahan Gallery, New York, 1980: p. 3.

Map from Blier (S.P.), Africa ́s Cross River. Art of the Nigerian-Cameroon Border Redefined, L. Kahan Gallery, New York, 1980: p. 3.