It is true that appraisal is a distinct and specialized function which is beyond the specific qualification and purpose of this group although there are individuals among us with experience and certification that allow them to offer this professional service. Sharing opinions and resources that support the interest to classify and compare objects, however, is definitely within our purview.
It is important to remember (or to learn), though, that comparison of form is not synonymous with authentication. Appraisal is a composite analysis which draws upon many factors including authentication and documentation of provenance -- elements which are frequently not available or conclusive. The absence of provenance -- a trackable history from creation and/or in situ collection -- generally diminishes the potential value as it weakens the possibility of authentication and the placement of a work on the pedestal which is constructed upon authenticity and indigenous significance.
On the other hand, the value of unverified works is fluid, and the quality of carving and the power of the image/form as art is wholly subjective. In this regard valuation as a subjective and practical activity may reflect a diversity of requirements and preferences. It is in this realm that conversation or discussion is most beneficial. Observable adherence to recognized canons of form, quality of craftsmanship (or artistry) and effective evocation of cultural imagery as well as creative extension of and variation on these elements can be factors in establishing value. Since market value can be an extension of the perception of these aspects, a public dialogue which explores these elements and provides avenues for further subjective assessment is highly productive.
With specific regard to the figure in question, I would suggest that the cultural and artistic form to which it can be compared is that of the Bulu reliquary. An exploration of the tradition may provide further clues by which to assess the possibility of its authenticity within the context of presumed origin. Analysis of its elements -- inclusive of decorative attachments such as the jewelry on the ears -- is also a helpful practice to determine clues regarding origin and authenticity.
I have observed the inclusion of such decorative metal elements on at least one northern Fang-inspired figure
based on sculptural traditions from the southern Cameroon-northern Gabonese border region but am uncertain of the context of production of this example or its relevance to the consideration of the queried figure. The consideration of possible sources of more recent, non-ritual forms inspired by sculptural traditions from the region may be beneficial in seeking to assess both the identity and value of the figure.
In considering and appreciating the role and function of the dialogue which we encourage and welcome in this group, I'd like to share a Bamum folk tale which resonates with my conception of this group as a collective undertaking by which the community and the appreciation of the forms upon which we focus are enriched:
A Chief who ruled over many villages decided to give a great feast for all of his people. So he sent messengers to the villages to announce the event. His messengers told the people that the feast would take place on such and such a day and asked each of the men to bring one calabash of palm wine.
The day of the festival came. People bathed and dressed in their best clothes. They walked to the Chief's village. Many hundreds of men and their families were on the roads and paths. They converged on the house of the Chief. There was drumming and dancing. Each man as he entered the compound, went with his calabash to a large earthn pot, into which he poured the liquid refreshment that he had brought.
Now there was one man who wanted very much to attend the feast, but he had no palm wine to bring. His wife said, "Why don't you buy palm wine from so-and-so, who has plenty?"
But the man replied, "What! Spend money so I can attend a feast that is free? No, there must be another way."
And after a while he said to his wife, "Hundreds of people will pour their wine into the Chief's pot. Could one calabash of water spoil so much wine? Who would know the difference?"
And so he filled the calabash with water and went with the others to the Chief's village. When he arrived, he saw the guests pouring their wine into the big pot, and he went forward and poured his water there and greeted the Chief. Then he went to where the men were sitting, and he sat with them to await the serving of the wine.
When all the guests had arrived, the Chief ordered his servants to fill everyone's cups. The cups were filled, and each of the men awaited the signal to begin to drink. The man who had brought only water was impatient, for there is nothing so refreshing as palm wine.
The chief gave the signal, and the guests put the cups to their lips. They tasted. They tasted again. And what they tasted was not palm wine but water, for each of them had thought, "One calabash of water cannot spoil a great pot of good palm wine." And each of them had filled his calabash at the spring. Thus the large earthen pot contained nothing but water, and it was was water they had to drink at the Chief's feast.
So it is said among the people: "When only water is brought to the feast, it is water that must be drunk."
This tale was collected by Rev. Gilbert Schneider in Bamenda and appears on pp. 56-57 in Harold Courlander, The King's Drum and Other African Stories (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1962).
On Mar 1, 2010, at 10:38 AM, joseph anderson wrote:
Hello, The nature of this site is to share information. We as a group do not attempt to appraise anything. Sorry, it's just not the function of this site
On Feb 26, 2010, at 11:43 PM, G. Wood wrote:
Tony thanks for the pictures, nice piece.
From: Tony Hillebrandt <hillebrandttony@...>
Sent: Thu, February 25, 2010 4:54:02 PM
Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Mbole Ofika
Thank you very much for the information. The pictures look similar as the one you send, no earrings but I can see some similarity.
Do you think my statue is old?
Do I have to insure it, can you say something of the value? Do you know for how much the pair is sold at te auction?
+1 514 880 8222
--- On Wed, 2/24/10, joseph anderson <ironjpa@triad. rr.com> wrote:
Reclaim your name @... or @rocketmail. com. Get your new email address now!
From: joseph anderson <ironjpa@triad. rr.com>
Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Mbole Ofika
To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
Received: Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 10:23 PM
Greetings. I don't know the origin of these but here are photos of two more. One I know is not old, the other looks nice. I also saw two others up for auction about two years ago. They were beautiful carvings. One with breasts, one without. The square cut out on the back all had nails or metal slivers in them as in a fetish. No earrings. As I remember from the auction description, they had something to do with a brutal gorilla ritual. I can't testify to the accuracy of that.
Photos can be found in the photo album labeled "Gorilla Fetish"
http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/617635984/ pic/list
On Feb 22, 2010, at 8:44 PM, Tony Hillebrandt wrote:
>> I bought this item in an antique bookstore in The Netherlands with the following information:
>> "Mbole Ofika", wood statue of a excecuted criminal.14 inch high. Made to order by a Belgian judge in Congo, approx. 1920-1930. In the 19th century statues like these were used during initiation rituals.
>> SO, this is all the information I've got. I don't know if the piece is genuine, and I am interested if this type of statue is common, or even known. And I would appreciate if someone could give me an estimate on the value.
>> More pictures available on request.
>> http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/5610049/ pic/list
>> Kind regards,
> <Congo 011.jpg><Congo 006.jpg><Congo 003.jpg>