Saturday, February 27, 2010

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 462

Neck rest with zoomorphic form. Probably Ngoni, Malawi (although described as Nguni, South Africa).

Wood, small residues of dark brown patina, red glass beads (eyes), four conical-shaped legs supporting a slightly vaulted pillow with stylized head and tail, the body marked by a tapering abdomen with incised triangular ornaments and small diamond-shaped opening, slightly dam., scratches, paint rubbed off, small cavity (left foreleg); the neck rest belonged to Wilhelm Pohlig, a Sanitary Sergeant serving in the Guardian Forces of General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in German East Africa. Wilhelm Pohlig's son, Helmut, was six years old, when the colony collapsed after several years of grim resistance. He and his mother were the last citizens of the empire who left the colony. The death of his father, who died of a severe malaria attack in a British Military Hospital, prevented them to leave the country in time. Just on personal intervention of General Lettow-Vorbeck a last ship was allowed to land and embark Helmut and his mother in the harbour of Dar es Salam. Neckrests served as pillows and preserved the elaborate and artificial coiffures during sleep.

Length: 36 cm; Height: 17 cm.

Estimate: 30,000 - 60,000 €

A Must Have For The Fashionable Man!

A Zulu male was not considered properly dressed unless he wore a penis cap or Umncedo.

Penis caps were made from a variety of materials, including wood, horn, gourd and palm leaves (such as this one). I recently read an amusing anecdote of an English lady helping out in trading store and unknowingly picking out a few for an old Zulu man who came in to purchase them. She was mortified when informed later what they were.

Palm leaves, grass and string. Ex Marc and Denyse Ginzberg collection.

A wood Tsonga male initiation figure depicted wearing a penis cap. Museum for African Art, Washington. Ex Tishman Collection.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Celebration of African Art & Culture at UK University

On Saturday, February 20th the University of Aberdeen launched its newest program, “Explore:Africa,” which aims to bring together students, staff and the wider public for a celebration of African culture.

”Explore:Africa” will run until March 20 and will include diverse activities ranging from African art and architecture to dance, music, fashion shows, debates and special lectures.

It started with a day of workshops where participants learned the beats of Africa through djembe drumming. They also limbered up with traditional dancing from West Africa and gained a taste of the continent with a food workshop.

Other events during the first week included a special screening of the film Bamako, a panel debate on the current political situation in Zimbabwe, Moroccan fairy tales, and a journey through African art and architecture.

Other highlights in weeks two, three and four will include a performance by Zawadi African Women Choir in King’s College Chapel on March 6, an Amnesty letter writing session for Congo on March 10, Somali poetry exploring life between war and piracy on March 17 and an African music night and fashion show on March 20.

For full details of the program visit:

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 418

Neckrest. Yaka, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Wood, brown patina, in shape of a quadruped, supporting a rectangular pillow with curved sides, decorated with metal tags, min. dam., small missing parts, traces of insect caused damage, on wooden base; elaborate coiffures necessitate an object of traditional furniture as a headrest "musaw". When lying on one's side, this small object supports the head just below the ear at the junction of neck and head. It is probable that most Yaka headrests had a charm packet inserted into a prepared cavity, or charms where otherwise attached. This served to protect the owner from malevolent influences while sleeping.

Height: 16 cm; Length: 30 cm.

Estimate: 10000 - 20000 €

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tribal Art Workshop Draws Interest in New Delhi

Last week, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in New Delhi, India hosted a three-day workshop on tribal art. Focusing on ways to promote tribal art and carry forward the legacy, the workshop highlighted art forms of Bhil and Gond tribes in India.

The workshop had interactive sessions on tribal art and culture along with an exhibition that displays work by five tribal artists -- Bhuri Bai, Kala Bai, Nandkusia Shyam, Damu Thackre and Waharu Sonavani .

The first session, Adivasi Art Culture and History, which was chaired by Professor Joseph Bara, examined the history, constraints and aesthetics of tribal art and culture, suggesting ways to "carry the legacy forward and promote it at an international level".

It was followed by an interactive session with Professor Gale Omvedt, in which she answered questions on tribal art posed by more than 100 students from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The Gond ethnic group, found in the remote areas of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, paint on the walls of their houses. This tribe, which according to history ruled till the 14th century before they were crushed by the Muslim armies, believed in a deity called the "bara deo" and several spirits and deities that personify natural features.

The Gond paintings reflect man's relationship with nature and use natural symbols of flowers, trees and animals to convey their spiritual beliefs, lifestyles and close bonds with the land that they inhabit. Their wall frescos resemble Australian aboriginal art.

The Bhils of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are known for their wooden artifacts of their spirit gods, totemic art and pictograms.

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 353

Pair of ancestor figures. Mangbetu, Democratic Eepublic of Congo, Area of Uele.

Wood, honey brown patina, dark brown paint (coiffure), strings of fabric with attached animal claws, a male and a female, with compact bodies, showing voluminous, round forms, the arms worked in flat relief, while the hands are elaborate carved and show different gestures, crowned by cylindrical coiffures, enhancing the elegant length of the heads, slightly dam., minor missing parts (right ear of the female), hairline cracks, place of repair (both feet of the male figure), on base; a work of Dopia Mototo. A figurative bark box of the same artist was auctioned at Sotheby's New York (May 19, 2000, lot 269). The attribution is clearly proven, stylistical and by inscription: "DOPIA MOTOTO NA BAKENGE ASSALI". It came from Egon Geunther, Johannesburg, former Emil Storrer, Zurich. A further closely related example of a male bark box is kept in the collection of the Hamburg, Museum für Völkerkunde (Zwernemann/Lohse, 1985, ill. 179). Present figures, as well as the two figural bark boxes are nice examples for the naturalistic tendency in Mangbetu art. The Mangbetu settle along the banks of Bomokandi River in Northeastern Zaire. In former times they had a prosperous kingdom. Mangbetu art in general is court-oriented, and was reserved for the ruling classes. It reflected wealth, and prestige of its owners and therefore was mainly restricted on the design of basic commodities and ritual objects. Figures are rather rare and can be looked upon as ancestor figures in general. Their style is affected by a lengthened skull, the most outstanding beauty ideal of Mangbetu aristocracy. Individuals of advanced age among the Mangbetu still designate these statues by the name "beli". According to them, they were used in hidden locals by the secret society of the name "nebeli". The rare witnesses we have to these Nebeli rites confirm the existence of statuettes of spirits or ancestors, kept at these secret places.

Height: 45 cm.

Estimate: 50,000 - 100,000 €

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 268

Face mask "ngil.” Fang, Gabon.

Wood, small residues of brown patina and kaolin, characteristic elongated face with a concave heart-shaped vaulted facial plane, eyes and mouth in narrow slits, the coiffure unusual for the mask type, consisting of a three-parted middle crest and lobes aside, typically painted with a thick layer of kaolin, backside in the chin area pierced around the rim, slightly dam. (coiffure, right eye), cracks (above all at the right corner of the mouth/chin), minor missing parts on the upper rim backside; the white painted "ngil"-face masks represent a mask tradition, extinguished since the middle of the 20th century. According insufficient is our knowledge about these masks. The typical face painting with white kaolin, reminds of the power of the ancestors and implies that the mask represents the spirit of a deceased. The mask figures wore raffia costumes. Their frightening and deterrent effect was enhanced by the fact that they mostly appeared during the night with flaring light. It's affiliation to the "ngil" society, is controversial nowadays. Essentially there are known three mask types of the Fang. Aside the "ngil" there are the so-called "ekekek" masks, appearing as demons for a secret society, as well as the multi-faced "ngontang" helmet masks. They are said to represent the ghost of the white woman, a powerful spirit, detecting and punishing sorcerers.

Height: 39 cm.

Estimate: 70,000 - 150,000 €

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A tribute to Jackson Hlongwane

"Farewell to our National Treasure Hlongwane"

It was with sadness that we read in the Cape Times about the passing of one of our countries most important artists :Jackson Hlongwane aged 99 in Venda.

I was studying art on London 25 years ago and had the privilege of visiting Venda on a number of occasions where my mentor, Nelson Makuba resided along with Noria Mabasa, Jack Hlongwane and others. The highlight in those days was no doubt a visit to Jackson's 'church' on a rocky hilltop. It was an intense artistic and spiritual experience. Having walked up the steep path one would arrive at a labyrinth of stone passages leading to what could only be described as an African magic garden in the league of the Owl House, but with a less naive and more African spiritual content. An entire telephone pole topped with car lights, animal horns and other shiny objects presided over a gathering of monumental wooden carved master pieces, often half animal half man, exquisitely beautiful renditions of biblical prophets many who had visited Jackson in his dreams. Jackson had a festering sore on his leg which he seemed to roast next to a fire instead of treat with antibiotics. With his wizard's beard and wild eyes, while chipping away at a piece of wood he would speak in semi religious riddles in between gales of
laughter while describing these sacred objects of his creation.

To his enormous credit Rickey Burnett was curator in the early '80s to the BMW sponsored Tributaries exhibition that brought to the fore these contemporary yet ancient African artists and with it, many visitors to Venda. Later on to his absolute shame, Ricky Burnett saw fit to sell off the contents of this magic garden thus destroying one of South Africa's most important cultural treasures. His excuse was that Jackson wanted another Kombi! UNISA has one of the profits, another lurks in the shadows at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Jackson said the last time I visited him, that God had forbidden him to return to the hilltop where these treasures once stood and he settled in the valley below ontinuing to carve his beautiful art but, somehow the magic had gone.

So Hamba kahle, Jackson, at last you can return to your hilltop and thank you for bringing us such wonderful art. May your spirit return the magic to those hills.

Beezy Bailey,
Cape Town

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 258

Reliquary Guardian Figure. Fang-Beti, Mabea, Southern Cameroon.

Wood, matt reddish brown patina, traces of black paint, seated posture, the stylized hands touch each other, mirror glass eyes with metal framing, metal foils on the shoulders and in the area of the abdomen, as well as on the face (scarifications), slightly dam., cracks (head, upper part of the body), missing parts (both foot tips), on base; on the buttocks, we can identify the remainder of sawn wood, indicating that the figure was part of a "byeri" ensemble. Originally, she sat as a guardian on a high, drum-shaped bark container, or on a basket, which contained relics of the founder of a clan, but frequently also skulls and bones of other men and women, who had distinguished themselves in the clan community. All "byeri" ancestor figures originally were decorated with a headdress of feathers "aseng", which is proved by the drilled holes in the coiffure of present figure. Possibly the valuable feathers were kept, when selling the figure. Only special initiated men were allowed to view the contents of these containers, which were brought outdoors on specific occasions to receive offerings. The extraordinary outlines of these figures were clearly visible in the twilight of the shacks, where they were kept. Moreover, the shine of the bright mirror glass eyes, as well as the reflections of the brass foils created a threatening impression. To obtain the metal foils, the Fang used european brass plates, called "Neptuns". There are various proposals concerning the meaning of the reliquary figures, they are considered as memorial figures, portraits of the deceased, sometimes they are connected with a kind of reincarnation cult. The Fang only migrated about 300 years ago to their present settlements, either expelling or assimilating the local residents. The term Fang implies a population consisting of numerous subgroups, living in the south-western Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and in the north-western Gabon. A clear assignment of their works of art is quite difficult. When regarding head and neck, the present figure could be attributed to the Mabea. While the fitting with metal sheet in the shoulder area, as well as the mirror glass eyes with metal framing and the geometrical-cubistic conception of the fgure as a whole refers to the Ngumba, Southern Cameroon.
Height: 49 cm, 19th century.
Estimate: 80,000 - 150,000 €

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sotheby's to auction Rosenthal collection of Oceanic Art

On March 24, 2010 Sotheby's Paris will auction 37 lots from the Rosenthal collection.

When Mr and Mrs Rosenthal acquired a malangan frieze from New Ireland nearly 40 years ago, it was the first step in building a magnificent collection of Oceanic art, inspired by the impact of the field on the Expressionists and French Surrealists. The leading piece of his New Ireland group of eight figures is a rare and striking figure standing on one leg (lot 7). Both arms are outstretched and the body shows the exposed ribcage, with his liver considered the seat of a person's life-force visible. Once owned by Paul Eluard and Maurice de Vlaminck, both the esteemed provenance and the publication history reflect the period when artists changed the way the world considered the arts of Oceania. Further illustrating the sense of beauty and quest for quality that epitomises the Rosenthal Collection is a superb Maori nephrite pendant coming from the collection of the Comtesse de Béhague (lot 11) and considered to be one of the most remarkable examples of Maori ornament.

The print catalog is available but the online catalog is not yet live.

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 252

Head crest "tu ngünga." Bamum, Cameroon.

Wood, reddish brown shiny patina with traces of black paint, the structure of the face consisting of arching brows, merging into a slender nose, completed by a protruding square mouth below, the remaining components increasing the expressive effect: conical protruding eyeballs and "balloon-like" inflated cheeks, accompanied by flap-like projections, crowned by a coiffure in two bulbous lobes with burled structure, slightly dam., minor missing parts (neck, chin, cheeks), on block-like base; possibly once belonging to the war society "nsorro", which performed masquerades on the occasion of funeral ceremonies. The head crest was completed by a female partner. Nowadays "nsorro" is danced for entertainment, on festive occasions in Fumban and in the Bamum palace. The crest can be attributed to the artist "Ndam nji Mare" from the village of Makoutam. There are several head crests coming from the Malantuen area showing such striking similar features, that all of them can be attributed to "nji mare". One of them came to the Musée de l' Homme in Paris in 1934. As a highlight of the museum it was even published on a postcard. A further crest once belonged to the painter Maurice de Vlaminck and was exhibited in 2008 in the Rietberg Museum in Zurich.

Height: 50 cm, 19/20th Century

Estimate: 20,000 - 40,000 €

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vittorino Meneghelli Dies At 94

The incredible Vittorino Meneghelli, art collector and humanist born Mirano, Italy 1915 - died Monday night, 08 February Johannesburg 2010.

Vittorino Meneghelli with his companion, Tito. Image Totem Gallery

From an extract of the Book Launch: My Life My Collection
(2007) at The SA National Gallery by Professor Pippa Skotness

Vittorio Meneghelli was born in Mirano in 1915 spending his school years in Venice. He was enchanted by the art of Venice even though appalled by the supplications expected by the Catholic Church.

As a young adult he became an accountant, left Venice and moved to Mestre. There he met the lovely Paolina whom he married in 1941 on the shores of Lake Garda.

Her family owned a broom and brush factory in Chirignago, for which the catalogue from the early 19th century appears in the book.

Vittorio began a venture to make shoes, a great Italian tradition, and during the last years of the war he made and traded the standard issue army boot, travelling at night to evade machine guns from the Allied forces.

At this time Vittorio met the professor and sculptor Alberto Viani who would be a friend and an enormous influence, and the reason he attributes his inaugural interest in and love of the arts.

His home was host to many and a place of discussion and debate about art, the ineptitude of gallery owners, the philistine behaviour of some Italian collectors, the artists of Paris, and art objects were often exchanged for food or shoes with the artists Vittorio admired.

At the same time his interest in African art was aroused in particular because of its influence on French painting of the earlier part of the century.

After the war Vittorio sold up the shoe factory and travelled to South Africa with the thought of emigrating. He immediately loved the country and wanted to succeed here.

His family joined him and though this new business did not thrive he eventually set up a factory that would use hogs hair to create brushes.

This led in the end to the production of rope, a thriving factory 'Academy Brushware' and new projects to make batik fabrics and dresses which Paolina worked on and avante garde furniture.

Vittorino Meneghelli with a Dogon tribe in Mali, 1968 during a fertility ceremony

It was in the later 1960s that Vittorino made his first trips through Africa and launched Totem Meneghelli, an art gallery, in Johannesburg.

This was an historic moment in the cultural life of Johannesburg, for as Karel Nel, who contributes a text to the book says, in Totem the Meneghelli's exposed South Africans - both black and white to Africa's cultural heritage, to its power and beauty and the contributions that the art of this continent had already made in Europe.

It seems strange to think about it now, but then there was almost nothing of Africa's creative life to be seen in the urban areas of South Africa and very little elsewhere except, of course, in the great colonial museums in Europe.

Today, Vittorino says there is probably more African art in the world now than ever existed. An extraordinary thought.
In the 1960s, 70s and 80s the Meneghellis attracted a lively and generous collection of artists, poets and others to their Sunday lunch table.

An artist himself, Vittorino worked directly with others such as Aileen Lipkin and poet Sinclaire Beiles, and his friends included Cecil Skotnes, Eduardo Villa, Lucy Sibiya, Norman Catherine and Tito Zungu, the latter unknown then but well known now for the drawings of aeroplanes he made on envelopes.

At Totem he exhibited both collections of art from the rest of Africa and curated exhibitions of local artists -- indeed he was one of the very first curators who understood the social and creative energy of curatorship and generated lively projects in which many artists enthusiastically participated.

All the while Vittorino continued travelling and buying art in West Africa. There he made friends with merchants and traders in Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Congo, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, Cameroon and elsewhere.

He became familiar with the markets in places such as Abidjan, Bamako, Accra, Lome and Timbuktu. He has had an unerring eye for the pieces of traditional mastery and beauty but also for finding wonderful forms of contemporary innovation and quirky expressions of creativity.

His collection of Nok ceramic sculpture from the first millennium and Benin brasses almost took my breath away when I saw them in his factory in Johannesburg a few years ago.

The strings of beads he has located are deeply appealing, and resonant, capable of revealing revised histories of Africa by tracing their continental and global movements.

He collected brass and bronze beads in the most extraordinary shapes and patterns, amber and resin beads, bone and tooth, glass and stone, shell and ivory, and gold beads made and traded across Africa.

His other collections included European beads from Murano, resin beads resembling amber imported from Germany and sold throughout the continent, used as barter currency for spices, gold, ivory, timber and slaves to be shipped to the Americas.

These have been tracked and traded, bought and brought to be strung in a factory in Germiston by an Italian couple and worn by me, and my mother and a thousand others who carry this history, of which Vittorino is a part, unknowingly around their necks.

A Life Lived Through Art: Vittorio Meneghelli’s La Mia Vita, La Mia Collezione

La Mia Vita, La Mia Collezione (My Life, My Collection) by Vittorio Meneghelli is the record of a life lived through art. Meneghelli’s collection – possibly one of the largest private collections of African and Italian art in the world – is a record of the passionate and personal impulses that drove his search to understand and describe his experience.

Leaving Italy after the Second World War, Meneghelli settled in Johannesburg (where he opened the Totem Gallery in 1968) and began his travels ranging across Africa.

Eschewing the commercial African art centres of Cairo and Cape Town for the more remote areas of Gabon and Congo, Nigeria and Mali, Meneghelli collected with tenacity and verve, viewing the collecting of art as a creative endeavour in itself. As he has said: “I consider art to be rebellion. I don’t want to know dogmas.”

Long before African art became fashionable in the galleries of Europe, Meneghelli had begun to establish a comprehensive record of his experiences of the aesthetic world of the African continent, its rich tradition of artists and its diverse art forms.

Meneghelli’s vast collection of traditional and contemporary work continues to grow on many fronts, running hand in hand with the patient work of ordering, classifying, and selecting and reselecting of objects by a connoisseur delighting in his chosen field of expertise.

The collection, populated with sculptures, masks, jewels, drums, paintings, textiles, exotic and ethnographic objects, antiques and books, mirrors the eclectic tastes of Meneghelli.

It shows extraordinary freedom from any defined fashions or trends, and he never misses the chance to include objects that are ironic or humorous.

The works represented in this book have value not only through their undoubted aesthetic qualities, but through the personal stories attached to the discovery, the chase, the negotiation, and finally the coveted acquisition of each piece.

These compelling stories are presented in the book in parallel Italian and English texts.

Supplemented with essays by long-time friends, artists, and fellow-academics, La Mia Vita, La Mia Collezione is a uniquely personal and historical document, the result of decades of loving dedication to art and the artistic impulse.

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 97

Amulet. Atié, Ivory Coast.

Gold, disc-shaped, showing delicate decorations and an anthropomorphic face, on metal base; standard: ca. 15-16 k, weight: ca. 13 g; those amulets belonging to the most skilful and precious gold works of the Akan, showing elaborate coiffures, beards and scarification marks.

Measurements: 5.2 x 5.2 cm.

Estimate: 2500 - 5000 €

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 82

Pair of figures "bateba phuwe." Lobi, Burkina Faso.

Wood, greyish-brown encrusted (sacrificial) patina, a male and a female figure, regular, schematized features, "phisa" coiffure, slightly dam, minor missing parts (foot tips), cracks, the upper layer of the encrusted surface removed in some areas (insect caused damage), on blocklike base; regarding the modelling of arms and legs or special details like the grooved spine, both figures seem to be uniform. But considered as a whole the female figure is much more perfected, shoulders, breast- and back-area are modelled more powerful and harmonious, so that the bigger female can be regarded as the work of a master, while the male might be a work of a scholar or workshop. The analog patina in any case points to a common place of original location. According to the Lobi, god once sent the "thila" to the people, who should take care of their well-being and should sustain the organization of society. The "thila" used to contact men, more rarely women, and order the building of a shrine and the carving of the "bateba" figures. The sooth sayer "buor" acts as mediator between the "thila" and the people. He is consulted because of various reasons, for example in case of any disaster or sickness. The "bateba" figures come alive and active when they are positioned on a shrine. They combine human appearance and certain superhuman qualities of the "thila", they are their assistants to a certain extent. Accordingly "bateba" are able to recognize witches and fight them, as well as prevent harm, imposed by the witches. They were called "bateba duntundara". At which four types are distinguished: the "bateba phuwe" (the so-called "ordinary bateba"), the "bateba bambar" ("paralyzed bateba"), the "bateba ti puo" ("dangereous persons") and the "bateba ti bala" (the extraordinary persons"). Present figures belong to the ordinary "bateba phuwe", because they show no special gesture or any odd physiological attribute. There is no difference in strength between male and female "bateba", and even the size seems to have no influence on their fighting power. At which "bateba", as big in size as the present ones, are only rare to be found nowadays.

Height: 82 cm (male), 84 cm (female)

Estimate: 18000 - 40000 €

Friday, February 19, 2010

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview: Lot 11

Ancestor skull "ndambirkus.” Asmat, Area of Ocenep, Papua New Guinea.

Bone, polished, broad bone structure, the lower jaw and the modelled nose missing, as well as the decoration of the eye-sockets with bees wax and seeds, plant fibre headband with coix-seeds and red abrus-seeds, tufts of cassowary feathers and seashells attached, signs of age and usage on the underside, presumably from using the skull as "pillow."

Measurements: 19 x 15 x 40 cm, 1st third of the 20th century

estimate: 2300 - 4500 €

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The best base maker in New York?

Many local collectors have asked me to refer a New York base maker to them. The one I have consistently found to be the best is Farid Tawa, of Farid Tawa Gallery. The reasons I recommend Farid are numerous:
  1. He has an excellent eye, is very experienced and knows the material very well so he understands how pieces should be mounted
  2. He is very easy to work with and will gladly pick up and drop off pieces - a rare luxury!
  3. His wife, Lichia, is an excellent restorer so they can handle the restoration and base making at the same time
  4. His prices are competitive
  5. He keeps his client's pieces confidential and does not show them to other collectors or dealers. Also, Farid is also primarily a base maker so he does not have any conflict of interest with other collectors or dealers.
Farid can be reached at (212) 219-1313.

Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction Preview

African and Oceanic Tribal Arts are being celebrated at the upcoming 60th Zemanek-Münster Tribal Arts Auction. Held in Würzburg, Germany the auction will be held on Saturday, March 13, 2010 at 2pm. There will also be a preview of the works up for sale from 10am to 7pm on Wednesday, March 10 through Friday March 12. Also, on the day of the auction, potential buyers can come in early, from 9am- 1:30pm, so a last minute peak before the auction officially begins.

Of course, those interested in the African and Tribal works can certainly check them out on the web before hand, by visiting the Online Catalogue.

Stay tuned to the Jacaranda Tribal Blog over the next week as we highlight some most impressive lots up for sale.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Exploring the Lost Tribal Art of Maori Puppetry

From the New Zealand Herald News:

Reviving the lost tribal art of karetao, or Maori puppetry, will be discussed at NZ’s Waikato University wananga this week.

Professor Aroha Yates-Smith is bringing together kaumatua, carvers and artists to talk about guidelines for a revival.

Karetao are ceremonial marionettes with the body, legs and head usually carved from a single piece of wood. Arms and legs are operated by tightening and releasing cords which are tied through the back of the shoulders.

Pockets of carvers are starting to research and build the figures but there are huge gaps in knowledge about their use, Professor Yates-Smith says.

"We know they were used for instruction and entertainment but I think traditionally they were quite tapu ritualistically. I know of at least two that have been buried with whanau… They told stories ... I would imagine they also had a spiritual and healing quality and that's something we need to talk about with our elders."

Te Papa has some in its collection and the museum thinks karetao movements imitated haka, with their primary purpose to instruct young people in tribal history.

It also notes one account of a giant karetao being operated by an iwi who were under siege at their pa - basically so they could taunt their enemies outside the gates.

Researchers also know that the figures had a number of names including keretao, korotao, rapatahuri, repetahuri and tokoraurape.

Artist James Webster became interested in the marionettes through another passion, the revival of taonga puoro, Maori musical instruments.

He said the late Hirini Melbourne, the man credited with "awakening" those sleeping instruments, spoke of the use of taonga puoro in collaboration with the performance of karetao.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bonhams Tribal Auction Sale Results Are Weak

The African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art auction held in San Francisco today resulted in weak sales. Only 138 lots sold, less than 50% of the lots on offer and only 3 lots exceeded $20,000. Lot 4108, a beautiful hei tiki fetched an impressive $45,750 (including buyer's commission). Lot 4008, a fine Tapuanu gable mask from Satawan Atoll, Mortlock Islands fetched $33,550(including buyer's commission). The poor results are a combination of mediocre material and very cautious buyers.

4108 A Maori nephrite neck pendent, hei tiki, Rotorua area, North Island, New Zealand -$45,750

4008 A Tapuanu gable mask, Satawan Atoll, Mortlock Islands- $33,550

Booth Photos from the San Francisco Tribal Show!

Photos from the Jacaranda booth before last night's opening. Email us if you are interested in any items. More photos will follow over the next few days.

Madagascar staff, Ethiopian shield, Bedja shield

Shona knives, Ifugao container

Closeup - Madagascar staff

Ivory whistles


Combs, Chokwe whistle


Tsonga neckrest, Bongo stool

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gold of Africa Museum is a Rich Find

Located in Cape Town, South Africa, the Gold of African Museum contains a permanent collection of West African gold artifacts from the world-renowned Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva. The museum’s featured works focus on the golden creations from south of the Sahara.

The treasures in the collection are comprehensive and allow gallery-goers to view thousands of years of African legend, artistry and ritual from the gold-rich kingdoms of Africa.

In addition to displaying the expansive wealth of these rich African kingdoms, the objects are also incredibly symbolic and give insight into the lives of the artists that crafted the works on display.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also showcases traveling and temporary exhibits from countries such as India, Turkey, Brazil and Egypt. Past displays have included golden puppets from Mali, tools of Islamic calligraphy and the contemporary currency of African nations.

For more information on upcoming exhibitions and the interesting history of the space that houses the collection, visit the museum's official website.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Africa and Oceania: Artifacts to Art

Boston’s Museum of Fine Art is currently featuring the “Object, Image, Collector: African and Oceanic Art in Focus” exhibit from now until Sunday, July 18, 2010.

On display in the museum’s Art of Asia, Oceania and Africa Gallery, here is MFA’s description of the display:

By juxtaposing pieces from Africa and Oceania selected from private collections with photographs, “Object, Image, Collector” explores the complex intertwining of the histories of these objects, photography, and collecting.

Objects from the African continent and the Pacific came to Europe and the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In their places of origin these objects may have served in rituals, denoted prestige, or have been utilitarian in nature, but they became endowed with different meanings after they arrived in the West, eventually metamorphosing from artifacts into works of art in the early decades of the twentieth century. How did this change in focus come about?

In a vibrant visual narrative, “Object, Image, Collector” explores photography’s role in the promotion and recognition of African and Oceanic objects as art. Three-dimensional works, among them figurative sculpture, masks, and utilitarian objects selected from twenty-one private Boston-area collections, some displayed in public for the first time, are complemented by images from several important photographic endeavors, among them projects by American modernists Charles Sheeler and Walker Evans.

With examples of art books and teaching materials, the exhibition also demonstrates the impact of photographic illustrations on creating a classical canon of African and Oceanic art, and how collectors—and museums—regard them today.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bonham's Lot No: 4105Y

A Maori whalebone club, wahaika, Rotorua area, North Island, New Zealand with haliotis shell inlaid eyes. Length 15.5 inches.

Estimate: $2,000 - 3,000

Monday, February 8, 2010

Visit Jacaranda at the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Show

The San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show will take place on February 12-14th 2010 at the Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason Center.

Considered one of the finest events of its type in the world, the event celebrates global culture, including ethnographic sculptures, textiles and accessories. Featuring more than 100 renowned tribal art experts from Europe, North America, Australia, Asia and Africa, each showcasing their best examples of arts from tribal cultures across the globe.

Their will also be a special exhibit by celebrated photographer Mike Glad and curated by Mark A. Johnson will be on view. Other Worlds, is a collection of photographs that document the exotic and remote places that Glad encountered while trekking through Yemen, the wooden monasteries of Myanmar and villages of Pakistan.

Hours: Opening preview Thursday 11th 6pm-9pm, Friday and Saturday, February, 12th and 13th from 11am - 7pm. Sunday, February 14th 11am - 5pm.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bonham's Lot No: 4049

A Santa Cruz Island currency roll, tevau, Solomon Islands. Height 15inches, width 33inches.

Estimate: $4,000 - 6,000

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bonham's Lot No: 4259

A Pende deformation mask, mbangu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Height 14 inches.

Estimate: $3,000 - 5,000

For a discussion of this type of mask, see Stother, Z.S., "Pende (Visions of Africa)", 1998, pp. 139-53: "Mbangu, the bewitched is one of the most widespread of the masks among the Central Pende. Several interpretations have been recorded about this mask; that his half black half white face addresses a human response to the infirmed thereby reaffirming strength and compassion."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tribal Index online database

Tribal Index is a newly launched online database of the major African art auctions of the last forty years. The service includes an object library, with more than 40,000 illustrated art pieces, a price database and functions to personalize your research. An Oceanic database will be available in 2010.

There are 3 different levels to the database:

Bronze (FREE)

Search and View the object library


Access to object library and price database, plus construct portfolios and add personal notes


Full access including the graphic module

I would be curious to get feedback from users about their experience with the database (positive or negative) so please post comments if you have tried the service.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bonham's Lot No: 4073

A Hawaiian koa wood canoe constructed of koa wood except for outrigger; signed with engraved "P" on the hull.length. 25 feet, 3 inches.

Estimate: $20,000 - 30,000

Footnote: Originally made in Kona in the early 20th century, this canoe was one of seven or eight canoes purchased by the Queen's Surf restaurant on Waikiki Beach in the 1960's. Prior to installing the canoe, the Queen's Surf management had the canoes repaired by George Perry, hence the "P" on the manu.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This life-size canoe is located off site. The successful bidder will need to arrange shipping of the lot from its current location. For further information, please contact the department.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bonham’s Lot No: 4005

A Dayak Kenyah/Kayan shield, klau or kliau, Borneo with painted decorations on both sides and inset human hair on the front. Height 49 inches. Old British Colonial Collection.

Estimate: $5,000 - 7,000

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bonham's Fine African and Oceanic Art Auction

Art collectors get ready!

On Friday, February 12, 2010 Bonham's African and Oceanic Art Auction will take place in San Francisco. The 280 lots feature unique and traditional works from sub-Saharan Africa, Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Indonesia and Australia that were created in the early 20th Century or earlier. Made by the artists for religious, ceremonial or secular use within their culture, objects in the sale include figurative sculpture, masks, reliquaries, shrines, architectural ornaments, clubs, shields, vessels, stools, neck rests, instruments, body adornment and many daily utilitarian objects.

On the Tuesday before the auction, the lots will open to the public for those interested in a preview where guests are invited to view artwork first-hand and encouraged to ask questions. But until then, Jacaranda Tribal will highlight some of the top lots that will be up for sale with pictures. So stay tuned!

Monday, February 1, 2010

High Museum Features South African Art

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia is currently featuring the special installation "Transitions: Contemporary South African Works on Paper," which presents 13 works by eight artists, many on view for the first time.

The exhibition explores how works of art act as visual narratives and testimonials to the remarkable changes in the political and social landscapes in South Africa from 1974 during the height of Apartheid to 2002, two years before a decade of democracy was widely celebrated.

The artists featured in the exhibition include Kay Hassan, David Koloane, Rudzani Nemasetoni, Derrick Nxumalo, John Muafangejo, Billy Mandindi and Sam Nhlengethwa. Also featured is a large-scale, rarely seen work by William Kentridge. The installation will complement the contemporary galleries on the Skyway Level as well as the Fred and Rita Richman Gallery of African Art.

"Transitions: Contemporary South African Works on Paper" will be on view at the High Museum through June 10, 2010.