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Ethiopian Headrest Kambatta or Arussi African
thiopian headrests come in various forms. They are ranged from the simple to elaborately carved artifact. They have abstract shapes, nice lines, and are sometime decorated with sophisticated geometric patterns.  Africa Direct
Mende Helmet Mask Sowei Sande Liberia African 17 Inch
Additional Information:  Though many works of art have come out of the Guinea Coast region of West Africa few have as much prominence as the masks worn by the women of the Sande society of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Membership in Sande is exclusively reserved for women for it is the Sande society that initiates young girls into adult status assuring that the girls are instructed in their duties to come as wives and responsible adult members of their village. Sande continues to play a prominent role in women’s lives today among the Mende, Temne ,Vai, Bassa, Sherbro, Gola and other peoples of the region. The authority of Sande derives its power and influence from ‘hale’, the magic that women control and which resides in the Sowei mask.The authority of Sande and its protection of the young girls as they go through their initiations and as they are instructed in the secrets of Sande is known through the masks worn by senior women members and leaders of the local chapter. The masks known as Sowei are embodiments of ideal beauty and the precepts and ideals held by Sande. The care and attention so obvious in this mask given to details of hair, features of the face and the skill of carving the head and side faces attest to the aesthetic dimension so important in Sande and it’s masks. Though carved by a male sculptor, the Sowei mask is the only mask danced by women in West Africa. This is a ‘helmet mask’ worn over the head with a dark costume attached to the small holes at the bottom of the mask, which completely covers the dancer as she whirls and dances with quick steps showing the spirit and power of Sande. The dramatic carving and the prominent forms of the mask reflect the Mende or Vai artist’s ability to give shape to the principles and aesthetic ideals of the women’s Sande Society, in this instance.Recommended  reading:Gottschalk, B. “Bundu”. 1990. Mato, D. and C. Miller. “Sande masks and Statues From Sierra Leone and Liberia”. 1990Boone, S. “Radience From the Waters.” 1986. I have examined this piece and agree with the description. Niangi Batulukisi, PhD. Africa Direct
Mossi Carved Doll Burkina Faso 16 inch African Art
Additional Information: A Mossi doll in the form of a female figure wth a long slim torso with breasts and marking. The figure has no arms and legs.  The Mossi identify such dolls as biiga. The Mossi are today the largest single group living in Burkina Faso. They originated from horsemen who made their way north from present day Ghana during the 1500’s. Mossi are renowned for their masquerades and the use of large superbly sculpted and brightly painted masks and colorful costumes. Among the Mossi elders are highly honored with elaborate funerals and the appearance of masked dancers with masks representing ancestors and various spirits and forces of Nature in dramatic and often vigorous dances. Sculpted figures known as Ninande (pl.) have a number of functions and It is difficult to establish the use of a figure without specific knowledge of it’s use. This stylized sculpted female figure has and unusual Mossi facial and body lines and a ringed neck. The high crested hairstyle is a version of gyonfo coiffure worn by the female among the Mossi. In general, figures are identified with local chiefs and clan elders during ceremonies reinforcing local political relationships and chiefly authority. Figures are also used at funerals and in some areas are buried with the elder. During yearly public ceremonies figures honoring ancestors will have cloths wrapped around their waists similar to cloths worn by Mossi women.Among their many works is the “biiga” or doll; though the word doll is not a good translation of the because the function of the sculpture goes way beyond that of a ‘plaything.’ For a young female child the biiga represents the power that will enable her to have a child and simultaneously the baby she is learning to take care for. The biiga doll is washed and dressed and carried on the back just like a real child would be. If it is damaged, the biiga is taken to the local diviner for attention. The biiga is passed on from mother to daughter or from sister to sister. All Mossi dolls have a cylindrical base that is slightly wider than the body. It is carved without legs or arms but has accentuated breasts which are a symbol of motherhood. The head is a stylization of the gyonfo, a female hairdo with 3 crests; the center one running from the forehead to the base of ht e neck. Lines that are etched into the head represent braids. The biiga also features scarifications that are realistic and found on the Mossi people themselves. For a similar example see Roy, Christopher & Thomas G. B. Wheelock, Burkina Faso Land of the Flying Masks. The Thomas G. B. Wheelock Collection, 2007,figs. 478-489 Recommended Reading: Roy, Christopher & Thomas G. B. Wheelock, Burkina Faso Land of the Flying Masks. The Thomas G. B. Wheelock Collection, 2007 Roy, Christopher., The Art of the Upper Volta Rivers, 1987. Elisabeth, Cameron, ISN'T S/HE A DOLL-PLAY AND RITUAL IN AFRICAN SCULPTURE, 1996 Africa Direct
Yoruba Divination Vessel with Lid and Guardian Figures Nigeria African Art
Additional Information: This vessel represents a truly remarkable carving in the Yoruba tradition.  It appears to be carved from one piece of heavy, dense wood.  The latice work of the main portion is impressive, but the focal point is definitely the carved figure contained therein.  The inside figure was presumably carved through the holes of the latice!  The top of the carving is a bowl with a lid, and on the lid are several guardian figures with common Yoruba features.  The piece shows significant age and layers of encrustation and possible pigment which suggest possible use.   There is a large corpus of Yoruba sculpture known and identified as to symbol and meaning identified to the various orishas or deities. Yoruba traditional religion has a structured pantheon of the deities known as Orisha numbering between 400 and 700 individual Yoruba gods that may share powers and attributes that are articulated in sculptural form. Further Readings:R. F. Thompson: Black Gods and Kings: Yoruba Art at UCLA, (Los Angeles, 1971) M. H. Houlberg: Ibeji Images of the Yoruba , African Arts, vii/1, 1973, pp. 20-27, 91-2 M. Stoll and G. Stoll: Ibeji: Twin Figures of the Yoruba, (Munich, 1980) Abiodun, A, H. J. Drewal and J. Pemberton III: Yoruba Art and Aesthetics, (Zurich,1991) Recommended Reading: R. F. Thompson: Black Gods and Kings: Yoruba Art at UCLA, (Los Angeles, 1971) W. Fagg and J. Pemberton III: Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa, (New York, 1982) H. J. Drewal and J. Pemberton III, with R. Abiodun Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, (New York, 1989) Africa Direct
Fon Fetish Animal Figure Benin Africa
Without the expected adornments, its hard to be positive that this is indeed a Fon fetish piece.  But the pose is consistent, hands resting on the belly, with known Fon motifs.  The face has an extended snout or mouth, so it likely represents a monkey or dog.  The figure also has a tail.  The crude carving style and worn surfaces result in an item steeped with mystery.   The use of fetishes among the Vodun practitioners of Benin is widespread and, in fact, they are a vital part of daily life in the village. A fetish, called a "bochio" is, in its simplest terms, a prayer: a remote object, ritually empowered by a priest, used as an intermediary for change. Once a fetish has entered the market, there is no way to know exactly what it was used for. The most common use of a bochio is to drive away the meddling forces of witchcraft, which to the Fon, and their neighbors in Benin and Togo, is the source of most problems.  Africa Direct
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