Object of the day: a Fon asen element

Fon Amma

Everybody knows the classic icons and masterpieces of African art by now; which makes an encounter with an object that doesn’t belong to this canon just yet always very captivating. The moment I saw the above object for the first time a couple of years ago, I could not take my eyes of it. It doesn’t matter how much (or less) one knows about the art of the Fon, the strength that radiates from this piece is mesmerizing. The two raised naturalistic hands parallel to the shaft of the miniature recade, with its top raising above the scene, is a stroke of genius. Measuring 18,5 cm, this 19th century brass element once decorated an asen, a Fon altar dedicated to the ancestors. It was placed on a circular metal tray raised on a pick (now lost). The form of the scepter seen between the two hands refers to the hammer and anvil which symbolize King Guezo (1818-1858). This piece comes from King Glele’s descendants. The brass was probably manufactured by the Hountondji family of blacksmiths who worked exclusively for the royal court of Abomey. This object was featured in Serge Schoffel’s Fon exhibition during the last Brafa in Brussels (info); it came from the private collection of Ann De Pauw and Luc Huysveld (Amma Tribal Art, Antwerp) and is also featured in the exhibition’s catalogue.

Photo source unknown (found here).