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Identification help

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  • Rand African Art
    Hi all, I got an email from a collector in Miami asking for help in identifying a piece. Some things I can help with fairly easily, and others often leave me
    Message 1 of 12 , May 6, 2005
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      Hi all,
       
      I got an email from a collector in Miami asking for help in identifying a piece.
      Some things I can help with fairly easily, and others often leave me stumped.
      I haven't had time to look into this one so I thought I would throw it out to the group and see if anyone had any thoughts as to what possible group of people would have originally produced a piece in this style. I have another set of items that another collector in Spain sent me to help identify that I will be posting to the group soon as well.
       
      The person isn't asking if the piece is a copy or authentic, just what group the piece would be attributed to.
       
      My initial thoughts were possibly Dan, but as I said I'm not really sure. Any help would be appreciated and I will pass your information on to him.
       
      I have added photos of the piece to the Group's photo section in a folder called "PETE" and below is a direct link:
      Greetings from Miami,

      I could really use some help identifying this statue. 
      Please let me know what you think.  It is a rarity that I seek outside help. 
      I usually do my own research, but this one has me stumped.

      Regards,

      Pete

       
       


      www.randafricanart.com
    • leerubinstein
      This is a Bassa female figure. I will post related photos and info shortly. Lee
      Message 2 of 12 , May 6, 2005
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        This is a Bassa female figure. I will post related photos and info
        shortly.

        Lee
      • GARYGLS2000@aol.com
        Pete, the figure is Bassa. ... From: Rand African Art To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com Sent: Fri, 6 May 2005 10:11:25 -0700 (PDT)
        Message 3 of 12 , May 6, 2005
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          Pete, the figure is Bassa. 
           
          -----Original Message-----
          From: Rand African Art <rand@...>
          To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Fri, 6 May 2005 10:11:25 -0700 (PDT)
          Subject: [African_Arts] Identification help

          Hi all,
           
          I got an email from a collector in Miami asking for help in identifying a piece.
          Some things I can help with fairly easily, and others often leave me stumped.
          I haven't had time to look into this one so I thought I would throw it out to the group and see if anyone had any thoughts as to what possible group of people would have originally produced a piece in this style. I have another set of items that another collector in Spain sent me to help identify that I will be posting to the group soon as well.
           
          The person isn't asking if the piece is a copy or authentic, just what group the piece would be attributed to.
           
          My initial thoughts were possibly Dan, but as I said I'm not really sure. Any help would be appreciated and I will pass your information on to him.
           
          I have added photos of the piece to the Group's photo section in a folder called "PETE" and below is a direct link:
          Greetings from Miami,

          I could really use some help identifying this statue. 
          Please let me know what you think.  It is a rarity that I seek outside help. 
          I usually do my own research, but this one has me stumped.

          Regards,

          Pete

           
           


          www.randafricanart.com

          Yahoo! Groups Links

        • leerubinstein
          Hello, folks, As previously indicated and confirmed (Thank you, Gary!), Pete s illustrated figure with the detailed scarification and fairly unique hair style
          Message 4 of 12 , May 6, 2005
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            Hello, folks,

            As previously indicated and confirmed (Thank you, Gary!), Pete's
            illustrated figure with the detailed scarification and fairly unique
            hair style comes from the Liberian Bassa group. For a synoptic but
            detailed history of the Bassa, please see the quote below excerpted
            from "The Role of the Bassa in Reshaping Liberia" or the entire
            address (link provided after the quote). However, please also note
            that the ie-inc.com web-site from which it is borrowed also includes
            some fascinating broader historical essays tracing the proto-Bassa
            from ancient Meroe all the way through Central Africa and linking
            them not only to the Liberian Bassa but also to other "Bassa" groups
            (Bassa Nge of Cameroon and the Bassa La Mpasu [Salampasu] of the DR
            of Congo, among others), linkages which I have not previously
            encountered but find fascinating. No wonder it is so difficult to
            trace or delineate stylistic elements of specific African material
            traditions! I'd be eager to hear from anyone any thoughts on these
            fascinating theories of Bassa migration.

            Although it is much easier to find Bassa MASKS -- with formal
            similarities to both Dan and Mende masking traditions -- there are
            some FIGURE images at the following web-sites (zyama and Barakat) as
            well:
            http://www.zyama.com/bassa/pics..htm
            The Barakat Gallery has offered some very high priced examples of
            which one still remains
            http://www.barakatgallery.com/store/index.cfm/FuseAction/ItemDetails/U
            serID/0/CFID/7573263/CFTOKEN/44505579/CategoryID/30/SubCategoryID/794/
            ItemID/10045.htm
            If this link doesn't work, try simply going to the Barakat site and
            click on Bassa. I should note, however, that a second so-called
            Bassa figure shown at the Gallery seems to me perhaps to be a Dan
            figure mi-attributed to the Bassa, although Dan as well as Mende and
            other Guinea Coat cultural and aesthetic influences are certainly
            logical.

            Finally, for now, here is the excerpt from the text to which I
            referred previously that offers a more localized Bassa history, which
            may offer an excellent starting point form which to contemplate the
            Bassa origins as well as the present and future of this living
            culture and people:

            "...the Bassa, Kru (Klao), Dei, Grebo, Krahn and Belle are not only
            kinsmen and women but also blood-sisters and blood brothers as well.
            Yes, the Bassa people and people of the other Liberian ethnic groups
            cited migrated from the same area, therefore, it is safe to say they
            are one family. Thank God the griots have excellent good memory of
            our people and the Djuankadyu, the legend of the Bassa were able to
            narrate the stories of how the Bassa, Belle, Grebo, Krahn and Kru
            (Klao) all came from the kingdom of Nyanyan (known as Nyanja, Nanja,
            pahn, or Nahn). This kingdom was once located in the vicinity of the
            east bank of the Cavalla River, near the borders of modern day Ivory
            Coast. It was the last place our people lived before moving to the
            landmass of modern day Liberia at the dictate of the leaders of
            Nyanyan." Excerpt from the Keynote Address by Dr. Syrulwa Somah, NC
            A&T State University and Executive Director of the Liberian History,
            Education & Development, Inc. (LIHEDE) at the 14th National
            Convention of the United Bassa Organization in the Americas (UNIBOA)
            For the full address, go to:
            http://www.ie-inc.com/vkarmo/BassaReshaping.htm
            The general link with information regarding the broader history,
            migration, etc.
            http://www.ie-inc.com/vkarmo/bassa.htm

            Lee

            P.S. For a look at the written script of the Bassa people, go to
            http://www.geocities.com/ctesibos/new-inv/image/bassa_alphabet.jpg
            http://www.geocities.com/ctesibos/new-inv/bassa.html
          • xango77777
            Greetings from Miami, I appreciate the help from everyone. And thank you Rand for hooking me up with the message post. I e mailed numerous galleries with the
            Message 5 of 12 , May 6, 2005
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              Greetings from Miami,


              I appreciate the help from everyone. And thank you Rand for hooking me
              up with the message post. I e mailed numerous galleries with the
              picture including some in Africa. One individual in the US told me
              that this was a reproduction of Grebo work done in Cameroon, and that
              it was most certainly a fake.

              There are age cracks throughout the piece. An inverted five pointed
              star on the backside, basically bilateral scarification, no christian
              iconography whatsoever, heriniated umbilical cord.

              I though that this piece may have been Makonde at first (as the
              positioning of the lips suggested a plug). Then I considered the Kongo
              as bilaterally scarified maternity figures can be encountered, but the
              hair style was different.

              Looking at other Bassa pictures, I can see the similarity. This piece
              has been in the US for at least 60 years and smells of must and old age.
              There are no sharp edges on the piece, everything is very smooth to the
              touch. The portions which come in contact with the floor have lost
              their curvature and are worn flat.

              There is no residue on the surface which can be removed with a damp
              cloth. No evidence of burning, "urine aging," or soaking.

              Any input as to the age of this piece would be appreciated; feelings
              and comments as to the authenticity, falsification, etc.

              Thanks in Advance and Thanks for the help thus far,

              Pete
              miamiartifacts@...
            • Craig Lewis
              Hi Pete, do you have any documentation to show it has been in the US for 60 years? I must admit to being suspect of it at the moment, the patina looks
              Message 6 of 12 , May 6, 2005
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                Hi Pete,
                do you have any documentation to show it has been in the US for 60
                years?
                I must admit to being suspect of it at the moment, the patina looks
                purposely "rubbed" to me. Also would the parts that come into contact
                with the floor have worn down to be flat? If so then the piece must
                have been dragged around quite a lot, otherwise I couldn't see that
                happening.
                Also the smell you described, why would it smell old and musty if it
                has been in the US for 60 years? I was recently admiring a 400 year
                old English table, that didn't smell "old and musty".
                I could of course be wrong but I suspect the worn down areas and
                smell of the piece have intentionally been put there to deceive
                because otherwise they don't make sense to me.
                Hope this is of help,
                Cheers
                Craig



                --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, "xango77777" <xango7777@h...>
                wrote:
                > Greetings from Miami,
                >
                >
                > I appreciate the help from everyone. And thank you Rand for
                hooking me
                > up with the message post. I e mailed numerous galleries with the
                > picture including some in Africa. One individual in the US told me
                > that this was a reproduction of Grebo work done in Cameroon, and
                that
                > it was most certainly a fake.
                >
                > There are age cracks throughout the piece. An inverted five
                pointed
                > star on the backside, basically bilateral scarification, no
                christian
                > iconography whatsoever, heriniated umbilical cord.
                >
                > I though that this piece may have been Makonde at first (as the
                > positioning of the lips suggested a plug). Then I considered the
                Kongo
                > as bilaterally scarified maternity figures can be encountered, but
                the
                > hair style was different.
                >
                > Looking at other Bassa pictures, I can see the similarity. This
                piece
                > has been in the US for at least 60 years and smells of must and old
                age.
                > There are no sharp edges on the piece, everything is very smooth to
                the
                > touch. The portions which come in contact with the floor have lost
                > their curvature and are worn flat.
                >
                > There is no residue on the surface which can be removed with a damp
                > cloth. No evidence of burning, "urine aging," or soaking.
                >
                > Any input as to the age of this piece would be appreciated;
                feelings
                > and comments as to the authenticity, falsification, etc.
                >
                > Thanks in Advance and Thanks for the help thus far,
                >
                > Pete
                > miamiartifacts@h...
              • Steve Price
                Hi Pete I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the question of whether you piece is authentic or not, but a few points to add: 1. It can be more than 50
                Message 7 of 12 , May 7, 2005
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                  Hi Pete

                  I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the question of whether
                  you piece is authentic or not, but a few points to add:
                  1. It can be more than 50 years old and still not be authentic.
                  Africans have been making carvings to sell to Europeans for
                  centuries. I own several pieces that were in the USA before World
                  War II, that are almost certainly in that category.
                  2. The "age cracks" can develop within a few months. The reason is
                  that freshly cut trees are used to make them, and the cracks develop
                  very quickly as the wood dries out.

                  Regards

                  Steve Price

                  --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, "xango77777" <xango7777@h...>
                  wrote:
                  > Greetings from Miami,
                  >
                  >
                  > I appreciate the help from everyone. And thank you Rand for
                  hooking me
                  > up with the message post. I e mailed numerous galleries with the
                  > picture including some in Africa. One individual in the US told me
                  > that this was a reproduction of Grebo work done in Cameroon, and
                  that
                  > it was most certainly a fake.
                  >
                  > There are age cracks throughout the piece. An inverted five
                  pointed
                  > star on the backside, basically bilateral scarification, no
                  christian
                  > iconography whatsoever, heriniated umbilical cord.
                  >
                  > I though that this piece may have been Makonde at first (as the
                  > positioning of the lips suggested a plug). Then I considered the
                  Kongo
                  > as bilaterally scarified maternity figures can be encountered, but
                  the
                  > hair style was different.
                  >
                  > Looking at other Bassa pictures, I can see the similarity. This
                  piece
                  > has been in the US for at least 60 years and smells of must and old
                  age.
                  > There are no sharp edges on the piece, everything is very smooth to
                  the
                  > touch. The portions which come in contact with the floor have lost
                  > their curvature and are worn flat.
                  >
                  > There is no residue on the surface which can be removed with a damp
                  > cloth. No evidence of burning, "urine aging," or soaking.
                  >
                  > Any input as to the age of this piece would be appreciated;
                  feelings
                  > and comments as to the authenticity, falsification, etc.
                  >
                  > Thanks in Advance and Thanks for the help thus far,
                  >
                  > Pete
                  > miamiartifacts@h...
                • M.E.F.
                  Pete and Steve and others, Hello, I would like to add a few general points to this particular discussion, though I was hoping that this group was not going to
                  Message 8 of 12 , May 7, 2005
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                    Pete and Steve and others, Hello,

                    I would like to add a few general points to this particular discussion, though I was hoping that this group was not going to be a set of rubber stamps that validate items in the collection of the members from a monetary value view point.

                    What makes a piece of African carving "authentic" is that it was made for, mostly ritual use, or sometimes other use within the culture it comes from, such as gold weights which were instrumental in economic activity or Kassai Velvet which was a kind of "bride price" as well as a wide range of status symbols such as stools (Ashanti, Luba,etc.)  cups (e.g. Suku, Kuba, etc.).

                    The sculpture being discussed here is clearly not an ancestor figure, or any other ritual or functional or symbolic carving that comes to mind. Therefore, old or not, I agree with Steve that it is of no other value than aesthetic/decorative. The main thing is that its collector/owner should like it and than it is of great value to him.

                    Margalit


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                  • Craig Lewis
                    I can t see that anyone has rubber stamped anything with a monetary value on here. All I can see is good answers to the questions that were asked i.e.
                    Message 9 of 12 , May 8, 2005
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                      I can't see that anyone has "rubber stamped" anything with a monetary
                      value on here. All I can see is good answers to the questions that
                      were asked i.e. possible attribution, and the other question of if it
                      is a reproduction or not.
                      I for one was very pleased with the way these questions were
                      answered. That is, politely and without resorting to the "junking"of
                      peoples pieces that we have sometimes seen, and also with explanation
                      of peoples views.
                      Please tell me if I have missed something :-)
                      Craig



                      --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, "M.E.F." <mfliegelmann@y...>
                      wrote:
                      >
                      >
                      > Pete and Steve and others, Hello,
                      >
                      > I would like to add a few general points to this particular
                      discussion, though I was hoping that this group was not going to be a
                      set of rubber stamps that validate items in the collection of the
                      members from a monetary value view point.
                      >
                      > What makes a piece of African carving "authentic" is that it was
                      made for, mostly ritual use, or sometimes other use within the
                      culture it comes from, such as gold weights which were instrumental
                      in economic activity or Kassai Velvet which was a kind of "bride
                      price" as well as a wide range of status symbols such as stools
                      (Ashanti, Luba,etc.) cups (e.g. Suku, Kuba, etc.).
                      >
                      > The sculpture being discussed here is clearly not an ancestor
                      figure, or any other ritual or functional or symbolic carving that
                      comes to mind. Therefore, old or not, I agree with Steve that it is
                      of no other value than aesthetic/decorative. The main thing is that
                      its collector/owner should like it and than it is of great value to
                      him.
                      >
                      > Margalit
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > ---------------------------------
                      > Yahoo! Mail Mobile
                      > Take Yahoo! Mail with you! Check email on your mobile phone.
                    • Rand African Art
                      Hi Margalit, Thanks for your email, it’s always nice to hear from you :-) I think the new group is doing pretty well so far at helping people out who have
                      Message 10 of 12 , May 9, 2005
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                        Hi Margalit,

                         

                        Thanks for your email, it�s always nice to hear from you :-)

                         

                        I think the new group is doing pretty well so far at helping people out who have asked about their items. The responses have been polite and informative. Unfortunately one of the questions that people ask about, when they are researching something in their possession that they don�t know much about, is if the piece has any monetary value. We all have the hopes of finding the gemstone in the rough that could net us small fortune!

                         

                        Pete actually didn�t ask anything about monetary value, he did ask about possibly authenticity or possible falsification, and I thought the responses were very good. They talked about smell and patina and age cracks and hopefully were educational or informative for people. This subject is something that interests me very much.

                         

                        Authenticity of an item to most, including me, is a hard to determine at times. There are so many different factors to take into consideration and so many unknowns that can make it very hard to tell for many people. Then you throw in the fact that many objects have been purposely made to look old and used in order to deceive, and it makes it even more complicated. Some things you can just look at and hold and just know that it is a reproduction, while others it takes examining the piece in your hands and studying it up close and often consulting others to make the necessary determinations about a piece. A lot of it is knowing what pieces were traditionally made for and how they were handled and used and using that knowledge to make your determination.

                         

                        Some can just look at a photo of a piece and immediately dismiss it as a copy, and I for one do not believe that it is that easy to do. Maybe with years of experience, and after handling hundreds or thousands of pieces, you can �just tell�, but for the majority of the people out there I think it is not so easy. I really enjoy the constructive conversations around patina, smell, age cracks and style that can come up when a person presents an item they are unsure of. I enjoy it when people who have a great deal of experience can constructively share with others what they see in a piece from a photograph because it helps the rest of us become educated consumers.

                         

                        I wrote a 3 page response to someone about authenticity a few weeks ago and maybe I�ll dig it up and throw it out here and see what others think about it. Authenticity is still something that I am constantly learning about, and I imagine I�ll be learning about it for some time to come.

                         

                        I am looking forward to going to the New York Tribal Arts show in a few weeks, and I want to really examine all of the pieces being offered, since all of the pieces are vetted, and hopefully it will be a good learning experience for me.

                         

                        I will also try and see if I can dig up any other examples of Bassa female figures, similar to the one that Pete offered for discussion, and I�ll post them on a web page where we all can do some comparisons. I will admit that I know absolutely nothing about the Bassa and their sculpture, so it will be a good learning experience.  

                         

                        Cheers!

                        RAND

                        www.randafricanart.com

                         

                        "M.E.F." <mfliegelmann@...> wrote:

                        Pete and Steve and others, Hello,

                        I would like to add a few general points to this particular discussion, though I was hoping that this group was not going to be a set of rubber stamps that validate items in the collection of the members from a monetary value view point.

                        What makes a piece of African carving "authentic" is that it was made for, mostly ritual use, or sometimes other use within the culture it comes from, such as gold weights which were instrumental in economic activity or Kassai Velvet which was a kind of "bride price" as well as a wide range of status symbols such as stools (Ashanti, Luba,etc.)  cups (e.g. Suku, Kuba, etc.).

                        The sculpture being discussed here is clearly not an ancestor figure, or any other ritual or functional or symbolic carving that comes to mind. Therefore, old or not, I agree with Steve that it is of no other value than aesthetic/decorative. The main thing is that its collector/owner should like it and than it is of great value to him.

                        Margalit


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                      • M.E.F.
                        Dear Rand, The lasst paragraph of your response is the most important one: before deciding about a piece, on SHOULD find out as much as possible about the
                        Message 11 of 12 , May 10, 2005
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                          Dear Rand,
                           
                          The lasst paragraph of your response is the most important one: before deciding about a piece, on SHOULD find out as much as possible about the culture it comes from.
                           
                          You made me see another problem. You mention "copy". Copy assumes that the piece has a place in the material culture of a people but that the item in question was not actually used as such, it is a reproduction of one that was. That is already a more legitimate exercise. You find them in all the museum shops all over the world. They are usually made carefully to have the right features and dimension but will  not have the smells and so on. There is a lesser category which is a purely commercial attempt at making money by doing impressionistically reproduced items, often from memory or others from books and other images. Then the dimensions are all wrong and, of course, the exercise is all wrong.
                           
                          The latter is easier to reject as they are usually ugly and have no appeal. There are the copies which are much more difficult to discern. I mentioned once Dame Peggy Apiah. She is an English woman married to an Ashanti chief and has one of the largest collections of authentic gold-weights known. She also trained a group of craftsmen to reproduce her pieces as close as technically possible (which is very close) to enable these craftsman to generate an income. A very worthwhile exercise except for collectors, obviously.
                           
                          So, to sum up "fake" is even worse than "copy" or "reproduction" except that it is more tempting to mistake for "authentic".
                           
                          And yes, the posts have been all of the good things you mention. Keep up the good work,
                           
                          Margalit


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                        • M.E.F.
                          Hi Craig, Reprimand taken. You are right. I had aother things in mind. You are very right and I am sorry, Margalit ... Yahoo! Mail Stay connected, organized,
                          Message 12 of 12 , May 10, 2005
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                            Hi Craig,

                            Reprimand taken. You are right. I had aother things in mind. You are very right and I am sorry, Margalit


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