Book review: Schnitzer der Lobi (Petra & Stephan Herkenhoff, 2013)

Ever since Bernard de Grunne published Mains de maîtres / Masterhands in 2001, African art researchers, collectors and dealers have been trying to identify new workshops and artists. Stephan and Petra Herkenhoff’s Schnitzer der Lobi follows this trend. Schnitzer der Lobi (“Lobi artists”) is the second volume in a series wishing to bring a systematic review of the carving styles of Burkina Faso’s Lobi peoples. The first volume, published in 2006, documented 23 artists and their artistic production. The new book adds 16 new Lobi sculptors and workshops to this inventory, joined by 30 individual objects. Multiple figures illustrate each style, accompanied by a meticulous analysis of its defining characteristics. Reference objects are cited and more importantly an estimation of age is given. My personal favourite was the “Master of the Frog Heads”. Almost all pictures (318 in total) were made by the two Herkenhoff sons, a job well done. The inclusion of many details and side views is very instructive. Unfortunately, with some two-page spreads the middle figure got lost in the middle slit, but this is only a small flaw in the overall very well designed lay-out. Another praiseworthy feature of this book is the inclusion of the previously unpublished field-photos by Paul Gravé from 1934 which enrich this volume. The bibliography brings a last notable feature, presenting the front covers of the most important literature on the Lobi.

This wonderful book breathes a deep-rooted passion for the art of the Lobi. Like Betrand Goy wrote in his book review in the last issue of Tribal Art Magazine, the tireless efforts of the Herkenhoff family to promote Lobi statuary deserves much recognition; this book being indespensable in every library dedicated to African art.

You can order the book here.

Additional pictures and information on Lobi sculpture is available on the website.

Schnitzer der Lobi Herkenhoff 1Schnitzer der Lobi Herkenhoff 2
Schnitzer der Lobi Herkenhoff 3
Schnitzer der Lobi Herkenhoff 4
Schnitzer der Lobi Herkenhoff 5
Schnitzer der Lobi Herkenhoff 6
Schnitzer der Lobi Herkenhoff 7

News Publications

Free African art books from the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is offering free downloads of many of their out-of-print catalogues and art books here. Among them many titles on African art:

Art of the Dogon: Selections from the Lester Wunderman Collection

Royal Art of Benin: The Perls Collection

Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture

For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection

Happy downloading !

News Publications

Ere Ibeji – Dos and Bertie Winkel Collection (Bruno Claessens, 2013)

This week, I will be presenting my first book during Bruneaf XXIII at the gallery of Pierre Loos (Impasse Saint Jacques 17, first floor). There will be a small exhibition with the ere ibeji from the Winkel collection, together with some framed pictures. I will be signing the book on Wednesday 05/06, Thursday 06/06 and Saturday 08/06 – hope to see you there !

Among the Yoruba of southwest Nigeria, the rate of twin births is over four times the worldwide average. This fact along with a high infant mortality rate gave rise to the creation of a unique twin cult. For each deceased twin, a small carved wooden figurine, or ere ibeji, was made in which the spirit of the deceased could live on. This statuette was lovingly cared for on a daily basis and in return brought the family health and prosperity. Through the lens of Jean-Pierre Depienne and the pen of Bruno Claessens, the 32 ere ibeji from the private collection of Dos and Bertie Winkel are presented in this book for the first time. After an introductory text on the subject, the extensive variety of styles of this very particular type of African art are described in depth.

Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 1
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 2
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 3
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 4
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 5
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 6
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 7
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 8
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 9
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 10
Bruno Claessens Ere Ibeji 11

After Bruneaf, you can order the book here on the website of Dos and Bertie Winkel.

Publications Research

Among the primitive Bakongo (Weeks, 1914)

A very informative book with some great field-photos, available for free here (20 MB, file info).

Among the primitive Bakongo (Weeks, 1914)

As read here, more old publications on African art are downloadable in pdf-format on the website of the Cultural Heritage Library of the Smithsonian Libraries.

We’ve been building this Congolese collection at the Warren M. Robbins Library for 33 years and are pleased to be able to share it with scholars and students globally, especially those living and working on the continent of Africa, where none of these books are likely to be found. Of particular interest is the set entitled Congo illustré, which contains historical photographs of Congolese society, Belgian colonial & missionary enterprises, and flora & fauna.

Their database can be searched here.

Publications Research

The Who’s Who in African Art

An indispensable tool for anyone doing provenance research; giving short biographies of primarily Europeans and Americans who have been connected with researching and publishing on African art, as well as with collecting and selling African art, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Compiled by Guy van Rijn, the Who’s Who in African Art lists circa 18,000 names. Around 10 % of them are joined by a picture. These names have been extracted from 50 years of auction catalogues, and from approximately two thousand books and exhibition catalogues which included the names of authors, scholars, field collectors, dealers & collectors. It is not an address list, but is meant to be used as a reference guide for background information. Following the name there will be a brief description that does not aim to be conclusive at any time, e.g. authors cannot be listed with all of their publications, and therefore only one title is mentioned. It is a work in progress; every week entries are being updated and new names are being added.

Available online here and in printed format here (the 2012 edition with a beautiful cover created by the Dutch artist Ingrid Baars).



Yours truly is also listed.



Exhibtions Publications

Kongo exhibition in Leipzig

Until June 2nd you still have the chance to visit Minkisi. Skulpture vom unteren Kongo at the Grassi Museum in Leipzig, Germany. The majority of the 118 objects are shown for the first time to the public. Many of them were acquired from Robert Visser, who worked for the Dutch trading company Nieuwe Afrikaansche Handels-Venootschap on the Loango coast of West Central African between 1882 and 1904. Visser sent home to Germany at least four large collections of ethnographic objects which he distributed among the ethnographic museums of Berlin, Leipzig and Stuttgart. Other minkisi in this exhibition were collected during the Loango-expedition between 1873 and 1876; in other words: well worth a visit!

Read more about it here


You can find more pictures here

The exhibition is also accompanied by a catalogue.

23 x 30 cm, 256 pages, 140 pictures
23 x 30 cm, 256 pages, 140 pictures

UPDATE: I just received the exhibition catalogue and it’s a must-have. 139 minkisi are presented, many accompanied by the original contextual information and published for the very first time. Excellent study material. In the back are another 60 figures (drawings and b/w pictures) with the figures that left the museum or were destroyed during the world wars. The book also features four informative articles: an introduction to minkisi in Englisch by Wyatt MacGaffey and three articles in German about Robert Visser, the Loango empire and the Loango-expedition.

UPDATE 2: a video tour is available on Youtube.


White gold, black hands. Vol. 6.

Volume 6 of the fantastic series Ivory Sculpture in Congo is due to be out on June 5th. A must have. This volume features articles on the Lega by Kellim Brown and Bernard de Grunne, as well as a study on non-figurative ivories of the Shi by Thomas Bayet & Pierre Loos.

Available during Bruneaf at Congo Gallery with a 50 € discount, so don’t sleep !

White Gold Black Hands vol. 6

Exhibtions Publications

Lega gems during Bruneaf 2013


June 2013 Bruneaf will host an exhibition with Lega objects from the Benoît Rousseau collection. Since he is renowned for his Lega collection, I’m very curious about this.

Picture: Bruneaf
Picture: Bruneaf

His name might ring a bell..  Claes Gallery did a small exhibition during Bruneaf 2012 with five objects from of his collection, you can see pictures of it here.

UPDATE: pictures of the exhibition on François Boulanger’s blog can be found here.