A regular, light dusting should suffice for the care of such a piece. I tend to err on the side of caution, avoiding any aggressive cleaning treatments so as not to disturb elements of encrustation that generally appear on such figures.
Also, Gary Schulze reminded me of another cowrie-embroidered figure from the Cameroon Grasslands which was included in the recent exhibition, "A Cameroon World: Art and Artifacts from the Caroline and Marshall Mount Collection
" at the QCC Art Gallery. The displayed figure, which is identified as Bamileke, appears in the accompanying exhibition catalogue with the following notes [presumably written by text author Donna Page with the collaboration of El Hadj Nji Amadou Njoya and Alexis de Happy] which provide a cogent reminder of the presence of new, adaptive forms, materials and expressions of African traditions and the continuities that exist between historical and contemporary artistic production in African contexts:
"Female commemorative figures in the Grassfields often represent royal women, i.e. the queen mother and titled wives. Like their male counterparts, these figures are not worshipped in ancestor rituals; rather, they are part of ceremonies for the living. They are honored, cared for and kept in safe places. Traditionally they were displayed in public on special occasions, particularly the December and january annual festivals where homage is paid to the fon. However, when the Mounts were in Cameroon in 2004-2005, they saw commemorative figures displayed at only one of the nine festivals they attended, the festival at Bafut. In their visits to fondoms throughout the Grassfields, what they found in many cases were not the expected commemorative figures but instead, life-size portrait paintings done in gouache on plywood, of current and deceased fons. These had replaced the traditional carved commemorative figures. In a few instances, moreover, the paintings themselves had given way to large color photographs.* (Emphasis mine)
"ROYAL COMMEMORATIVE FIGURE
"This figure, holding a prestige drinking horn, would probably have been taken out of the palace treasury to be displayed during annual festivals and funerals. Cowries, once used as currency by the Bamileke, are still valued as symbols of royal wealth. Beads also emphasize wealth and status."
Source: A Cameroon World: Art and Artifacts from the Caroline and Marshall Mount Collection (Bayside: QCC Art Gallery Press, 2007), p. 148.
*Having just returned from Dakar where I had the opportunity to view the work and speak with a number of Senegalese contemporary artists including El (Hadji) Sy (his site
), Issa Diop, Amadou Makhtar (Tita) M'baye, Seni MBaye and Kine Aw), I am especially eager and moved to highlight the important relationship between "traditional" forms and current contexts of production as well as the modern historical events which have influenced contemporary artistic movements in Africa, specifically in Senegal. I think it is indeed worth noting the adaptive transformations of form, content and media and the continued social and political significance of visual arts in African societies as well as the social and artistic continuities which persist through the inter-generational passage of artistic traditions within families. In this regard, among the very inspiring moments (and relevant to recent discussions) in Dakar and environs was the opportunity to explore the lost-wax bronze casting workshop of Issa Diop, who continues the work of his father who, although not born into a traditional forgeron
family lineage, took up the role and art of metalworking which his sons continue today. Also (thanks to discussion group member Wendy Spivey), I was treated to a visit with reverse-glass (sous-verre
) painters Serigne and Mamoune Gueye, who continue in their Dakar workshops the artistic tradition of their father Mor Gueye. As I process the thousands if images I captured while in Senegal, I will provide links to share them with the group.
For more information regarding the contemporary arts of Senegal, see Joanna Grabski's review of the 2007 exhibition, "Trajectoires: Art Contemporain du Sénégal
" at the Musée d'IFAN in Dakar on pages 88-91 of the Spring 2008 (Volume 41, Number 1) issue of African Arts
. Also, see "Objects of Performance: A Story from Senegal" by El Hadji Sy on pages 76-101 in Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa
(Paris & New York: Flammarion. 1995); Elizabeth Harney's In Senghor's Shadow: Art, Politics and the Avant-Garde in Senegal, 1960-1995
(Durham & London: Duke University Press. 2004); Allen F. Roberts and Mary Nooter Roberts' A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal
(Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. 2003) [and the related "Passport to Paradise
" exhibition site; and Ima Ebong, "Negritude: between mask and flag: Senegalese cultural ideology and the École de Dakar," pp. 198-209 in: Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art
. New York: Center for African Art; Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1991.
To view works from the current exhibition "Premisses" at the Galerie Léopold Sédar SENGHOR at the Village des Arts in Dakar, visit Omar Diack's Typic'Arts Gallery site
On Mar 4, 2008, at 10:00 AM, oneoffs wrote:
Thank you for the information as I was unaware of the origins of this
piece. Should I be watching how the piece is cared for and displayed
as I have no idea of its value?
Again, Thank You for your reply - Michael