SALE END DATE AND TIME
July 31, 2016 : SALE CLOSED
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This fabulous work of textile sculpture, which features glass beads meticulously stitched using fiber onto a panel of antique textile, was once danced as part of the spectacular ceremonies of the Royal Elephant Society. As shown in the photo included herein (©Photo SCALA, Florence/Musée du Quai Branly, Members of the elephant society, wearing beaded elephant masks and feathered headdresses, pose for a French missionary photographer in the market place of Bandjoun, Cameroon, 1930), dancers would wear these headdresses and take on the majestic and regal spirit of the elephant, the land animal who has no rival in terms of connotations of royalty, prestige and, authority. These headdresses, when exhibited in a modern setting, will change a room. The elementary force, brilliant color, and dynamic movement of the Bamileke Tribe’s elephant masquerade have made it one of the continent’s most famous visual spectacles. Prior to the mid-20th century (before the discontinuation of traditional functions), members of the Elephant Society met regularly on a particular day of their eight-day week. Such gatherings served to carry out the society’s mission, namely to practice music and dance for celebrations, the create cohesion between the members, and to socialize. Performances took place during annual festivals, celebrations, and funerals. The masqueraders danced barefoot, in a slow procession, carrying spears, horsetails, and poles. As they whistled “mysteriously and tunelessly,” they danced very deliberately, accompanied only by a drum and an iron gong. Masqueraders were later joined by chiefs and princesses, who paraded by an elaborate tent in which high-ranking men sat in observation. At the climax, a masker would hurl his horsetail to the chief, the crowd would cheer, and the celebration would continue, but with more vigorous dancing and acrobatic feats performed primarily by younger maskers. At the close of festivities, the crowd’s favorite masqueraders were rewarded with kola nuts and wine. Ref: Brain, “Bangwa Funerary Sculpture”; Northern, “The Sign of the Leopard: Beaded Art of Cameroon”; Ross, “Elephant: The Animal and Its Ivory in African Culture”, Visona "A History of Art in Africa"
|Lot ID: 11|
|Low Estimate: $2,500|
|High Estimate: $4,500|
|Next Bid: $1,250|
|Sale ID: 6|
|Sale Date: July 28, 2016|
|Sale Location: Virtual Auction|
|Sale Sponsor: African Artworks from Berz Gallery of African Art|
|Sale Terms: View here|
|Live Bidding Link: SALE CLOSED|
|Location of Origin: Africa|
|Medium/Materials: cloth panels, beads, raffia, indigo|
|Dimensions: 37" (93.98 cm) height x 20" (50.8 cm) width ear to ear|
|Primary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art : Country - Cameroon|
|Secondary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art : Object Type - Mask|
|About the Cameroon Grasslands: (Source: Africa Peoples Online, University of Iowa) "The Cameroon Grasslands is a large cultural area, which is inhabited by a large number of related peoples. These peoples can be divided into three smaller subgroups: Bamilike, Bamum, and Bamenda Tikar. Within these complexes there are numerous smaller ethnic groups, which are loosely affiliated with one another and share many historical and political similarities while retaining separate identities. All members of this group originally came from an area to the north and migrated in various complex patterns throughout the last several centuries. Fulani traders moving steadily southwards into Cameroon in the 17th century forced the southern drift of most of the current residents. Many smaller groups combined, while other factions split away as a result of pressure from the invading Fulani.|
People in the region played an important part in regional trade routes connecting with the seaport of Douala in the south and with Fulani and Hausa traders in the north. All of the people in this area are historically farmers who grow maize, yams, and peanuts as staple crops. They also raise some livestock, including chickens and goats which play an important role in daily sustenance. Women, who are believed to make the soil more fruitful, are responsible for the tasks of planting and harvesting the crops. Men are responsible for clearing the fields for planting and practice some nominal hunting. Specific economic enterprises are dictated by the specific microenvironments of individual ethnic groups.
All of the peoples who make up the Cameroon Grasslands culture area pay allegiance to the Fon (chief). Each village is governed by a leader who is selected by his predecessor and who is usually the head of the dominant lineage within that community. Each Fon is served by a council of elders who advise him on all important decisions and who also play an important role in the selection of the next Fon. Most chiefs serve for a lifetime, abdicating the throne or stool only when nearing death. Complex age-grade societies also help to structure the community. The Fon also oversees these secret societies.
The peoples of the Grasslands reserve the highest allegiance for their lineage ancestors. Ancestral spirits are embodied in the skulls of the deceased ancestors. The skulls are in the possession of the eldest living male in each lineage, and all members of an extended family recognize the same skulls as belonging to their group. When a family decides to relocate, a dwelling, which must be first purified by a diviner, is built to house the skulls in the new location. Although not all of the ancestral skulls are in the possession of a family, they are not forgotten. These spirits have nowhere to reside, though, and may as a result cause trouble for the family. To compensate when a man's skull is not preserved, a family member must undergo a ceremony involving pouring libations into the ground. Earth gathered from the site of that offering then comes to represent the skull of the deceased. Respect is also paid to female skulls, although detail about such practices is largely unrecorded.
|Provenance: Ex. Private NY Collection|
|Price:||Price on Request|
|Offered By:||CLOSED: African Artworks : 146 Lots : July 28-30|
|Contact:||The Curator's Eye|
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