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The Many Facets of African Tribal Art in One Collection

Out of Africa comes this collection of masks and figures integral to traditional tribal ceremonies. Imbued with stylized detail and tremendous depth of meaning, these handcrafted items enchant collectors worldwide.

Carved out in this collection are masks and figures integral to traditional ceremonies from tribes around the world. Given their geometrics designs, it is no wonder these artifacts are widely exhibited alongside modern sculptures.

The Dogon people, who dwell in the central plateau region of Mali, in western Africa, are known for their wooden sculpture and architecture. Two door locks in the collection represent a combination of the two. The more detailed of the two is made of wood and metal and depicts a primordial couple. It was acquired in situ by Jerry Vogel of New York City, who was a longtime associate for the Museum for African Art.

Door lock depicting primordial couple, Dogon people, Mali, 15in tall with base. Ex collection Jerry Vogel, New York City. Wood, metal and ritual substance. Estimate: $2,200-$2,400. Jasper52 image

 

More than a dozen masks are in this collection. One of the most dramatic is a polychrome mask from the Igala people of Nigeria. Carved of medium-density wood, this mask shows much evidence of having years of use. A custom mount is also included.

Polychrome mask; Igala people, Nigeria, wood with earth pigments. Well oxidized older mask of medium density wood. Estimate: $1,500-$1,700. Jasper52 image

 

Just as visually arresting is an Atwonzen beaded head by the Bamileke people of Grassfields, Cameroon. This item made of fiber and glass beads is from the fabled Merton D. Simpson collection.

Beaded head Atwonzen, Bamileke people, Grassfields, Cameroon, 6in high, fiber and glass beads. Estimate: $1,200-$1,400. Jasper52 image

 

An unusual decoy used by hunters in the grasslands of northeast Nigeria and southwest Niger represents the often-encountered Abyssinian ground hornbill. Hunters wore such decoys on their heads to mask their approach to antelope, buffalo and other game.

Hunter’s decoy, various peoples, northeast Nigeria, southwest Niger, 18in tall. Estimate: $1,200-$1,400. Jasper52 image

 

An anthropomorphic pipe from the Mangbetu people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo represents a bearded man. From a New York City private collection, this pipe was acquired in Belgium before 1974.

Anthropomorphic pipe, Mangbetu people, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 9 1/2in long. Estimate: $2,200-$2,400. Jasper52 image

 

The piece with the highest estimated value in this collection is a Tampulma or Vagala mask made of wood and decorated with indigenous pigments.

Vagala or Tampulma mask. Estimate: $2,400-$2,600. Jasper52 image

Additional items in this collection include knives, tribal currency and sculpture. Explore these treasures here.

Tribal Masks Embody October 2nd African Art Auction

The upcoming October 2nd African art auction is composed of more than 40 tribal masks and complemented by related items. Carved out in this collection are masks and objects integral to traditional African ceremonies. Imbued with stylized detail and tremendous depth of meaning, handcrafted African pieces are widely exhibited alongside modern sculptures.

An evocative mask of the Pende people bears a resemblance to Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream paintings. Pende masks were used during rituals involving initiation and education.

Pende mask, carved wood, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 15 x 8 1/2 inches. Estimate: $200-$300

Pende mask, carved wood, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 15 x 8 1/2 inches. Estimate: $200-$300

Another eerie mask is by the Songye people, also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have long been considered superior artisans best known for their pottery and metalwork.

Songye carved wood mask, 8 1/2 x 8 3/4 inches. Estimate: $400-$500

Songye carved wood mask, 8 1/2 x 8 3/4 inches. Estimate: $400-$500

The Lega people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo use masks as vital initiation objects that enforce social order. One of their masks in the auction has a Close Encounters look to it.

Lega carved wood mask, 11 1/2 x 8 4/4 inches. Estimate: $300-$400

Lega carved wood mask, 11 1/2 x 8 4/4 inches. Estimate: $300-$400

Yoruba priests in Nigeria enlist the aid of Osanyin, the spirit of herbal medicines. Osanyin healing staffs were used to ward off the spirits that would “drain the life force out of people” thus making them ill. This healing staff, the opening lot in the sale, dates to the 19th or 20th century.

Yoruba Osanyin bird healing staff. Estimate: $400-$600

Yoruba Osanyin bird healing staff. Estimate: $400-$600

Yoruba healers wear masks to drive away evil spirits. The Yoruba people also use masks during funerary ceremonies to embody the spirit of the deceased.

Yoruba carved wood mask, 14 x 8 1/2 inches. Estimate: $200-$300

Yoruba carved wood mask, 14 x 8 1/2 inches. Estimate: $200-$300