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Help? Maybe Third Time's a Charm

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  • Beth
    I ve posted 5 more pictures in my album Elegbara s Daughter * with two pleasant figures that don t fit tightly into their Yoruba attributions. I love the
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 16, 2009
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      I've posted 5 more pictures in my album "Elegbara's Daughter"* with two
      pleasant figures that don't fit tightly into their Yoruba attributions.
      I love the plump somewhat animated Eshu-like figure with the queue -
      can anyone confirm or refute his attribution? The carving of his ears
      is virtually identical to Fakeye figures I have examined - as is the
      hard (in this case very encrusted) wood and fine adzework all over -
      light beaten copper. I've never seen another like him.

      Also the Ogun figure. If he is Yoruba he is probably a representation
      of a Muslim foreigner. He came from a dealer in Europe with a Yoruba
      tag but like the first has similarities and differences especially
      around the eyes with really orthodox Yoruba figures.
      Please - I've asked a few questions and so far have had no feedback at
      all.
      Thanks
      beth

      * Link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/490621025/pic/list
    • Lee Rubinstein
      Beth: I agree with your observation that the figure you have entitled Roly suggests significant Senufo stylistic influence in the shape of the body and the
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 17, 2009
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        Beth:

        I agree with your observation that the figure you have entitled "Roly" suggests significant Senufo stylistic influence in the shape of the body and the linear shoulder/breast incisions.  Another detail that supports Ivoirian influence is the way in which the eye brow area and the upper half-moon representation of the eyes are formed -- a bit reminiscent of Baule facial stylization to my eyes.  At the angle at which the face is shown the nose has hints of the Dogon downward arrow shape so I am inclined to presume a more westerly origin than Yoruba regions for this particular figure.  Although the general style of the figure is not particularly beholden to any recognizable Yoruba carving style, the detail on the top of the head is suggestive of that which is portrayed by Lamidi Fakeye in this carving of a Babalawo.

        I can see the interpretation as a representation of Ogun for the second figure based on the placement of objects in the hands of the second figure.  Overall, though, this figure seems not to display Yoruba stylistics from any region I can identify.  The trunk figure, as you indicate, remains difficult to link with any particular style or origin...  Other objects presented -- including the "Maternity Shrine Figure," "Flute Player," "Esu Dance Wand," "Iroke Ifa," "Igede Ifa/Olumeye" and the second "Esu Dance Wand" bear more recognizable and traceable Yoruba stylistic origins and/or suggestions of reference to comparative examples within the diverse corpus of Yoruba sculpture.  For instance, the "Maternity Shrine Figure" includes elements of elongated form -- particularly the representation of the multi-lobed hairstyle and surface details reminiscent of traditional figures from the Oyo region;  the carver of the Flute Player to Esu could indeed be presumed to have drawn imagery and style from the carvings of such well-known carvers/workshops as that of Lamidi Fakeye (The heads atop the figure's own head are particularly evocative of the diviner's hat visible in Fakeye's rendering of a Babalawo, for instance, while the general representation is perhaps more generally inspired by such images as Fakeye's own Flute Player to Esu..  Again, reference to details atop the head mentioned above on your "Roly" figure seem to indicate clearly an intent to represent similar presentation of elements.

        Your inquiry raises recurrent questions which are relevant to the process of attributing and classifying not only Yoruba sculptural forms (or those so referenced as Yoruba) but also the same activity with regard to work from many, if not all, African sculptural traditions.  I think it is essential to differentiate style of image from identity of object as well as carver.  That is to say, African forms are continually (even continuously) produced and reproduced by carvers in diverse environments both within the subject culture and beyond drawing upon recognizable elements which can be observed in previously attributed works and bringing to them new aspects.  The identification of forms and styles which are resonant with those of specific traditions (or sub-traditions as is most relevant given the diverse regional sub-styles within Yoruba sculpture) does not frequently allow us to presume that the sculpture arose from within the tradition which is seemingly represented or from within Yoruba social contexts;  nor do all aspects of objects arising from within Yoruba communities reflect elements that are espoused by all practitioners of Ifa or who identify/are identified as Yoruba.

        To identify and classify objects within the arc of Yoruba traditions inclusive of the diverse regional practices and styles, I believe it is prudent to look more closely at this stylistic diversity as well as worthwhile and enriching to consider more fully various discussions of Yoruba aesthetics as well as the traditions pertaining to the social and technical aspects of Yoruba craftsmanship and artistry -- systems of apprenticeship, etc. -- to determine whether (and how to determine the extent to which) such figures may or may not correspond to Yoruba prescriptions of production and signification, including form, materials, color, etc.  Available sources include Babatunde Lawal's Embodying the Sacred in Yoruba Art (Atlanta and Newark, NJ:  High Museum of Art and The Newark Museum, 2007);  Henry John Drewal, African Artistry:  Techniques and Aesthetics in Yoruba Sculpture (Atlanta:  High Museum of Art, 19880): Henry John Drewal and John Pemberton III with Rowland Abiodun (Allen Wardwell, ed.), Yoruba: Nine Centuries of Art and Thought  (New York:  The Center for African Art/Harry N. Abrams, 1980); Rowland Abiodun, Henry J. Drewal and John Pemberton III, eds., The Yoruba Artist (Washington, DC and London:  Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984)... 

        In spite of the appearance of faces similar to those portrayed on Adenla, I am not sure I would classify the beaded group as Adenla although the iconography is consistent with other Yoruba representations -- particularly with suggestions of status indicated by the appearance of a rider on a horse.  I find these beaded group pieces quite delightful but have never been able to ascertain whether they are simply a contemporary adaptation of traditional Yoruba beadwork practices for commercial sale or whether they indeed have an active indigenous function. I would be curious to know as well. 

        I think it is most important to acknowledge that viewing Yoruba/Ifa life and religious/spiritual practice as elements of evolving and expansive social phenomena that continue to draw from and extend beyond the historical communities and locales from which they have grown, there are countless and diverse practitioners and experiences which cannot necessarily be unified to define the conditions that allow material objects to hold/express Yoruba meanings and significance.  Parallel to the way in which Yoruba culture can be seen to comprise diverse historical elements, so too may the body of Yoruba practice and artistic production be seen as tree-like with both roots and branches which continue to grow outward like any living organism... or even as a forest grove encompassing all of the life forms which arise within and beyond it in both space and time...

        Lee


        On Jan 16, 2009, at 9:29 PM, Beth wrote:

        I've posted 5 more pictures in my album "Elegbara's Daughter"* with two 
        pleasant figures that don't fit tightly into their Yoruba attributions. 
        I love the plump somewhat animated Eshu-like figure with the queue - 
        can anyone confirm or refute his attribution? The carving of his ears 
        is virtually identical to Fakeye figures I have examined - as is the 
        hard (in this case very encrusted) wood and fine adzework all over - 
        light beaten copper. I've never seen another like him.

        Also the Ogun figure. If he is Yoruba he is probably a representation 
        of a Muslim foreigner. He came from a dealer in Europe with a Yoruba 
        tag but like the first has similarities and differences especially 
        around the eyes with really orthodox Yoruba figures. 
        Please - I've asked a few questions and so far have had no feedback at 
        all.
        Thanks
        beth

        * Link: http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/490621025/ pic/list


      • beepeawee1@aol.com
        Thank you Lee. I especially appreciate the time you have taken. Grateful even. :-) I seem to have an attraction for the hard-to-attribute - crossroads works if
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 17, 2009
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          Thank you Lee. I especially appreciate the time you have taken. Grateful even. :-) I seem to have an attraction for the hard-to-attribute - crossroads works if you will. :-)
           
          I'm glad to have a suggestion as to the Oyo region of origin for the maternity shrine figure. She's very stained  and somewhat battered (has lost her ears) with traces of efun here and there. Found her propping a door open in a now-defunct gallery in my neighbourhood.The beaded group/crown does have some evidence of libation and it was in terrible condition when I received it - the figures were all knocked over, and took some careful manipulation to stand them up again. I have seen similar beaded groups made as shrine figures - and commanding hefty price tags to collectors - some so heavily libated that the colour of the underlying beads is hard to discern. I've also seen pieces identified as diviner's baskets with figural groups on them. I have myself questioned whether this group could be an adenla, though I have seen other similar ones that seem to be well documented and that is how the seller identified it. My doubt comes from the fact that the lower portion is quite large and the wearer would have to have a head the size of a basketball! for it to fit It appears to have been damaged and repaired in places quite hastily using quantities of a clear solvent-based adhesive - not unlike model airplane cement. Because of its rough condition I got it at quite a modest price, so am pleased with it nonetheless.
           
          Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I am very much appreciative.
          odabo..
          Beth
           
           
           
           
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