Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tellem and Calabar Headrest Profiles

Our exhibition of African headrests continues on at, and today we bring you profiles of two extraordinary works. The first is an ancient Tellem Headrest from Mali and the second, a terracotta headrest from Ethiopia. I hope that everyone has had a chance to look around the website at all the other fine pieces on view. And, as always, if you ever want to see a piece in person and are in the New York City area, please call and set up an appointment. Our phone number is available on the website.

Tellem Headrest from Mali. The Dogon people in Mali are well known in the African art world for creating some of the finest and most beautiful works. But they do not use headrests. This carved wooden headrest was found in the high caves of Mali, in Dogon land, and is thought to have belonged to a tribal predecessor to the Dogon – the Tellem. The Tellem used headrests like this one for burial ceremonies, though there are few particulars that we know of their culture because they disappeared over 700 years ago. The examples of similar headrests from these people date from the 11th to the 13th centuries. It is likely that many of these headrests may have earlier roots, as similar headrests come from Dynastic Egypt.

Calabar Headrest from Nigeria. Our second profile today is of an ancient Calabar headrest found in Nigeria. This very rare terracotta creation is anthropomorphic in style. A close examination reveals the presence of two “eyes” and a “mouth” on the form. As an example of early pottery from the region, this piece would make an exceptional addition to any collection.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check back for more information on the collection

Monday, October 19, 2009

Zulu Headrest and Two Tsonga Headrests from the Headrest Collection

Jacaranda Tribal is pleased to announce a new exhibition of African headrests from across the continent. We have many rare and fine headrests available for viewing at

Zulu Headrest from South Africa. We are very fortunate to have this Zulu headrest in the collection. It is a fine example of a double headrest (as you can see, each “criss-cross” is a distinct headrest) carved from a single piece of wood. The piece is carved with alternating dark and light triangles on both the upper and lower portions of the piece. Experts believe that this headrest was created by a renownded master artist and carver from Natal and that other pieces by this artist exist in collections.

Tsonga Headrest from South Africa. This object is exceptionally fine and rare for neckrests with carrying handles are particularly rare and desirable. This one has a handle in the form of a dance staff that is such a length as to allow the end of the handle to rest on the floor surface.

In addition to the carrying handle, this headrest is carved with five parallel rows of fine rots carved in relief. As a male was sleeping, these dots would have formed temporary indentations into his face—indentations that resembled the facial scarification patterns of the Northern Nguni women. This would have caused much amusement.

The piece has developed a very fine patina from many years of use.

Tsonga Headrest from Mozambique.

There are around two dozen headrests with zoomorphic and anthropomorphic features illustrated in the literature on the art of Southeast Africa. But this headrest from Mozambique is the only example that evokes both the human figure and a four-legged animal figure at once. Female genitalia and breasts are carved on the underside. The figure also has a strange tail and wears a flat, circular hat. It is an incredible depiction and most certainly one of the only, if not the only, examples of its kind.

The aesthetic of this headrest is distinctive and unlike others in Southeast African art. It is certainly worth a look at this very fine example of a master carver and artist’s work.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tip-Stool from Congo and Ashanti Stool from Ghana Profiles

Today we bring you two extraordinary examples of African stools.

Stool from Congo. This stool is a part of a wide tradition of artistry known as tip-stools. These are used widely throughout the Congo and as part of a variety of traditions including those of the Kiba, the Mbole and the Mongo. Many of these stools, all utilitarian and functional objects, have the same basic form of this stool, but not the uniquely intricate carvings and interesting geometric construction. A close examination of this chair will reveal very interesting and intricate geometric carving designs over the bulk of this object. It has also developed a fine patina over the course of years of use.
Ashanti Stool from Ghana. Contrasted this object to the previous tip-stool. This Ashanti stool from Ghana is a very interesting and complex form. These stools are carved from single blocks of wood and traditionally have crescent shaped seats. These stools are remarkable for their combined practical and spiritual uses. In the owner’s lifetime the stool was understood to be the seat of the owner’s soul. When not in use, the stool was leaned against a wall so that other souls passing by would not settle on it. At the death of the owner, it could become a shrine at which the departed’s spirit could be invoked. This fine object has developed a beautiful glossy patina.
Make sure to check back at the blog next week for further profiles of some of our very fine pieces in the Ginzberg collection. And, as always, check our the website for further information and pictures.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Konda Knife and Bedja Shield Profiles

I hope everyone has had a chance to look at our website and see the new additions to the exhibition of the African Forms, Ginzberg collection. There are several additions of weaponry and jewelry. Today we are previewing two pieces, a knife from Congo and a shield from the nomadic Bedja tribe.

Konda Knife from Congo. Knives are some of the most utilitarian objects available. They were used every day for hunting, eating, given as gifts, and used ceremonially. This knife, from the Konda region in the Northeast of Congo, is unusual. It was forged of very thin iron sheet metal and decorated with intricate designs making it virtually ineffective as a weapon. This object, in particular, would have been used ritualistically and as a decorative show of arms in parades. Most Konda knives are created with short and plain handles whereas the artist who created this object forged an extraordinary design in this knife’s handle. In addition to its fine handle, the knife also has a spiral cared handle, decorated with kaolin—a clay mineral used decoratively to give an object a high gloss. The tip of the knife is fitted with an ivory tip. This is a fine example of a Konda knife and is particularly beautiful for its rare decorations.

Bedja Shield from Sudan. Animal hide shields are quite common in African tribal life. The Bedja are nomadic tribes that live primarily in the Red Sea Hills of the Sudan. These tribal people are well known for being fierce warriors. For Bedja men, a round leather shield was awarded to individuals upon reaching manhood as a rite of passage gift. It is the quality and condition, in particular, that make this piece so extraordinary. The shield is a near perfect circle with small cutouts at the top and bottom, all of which is reinforced by a wooden form and handle. There are few other shields of this quality today.

Make sure to check back later this week for another update on the collection. And, as always, please check out the website and if you have any questions, we'd love to hear from you. If you're in the New York City area, make an appointments and we'll show you the collection in person.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Priest Staff and Ivory Comb Profiles

Today we bring you two more profiles from the Ginzberg collection – a staff from an Ethiopian priest and an Ivory beard comb from Somalia. These two examples show the geometric and nonfigurative design associated with this collection very well. Both pieces are certainly works of art, despite being used frequently in their period of use. These and other examples from this collection can be seen at our website,

Priest's Staff from Ethiopia. When Christianity was brought to Ethiopia in the 4th century AD when a Christian philosopher was shipwrecked there on his way to India. Envoys from this ship eventually became the private secretary and royal cupbearer to the Ethiopian king. It was these men who brought Christian beliefs to Ethiopian society. Christianity has thus since flourished in this region of the world.

This staff from the Ginzberg collection is a very fine example of those used by Ethiopian priests and “cantors.” Its straight or “T-shaped” finials of the silver cross are common among clergy. But this staff is quite extraordinary because it is made from ivory instead of more traditional materials, like wood. In addition, the carvings and engravings are very fine. Altogether, this is a piece not to be missed.

Ivory Comb from Somalia. This tiny ivory comb is a very fine example of a traditional beard comb – commonly worn around the neck, suspended from Muslim prayer beads. The carvings are intricate and delicate and recall the shape and designs of the more common Somalian wood spoons. The care and delicacy necessary to create such a fine piece is a testament to talent of the African artist who created it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kuba Horn and Yaka Whistle Profiles from Ginzberg Collection

There’s more still to this exemplary collection of museum-quality African art. I hope every one has been to our website to check out the entire collection – if you’d like to see the collection in person and are in the New York City area, call the gallery and we’d be happy to schedule an appointment.

Kuba Horn Container from Congo. These containers, usually used by the tribal elite for drinking palm wine (an alcoholic beverage made from the sap of palm trees), come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This one has been intricately carved from the hallow horn of a mature cow. The designs are strikingly geometric and appear very modern to our Western aesthetic. These designs are actually reminiscent of scarification patterns, common among the Kuba people. This is truly an extraordinary example of a palm wine container.

Yaka Whistle from Congo. This Yaka Whistle is a very interesting piece from the collection. While both this whistle and the previous palm wine container are from the Congo, this piece comes from the Kasai region. The tribal people from this region often carried whistles used during hunting expeditions. This piece, in particular, has obtained a very fine patina due to its use over the years. That, combined with the presence of light and fine carving, make this piece a particularly fine example of a hunting whistle from this region.

I hope that people are enjoying a closer look into the Ginzberg Collection and will take advantage of our access to the collection to learn more. We are always happy to answer any questions that you might have. Check out and, as always, feel free to give us a call at the gallery.