Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Sicebile: Swaziland’s Cultural Adornment and Artefacts" by Gordon Malangabi Crawford

Gordon Malangabi Crawford has recently published a book called “Sicebile: Swaziland’s Cultural Adornment and Artefacts.”
Mr. Crawford (who also goes by his Swazi name of Malangabi) has more than twenty years of research experience in Southern Africa studying material culture. His research for this book on the Swazi people alone has been more than six years in the making. The Swazi are descendents of the pastoralist Nguni tribe from Swaziland and South Africa, specifically along the border of Zululand. They are renowned in the region for a rich tradition of tribal arts.

This book is the first ever written on traditional tribal art and material culture from Swaziland. The book contains rich information on and pictures of tribal art objects ranging from beadwork to dolls, combs and mirrors to snuff containers. It opens up the hereunto-unknown material world of the Swazi.

The editor notes "This book provides a window into what is a little-known and fast dying art. The author's obvious dedication and commitment to a world and people he knows and loves, and the thoroughness of his research has resulted in a book which serves a very necessary purpose, and should prove indispensable to all those interested in our colourful and chequered cultural and historical past."

The book is not yet widely available but can be found in select bookstores in Swaziland and South Africa. The books is also available on eBay. Mr. Crawford is still looking for a US distributor for the book.

Here are some additional examples of the images contained in the book:

Dori Rootenberg

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jacaranda Tribal is on Facebook

Jacaranda Tribal is now on Facebook

Check out our page and support us by becoming a fan. Our Facebook page is a great opportunity to learn more about the company, connect with other tribal art enthusiasts, and discuss relevant issues. 

Dori Rootenberg

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Results

The bi-annual Zemanek-Münster tribal arts auction failed to attract the attention it has become accustomed to. Despite a few major pieces, the quality of objects up for auction this March was generally weaker than we have seen at this auction house in the past. With fewer very fine or museum-quality pieces, the auction house failed to sell a majority of the works.

Only 161 (or 36%) of the 448 pieces sold at the live auction. None of the three pieces that we profiled in our last post about the Zemanek auction sold and all are still available at the auction’s after-sale. A vast majority of the sold lots had a hammer price of 2,000 or below, and many lots sold for fewer than 1,000.

To some extent this drop in quality can be attributed to the general downturn in the world economy. Few collectors are willing to consign their works for auction as the chances of having a work “burned” (or go unsold at auction) are increased. With less access to museum-quality or very fine pieces, the auction quality as a whole has been hurt.

There were just a few notable exceptions:

Lot 125, a standing male ancestor figure called a “Blolo Bian” sold for €22,000. The types of pieces are private sculptures that would have been kept in a sleeping chamber and would have received sacrificial offerings.

Lot 224, a Headdress from Igbo, Nigeria sold for 10,000. The piece is a “gentle "ekpe" ancestor headdress” which is identified by its calm, small-featured face. These types of headdresses are thought to represent the wives of the fierce elephant and monkey spirits.

In both these cases, the quality was of a higher standard than seen across the board at this auction. In a better economic time, there would have been more and better pieces like these. While we are still looking forward to the results of the after-sale which, in poor economic times, may fare as well as a live auction.

Dori Rootenberg


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rago Arts Auction Results

Rago Arts is a Philadelphia based auction house that has been in operation since 1994. They began specializing in 20th century design and have since expanded their reach far beyond that. In fact, on 1 March, 2009, the auction house debuted their first tribal arts auction. The auction included over 430 tribal objects from Africa, the Pacific Islands, South America, India and North America. This Press Release by Rago Arts gives the whole lowdown on the auction.

Although the auction was eagerly  anticipated by Philadelphia-area tribal art collectors, just under 200 of the 435 lots sold during the auction (45% of all pieces), including the highlight of the show: Lot 1, a rare Chilkat Dance Blanket from the US Pacific Northwest. The piece, estimated to fetch between $20,000 and $30,000 sold at a final hammer price of $22,800. The blanket is made from hand-woven mountain goat hair, dyed with natural pigments and decorated with highly stylized clan symbols and from the mid-19th century.  It is a fine example of a rare piece.

Several other pieces sold between $200 and $1,000 including three pieces that went for just $240. It is certainly a price point at which inexperienced collectors can get into the game. These pieces include: Lot 24, a Hopi Corn Kachina Doll from the Southwest United States that was estimated to sell for between $400 and $600; Lot 71, Hupa and Salish Baskets from the West coast of the United States that were estimated at $500 - $800; and Lot 154, a Yoruba Ibeji Twin Male Figure from Nigeria that was estimated between $400 and $600. While these three pieces sold, they did so well below their low estimate and most likely at their reserve price.

It’s hard to blame the high ratio of unsold lots on the economy – collectors have shown that if the quality is high, they will gladly step in and buy.  I would rate the results satisfactory for a first auction but look forward to seeing Rago increase the overall quality of their material.  On the whole the sale was wonderful exposure for the tribal arts world – we’re so glad that dealers and auction houses are out there educating collectors and spreading the word. Regardless of how this one sale fared, it speaks well of the growing interest of tribal arts collectors in the United States and around the world.  

Dori Rootenberg


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview

The 56th Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts auction will be held on Saturday 14 March, 2009 in Würzburg, Germany. The auction house specializes in African and Oceanic tribal arts from private collection. Bidders can preview the collection from Wednesday 11 March to Friday 13 March from 10am to 7pm. The auction takes place on Saturday 14th from 9am to 1.30pm. If you can’t attend, download the PDF of the catalog.

The live auction includes 448 objects with prices ranging from a low estimate of €80 to a high estimate of €36,000. Some of the highlights include:

Lot 126: a rare “kpan” mask. Estimate: €24,000 – 36,000.

“This type of mask is part of the "goli" masquerade, a day-long performance that involves the entire village population and which displays four pairs of masks. This popular event only takes place during an important event such as the death of a notable or a major celebration. The "kpans" are the last to take part in the ballet, their appearance remaining exceptional; the ornamentation and colors are equally attributed to the two sexes, nothing making it possible to distinguish them clearly and their role remaining ambivalent. Although we still have a great many examples of Baule art, including statuettes and masks, "kpan" masks of this type are quite rare.”

Lot 150: a fine example of a “deangle” mask. Estimate: 18,000 – 27,000

“The "deangle" mask characters belong to circumcision camps ("mbon") of young boys and girls, which are always situated in the holy forest nearby the village. The camp is protected by the invisible forest ghost "nana", who appoints the "deangle" mask characters, which are responsible for food and protection of the young boys and girls. They are not accompanied by musicians and they are not singing and dancing, but moving gracefully and joking with the women, begging them to send plenty of food for the camp. They act as a mediator between camp and village.”

Lot 207: Eket Dance Crest. Estimate 20,000 – 30,000.

“The Eket are a small ethnic group belonging to the Ibibio, settling in about 45 villages. Just like the Ibibio the Eket have an “Ekpo” society, a society of soothsayers, called “Idiong,” a society named after the god of war “Ekong” and the “Ogbom” society worshipping the goddess of fertility. Dance crests like the present were used in “Ogbom” masquerades and could reach a height up to 80 cm.

Stay tuned for the results.

Dori Rootenberg


Sunday, March 8, 2009

2009 San Francisco Textile and Tribal Art Show

During February 13 -15, 2009, more than 100 of the finest international dealers in tribal art descended on San Francisco for the 2009 San Francisco Tribal and Textile Arts Show. The show, in its 23rd incarnation, is at the forefront of the tribal art scene and is considered to be the best show of its kind in North America. At the show, you’re guaranteed to see many of the most prestigious and respected dealers from all corners of the world with a fantastic array of museum-quality sculptures, textiles and antiques.

Jacaranda Tribal exhibited for the first time and we showed some important pieces including a mid-19th century Zulu vessel. It was gratifying to meet many collectors who were unfamiliar with the beauty and diversity of the material culture from southern Africa. The show was a success for us and we are looking forward to returning next year

African Art was only a portion of the show’s offerings. Thomas Murray, a San Francisco based dealer, showed some fine examples of Indonesian art. Michael Hamson showed art from Papua New Guinea while the Stendahl Gallery brought pre-Columbian pieces from Costa Rica. Bruce Frank Primitive Arts showed many fine Oceanic pieces and reportedly had a very strong show. There was also a fair number of Native American, Southeast Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern pieces. Paris dealer Yann Ferrandin sold a rare pair of North Nguni initiation figures while Conru presented two great North Nguni figurative sticks. The galleries were as varied as the art with dealers from San Francisco, L.A., New York, Paris, and Brussels, to name a few.

Most dealers at the fair, unsurprisingly, reported fewer sales than last year. Collectors were cautious and many held off buying until the last day. On the positive side, while Tribal Art has become an increasingly common part of the general collector’s interest, it remains under the radar. Prices didn’t skyrocket with the latest art market bubble and so we can’t expect them to fall at the same rate as contemporary or modern art prices have. It wasn’t a sold out show by any means, but this is one corner of the art market that we feel is more stable than not..

This show continues to maintain a consistently high standard. I’m always impressed with the range and variation of artworks shown here. If you haven’t been to the SF show before, it’s certainly worth a visit. Just remember: the show is large so make sure you give yourself a full day or two to really check out the art and meet some of the dealers.

Dori Rootenberg