- Oct 9, 2013View SourceRichard Schuster;Well said and good criterion to keep in mind."And so unlike much of art, where duplication is rightly denigrated as forgery or "reproduction," duplication is intrinsic to the cultural traditions of African art. It is part and parcel of the "ecology" of creating and collecting African art. I am sure that Ed �and symlkrborn@... know and accept this"mlkr
On Wednesday, October 9, 2013 8:52 AM, rschust <richschust@...> wrote:
From Richard SchusterUnfortunately, Ed trots out all the arguments against this particular Nkisi being worth much.� Poor collectors who cant even pay the buyer's commission at Sotheby's are still left holding nothing meaningful. So let's just enjoy our pieces, he suggests.But for an Nkisi, do modern nails mean not authentic and tribally used? No. The nails offer a means to roughly date the piece.Was it made by a member of the Bakongo? This is knowable.Is it a good carving? That is a matter of aesthetics independent of age or tribal use. A modern piece should be - and often is worth more if it is interesting and well carved. It will simply be more attractive and desirable.Was it used? Always hard to verify without collection in the field. But there are signs that indicate likelihood. In this case, use is doubtful.And some modern pieces are still being used in ways similar to those from the 19th Century - like Kananga masks. And Nkisi.�Was it made for sale? Probably. �But like any other kind of art, why not? If the African piece represents a tribal heritage but is made for sale, that seems OK by me. It is then not a reproduction in the sense of a carving made in a workshop somewhere else in the world.And collectors should also praise and encourage - rather than denigrate - a means to make a living on a continent that doesn't offer much to most people. LIke in my field of animal behavior, ex-hunters ("poachers") have been converted into game guards and the locals share in the profits from safari tourism. Tradition has been compromised. But people are making a living.And one more point which the defenders of the Sotheby's would rather we neglect: what is a reproduction? If a piece matches a $50,000 Sotheby's piece, is this forgery? A reproduction? The answer can be a definite NO.Carvers - even the now-deceased ones- work within the restrictions of tradition. They might add creative touches but pieces ( eg Nkisi, Yoruba Ibeji and so many others - are all much alike whether 19th-Century or modern. Some cultures- Makonde, Benin or Baule - are known for art that is more free-form. But even the Benin bronzes apparently made for easthetic purposes follow a set design with variations. The leopards and chameleons I have seen appear much alike.******Here's an example: I recently bought a Bamana ntomo mask from a seller on eBay. He/she didn't know what it was. Neither did I but it looked real, worn and similar to Bamana/Marka.... .Turns out it is an Ntomo mask that is an exact duplicate of one written about and photographed because it was collected and authenticated in the field in Mali. It sits in a collection of someone named Suaga. The two are so alike that they were likely made by the same carver in the same village at about the same time.So here are two absolutely alike masks except for the cowries in Suaga's. One sits in a famous collection. The other is in a little Cape Codcottage on Long Island.I suggest that mine is no less real, genuine or authentic in the deepest sense. Except that I will never know how it got to a person's wall in Oregon who didn't know what it was and likely did not care. In this case, duplication is a "plus," not a "minus."And so unlike much of art, where duplication is rightly denigrated as forgery or "reproduction," duplication is intrinsic to the cultural traditions of African art. It is part and parcel of the "ecology" of creating and collecting African art. I am sure that Ed �and symlkrborn@... know and accept this.So should age and provenance matter as much as they do? Maybe yes to a person who likes to display his/her success in life - or his/her inheritance from a well-known family - by trotting out the Rolex and Porsche and bill-of-sale for $100,000 from Sotheby's. It's nice to know that one's carving is older and was once owned by Aristotle Onassis, Cardinal Maloney, Pablo Picasso or Suaga. This definitely adds pleasure.But the influence of "authenticity" and "provenance" has become distorted to a difference between $100,000 and $100. And that is not as it should be except for the manipulation of art markets. Genuine is genuine. Beauty is beauty. Skill is skill. Even for a piece 5-10 years old.And provenance becomes arrogance. Economic manipulation. And an invitation to create forgeries.Richard SchusterOn Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 2:46 AM, <symlkrborn@...> wrote:�Ed; Very good evaluation and feedback. Too many fakes of such items selling for few hundreds.
---In email@example.com, wrote:
It is also rather apparent (to me) that this is a rather contemporary market nkisi (with a beautiful story�or lie included�to complete the sale).� It seems to include various attributes from different neighboring tribes / sub-tribes;�
- Any cavities to support "power" concoctions, such as�hair or nails from a deceased nganga, earth surroundings his burial, herbs, etc.?
- The snail shell have to do with birth protection into the celestial world.� It is unusually odd to see a specimen extremely embellished with so many shells... And the fresh water cowries laced along the bottom are peculiar (and perhaps also telling of being decorative).
- The open mouth typically indicates; (an orator or someone befitting)�having something vital or of extreme importance to say.�
- I cannot determine�if there is an exposed tongue.� If so, this would be related to; the objective of the nkisi's specific purpose as the hunter based upon the contract --- forged by licking of nails, or objects thrust into the carving so�the spirit (nkondi) has a DNA trace / link to�the�violator for judgment as it deems fit�� The exposed tongue is also akin to curses and insults such as; "I'll lick or eat your mother" ... all�part of provoking the spirit to action.
- It appears to be (falsely) encrusted with possible libations�--- which certainly is not consistent with�nganga, nkondi / nkisi purpose and use as the spiritual�JUDGE, HUNTER�and EXECUTIONER.���This is one primary reason the colonial missionaries and powers feared them and�banned their use among various peoples of the DRC.� It is also believed the demise of colonial powers�(administrators, and kings)�remain affected by certain�spiritual�oaths involving Power Figures even today.�
None-the-less, since you like it's, enjoy it.��Yes, you could take it to an appraiser for their opinion and pay money, but why?�It really is not�value-added�in doing so.� Genuine traditional (vetted) Nkisi / Minki are extremely�rare and scarce.��On the other hand, "market works are in abundance and�as prolific as weeds are in�ones' garden.�Ed���From: Bob Bates
- Circa 18th century nails in sub-Saharan Africa were created by blacksmiths, and were not industrialized --- bearing codes and raised impressions.� I suspect the nails used in this figure are modern, industrial nails and are consistently, if not used in a uniform manner.�
- It does not bear any environmental weathering or conditioning.� Nkisi objects were touched and handled by the Africans on a consistent basis.� This one does not indicate or show true signs of being handled.
- Even in the early�18th C.,�nkisi / minkisi traditional carvings were heavily influenced by Europeans from traditional archetypes.���The Africans held fast to keeping certain archetypes and refused to relinquish some... Many were stolen and taken after Europeans requested to purchase or have�particular archetypes.���Imagine, that would be similar to the French relinquishing their beloved Chartres Cathedral or Charles's Cross to an occupier / visitor.� Think about it.
Sent: Monday, October 7, 2013 4:09 PM
Subject: [African_Arts] NKondi 60cm High [5 Attachments]�[Attachment(s) from Bob Bates included below]I picked this up 15 maybe 20 years ago in a little shop in New Orleans.� Guy said it probably was from the late 1800's but I bought it because I like the looks of it.�Now I am wondering what it might be worth.� Any guesses?� Anyplace I can take it to find out.�Bob Bates - Cary NC.
--In the US from 10 October to 26 December.:�In Israel:Emeritus, Dept of PsychologyUniversity of HaifaHaifa 31905Tel: 077-7825306Cell: 050-7332323�In the US:1742 Grant AveEast Meadow, NY 11554Tel.: 516-750-5335Cell: 646-894-4904�