Weapons & Metalwork - African Art

Kalabari Torque
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This elegant Kalabari torque dates from before European contact. It has been expertly wrought from a single contiguous length of solid copper. Its rich, luminous green patina is the result of centuries of interaction with its environment. Substantial incising can be seen on the bulbous ends. It is 8" in diameter and comes mounted on a custom base. Price on request.
Kalabari Armlets
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Before the advent of European trade in the 16th century, hand-beaten copper coils did double duty as currency and jewelry in what is today southeastern Nigeria. The Portuguese and, later, the British introduced bronze and brass initially in the form of bars, ingots, and wire, but later in cast bracelets and ready-to-use forms as well. Europeans also introduced manufactured steel in order to barter for ivory and other valuables from the interior. This trade effectively ended the ancient practice of hand forging copper. 9.5" long. $700 each, unmounted; $750, mounted.
Large Tagere Currency
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I have a number of these in stock; the two here are the finest examples. Typically, these traditional currency objects, which hail from northeast Nigeria, are less than 12" in length. Some years ago, I had a chance to purchase a cache that were twice the size of those I had seen up until then. They were also magnificently wrought. I bought most of them, including these two. $800 each, mounted.
Matakam Currency
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The Matakam are subsistence farmers occupying the northern reaches of the Mandara Mountains in northwest Cameroon. Their land is rugged and unforgiving, but it has provided them with protection from enslavement and the exploitation of outsiders. Because the Matakam see themselves as under constant threat from external forces, they have clung to their traditions. They are indebted to their land and give prayers and thanks for the meager crops they are able to coax from the rocky soil. This is a very fine example of Matakam hoe currency. It is hand-forged from iron and most likely well over 100 years old. The iron is stable but thickly oxidized. Splashes of whitewash have blended into the surface and could be brushed out, although I like the way it looks. 25" tall. $500.
Ekonda Puddle Casting Form
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Although absurdly heavy, Ekonda anklets served as both jewelry and tribal currency. To make the cylindrical leg bands Ekonda casters spread a mulch of beaten banana plant pith on the earth and impressed a wooden form into it. The form was carefully removed from the silken paste. The impression was then presumably allowed to dry or stiffen before molten copper alloy was poured into it. While still soft and smoking hot the casting was picked up with tongs and beaten into the desired size cylinder. Incised details were later worked into the surface. Not surprisingly, Ekonda forms are greatly outnumbered by the castings they produced. This is a fine example, many decades old and worn from repeated use. 14" long; mounted on a custom base.
Ekonda Anklet
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Legbands such as this varied in detail, size and weight throughout their range. Their usage was shared by the Ekonda, Budja and other Mongo peoples in Congo's Equateur Province. They were only worn by women around whose legs they were hammered closed. Not surprisingly it is related that their great weight led to the disfigurement of the the wearers legs and a dragging gait. This example is especially well detailed with fine, encroaching lines covering most of the outer surface. It is remarkably heavy. About a century old. 8" long. $1200
Chamba Dance Wand
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In the absence of verifiable sources, identifying these sickle-like implements is a challenge. Judging from the patina and hand wrought nature of the iron blades and wooden handles these wands are unquestionably old and well used. Over the past twenty years a few dozen have appeared on the market, a handful at a time, usually identified as Chamba or Kirdi. Field photographs of Podokwo harvest festivals from northwest Cameroon show young women dancing with sickle shaped implements. The more elaborate sickle on offer each has a finial consisting of a faceted, blunt tipped arrowhead surmounting a narrow serpentine neck- features offering dubious utility in either a weapon or a tool. It seems likely therefore that this implement was intended as a prop, presumably in a public performance or ceremony. Finally, the fine craftsmanship, shape and proportions of the ironwork, particularly with regard to the arrowhead, closely parallel spear points and currencies positively identified as Chamba. A beautiful example of ceremonial ironwork, 20" tall. $450
Chamba Dance Wand
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In the absence of verifiable sources, identifying these sickle-like implements is a challenge. Judging from the patina and hand wrought nature of the iron blades and wooden handles these wands are unquestionably old and well used. Over the past twenty years a few dozen have appeared on the market, a handful at a time, usually identified as Chamba or Kirdi. Field photographs of Podokwo harvest festivals from northwest Cameroon show young women dancing with sickle shaped implements. The more elaborate sickle on offer each has a finial consisting of a faceted, blunt tipped arrowhead surmounting a narrow serpentine neck- features offering dubious utility in either a weapon or a tool. It seems likely therefore that this implement was intended as a prop, presumably in a public performance or ceremony. Finally, the fine craftsmanship, shape and proportions of the ironwork, particularly with regard to the arrowhead, closely parallel spear points and currencies positively identified as Chamba. A beautiful example of ceremonial ironwork, 20" tall. $450
Mbole Currency
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Once, while I was waiting for a ride out of a ramshackle village at the edge of the Ituri forest in Zaire a truck burst from the broken jungle carrying a huge red log streaming pennants of vines. "That's sad," I commented to the hanger on waiting with me. "Zaire has millions of trees," the young man replied. "We can cut them and cut them for a thousand years." I pointed out that the spot where we were standing with its plank huts, sodden children and pet baboon chained to a papaya tree had once been forest too. "Maybe not a thousand years," he admitted then. "Maybe just two hundred." Or maybe less? There was a time in the mid 90s or so when African traders would open the doors of their vans and warehouse lockers to reveal piles of these Mboles. The once seemly inexhaustible supply of these hammered copper curiosities has been depleted. I probably won't be offered any more so here are all the ones I have left. 7" to 8" diameters. Price on request.
Erotic Verre Pipe
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The Verre are an agricultural people living on a high plateau in Adamawa State in Northeast Nigeria. They are famous for their fine lost wax produced brassware but as the Verre population is only 125,000 it seems likely that at least some goods attributed to them rightfully belong to their various neighbors with whom they may share traditions and common ancestry or historical origins. As the neighboring tribes are numerous and largely unknown outside of their immediate environment it is understandable that merchants trading in art would simplify the identifications of their finds. Be that as it may this is a lovely old pipe bowl, finely detailed with a miniature phallus and exquisitely cast. It's time worn surface and oxidized patina testify to its age and history as a long treasured possession. On a custom base. Price on request.
Ibo Cuff
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This cuff dates from the 19th century. It was fabricated from a piece of beaten and chased brass; it is not a casting. Among the Ibo armlets were relatively popular adornments. They were worn in pairs or singly. 6" long and 4" in diameter. Modestly priced.
Moba Iron Figure
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This old Moba iron figure is unusually large at 12" in length. The deliberate, gentle curve of its body, abbreviated limbs and bulbous head are classic qualities of Moba works of art.
Miniature Lobi Stool In Iron
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The curious piece was probably fabricated as a diviner's prop. It would have been kept in a bag, a basket or some such container with other unique bits and pieces such as curiously shaped rocks and twigs, lovingly carved figurines, sea shells, a miniature axe and the like to aid in the revelation of cures and visions. Of the few miniature stool I have seen over the years this is one of the few I've seen in iron. Other iron miniatures one might encounter are mini shackles, gongs and weapons. What makes the stool so unusual is that the full scale version would only have been carved. Ancient pitted patina indicating the probability of an archeological history. 5.5" long. Price on request
Vere Belt
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The Vere are among the most skilled of Cross River peoples in lost wax casting. They are justly famous for their ceremonial bronze axes and hoes, rings, bracelets and other adornments . This belt is made up of dozens of individually cast beads of various sizes and textures, some with arrow-like protrusions. Such belts are rare with the best examples featuring a central bead of spectacular size and fine detail. Here the central bead is 4" in diameter. Mounted on a custom base. About 19" across. Price on request.
Rare Senufo Helmet
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This most unusual object is a lost wax casting of superior craftsmanship. The details are exceptionally well rendered and the walls of the helmet are precociously thin. Similar examples, although with bovine horns and anthropomorphic elements, are illustrated in Schaedler's Earth and Ore, and in Blandin's book on west African bronze. Loops on opposite sides of the helmet's rim were apparently anchors for a chin strap while the vertical tubular projections were likely receptacles for decorative plumage or porcupine quills. 7.5" diameter. Price on request
Vere Snuff Bottle
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The Vere are an agrarian people living in hilly country in the eastern watershed of the Benue River, Nigeria. They have a strong craft tradition particularly in the areas of brass casting and black-smithing. They are known for both figurative and non-figurative works including hybrid iron/brass objects such as ceremonial axes and swords. Their production of snuff containers was prodigious. Examples come in a variety of sizes and styles and were items of local export. This is an especially spare container roughly the size of a large seed pod which it closely resembles. 2.8" mounted on a bronze base. Price on request.
Classic Vere Snuff Bottle
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From top to bottom the basic form of a cast Vere snuff bottle begins with a reinforced rim, a long narrow neck, a bulbous body decorated with a concentric design and a pointed terminus. The bottom nub allows for the vessel to be wrapped in leather to make it portable. An integral loop anchors the stopper's strap. Much variation is possible within the form: necks can be longer or shorter; the bulb can be fat or elongated, bulging in the middle or flattened front to back. This example is right in the middle- a classic with its original stopper. 5" tall. Mounted Price on request.
Mwera Figurative Axe
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Axes with antelope heads with raked back horns were produced in Tanganyika during the tail end of German occupation purportedly during the Maji Maji rebellion 1905-1907). Staffs without blades but with similar, if somewhat to very much more stylized antelope forms, predate the axes. All of the examples of this particular type of axe which I have seen, many but not all of which appear to be by a single hand or workshop, came to light in old British collections suggesting a brief but early twentieth century date of production. Excellent patina and age, some minor chipping that does not detract from the form; 20" long; mounted on a hardwood base. Price on request
Mwera Axe 16.5
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Axes with antelope heads with raked back horns were produced in Tanganyika during the tail end of German occupation purportedly during the Maji Maji rebellion 1905-1907). Staffs without blades but with similar, if somewhat to very much more stylized antelope forms, predate the axes. All of the examples of this particular type of axe which I have seen, many but not all of which appear to be by a single hand or workshop, came to light in old British collections suggesting a brief but early twentieth century date of production. Excellent patina and age,one horn largely missing; 26.5" long; mounted on a hardwood base. Price on request
Cameroon Grassfields Sword With Bone Handle
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The blade on this sword is of German origin as are the vintage coins capping the rivets that sandwich the handle to the steel. The leather work of the sheath is of exceptional quality and shows the influence of Saharan craftsmanship in it's interwoven details. The set, 20" in length, likely dates to the first quarter of the 20th Century. This beautiful sword is mounted on a custom base that adds about 3" to its height.
Grassfields Sword With Beaded Scabbard
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The highland plateaus, mountains and Valleys of Northwest Cameroon have long been densely peopled due to its fine climate and rich soil. Although divided into kingdoms and populated by numerous tribes speaking distinct languages and dialects, the region's population share much in the way of customs and material culture. As a result ascribing a precise ethnic label to Cameroon Grassfields art and artifacts can be challenging, especially to the outsider. The herringbone design of the bead work on this sword's scabbard is a classic Grassfields motif also found on elephant masks. 26"; price on requenst.
Tikar Knife And Scabbard
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Paul Gebauer collected a nearly identical sword near Ngambe, in a Tikar region of the Cameroon Grasslands in 1934. He wrote that it had "served as an executioner's knife in feudal society." A magnificent and unusual weapon20"; bamboo hide and steel. Price on request.
Grassfields Sword And Hide Covered Scabbard
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Swords with carved handles, elaborately shaped and finely crafted blades are male status symbols in traditional Grassfields society. They are hung in the home and carried in fine scabbards at important social, political and cultural gatherings. Although the sheath's goat hide has shrunken and split due to the drying affects of age, the piece is scarcely compromised. An elaborate, twisted. A strap of indigenous indigo dyed cloth clothes the scabbard. Three locally cast bronze bells add an extra detail and further evidences the intent to catch attention. 24.5' over all. Mounted on a custom base. $550
Grassfield Sword And Scabbard With Anthropomorphic Handle
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This exceptional sword and sheath from the Grassfields is among the finest available. The handle is beautifully detailed with abstract, rounded, janiform faces on the pommel, and richly patinated carving covering the grip. An old brass tack on the guard attests to the object's age as does the hand wrought blade. The scabbard is crafted from bamboo and rattan, covered in cobra skin and decorated with cowrie shell motifs and pompoms. An elaborate strap, comprised of several meters of twisted, indigo dyed indigenous ndop cloth loops through the handles. 24" long; mounted on a custom base. Price on request.
Grassfields Short Sword With Fine Decorative Wirework
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This is the only Grassfields short sword I know of with a wooden handle fully wrapped in finely woven bronze wire. Acquired directly from Cameroon more than a decade ago, the decorative work including artfully space brass tacks, appears to be of indigenous fabrication. The use of stripped copper telephone wire to implement repairs in split handles, canes and other wooden ware is not uncommon in Cameroon; it is the fineness of the material and the skill of its employment that is unique. Meanwhile, the grip and blade are both classic Grassfields forms of the highest caliber. 19.5" in length. Mounted on a custom base. Price on request.
Grassfield Sword And Scabbard With Crocheted Cover
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Grassfield swords come in a variety of forms. Pommels, grips, fullers, blades and points can vary widely as can the shape and component materials of scabbards. In this unusual example the facing side of the sheath is covered in crocheted indigenous cotton. The technique and repeat eyelet pattern call to mind traditional Grassfield caps called ashetu. The near side is lined with locally spun woven, indigo dyed ndop cloth. This stunning sheath is 29" in length and comes mounted on a custom base. Price on request.
Asen With Chameleon
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The chameleon is considered a magically potent animal in many African cultures. For the Fon people of Benin the chameleon is a symbolic of transformity due to its ability to change color. This marvelously crafted altar staff was created in the early 20th century by a Fon blacksmith in Ouidah, the infamous slave port, for the practice of the region's dominant religion Vodun. The staff features a bouquet of individually identifiable tools important to the Fon and the neighboring Yoruba. Within the tool cluster is a closed cone, understood by the Fon as a covered calabash- symbol of the world. Along with other asen this staff would have been placed in a family deho (altar) to Gu (from the Yoruba Ogun) a complex of spirits manifesting themselves in Vodun. 30" tall. $750
Turka Lance
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According to Andre Blandin in "Fer Noire" lances of this type date to the 19th century and were the works of the blacksmiths of Samory in what is today Burkina Faso. He describes the piece as Bobo. Binger, reported seeing these during his journey of 1887-89, recorded their name as sanegue. The form may be based on period French bayonets with the modification of an S curve to allow for the weapon to rest comfortably on warriors' shoulders. By 1919 the French had confiscated all sanegue except those secreted by the population who must have held them in some esteem as scores remained cached until the early 90s. Several appear in Tom Wheelock's fabulous "Land of Flying Masks" where they are identified as Turka. Exceptional form and condition. 28" tall. $1000
Short Form Turka Lance
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According to Andre Blandin in "Fer Noire" lances of this type date to the 19th century and were the works of the blacksmiths of Samory in what is today Burkina Faso. He describes the piece as Bobo. Binger, reported seeing these during his journey of 1887-89, recorded their name as sanegue. The form may be based on period French bayonets with the modification of an S curve to allow for the weapon to rest comfortably on warriors' shoulders. By 1919 the French had confiscated all sanegue except those secreted by the population who must have held them in some esteem as scores remained cached until the early 90s. Several appear in Wheelock where they are identified as Turka. This particular variant with a relatively wide hilt is rarer than the larger type. An excellent specimen 23" long. $750
Archaic Turka Lance
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This example is of a form whose examples, in my experience, are always well corroded, apparently from interment underground. I believe this style is the archetype of the classic Turka "snake lance" which generally sport a patina typical of iron stored indoors for long periods of time. This lance, and those with similar patina and form appeare to be of archeological origin. According to Andre Blandin in "Fer Noire" lances of this general type date to the 19th century and were the works of the blacksmiths of Samory in what is today Burkina Faso. He describes the piece as Bobo. Binger, reported seeing these during his journey of 1887-89, recorded their name as sanegue. The form may be based on period French bayonets. By 1919 the French had confiscated all sanegue except those secreted by the population who must have held them in some esteem as scores remained cached until the early 90s. Several appear in Wheelock where they are identified as Turka. An old and beautiful example of a rare West African weapon. 20" long. $850
Shona Ceremonial Axe
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Axes of this rare type are neither tools nor weapons. They are characterized by having over-sized blades with blunt edges often decorated with hammered patterns and sometimes splattered with colorful paint. This specimen has boasts embossed geometric designs on the blade colored over with red earth pigment. Their use was strictly ceremonial. Ex-collection Milos Somovic, Harare and New York (1990's). 19" tall, mounted. $950.
Luena Figurative Axe
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Axes with anthropomorphic mounts can be found across Africa from Burkina Faso to Angola. This example with a fine old blade comes from northern Zambia. The region lies at some altitude within the vast miombo woodland where rain is seasonal and trees produce quality lumber. Axes and adzes are used to fashion dugout canoes, clear bush, chop firewood and make homes and furniture. In this region of Africa the axe is traditional the primary tool, used by both men and women. It is therefore only natural that it is therefore exalted and at times, as here beautified with human details including brass tacks and a fine coiffure. 12" tall. $700
Pende Axe With Lizard Motif
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A 13" tall axe formerly in a European collection. This gorgeous ceremonial weapon is highly detailed both in sculptural refinements and surface decorations executed with poker work. A handsome, geometrically realized lizard graces the non blade side in high relief. The blade is of African manufacture, distinctive in style and in its fine details. Horns atop the axe reference the forest duiker, a small antelope that is among the prime sources of meat in parts of the Congo which traditionally rely on the forest for some or all of their sustenance. Early to mid 20th Century. Mounted on a hardwood base. Price on request.
Kabiye Iron Gong
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The Kabiye live on the northern plains of Togo east into the hills that form the border with Benin and in the countryside immediately across the frontier. They are Togo's second largest ethnic group after the Ewe and related to the Gurunsi of Burkina Faso. Iron ore deposits in the region such as in Banjeli in the neighboring Bassar ethnic region provided early material for the development of black smithing skills. Every five years the Kabiye celebrate Habye, an intense male dominated exhibition of magical power involving dance, demonstrations of deliberately strange behavior and intense percussive music involving gongs of this type accompanied by flutes and horns. This rare gong, with its original striker was collected by the art dealer Ibrahim Kao, himself a Kabiye by birth, in the 1990's. 12.5" long. Price on request.
Kabiye Iron Gong
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The Kabiye live on the northern plains of Togo east into the hills that form the border with Benin and in the countryside immediately across the frontier. They are Togo's second largest ethnic group after the Ewe and related to the Gurunsi of Burkina Faso. Iron ore deposits in the region such as in Banjeli in the neighboring Bassar ethnic region provided early material for the development of black smithing skills. Every five years the Kabiye celebrate Habye, an intense male dominated exhibition of magical power involving dance, demonstrations of deliberately strange behavior and intense percussive music involving gongs of this type accompanied by flutes and horns. This rare gong, with its original striker was collected by the art dealer Ibrahim Kao, himself a Kabiye by birth, in the 1990's. Of the two Kabiye gongs on the website this example is the older one. 11.5" long. Price on request.
Ewe Double Gong
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Double gongs are ubiquitous in West Africa. Blacksmiths who specialize in them use traditional stone anvils and hammers to manufacture them for local and regional clients. This older example has a well oxidized surface. The painted decoration and traces of sacrificial material suggest that it was possibly used by Ewe or an Adan practitioner. Such bells are still used today in religious ceremonies. 16", $775.
Agogo Double Bell
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A fine old bell with great tone. This bell was acquired through sources based in Cotonou, Benin. Agogo is a Yoruba word for bell. The Yoruba are the most populous and influential people in the region and the likely source for this broadly distributed instrument. Blacksmiths throughout the region fabricate them in a variety of sizes and tones. Agogo were used both in the generation of secular and ritual music. This is a beautifully made instrument that can be appreciated as a utilitarian object and as a finely crafted work of art. 14.5", $650.
9
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A fine old bell with great tone. This bell was acquired through sources based in Cotonou, Benin and is identified here as Fon although it could have been made or used by any number of ethnic groups in the region. Agogo is a Yoruba word for bell. The Yoruba are the most populous and influential people in the region and the likely source for this broadly distributed instrument. Blacksmiths throughout the region fabricate them in a variety of sizes and tones. Agogo were used both in the generation of secular and ritual music. This is a beautifully made instrument that can be appreciated as a utilitarian object and as a finely crafted work of art. 9", $600.
11.5
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Another fine old bell with great tone and unusual style. This bell was acquired through sources based in Cotonou, Benin in the 1990's. It is identified here as Fon although it could have been made or used by any number of ethnic groups in the region. Agogo is a Yoruba word for bell. The Yoruba are the most populous and influential people in the region and the likely source for this broadly distributed instrument. Blacksmiths throughout the region fabricate them in a variety of sizes and tones. This particualr example has a unique, split and lateral curled finial. Agogo were used both in the generation of secular and ritual music. This is a beautifully made instrument that can be appreciated as a utilitarian object and as a finely crafted work of art. It has a classic, well aged patina. 9", $750.
Serated Bell
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Throughout Africa, and indeed the world, utilitarian objects can travel far from their place of origin. Even items used ceremonially can be made by a person of one ethnic group and sold or traded to a person from another group. This is particularly true with blacksmith-made musical instruments where the functionality and the tone trump identifying form. The origin of this rare, beautifully formed bell is central West Africa. Ascribing it a precise tribal identity is not possible, but like some tubular bells identified by Blandin as Senoufo this instrument has serrated edges and was once supported by an iron ring (now lost) secured through its two central piercings. Viewed vertically rasp-bell is reminiscent of a Dogon Kanaga mask. Its indicates that it was abandoned for a period of decades, perhaps in the ruins of a village. Even today, much ancient iron remains in the ground in archaeological throughout the region where villages uprooted themselves over the centuriess due to political and environmental pressures. 14.5" long. $550.
Votaic Iron Instrument
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This minimal yet ingenious musical instrument is from the region of northern Cote d'Ivoire/Ghana and Burkina Faso. Its design is the work of an individual genius at an anvil and cannot be ascribed to a tribe or ethnic group. It's age is approximately 70 to 100 years. I know of none others like it. Ex collection Lucien Gueniguez (Abidjan-Paris-New York 1990's). 10.5" $250
Hanging Bell
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This minimal and elegant bell is well over a century old. It was collected in north Cote d'Ivoire and can be ascribed to the Senoufo or their close neighbors. The nature of iron in West Africa is that it travels from smelting sites to forges where raw iron was turned into tools, currencies and weapons to weekly markets . The form of this bell is unique in my experience. Ex collection Lucien Gueniguez (Abidjan-Paris-New York 1990's). 9.5" $300
Giant Mossi Dance Bell
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Michel Huet captured Mossi performers using similar instruments in photographs published in "Dances d'Afrique" 1978. The bell would have been held vertically by the narrow cross member and struck with an iron rod or ring. Some illustrated examples appear to be as long but none are as massive or well patinated. This example is well over a 140 years old. Splits in the metal are the result of age and use over the course of decades but the metal is sound and stable. 14" long. $750
Two Bells
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These two bells were acquired through the Bobodiouloso based trader Boubacar Doubou. The smaller bell is similar to one identified as Bobo on page 110 of Andre Blandin's "Fer Noir". The taller bell is of a type identified by Blandin as Mossi on page 102 of the same book and confirmed by field images taken of Mossi dancers by Michel Huet. Bell forms however are not strictly tribal. 3.5" and 5" respectively. Unmounted, $400.
Lobi Shrine Bells
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These two bells were collected in a Lobi Community in northern Ghana. Similar bells can be found in communities similarly identified as Lobi in northern Cote d'Ivoire and southwestern Burkina Faso. The term "Lobi" is a catch all for a variety of in fact diverse ethnic peoples. These bells have internal clappers and emit a pleasant tickling when set in motion. They were apparently kept in and around household altars. Such bells are apparently also worn for protection by small children. An image on page 132 in Blandin's "Fer Noir" shows a image by D. Bognolo of infant wearing one on a string hung around her neck. 2.5" and 3" respectively. $300/pair
Opa Osanyin
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In ceremonies enacted to heal and protect their client-patients, Yoruba healers call upon Osanyin, god of divination, and Enrile, god of herbal medicine through words, deeds and ritual objects. Among the latter are iron staffs featuring a central bird or bird-like creature representing Osanyin, "the one who sees all" or possibly the grand priest Orunmila, orisha of wisdom and divination. Ideally the smaller birds, representing witches, should number 16 a propitious number in Yoruba numerology but often they do not, either through loss or lack of space. In this example the birds number a dozen and none are missing. It is at least a century old, tightly constructed and beautifully wrought. The strongly horizontal central bird, calling to mind a large hornbill with its massive outstretched beak and trailing tail feathers, is skillfully juxtaposed against the strong verticality of the staff. The piece is unusual in having a blade-like stem rather than the more typical slender rod. 29.5" tall. Price on request.
Massive Opa Osanyin
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In ceremonies enacted to heal and protect their client-patients, Yoruba healers call upon Osanyin, god of divination, and Enrile, god of herbal medicine through words, deeds and ritual objects. Among the latter are iron staffs featuring a central bird or bird-like creature representing Osanyin, "the one who sees all" or possibly the grand priest Orunmila, orisha of wisdom and divination. Here the highly stylized smaller birds, which represent witches, number the optimal 16- a propitious number in Yoruba numerology. This opa Osanyin is at least a century old, skillfully wrought and impressive for its size and beauty. The strongly horizontal central bird is draped with handmade chain and supports an offering plate- a flattened spoon-like projection. 35.5" tall by 16". Price on request.
Opa Osanyin 30
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According to the literature Osanyin typically feature a large central bird surrounded by a ring of 16 smaller birds or abstract bird-like forms.- few in my experience do. This unquestionably old and genuine Opa Osanyin has about 20 masterfully formed smaller birds surrounding a central creature which has four legs as well as wings. This suggests to me that what we know about Osanyin staffs is at best incomplete. The central element is clearly not a bird per se so much as a potent spiritual force embodied in a bird-like form capable of observing all from aloft. This a large and exquisite example of a type of Yoruba ritual object rarely if ever seen in today in Yoruba Land. Price on request.
19
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According to the literature Opa Osanyin typically feature a large central bird surrounded by a ring of 16 smaller birds or abstract bird-like forms. In fact, few in my experience do. This unquestionably old and genuine specimen has a finely wrought central bird encircled by 16 curved spokes. The overall organic form of the staff is nod to its role as a conduit to the influence of Osanyin, the orisa of medicial plants. Ten of the spokes terminate in an ambiguous floral/bird-like element, one each feature a turtle form and a miniature bell, and four are surmounted by representations of birds. Yoruba cosmology and iconography is as complex as it is varied. No two Opa Osanyin are identical and some, such as this very fine century old example. are utterly idiosyncratic. Price on request.
Sensational Turka Snake Lance
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According to Andre Blandin in "Fer Noire" lances of this type date to the 19th century and were the works of the blacksmiths of Samory in what is today Burkina Faso. He describes the piece as Bobo. Binger, reported seeing these during his journey of 1887-89, recorded their name as sanegue. The form may be based on period French bayonets with the modification of an S curve to allow for the weapon to rest comfortably on warriors' shoulders. By 1919 the French had confiscated all sanegue except those secreted by the population who must have held them in some esteem as scores remained cached until the early 90s. Several appear in Tom Wheelock's fabulous "Land of Flying Masks" where they are identified as Turka. Sensational form and condition. 23" tall. $900
Turka Snake Lance
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According to Andre Blandin in "Fer Noire" lances of this type date to the 19th century and were the works of the blacksmiths of Samory in what is today Burkina Faso. He describes the piece as Bobo. Binger, reported seeing these during his journey of 1887-89, recorded their name as sanegue. The form may be based on period French bayonets with the modification of an S curve to allow for the weapon to rest comfortably on warriors' shoulders. By 1919 the French had confiscated all sanegue except those secreted by the population who must have held them in some esteem as scores remained cached until the early 90s. Several appear in Tom Wheelock's fabulous "Land of Flying Masks" where they are identified as Turka. Exquisite size, form and condition. 33.5" tall. $1200
Lobi Snake Knife
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According to Andre Blandin in "Fer Noire" lances of this type date to the 19th century and were the works of the blacksmiths of Samory in what is today Burkina Faso. He describes the piece as Bobo. Binger, reported seeing these during his journey of 1887-89, recorded their name as sanegue. The form may be based on period French bayonets with the modification of an S curve to allow for the weapon to rest comfortably on warriors' shoulders. By 1919 the French had confiscated all sanegue except those secreted by the population who must have held them in some esteem as scores remained cached until the early 90s. Several appear in Tom Wheelock's fabulous "Land of Flying Masks" where they are identified as Turka. This truly exquisite example was collected in a Lobi area. Excellent form and condition with superior finely incised detailing. 29.5" tall. $1500
Opa Osanyin Sold
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According to the literature Osanyin typically feature a large central bird surrounded by a ring of 16 smaller birds or abstract bird-like forms but in my experience few possess this many. This example has fewer than 16 and not because of the loss of elements. There simply isn't sufficient space for so many. Here, among the ring of smaller birds the representation of a spear, an obvious symbol of agressive power, takes up one place. It's notable that this especially concentrated, vertical Opa Osanyin is surmounted by a particularly elegant and strongly horizontal central bird. This an elegant example of a type of Yoruba ritual object dating to 19th or early 20th Century and no longer in use today. SOLD
Opa Osanyin 20.5
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This Opa Osanyin features a propitious 16 smaller birds surrounding its central bird image. A flattened, spoon like form juts from the breast of that central bird. Its purpose in unclear. About one in ten Opa Osanyin have this feature. It seems reasonable to imagine that it served as a receptacle or focal point for medicinal offerings. Opa Osanyin are after all vital tools used by herbalists in the healing and protecting supplicants. The staff honors the orisha Osanyin the god of herbal medicine. At least 100 years old. $700
Complex Opa Osanyin 24
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Determining the age of Yoruba ironwork is difficult as the medium can oxidize rapidly if exposed to excessive moisture or remain stable for centuries if kept dry. Few examples Opa Osanyin were collected before 1960 and there is little difference in apparent age or patination between those exported early and the last to come out in the 1990's- excluding the obvious late reproductions which were over-sized and flimsy and had muddy, applied patinas. This exciting example with its explosion of birds in a variety of sizes and forms, was imported into the United States between 1965 and 1975 and remained with a single collector couple until 2014. It surely dates to the 19th Century but it could be even older. Its excellent patina aside this Opa Osanyin is magnificently crafted and ingeniously conceived. A thoroughly delightful work of art affordably priced at $1100
Chamba Shield With Original Sling
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This very old shield (diameter 21 in.) is from the Chamba of eastern Nigeria. The Chamba are one of the largest ethnic groups in the region. They are spread out in into many small tribes that together made up a single kingdom. This Chamba shield is over one hundred years old and has an attached sling. The sling was used in battle to hurl stones with high velocity. To find a shied with its original accompanying weapon still attached is very unusual. My guess is that long ago its owner returned from a skirmish and stored the shield in the rafters of his home, attaching his weapon to it so that it wouldn't go missing when he next went to war. Slings are entirely made of textile and can easily be overlooked hanging from the rafters among the typical assortment of chords, and lengths of twine and leather one finds in traditional African houses. The front of the shield is concave on either side of the vertical crease that runs along down the center. It is well encrusted with earth and soot from its many years of front line use and faithful storage. Price on request
Ngombe Shield Sold
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This Ngombe shield (56 x 22 in.), from the northwestern Ubangi region of the Congo, is made with basketry on wooden frame, with a wooden grip board. At first, shields such as this one, were used in war, but after the introduction of firearms they evolved to be used in staged public battles, to commemorate bravery during hunts and to honor ancestors. This shield is remarkably well preserved, apart from a few reeds missing on the fame and some darkened as one would expect over time. The fine condition of this shield is due to the fact that men who failed to maintain their shields and other warfare regalia lost considerable respect in their village. The simple, symmetrical designs on the face of the shield is woven with pearl-like knots and is a pleasure to behold. Price on request.
Zulu Shield
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Zulu shields (ishilunga), such as this one (53 x 23 in.), were made from tanned rawhide dipped in water for hardening. The hide is supported on a wood pole that is sewn tightly to the back with two parallel strips cut from the same hide. The woven hide running down the center of the shield reinforces the structural integrity but also lends a distinct, plaited design on the front. Ritual ceremonies were performed on Zulu shields to increase their protective power and chances of success in battle. This brown and white shield would have been reserved for use by a married warrior. As expected, a few small spots on the hide and a strip wrapped at the top of the pole have become balded with time and age. The speckling of the color and the structural integrity makes this shield a remarkable acquisition. Price on request
Nuer Shield With Suspention Cord
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This Nuer shield (49x18 in.) from the South Sudan is made from animal hide, wood, and fiber. Similar shields from the South Sudan were used during battle for both defensive and offensive purposes. Along the center of the umber, lentoid-shaped body of this shield, are fifteen slits in which a long, wooden pole is threaded. The center of the midrib has been pushed outward to form a conical boss. Radiating from this central boss are small raised bumps that have been pushed out from the inside in a repoussť technique. There is a length of braided cord tied to the handle on the inside of the central boss. The cords ends have been tied together to create a loop, which could have been used for suspension. This shield has remained in exceptional condition with only a few areas on the inside where the hide has been worn.
Nuer Shield
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This Nuer shield (42 x 16 in.) from the South Sudan is made from animal hide and wood. Similar shields from the South Sudan were used during battle for both defensive and offensive purposes. Along the center of the burnt umber, lentoid-shaped body of this shield, are ten slits in which a long, wooden pole is threaded. The center of the midrib has been pushed outward to form a conical boss. Shallow cracks have appeared around the circumference of the boss, which is a common sign of age. Densely radiating from this central boss are small raised bumps that have been pushed out from the inside in a repoussť technique. Apart from the body's slight warping, this shield has maintained a robust and compelling aesthetic.
Dinka Sparring Shield
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Description coming soon.
Dinka Sparring Shield With Hide 38 19
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The possession of a shield for the Amhara was much like owning a sword or a horse; it was an item regarded with reverence among warriors and chieftains. Shields, such as this one (diameter 19 in.), added weight to the owners importance and were often carried by young boys behind their masters at public events. Beginning at the circumference and moving inward, are shallow registers of incised, geometric designs. The first register consists of three converging lines. The second, repeats between about twenty short, horizontal lines and five lines interspersed with repoussť. At four points around the center boss are slits that have been threaded with hide, which attach the grip on the inside of the shield. This shield is in remarkable condition considering its age and history. Ex private Pennsylvania collection. Price on request.
Somba Shield
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Made with woven fibers and hide, this Somba shield (diameter 13 in.) was used in rituals and ceremonies rather than for combat. Shields, such as this one, are typically used in ritual whipping competitions among men of the same age. The conical shape with an extended tip on the front is the most prominent feature of the shield; this extension is sometimes described as phallic. The body of this shield is mostly flat with a large 'X' woven onto its face. On two opposite sections of the 'X' are two registers of parallel stitches, which attach the hide handle on the back. This multi-faceted shield is effortlessly dignified and well-maintained.
Amarro 23.5
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This round Ethiopian shield (diameter 23.5 in.), possibly of the Amarro, is made out of tough hippopotamus hide. Shields, such as this one, were made and traded for food in the southwestern region of Ethiopia and could have been made by any number of tribes in the region.This concave shield carries a series of round, embossed protrusions running in parallel lines along both sides of the defined midrib.On either side of the midrib are also shallow, scored imprints. The robust, burnt umber hide has accumulated seven small tears that have been roughly sewn up. These sort of restorations are typical of a shield that has seen front-line action or possibly repairs made during its fabrication.
Iron Lamp
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West Africa lies well within the tropics. Days and nights are of equal length. Since the dawn of culture West Africans spent half their life in darkness alleviated at times by an open door, the moon, firelight and lamps. Iron is the ideal medium for an oil lamp. It has long been readily available in West Africa from local smelters and appreciated for its durability, malleability and resistance to heat and flame. This lamp (12in.) displays the head of horned animal. It seems to be missing a horn; however, upon closer inspection, the single horn seems to be coming out of the center of the animals head, which implies it was intentionally made this way. The bowl has a small chip in the rim but is otherwise undamaged. The askew, unicorn-like horn is this lamps defining feature and would make it an illuminating piece among any collection. Price on request.
Lamp Personal Protective Iron Snake
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Seen as a sign of protection, iron snake objects were placed in homes and worn on the body. This iron snake (10in.) would have been a personal item of protection found in someones home. Its dense, ribbon-like body is curved with an arrow-shaped head at the top. It has become rusted with age but remains a symbol of strength and security wherever it dwells. Price on request.
Maasai Rungu
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A massive club of elegant form with excellent age and a deep patina. The nipple on the know is a distinct characteristic of the region although the principle of this piercing feature in found in Oceanic and Native American clubs as well. 21" tall, mounted.
Tanzanian Rungu
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Ball headed clubs or "rungu" (marungu plural) as they are called in Swahili are ubiquitous across a broad swath of East Africa, particularly among cattle herding peoples. The WaPare, Chaga, Nyamwezi, Hehe and others may carry marungu while watching their herds or walking in the bush. This dramatic and beautiful rungu came identified as Gogo. It's atypical form capitalizes on the unique shape of the sapling from which it was made, allowing the owner to travel with it hooked over his shoulder and if necessary deliver a particularly sharp blow. 21" tall, mounted on a custom base.
Outstanding Gogo Rungu
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Ball headed clubs or "rungu" (marungu plural) as they are called in Swahili are ubiquitous across a broad swath of East Africa, particularly among cattle herding peoples. The WaPare, Chaga, Nyamwezi, Hehe and others may carry marungu while watching their herds or walking in the bush. This dramatic and beautiful rungu came identified as Gogo. Filed collected twenty years ago, it's well handled patina and outstanding form set it apart from lesser and more recent examples. 20.5" tall, mounted on a custom base.
Sudanese Clubs
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I acquired these together about 15 years ago when a lot of genuine older material was suddenly coming out of war-torn southern Sudan. The Ugandan military had pacified northern Uganda, Joseph Kony had fled into the vacuum of a deteriorating DR Congo, and a secure route of trade had been opened into Sudan from the south. It was in these years that a great many Bongo funerary posts and Dinka headrests appeared in the market. Based on field images and other evidence I have concluded that these two clubs, 35.5" and 33.5" tall, are likely Nuer, but I accept the possibility that they are something else- perhaps Lutuku, Dinka or Toposa. Mounted on custom stands. Available separately.
Mwera Club
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This 26" long club is as much prestige staff as it is weapon. It's ball end isn't weighty enough for any sort of serious defense. Kinked shafts are something of a signature element in the carved staffs and swagger sticks of the Mwera people. Several Mwera staffs housed in the collection of the Berlin Museum since before World War I exhibit this unusual quirk. The Mwera live just north of the Makonde in southeast Tanzania. Mounted on a custom base. Price on request.
Zoomorphic Gogo Club
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Gogo clubs with zoomorphic and anthropomorphic finials represent about one percent of all Gogo marungu. Of the zoomorhic examples the vast majority depict rabbits or dikdiks, small antelopes with large ears indigenous to East Africa. Both animals have totemic and folkloric importance to the Gogo. This example represents a rabbit. It is a beautifully crafted, well used and deeply patinated specimen dating to the third quarter of the 20th Century. 24" tall, price on request.
Ancient Lobi Adze Blade
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Before the arrival of Europeans in West Africa a thriving trade existed in indigenous smelted iron and ironware. Trade iron consisted of variously shaped bars, rods and coils designed for transport and marketability. Iron points, spear heads, hoe blades and other utilitarian items were also manufactured at various locations and sent to market, but these same items were also reworked from flat and rod stock according to local needs in the remotest of settings. Eventually, colonial laws, trade goods and practices destroyed indigenous smelting of iron in West Africa but blacksmithing soldiered on with European source material. This adze blade with its deep archeological patina dates from precolonial times. It is a curved, gutter adze: when buried in a wooden handle, it would have been employed as swinging gouge to hollow out vessels, the interior of masks, canoes and the like. 8" long, mounted as shown on a steel base. $180
Ancient Harvest Sickle
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Sickles in various forms, usually with a hooked blade, were used word wide for the hand reaping of grain and the cutting of forage for confined livestock. This archeological example from Burkina Faso came to me as "Dagari". It has a waving cutting age and long handle with a flattened, splayed end that would not have allowed it to be secured to wooden handle. Instead it was likely once upon a time given a fatte, softer handle through wrappings of recycled textile or woven fiber bound in hide. 12" tall, mounted on a steel base. $250
Gan Iron Sickle
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This small sickle, of archeological vintage, once had a wooden handle, now long gone. It's form is exquisite. The interior cutting edge was riffled to improve its cutting action. Oxidation has accumulated in each valley like beans in a pod. This small gem is a delicate 5: tall. Mounted on a steel base. $150
Gan Iron Spoon
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The history of iron in West Africa is long. Over time blacksmiths perfected their skills and were able to produce all manner of goods from tiny barbed arrowheads to lances to fine jewelry, detailed figures and masks. Over time calamities, pestilence, environmental changes and colonial commandments led to the collapse or forced upheaval of communities across the region. Today, within forest and wildlife reserves lie the remains of untold villages often marked by little more than scattered sherds of pottery and occasionally the lips of abandoned and water jars otherwise sunken in the earth. Such sites have long been sources of centuries old iron and copper alloy artifacts. This spoon is perhaps a century and half old. It is 7" tall, highly oxidized yet maintains its delicate form. Mounted on a steel base $100.
Senufo Pendant With A Bell
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Lost wax cast copper alloy pendants were widely worn talismans in West Africa through the mid-20th C. This lovely example comes from the personal collection of Joseph Knopfelmacher who established Craft Caravan, the landmark emporium of African arts and crafts in Soho, New York City. Price upon request. Unmounted, 4.8 cms.
Figural Talisman
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Lost wax cast copper alloy pendants were widely worn talismans in West Africa through the mid-20th C. This lovely example is listed here as Bobo, but it could be the product of a traditional foundry within the territory of a neighboring ethnic group. Ascribing tribal identities to castings from the region comprised of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Burkina Faso is challenging as the sculptural vocabulary sometimes varies as much or more from artist to artist as between ethnic communities. This pendant figure comes from the personal collection of Joseph Knopfelmacher, founder of Craft Caravan, the landmark emporium of African arts and crafts in Soho, New York City. Price upon request. 5cms tall, unmounted,
Large Bronze Pendant Figure
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Lost wax cast copper alloy pendants were widely worn talismans in West Africa through the mid-20th C. This lovely example is listed here as Senoufo, but it could be the product of a traditional foundry within the territory of a neighboring ethnic group. Ascribing tribal identities to castings from the region comprised of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Burkina Faso is challenging as the sculptural vocabulary frequently varies more from artist to artist than between ethnic communities. This pendant figure comes from the personal collection of Joseph Knopfelmacher, founder of Craft Caravan, the landmark emporium of African arts and crafts in Soho, New York City. Price upon request. 9.5 cms.
Two Senufo Pendant Figures
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Lost wax cast copper alloy pendants were widely worn talismans in West Africa through the mid-20th C. They also served as diviners' props. These pendant figures come from the personal collection of Joseph Knopfelmacher, founder of Craft Caravan, the landmark emporium of African arts and crafts in Soho, New York City. They are not a pair and may be purchased singly or together. Price upon request. 3.5 cms each.
Seated Figure
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The precise ethnicity of this figure is unknown although it comes from a region north of the Niger River inhabited by Bamana and Bozo people. It comes from the private collection of Joseph Knopfelmacher, who began traveling to West Africa around 1960 to acquire arts and crafts for his store Craft Caravan, then newly established in Soho, New York City. Price upon request. Unmounted, 4 cms.
Senufo Pendant Couple
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Lost wax cast copper alloy pendants were widely worn talismans in West Africa through the mid-20th Century. This pendant representing a primordial couple and protective spirit comes from the personal collection of Joseph Knopfelmacher, founder of Craft Caravan, the landmark emporium of African arts and crafts in Soho, New York City. Price upon request. Unmounted 4cms
Senufo Or Bobo Ritual Figurine
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Lost wax cast copper alloy pendants were widely worn talismans in West Africa through the mid-20th C. This lovely example is listed here as Senoufo or Bobo, but it could be the product of a traditional foundry within the territory of a neighboring ethnic group. Ascribing tribal identities to castings from the region made up by Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Burkina Faso is challenging as the sculptural vocabulary frequently varies more from foundry to foundry than between ethnic communities. This beautiful detailed vintage figure comes from the personal collection of Joseph Knopfelmacher, founder of Craft Caravan, the landmark emporium of African arts and crafts in Soho, New York City. Price upon request. Unmounted, 5.5 cms tall.
Lost Wax Cast Figurine
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Lost wax cast copper alloy figurines were produced in foundries in Mali, Cote d"Ivoire, Ghana and Burkina Faso for centuries. They served as talismans to be carried or worn, as trade goods and diviners' regalia. This 6 cms all figurine comes from the personal collection of Joseph Knopfelmacher, founder of Craft Caravan, the landmark emporium of African arts and crafts in Soho, New York City. Price upon request. Unmounted
Classic Konso Shield
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This 20th Century hide shield is 39" tall and 13" wide. Its surface has been rubbed with white clay. With their characteristic folds and eyelet form Konso shields are strikingly sculptural and make fine additions to collections of tribal arms. Price on request.