Exhibtions Publications

“Whispering Woods – The Great Lobi Statuary” exhibition catalog available online for free

The most beautiful exhibition of Lobi statuary I personally ever visited, Whispering Woods (even more poetic in French: Les bois qui murmurent), was held in the Ancienne Nonciature in Brussels during Bruneaf 2016. It was organised by Serge Schoffel and featured art from the François & Marie Christiaens Collection. Unfortunately it lasted only a week and stayed a bit under the radar. Luckily, it lives on in its exhibition catalog. Enriched with beautiful field-photos, and a text by Viviane Baeke, the good people of Bruneaf have made it available online for free here (click right to download the pdf). You’ll notice that the selection of statues is outstanding, and perfectly illustrates how good Lobi art can be.

Protective altar of the Bouroumbouroum market. Image from: Labouret, Henri, Les tribus du Rameau Lobi, Institut d’Ethnologie, Paris, 1931.


ps on this page on the Bruneaf’s website, you can also freely download their other exhibition catalogs.


Henri Labouret’s Les tribus du rameau Lobi (1931)

The University of Michigan Library has made Henri Labouret’s Les tribus du rameau Lobi (1931) freely available online. You can browse it here (including 31 pages of plates).

Henri Labouret Les tribus du rameau Lobi 1931
Henri Labouret Les tribus du rameau Lobi (1931) Gan bronzes
Henri Labouret Les tribus du rameau Lobi (1931) club whistle

Objects Research

Ladders of the Lobi vs. ladders of the Dogon

Image courtesy of Petra Schütz / Detlef Linse.
Image courtesy of Petra Schütz / Detlef Linse.

I recently discovered the fascinating website of Petra Schütz & Detlef Linse documenting their travels through Lobi-country in Burkina Faso. You can find it here; it’s great for the armchair-traveller. Going through these photos, I discovered the presence of Dogon ladders on some of these pictures. At least, a type of ladders often offered for sale as Dogon in the trade (examples 1, 23). Clearly, the Lobi made use of very similar ladders, but apparently those of the Dogon are valued higher. Personally, I can’t tell the difference.

Image courtesy of Petra Schütz / Detlef Linse.
Image courtesy of Petra Schütz / Detlef Linse.

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