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Re: [African_Arts] Re: Hemba

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  • William Klebous
    two comments: Markus, it IS immensely frustrating to try and hunt down good stuff without paying big money to a reputable dealer (and even then, there s plenty
    Message 1 of 13 , Oct 31, 2006
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      two comments:

      Markus, it IS immensely frustrating to try and
      hunt down good stuff without paying big money
      to a reputable dealer (and even then, there's
      plenty of evidence that you have to be careful).
      But there are no shortcuts to developing a good
      eye. Just look at the amount of work Lee and RAND
      put into their passion, and they are still
      often challenged by individual pieces. So
      my advice is either get rich or settle in for
      the long haul, slowly but surely picking up
      enough knowledge and experience to risk decent
      but not huge money on the occassional piece that
      both delights you and seems to pass every test.
      And even then, be prepared to make mistakes and
      write them off as the cost of learning.

      Paul, with regard to your pics, I received two
      of the stool and none of the "buli" piece.
      i'd love to see the buli one. Secondly, you must
      have a very discrimating eye and a wealth of
      experience to dismiss both the stool and the
      monkey as fakes on the basis of just those
      photos. (Markus, this is a good example
      of how hard it is -- Paul can reach a conclusion
      from those photos, I can't, I don't have enough
      experience).

      Obviously the monkey form itself is questionable
      in terms of Hemba examples that I know about, but
      I have to say it did immediately remind me of
      the stylized Hemba "monkey masks" that are a
      recognized form, so I have to at least wonder
      if this is a sincere if recent variation.

      WK

      --- escultura78 <markuswurm@...> wrote:

      > Paul,
      >
      > thank you for your opinion on the Hemba figure and
      > your explanation
      > with examples. I don't have much experience in
      > african art but I had
      > doubts about the Hemba figure too. But in such a
      > doubtful situation
      > I always think: Is it possible that every figure or
      > mask from a well
      > known ethnic group is a copy or a fake? Your
      > statement that even in
      > Hemba Land buying is simply not safe is a little bit
      > frustrating for
      > me, althougt I am aware that most Hemba, Luba, Baule
      > etc. figures on
      > the market are fakes. The problem is, that objects
      > with convincing
      > provenance use to be enormous expensive. Thus for
      > the everage
      > collector it seems to be impossible to collect
      > objects from certain
      > ethnic groups - Even the authenticity of objcts from
      > less known
      > groups is often doubtful. On the other hand in many
      > cultures
      > traditional practices are still alive and ritual
      > objects are still
      > produced for tribal purpose. It is very difficult
      > for me to
      > distinguish between recent objects produced for
      > tribal use and those
      > which were produced for sale. I know high quality
      > Hemba figures from
      > books and catalogues and I know the typical tourist
      > art sold
      > everywhere, but there must be a medium level of
      > recent but tribally
      > used art, which is affordable. I have some masks in
      > my collection
      > which are obviously not very old but – in my
      opinion
      > – tribally
      > used. Can I expect to find something like this among
      > the Hemba art
      > too?
      >
      > Thank you
      > Markus
      > (Please don't worry about my bad english - I am from
      > Austria)
      >
      > --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, "Paul De Lucco"
      >
      > <pauldelucco@...> wrote:
      > >
      > > I have to side with WK. It is terribly difficult
      > to expertise
      > Hemba art because there are so many high-quality
      > copies and fakes in
      > the marketplace. (I wouldn't be the first to say
      > that some of these
      > show up in major auctions with the provenance:
      > "From an old Belgian
      > collection.")
      > >
      > > Just one hour ago, "Jimmy", a Congolese art runner
      > passed by my
      > office to give me photos of 3 Hemba objects that
      > arrived in Kigali
      > this week. Now, the 1st of these could be the last
      > remaining Buli
      > Master stool left in Africa. But, really, how
      > likely is that? I
      > vaguely remember a newspaper article I read about
      > ten years ago. An
      > art historian on her way to work in New York, as I
      > recall, would
      > pass by a house belonging to the French Embassy with
      > a courtyard in
      > which there was a small bronze statue. After weeks
      > of seeing the
      > statue, she made inquiries and looked at the piece
      > more closely. It
      > was a genuine .... and here my memory fails me, Da
      > Vinci,
      > Michelangelo. A great Italian old master. So,
      > these things do
      > happen. But stylistically, this stool is a bit weak
      > compared to an
      > authentic Buli. Buli pieces are dynamic while this
      > one is inert.
      > The fingers are not completely joined to the top.
      > But, this stool
      > isn't new. It has been around. The face is pretty
      > well carved. It
      > is a female figure and one would expect a fake to be
      > male. (Most of
      > the existing Buli pieces are male, no? The famous
      > cupbearer figure
      > is female of course. I think I remember one stool.
      > Maybe someone
      > could check for me. I don't have easy access to
      > data bases here and
      > as I write, I don't even have internet access;
      > supposedly an
      > antenna is down somewhere....) Big feet. The top
      > of the stool
      > seems wrong. It is small and delicate like a
      > southern Luba piece
      > while the Hemba pieces I remember have thicker,
      > stouter tops.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The 2nd, a monkey figure, is ... what? I never
      > saw a Hemba piece
      > like this one. Is it Songye perhaps? I like the
      > way the left leg
      > is worn from wearing a bracelet that is no longer
      > there. As if the
      > piece ran around a lot when it was younger. I don't
      > like the bright
      > white wood, with what appears to be scorch marks, of
      > the break on
      > the right hand side.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > The 3rd, although a bit short, is a stylistically
      > correct Hemba
      > stool. If it was fabricated as a fake, it has seen
      > its share of
      > wear over the years.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Of course, I have only seen the photos and it is
      > unwise to make
      > decisions based on photos. But I probably won't ask
      > to see the
      > pieces. The fact is, pieces like this come by
      > frequently. I lived -
      > and collected - for more than 3 years in Hemba
      > country in the early
      > 1980's. I bought many pieces, mostly small
      > household items, which I
      > am sure I will try to sell someday. But it is
      > simply not safe, even
      > in Hemba Land, to buy Hemba art that has no
      > convincing provenance.
      > Even Hemba art with good provenance must be looked
      > at very closely.
      > As the French used to say about Beaujolais:
      > Unfortunately, more is
      > sold than is produced.
      > >
      > > - Paul
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > ----- Original Message -----
      > > From: William Klebous
      > > To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
      > > Sent: Sunday, October 29, 2006 9:06 PM
      > > Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Hemba
      > >
      > >
      > > (Just to reinforce my repeated disclaimer, I do
      > > not have the disciplined approach of Lee or
      > RAND,
      > > and simply make the best guess I can based on
      > the
      > > photos supplied and my personal limited
      > experience)
      > >
      > > Markus, I would stay away from that Hemba
      > figure,
      > > as I feel it is both insincere and very recent.
      > > Neither its form nor its patina are at all
      > convincing.
      > >
      > > again, only a guess, WK
      > >
      > > Send instant messages to your online friends
      > http://au.messenger.yahoo.com
      > >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > African Arts and Culture Discussion Group
      >
      > *Website for the group:
      > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/
      >
      > *Photos folder for the group:
      > http://ph.groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos
      >
      >
      > *Message archives for the group:
      > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/messages
      >
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >


      Send instant messages to your online friends http://au.messenger.yahoo.com
    • Paul De Lucco
      WK, Sorry about the photo mixup. I will attach the Buli photo to this message. I did not say the stool was a fake, although I think it probably is. I think
      Message 2 of 13 , Nov 1, 2006
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        WK,
         
        Sorry about the photo mixup.  I will attach the Buli photo to this message.
         
        I did not say the stool was a fake, although I think it probably is.  I think it is an old fake, a piece that was carved for the curio market but went unsold for a number of years during which it was used as a ... a stool.  Now, dignified by the appropriate patina, it is again in the market, albeit, at the very beginning of the value chain, in Kigali, Rwanda.  I have two stools of the same style that I collected in the 1980's.  Unfortunately, they are in storage in the States.  They were not uncommon when I lived in the area.  They are taller and, to my eyes, better proportioned than this piece which looks squat to me.  (As a matter of fact, last month "Jimmy" brought me a fake Bembe stool which is fabricated of dense, heavy wood.  The stool, more or less the same style as the Hemba stool in question, has better proportions.  It was eventually bought by an American businessman.  I attach a photo here.)      But, for such an article of everyday use, I would have to say that this stool has become authenticated by virtue of being used regularly and acquiring the proper patina of use.  I am pretty sure that no clan leader sat on the stool, but friction is friction. 
         
        A important caryatid stool is not an object of everyday use and I would suggest that it does not matter if someone sat on such a fake every day for several years, it never becomes authenticated in this fashion. 
         
        I also found the monkey piece interesting and was also reminded of the famous Hemba So'o masks.  I don't like the color of the wood where it has been banged-up and scratched.  What I will do is ask to see it.  In fact, I will ask to see all three pieces, I will take more photos from different angles and I will post them and we can discuss this further.
         
        I have handled a lot of Hemba fakes over the years.  I can now say, not that I can always spot a fake, but that I have been so impressed with the quality of some fakes, that I have become very cautious in appraising pieces.  Also, I know that the Hemba area has been pretty well collected-out.  There was not much art remaining when I was living there 20 years ago.  But some traditions were still alive and traditional carvers were happily turning out objects for traditional use as well as for the curio trade.  One of the very best Hemba carvers, Pezos, has since moved to Nairobi where he now does restorations and specializes in the fabrication of Songye pieces.  He is a master craftsman.  
         
        Not long ago, I bought a Hemba mask from the Mambwe area (photo attached).  This style mask has always been very rare.  I like to think it's real but, honestly, if Pezos had a hand in it I would never be able to tell.
         
        Regards,
         
        Paul 
         
         
         
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Wednesday, November 01, 2006 4:23 AM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Hemba

        two comments:

        Markus, it IS immensely frustrating to try and
        hunt down good stuff without paying big money
        to a reputable dealer (and even then, there's
        plenty of evidence that you have to be careful).
        But there are no shortcuts to developing a good
        eye. Just look at the amount of work Lee and RAND
        put into their passion, and they are still
        often challenged by individual pieces. So
        my advice is either get rich or settle in for
        the long haul, slowly but surely picking up
        enough knowledge and experience to risk decent
        but not huge money on the occassional piece that
        both delights you and seems to pass every test.
        And even then, be prepared to make mistakes and
        write them off as the cost of learning.

        Paul, with regard to your pics, I received two
        of the stool and none of the "buli" piece.
        i'd love to see the buli one. Secondly, you must
        have a very discrimating eye and a wealth of
        experience to dismiss both the stool and the
        monkey as fakes on the basis of just those
        photos. (Markus, this is a good example
        of how hard it is -- Paul can reach a conclusion
        from those photos, I can't, I don't have enough
        experience).

        Obviously the monkey form itself is questionable
        in terms of Hemba examples that I know about, but
        I have to say it did immediately remind me of
        the stylized Hemba "monkey masks" that are a
        recognized form, so I have to at least wonder
        if this is a sincere if recent variation.

        WK

        --- escultura78 <markuswurm@gmx. at> wrote:

        > Paul,
        >
        > thank you for your opinion on the Hemba figure and
        > your explanation
        > with examples. I don't have much experience in
        > african art but I had
        > doubts about the Hemba figure too. But in such a
        > doubtful situation
        > I always think: Is it possible that every figure or
        > mask from a well
        > known ethnic group is a copy or a fake? Your
        > statement that even in
        > Hemba Land buying is simply not safe is a little bit
        > frustrating for
        > me, althougt I am aware that most Hemba, Luba, Baule
        > etc. figures on
        > the market are fakes. The problem is, that objects
        > with convincing
        > provenance use to be enormous expensive. Thus for
        > the everage
        > collector it seems to be impossible to collect
        > objects from certain
        > ethnic groups - Even the authenticity of objcts from
        > less known
        > groups is often doubtful. On the other hand in many
        > cultures
        > traditional practices are still alive and ritual
        > objects are still
        > produced for tribal purpose. It is very difficult
        > for me to
        > distinguish between recent objects produced for
        > tribal use and those
        > which were produced for sale. I know high quality
        > Hemba figures from
        > books and catalogues and I know the typical tourist
        > art sold
        > everywhere, but there must be a medium level of
        > recent but tribally
        > used art, which is affordable. I have some masks in
        > my collection
        > which are obviously not very old but &#8211; in my
        opinion
        > &#8211; tribally
        > used. Can I expect to find something like this among
        > the Hemba art
        > too?
        >
        > Thank you
        > Markus
        > (Please don't worry about my bad english - I am from
        > Austria)
        >
        > --- In African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com, "Paul De Lucco"
        >
        > <pauldelucco@ ...> wrote:
        > >
        > > I have to side with WK. It is terribly difficult
        > to expertise
        > Hemba art because there are so many high-quality
        > copies and fakes in
        > the marketplace. (I wouldn't be the first to say
        > that some of these
        > show up in major auctions with the provenance:
        > "From an old Belgian
        > collection." )
        > >
        > > Just one hour ago, "Jimmy", a Congolese art runner
        > passed by my
        > office to give me photos of 3 Hemba objects that
        > arrived in Kigali
        > this week. Now, the 1st of these could be the last
        > remaining Buli
        > Master stool left in Africa. But, really, how
        > likely is that? I
        > vaguely remember a newspaper article I read about
        > ten years ago. An
        > art historian on her way to work in New York, as I
        > recall, would
        > pass by a house belonging to the French Embassy with
        > a courtyard in
        > which there was a small bronze statue. After weeks
        > of seeing the
        > statue, she made inquiries and looked at the piece
        > more closely. It
        > was a genuine .... and here my memory fails me, Da
        > Vinci,
        > Michelangelo. A great Italian old master. So,
        > these things do
        > happen. But stylistically, this stool is a bit weak
        > compared to an
        > authentic Buli. Buli pieces are dynamic while this
        > one is inert.
        > The fingers are not completely joined to the top.
        > But, this stool
        > isn't new. It has been around. The face is pretty
        > well carved. It
        > is a female figure and one would expect a fake to be
        > male. (Most of
        > the existing Buli pieces are male, no? The famous
        > cupbearer figure
        > is female of course. I think I remember one stool.
        > Maybe someone
        > could check for me. I don't have easy access to
        > data bases here and
        > as I write, I don't even have internet access;
        > supposedly an
        > antenna is down somewhere... .) Big feet. The top
        > of the stool
        > seems wrong. It is small and delicate like a
        > southern Luba piece
        > while the Hemba pieces I remember have thicker,
        > stouter tops.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > The 2nd, a monkey figure, is ... what? I never
        > saw a Hemba piece
        > like this one. Is it Songye perhaps? I like the
        > way the left leg
        > is worn from wearing a bracelet that is no longer
        > there. As if the
        > piece ran around a lot when it was younger. I don't
        > like the bright
        > white wood, with what appears to be scorch marks, of
        > the break on
        > the right hand side.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > The 3rd, although a bit short, is a stylistically
        > correct Hemba
        > stool. If it was fabricated as a fake, it has seen
        > its share of
        > wear over the years.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > Of course, I have only seen the photos and it is
        > unwise to make
        > decisions based on photos. But I probably won't ask
        > to see the
        > pieces. The fact is, pieces like this come by
        > frequently. I lived -
        > and collected - for more than 3 years in Hemba
        > country in the early
        > 1980's. I bought many pieces, mostly small
        > household items, which I
        > am sure I will try to sell someday. But it is
        > simply not safe, even
        > in Hemba Land, to buy Hemba art that has no
        > convincing provenance.
        > Even Hemba art with good provenance must be looked
        > at very closely.
        > As the French used to say about Beaujolais:
        > Unfortunately, more is
        > sold than is produced.
        > >
        > > - Paul
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > ----- Original Message -----
        > > From: William Klebous
        > > To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
        > > Sent: Sunday, October 29, 2006 9:06 PM
        > > Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Hemba
        > >
        > >
        > > (Just to reinforce my repeated disclaimer, I do
        > > not have the disciplined approach of Lee or
        > RAND,
        > > and simply make the best guess I can based on
        > the
        > > photos supplied and my personal limited
        > experience)
        > >
        > > Markus, I would stay away from that Hemba
        > figure,
        > > as I feel it is both insincere and very recent.
        > > Neither its form nor its patina are at all
        > convincing.
        > >
        > > again, only a guess, WK
        > >
        > > Send instant messages to your online friends
        > http://au.messenger .yahoo.com
        > >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > African Arts and Culture Discussion Group
        >
        > *Website for the group:
        > http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/
        >
        > *Photos folder for the group:
        > http://ph.groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos
        >
        >
        > *Message archives for the group:
        > http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/messages
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >

        Send instant messages to your online friends http://au.messenger .yahoo.com

      • escultura78
        WK, thank you for your advice. I will try to do my best...not in getting rich, but in picking up enough experience and knowledgement...;) Markus
        Message 3 of 13 , Nov 1, 2006
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          WK,

          thank you for your advice. I will try to do my best...not in getting
          rich, but in picking up enough experience and knowledgement...;)

          Markus

          --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, William Klebous <klebous@...>
          wrote:
          >
          > two comments:
          >
          > Markus, it IS immensely frustrating to try and
          > hunt down good stuff without paying big money
          > to a reputable dealer (and even then, there's
          > plenty of evidence that you have to be careful).
          > But there are no shortcuts to developing a good
          > eye. Just look at the amount of work Lee and RAND
          > put into their passion, and they are still
          > often challenged by individual pieces. So
          > my advice is either get rich or settle in for
          > the long haul, slowly but surely picking up
          > enough knowledge and experience to risk decent
          > but not huge money on the occassional piece that
          > both delights you and seems to pass every test.
          > And even then, be prepared to make mistakes and
          > write them off as the cost of learning.
          >
          > Paul, with regard to your pics, I received two
          > of the stool and none of the "buli" piece.
          > i'd love to see the buli one. Secondly, you must
          > have a very discrimating eye and a wealth of
          > experience to dismiss both the stool and the
          > monkey as fakes on the basis of just those
          > photos. (Markus, this is a good example
          > of how hard it is -- Paul can reach a conclusion
          > from those photos, I can't, I don't have enough
          > experience).
          >
          > Obviously the monkey form itself is questionable
          > in terms of Hemba examples that I know about, but
          > I have to say it did immediately remind me of
          > the stylized Hemba "monkey masks" that are a
          > recognized form, so I have to at least wonder
          > if this is a sincere if recent variation.
          >
          > WK
        • Paul De Lucco
          Michael, From the Metropolitan Museum collection: Regards, Paul ... From: jivarobe To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com Sent: Sunday, October 29, 2006 2:02 PM
          Message 4 of 13 , Nov 1, 2006
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            Michael,
             
            From the Metropolitan Museum collection:
             
             
            Regards,
             
            Paul
             
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: jivarobe
            Sent: Sunday, October 29, 2006 2:02 PM
            Subject: [African_Arts] Songye : have you seen a female figure ?

            Dear group,

            I recently came accross what I think is a nice Songye figure.

            See http://ph.groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ view/2fbf? b=5  (front view)

            http://ph.groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ view/2fbf? b=6&m=s&o=0  (side view)

            http://ph.groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ view/2fbf? b=7&m=s&o=0  (back view)

            The figures I had seen published or otherwise are ususally males. Very rarely have I seen androgynous figures. But I hadn't yet seen a female one, as this one clearly is.  Besides obvious sexual caracteristics  she also shows scarifications  of the belly and back .

            Have you seen female figures somewhere ?  And would you know more ?

            Incidentally this brings me to another topic. Wouldn't it be useful to have a way to retrieve and access all the subjects already discussed in earlier messages ?

            Thank you,
            Michael

             

          • LRubinstein@post.harvard.edu
            Some of you have indicated that you have been unable to access the image of the female Songye nkishi from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that Paul
            Message 5 of 13 , Nov 3, 2006
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              Some of you have indicated that you have been unable to access the image of the female Songye nkishi from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that Paul posted...yesterday, I think.  (What day is today?) Just in case, you can access the image directly at
               
              In answer to Michael's original question, I can't make any general statements about the relative frequencies of male, female and androgenous figures among the objects of this class but there seems to be no dearth of female mankishi  from among the Songye, or Songe.  The plenitude of such figures would seem consistent with reports that a primary function attributed to mankishi is the propagation of female fertility, a request that would generally be made through an intermediary figure of female form.  I have come across numerous examples, the first of which comes from the site of Andre Kirbach.  As the linked text which accompanies the figure is in German, I include here below the link a reasonable translation of that text.
               http://www.andre-kirbach.de/Objekte.php?lang=en&nr=K0308
               
              "The magic figures of the Songye served an individual or a whole village community depending upon its size. Such nkisi were equipped with symbolic substances, used for various functions -- protection, welfare and in fortune-telling. Since an nkisi could not be moved with (or touched by) the hands during ritual, it was moved with sticks, which one pushed under its arms. 

              With this small nkisi, the horn -- usually filled with magic substances -- was broken off and relieved of these substances, probably before passing on to a foreigner, and thus relieved of its function. It still radiates its original strength nevertheless. 
               
              Other female mankishi I have come across are shown below.  The first is from an informational/educational site:
              (Note:I've provided both images and their links in case any of the images do not come through to all group participants.).
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
              This is one from the City Review recap (http://www.thecityreview.com/f00strib.html) of the Sotheby's (NY) November 18, 2000 auction of works from the Egon Guenther Family Collection:
               
              Songe female figure

              Lot 133, Songe female figure, 23 inches high

              One of the auction’s more striking works is Lot 133, a fine Songe female figure that is 23 inches high and was formerly in the Jack Cardiff Collection. The figure wears a fiber skirt and has an open upturned mouth and wears a cap-like coiffure with two holes for the insertion of fetishes. The figure’s facial expression shows an elderly woman apparently with no teeth who might be smiling except that her eyes are downcast and so she might be interpreted as speaking or giving advice. The lot has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $69,750.

              And this one from Musee du Quai Branly:

              Cliquez sur l'image pour la visualiser en plein écran

              Appellation : Statuette féminine

              N° inventaire : 73.1966.14.1  Ethnonyme(s) : Songye  Toponyme(s) : Congo / Afrique centrale / Afrique  Personne(s) / Institution(s) : Précédente collection : Musée national des arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie (Afrique)   Matériaux et Techniques : Bois  Dimensions d'encombrement (Hauteur x Largeur x Profondeur, Poids) : 59,4 x 18 x 19 cm, 2117 g

              The next two below are in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History, accessioned in 1996 and 1960, respectively.  The second is far different from other Songye figures I have seen even among the broad range of Songye carving styles which arise. 

              http://anthro.amnh.org/anthropology/databases/common/image_dup.cfm?database=africa&catno=90.2/%208694&site=P

              http://anthro.amnh.org/anthropology/databases/common/image_dup.cfm?database=africa&catno=90.2/%203423&site=P

              On a somewhat related note, there was an exhibition in 2004 at Tervuren called "Sensitivity and Force" ("La Sensible et la Force") [Catalogue ISBN 9075894600 ] which juxtaposed photographic images of mankishi with the objects themselves.  Sounds pretty interesting and perhaps even quite relevant:
              http://www.africamuseum.be/museum/temporary/museum/temporary/currentexhib/songye

              And as luck would have it, Francois Neyt -- to whose works on the Luba and Hemba  I recently referred -- has written at least one major work on the Songye as well:   La redoutable statuaire Songye ( ISBN 8874391315 ).  You can see some great images from the book about midway down a very long page at http://detoursdesmondes.typepad.com/dtours_des_mondes/2006/05/index.html  (Interesting and well-illustrated site en francais). The images on this site are by Hughes Dubois, the photographer whose images were juxtaposed in the Tervuren exhibition, "Sensitivity and Force. " 

              Keep building that visual database!  Lee

               
            • jivarobe
              Dear Lee, I realized I hadn t yet thanked you for your comments and valuable information. Sorry for the delay. By the way, what you think of the sculpture I
              Message 6 of 13 , Nov 11, 2006
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                Dear Lee,

                I realized I hadn't yet thanked you for your comments and valuable
                information. Sorry for the delay.

                By the way, what you think of the sculpture I had shown ? Did what I
                said about my feeling of it being a good piece influence the people who
                were then too polite to say otherwise ? It also helps to build one's own
                eye to get comments on the quality of the piece shared.

                Best regards
                Michael




                --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, LRubinstein@... wrote:
                >
                > Some of you have indicated that you have been unable to access the
                image of
                > the female Songye nkishi from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that Paul
                > posted...yesterday, I think. (What day is today?) Just in case, you
                can access the
                > image directly at
                >
                _http://www.metmuseum.org/Works_of_Art/viewOne.asp?dep=5&viewMode=0&item\
                =1978%
                > 2E409 _
                >
                (http://www.metmuseum.org/Works_of_Art/viewOne.asp?dep=5&viewMode=0&item\
                =1978.409 )
                >
                > In answer to Michael's original question, I can't make any general
                > statements about the relative frequencies of male, female and
                androgenous figures
                > among the objects of this class but there seems to be no dearth of
                female
                > mankishi from among the Songye, or Songe. The plenitude of such
                figures would seem
                > consistent with reports that a primary function attributed to
                mankishi is
                > the propagation of female fertility, a request that would generally
                be made
                > through an intermediary figure of female form. I have come across
                numerous
                > examples, the first of which comes from the site of Andre Kirbach.
                As the linked
                > text which accompanies the figure is in German, I include here below
                the
                > link a reasonable translation of that text.
                > _http://www.andre-kirbach.de/Objekte.php?lang=en&nr=K0308_
                > (http://www.andre-kirbach.de/Objekte.php?lang=en&nr=K0308)
                >
                > "The magic figures of the Songye served an individual or a whole
                village
                > community depending upon its size. Such nkisi were equipped with
                symbolic
                > substances, used for various functions -- protection, welfare and in
                > fortune-telling. Since an nkisi could not be moved with (or touched
                by) the hands during
                > ritual, it was moved with sticks, which one pushed under its arms.
                >
                > With this small nkisi, the horn -- usually filled with magic
                substances --
                > was broken off and relieved of these substances, probably before
                passing on to
                > a foreigner, and thus relieved of its function. It still radiates its
                > original strength nevertheless.
                >
                > Other female mankishi I have come across are shown below. The first
                is from
                > an informational/educational site:
                > (Note:I've provided both images and their links in case any of the
                images do
                > not come through to all group participants.).
                >
                (http://artworld.uea.ac.uk/objects/10535/images/5440/details.html)
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > _http://artworld.uea.ac.uk/objects/10535/details.html_
                > (http://artworld.uea.ac.uk/objects/10535/details.html)
                >
                > This is one from the City Review recap
                > (_http://www.thecityreview.com/f00strib.html_
                (http://www.thecityreview.com/f00strib.html) ) of the Sotheby's (NY)
                > November 18, 2000 auction of works from the Egon Guenther Family
                Collection:
                >
                >
                > Lot 133, Songe female figure, 23 inches high
                > One of the auction’s more striking works is Lot 133, a fine
                Songe female
                > figure that is 23 inches high and was formerly in the Jack Cardiff
                Collection.
                > The figure wears a fiber skirt and has an open upturned mouth and
                wears a
                > cap-like coiffure with two holes for the insertion of fetishes. The
                figure’s
                > facial expression shows an elderly woman apparently with no teeth who
                might be
                > smiling except that her eyes are downcast and so she might be
                interpreted as
                > speaking or giving advice. The lot has an estimate of $30,000 to
                $50,000. It
                > sold for $69,750.
                > And this one from Musee du Quai Branly:
                > (http://www.quaibranly.fr/cc/resultats.aspx?c=1#)
                >
                >
                > Appellation : Statuette féminine
                > N° inventaire : 73.1966.14.1 Ethnonyme(s) : _Songye_
                >
                (javascript:doPostback('t=1&ccstate=&p=0&cnSearch=&a=1&ddlCriteres=Ethni\
                es|Ethnies|operateurs1|null&tx
                > tSearch=Songye')) Toponyme(s) : _Congo_
                >
                (javascript:doPostback('t=1&ccstate=&a=1&ddlCriteres=Lieux|Toponyme(s)|o\
                perateurs1|MQX.AAA.AAB.AAG:thes&cnSearch=
                > MQX.AAA.AAB.AAG&txtSearch=Congo')) / _Afrique centrale_
                >
                (javascript:doPostback('t=1&ccstate=&a=1&ddlCriteres=Lieux|Toponyme(s)|o\
                perateurs1|MQX.AAA.AAB:th
                > es&cnSearch=MQX.AAA.AAB&txtSearch=Afrique centrale')) / _Afrique_
                >
                (javascript:doPostback('t=1&ccstate=&a=1&ddlCriteres=Lieux|Toponyme(s)|o\
                perateurs1|MQX.AA
                > A:thes&cnSearch=MQX.AAA&txtSearch=Afrique')) Personne(s) /
                Institution(s)
                > : Précédente collection : _Musée national des arts
                d'Afrique et d'Océanie
                > (Afrique)_
                >
                (javascript:doPostback('t=1&ccstate=&p=0&cnSearch=&a=1&ddlCriteres=Perso\
                nnes|Personnes|operateurs1|null&txtSearch=Musée national des arts
                > d\'Afrique et d\'Océanie (Afrique)')) Matériaux et
                Techniques : Bois Dimensions
                > d'encombrement (Hauteur x Largeur x Profondeur, Poids) : 59,4 x 18 x
                19 cm, 2117
                > g
                > The next two below are in the collection of the American Museum of
                Natural
                > History, accessioned in 1996 and 1960, respectively. The second is
                far
                > different from other Songye figures I have seen even among the broad
                range of
                > Songye carving styles which arise.
                >
                >
                _http://anthro.amnh.org/anthropology/databases/common/image_dup.cfm?data\
                base=a
                > frica&catno=90.2/%208694&site=P_
                >
                (http://anthro.amnh.org/anthropology/databases/common/image_dup.cfm?data\
                base=africa&catno=90.2/%208694&site=P)
                >
                >
                _http://anthro.amnh.org/anthropology/databases/common/image_dup.cfm?data\
                base=a
                > frica&catno=90.2/%203423&site=P_
                >
                (http://anthro.amnh.org/anthropology/databases/common/image_dup.cfm?data\
                base=africa&catno=90.2/%203423&site=P)
                > On a somewhat related note, there was an exhibition in 2004 at
                Tervuren
                > called "Sensitivity and Force" ("La Sensible et la Force") [Catalogue
                ISBN
                > _9075894600_ (http://www.campusi.com/isbn_9075894600.htm) ] which
                juxtaposed
                > photographic images of mankishi with the objects themselves. Sounds
                pretty
                > interesting and perhaps even quite relevant:
                >
                _http://www.africamuseum.be/museum/temporary/museum/temporary/currentexh\
                ib/son
                > gye_
                >
                (http://www.africamuseum.be/museum/temporary/museum/temporary/currentexh\
                ib/songye)
                > And as luck would have it, Francois Neyt -- to whose works on the Luba
                and
                > Hemba I recently referred -- has written at least one major work on
                the
                > Songye as well: La redoutable statuaire Songye ( ISBN _8874391315_
                > (http://www.campusi.com/isbn_8874391315.htm) ). You can see some
                great images from the
                > book about midway down a very long page at
                >
                _http://detoursdesmondes.typepad.com/dtours_des_mondes/2006/05/index.htm\
                l_
                >
                (http://detoursdesmondes.typepad.com/dtours_des_mondes/2006/05/index.htm\
                l) (Interesting and well-illustrated site
                > en francais). The images on this site are by Hughes Dubois, the
                photographer
                > whose images were juxtaposed in the Tervuren exhibition, "Sensitivity
                and
                > Force. "
                > Keep building that visual database! Lee
                >
              • LRubinstein@post.harvard.edu
                Michael: I m glad you enjoyed the information provided. It was interesting to me to discover that there are indeed a good number of such Songye nkishi
                Message 7 of 13 , Nov 11, 2006
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                  Michael:
                   
                  I'm glad you enjoyed the information provided.  It was interesting to me to discover that there are indeed a good number of such Songye nkishi figures with specifically female characteristics -- as well as male and androgynous examples.  Again, the use of such figures in rites related to insuring fertility helps to explain why there would likely exist such female forms.
                   
                  With regard to your request for a personal opinion on the figure you presented and my apparent failure to offer one, it was certainly not your enthusiastic attitude that dissuaded me from providing a critical response in either direction.  I do like the figure.  It has an interestingly pronounced form.  In fact, I find the extreme stylizations of the human figure and face characteristic of Songye forms among the most fascinating variations in African anthropomorphic figural sculpture:  The extreme squaring and elongation of the chin particular to the Songye is both unique and inexplicable (to me).  Also, the inclusion of the medicinal horn, the skin wrapped about the arms and the patina of apparent wear are promising characteristics that might support the possible authenticity of the figure. 
                   
                  Given, however, the fact that there are so many variations of style in Songye sculpture (both figures and masks) -- added to the fact that I am not an expert on Songye forms, I always prefer to make accessible the broadest body of comparative examples in order to help everyone (and myself) make comparisons and move toward plausible conclusions.  I'm not sure that I have enough knowledge and experience to authenticate or appraise.  Frankly, it is not an element of consideration upon which I prefer to focus.  Learning more about the cultural milieu from which an object arises -- or might have arisen --  is really more my interest/forte and thus my preferred approach in formulating a response regarding objects queried.  Only through refining one's eye through exploring the available literature and supporting body of images can one approach the authentication of any object from any place or culture.  To do so in situ would give me greater confidence than I currently possess...as would greater direct access to the figures I can study in illustrations.  (Funding, please...)
                   
                  One factor which still confounds me is the presence of rectangular keloids of scarification -- or are they incised? -- on the figure's abdomen which seem to me more reminiscent of those I am accustomed to seeing on Baule sculpture and of which I have come across no examples in Songye figures.  (Now I really wish I had those Neyt and Hersak books on the Songye or some indigenous source who could clarify whether these markings exist among the Songye...anyone?)   There are Songye figures with simpler raised elements on the face as well as studding on the abdomen -- even the entire figure ...but I don't see examples where scarification appears on the abdomen or in such a subdivided rectangular form.  So, while I like the general appearance of the piece, I have "unresolved issues" (many of them in various realms unrelated to this figure) that recommend to me caution and the need to undertake further research before commenting with greater authority.
                   
                  Lee
                • Paul De Lucco
                  Sorry to take the group back to last October, but when I received the following message from WK, I had second thoughts about my abrupt dismissal of objects
                  Message 8 of 13 , Feb 23, 2007
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                    Sorry to take the group back to last October, but when I received the following message from WK, I had second thoughts about my abrupt dismissal of objects seen only in photos.  I called the runner back, asked to see the objects, and took photos from different perspectives and with better lighting.  I have posted these in "Market Basket".   Unfortunately, I was travelling for most of November and December and was unable to post a message
                     
                    I have changed my conclusions on the "Luba" power object, which does indeed appear to be authentic.  The stool looked better, also.  I still think the "Buli Master" stool is a copy, albeit, a very nice copy.  I don't like the Kabila Cupbearer very much but it was also worth a look. 
                     
                    I apologize for cynically dismissing these objects on the basis of a few vague photos.  I should mention that I still buy pieces that have just come in from the field, although I have less confidence in my knowledge of some cultures, e.g. Songye or Lega, than others.  It is often difficult to judge an object just from a photo.  Nothing beats handling a piece and looking at it closely. 
                     
                    Regards,
                     
                    Paul
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Wednesday, November 01, 2006 10:19 AM
                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Hemba

                    WK,
                     
                    Sorry about the photo mixup.  I will attach the Buli photo to this message.
                     
                    I did not say the stool was a fake, although I think it probably is.  I think it is an old fake, a piece that was carved for the curio market but went unsold for a number of years during which it was used as a ... a stool.  Now, dignified by the appropriate patina, it is again in the market, albeit, at the very beginning of the value chain, in Kigali, Rwanda.  I have two stools of the same style that I collected in the 1980's.  Unfortunately, they are in storage in the States.  They were not uncommon when I lived in the area.  They are taller and, to my eyes, better proportioned than this piece which looks squat to me.  (As a matter of fact, last month "Jimmy" brought me a fake Bembe stool which is fabricated of dense, heavy wood.  The stool, more or less the same style as the Hemba stool in question, has better proportions.  It was eventually bought by an American businessman.  I attach a photo here.)      But, for such an article of everyday use, I would have to say that this stool has become authenticated by virtue of being used regularly and acquiring the proper patina of use.  I am pretty sure that no clan leader sat on the stool, but friction is friction. 
                     
                    A important caryatid stool is not an object of everyday use and I would suggest that it does not matter if someone sat on such a fake every day for several years, it never becomes authenticated in this fashion. 
                     
                    I also found the monkey piece interesting and was also reminded of the famous Hemba So'o masks.  I don't like the color of the wood where it has been banged-up and scratched.  What I will do is ask to see it.  In fact, I will ask to see all three pieces, I will take more photos from different angles and I will post them and we can discuss this further.
                     
                    I have handled a lot of Hemba fakes over the years.  I can now say, not that I can always spot a fake, but that I have been so impressed with the quality of some fakes, that I have become very cautious in appraising pieces.  Also, I know that the Hemba area has been pretty well collected-out.  There was not much art remaining when I was living there 20 years ago.  But some traditions were still alive and traditional carvers were happily turning out objects for traditional use as well as for the curio trade.  One of the very best Hemba carvers, Pezos, has since moved to Nairobi where he now does restorations and specializes in the fabrication of Songye pieces.  He is a master craftsman.  
                     
                    Not long ago, I bought a Hemba mask from the Mambwe area (photo attached).  This style mask has always been very rare.  I like to think it's real but, honestly, if Pezos had a hand in it I would never be able to tell.
                     
                    Regards,
                     
                    Paul 
                     
                     
                     
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Wednesday, November 01, 2006 4:23 AM
                    Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Hemba

                    two comments:

                    Markus, it IS immensely frustrating to try and
                    hunt down good stuff without paying big money
                    to a reputable dealer (and even then, there's
                    plenty of evidence that you have to be careful).
                    But there are no shortcuts to developing a good
                    eye. Just look at the amount of work Lee and RAND
                    put into their passion, and they are still
                    often challenged by individual pieces. So
                    my advice is either get rich or settle in for
                    the long haul, slowly but surely picking up
                    enough knowledge and experience to risk decent
                    but not huge money on the occassional piece that
                    both delights you and seems to pass every test.
                    And even then, be prepared to make mistakes and
                    write them off as the cost of learning.

                    Paul, with regard to your pics, I received two
                    of the stool and none of the "buli" piece.
                    i'd love to see the buli one. Secondly, you must
                    have a very discrimating eye and a wealth of
                    experience to dismiss both the stool and the
                    monkey as fakes on the basis of just those
                    photos. (Markus, this is a good example
                    of how hard it is -- Paul can reach a conclusion
                    from those photos, I can't, I don't have enough
                    experience).

                    Obviously the monkey form itself is questionable
                    in terms of Hemba examples that I know about, but
                    I have to say it did immediately remind me of
                    the stylized Hemba "monkey masks" that are a
                    recognized form, so I have to at least wonder
                    if this is a sincere if recent variation.

                    WK

                    --- escultura78 <markuswurm@gmx. at> wrote:

                    > Paul,
                    >
                    > thank you for your opinion on the Hemba figure and
                    > your explanation
                    > with examples. I don't have much experience in
                    > african art but I had
                    > doubts about the Hemba figure too. But in such a
                    > doubtful situation
                    > I always think: Is it possible that every figure or
                    > mask from a well
                    > known ethnic group is a copy or a fake? Your
                    > statement that even in
                    > Hemba Land buying is simply not safe is a little bit
                    > frustrating for
                    > me, althougt I am aware that most Hemba, Luba, Baule
                    > etc. figures on
                    > the market are fakes. The problem is, that objects
                    > with convincing
                    > provenance use to be enormous expensive. Thus for
                    > the everage
                    > collector it seems to be impossible to collect
                    > objects from certain
                    > ethnic groups - Even the authenticity of objcts from
                    > less known
                    > groups is often doubtful. On the other hand in many
                    > cultures
                    > traditional practices are still alive and ritual
                    > objects are still
                    > produced for tribal purpose. It is very difficult
                    > for me to
                    > distinguish between recent objects produced for
                    > tribal use and those
                    > which were produced for sale. I know high quality
                    > Hemba figures from
                    > books and catalogues and I know the typical tourist
                    > art sold
                    > everywhere, but there must be a medium level of
                    > recent but tribally
                    > used art, which is affordable. I have some masks in
                    > my collection
                    > which are obviously not very old but &#8211; in my
                    opinion
                    > &#8211; tribally
                    > used. Can I expect to find something like this among
                    > the Hemba art
                    > too?
                    >
                    > Thank you
                    > Markus
                    > (Please don't worry about my bad english - I am from
                    > Austria)
                    >
                    > --- In African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com, "Paul De Lucco"
                    >
                    > <pauldelucco@ ...> wrote:
                    > >
                    > > I have to side with WK. It is terribly difficult
                    > to expertise
                    > Hemba art because there are so many high-quality
                    > copies and fakes in
                    > the marketplace. (I wouldn't be the first to say
                    > that some of these
                    > show up in major auctions with the provenance:
                    > "From an old Belgian
                    > collection." )
                    > >
                    > > Just one hour ago, "Jimmy", a Congolese art runner
                    > passed by my
                    > office to give me photos of 3 Hemba objects that
                    > arrived in Kigali
                    > this week. Now, the 1st of these could be the last
                    > remaining Buli
                    > Master stool left in Africa. But, really, how
                    > likely is that? I
                    > vaguely remember a newspaper article I read about
                    > ten years ago. An
                    > art historian on her way to work in New York, as I
                    > recall, would
                    > pass by a house belonging to the French Embassy with
                    > a courtyard in
                    > which there was a small bronze statue. After weeks
                    > of seeing the
                    > statue, she made inquiries and looked at the piece
                    > more closely. It
                    > was a genuine .... and here my memory fails me, Da
                    > Vinci,
                    > Michelangelo. A great Italian old master. So,
                    > these things do
                    > happen. But stylistically, this stool is a bit weak
                    > compared to an
                    > authentic Buli. Buli pieces are dynamic while this
                    > one is inert.
                    > The fingers are not completely joined to the top.
                    > But, this stool
                    > isn't new. It has been around. The face is pretty
                    > well carved. It
                    > is a female figure and one would expect a fake to be
                    > male. (Most of
                    > the existing Buli pieces are male, no? The famous
                    > cupbearer figure
                    > is female of course. I think I remember one stool.
                    > Maybe someone
                    > could check for me. I don't have easy access to
                    > data bases here and
                    > as I write, I don't even have internet access;
                    > supposedly an
                    > antenna is down somewhere... .) Big feet. The top
                    > of the stool
                    > seems wrong. It is small and delicate like a
                    > southern Luba piece
                    > while the Hemba pieces I remember have thicker,
                    > stouter tops.
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > The 2nd, a monkey figure, is ... what? I never
                    > saw a Hemba piece
                    > like this one. Is it Songye perhaps? I like the
                    > way the left leg
                    > is worn from wearing a bracelet that is no longer
                    > there. As if the
                    > piece ran around a lot when it was younger. I don't
                    > like the bright
                    > white wood, with what appears to be scorch marks, of
                    > the break on
                    > the right hand side.
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > The 3rd, although a bit short, is a stylistically
                    > correct Hemba
                    > stool. If it was fabricated as a fake, it has seen
                    > its share of
                    > wear over the years.
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > Of course, I have only seen the photos and it is
                    > unwise to make
                    > decisions based on photos. But I probably won't ask
                    > to see the
                    > pieces. The fact is, pieces like this come by
                    > frequently. I lived -
                    > and collected - for more than 3 years in Hemba
                    > country in the early
                    > 1980's. I bought many pieces, mostly small
                    > household items, which I
                    > am sure I will try to sell someday. But it is
                    > simply not safe, even
                    > in Hemba Land, to buy Hemba art that has no
                    > convincing provenance.
                    > Even Hemba art with good provenance must be looked
                    > at very closely.
                    > As the French used to say about Beaujolais:
                    > Unfortunately, more is
                    > sold than is produced.
                    > >
                    > > - Paul
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > ----- Original Message -----
                    > > From: William Klebous
                    > > To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
                    > > Sent: Sunday, October 29, 2006 9:06 PM
                    > > Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Hemba
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > (Just to reinforce my repeated disclaimer, I do
                    > > not have the disciplined approach of Lee or
                    > RAND,
                    > > and simply make the best guess I can based on
                    > the
                    > > photos supplied and my personal limited
                    > experience)
                    > >
                    > > Markus, I would stay away from that Hemba
                    > figure,
                    > > as I feel it is both insincere and very recent.
                    > > Neither its form nor its patina are at all
                    > convincing.
                    > >
                    > > again, only a guess, WK
                    > >
                    > > Send instant messages to your online friends
                    > http://au.messenger .yahoo.com
                    > >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > African Arts and Culture Discussion Group
                    >
                    > *Website for the group:
                    > http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/
                    >
                    > *Photos folder for the group:
                    > http://ph.groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos
                    >
                    >
                    > *Message archives for the group:
                    > http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/messages
                    >
                    > Yahoo! Groups Links
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >

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