Friday, April 21, 2017

Research outcome: Statuary from the Konkomba region, Northern Ghana-Togo

The Konkomba people live in the Oti river basin in the northern border region of Ghana and Togo. Neighbors are the Mamprusi and Tchokossi in the north, the Lamba/Losso/Kabye in the east, the Bassari in the south and the Dagomba in the southwest [1-5]. On the eastern side, the Konkomba area is interspersed with frequent Lamba settlements and some Konkomba groups can also be found in the south of the Bassari region [4]. The Konkomba are composed of five clans, whose cohesion however is marginal [1-4], they thus do not form a coherent people. The overarching denomination ‘’Konkomba’’ has probably obtained its significance through the colonial linguistic usage [4]. Alternate denominations are today Kpankpam, Bikpakpaln or Bikpakpaam. Their language is Konkomba (or Likpakpaln), which belongs to the Oti-Volta sub-group of the Gur languages.

Region of Konkomba and their clans

The Konkomba are considered acephalous and autochthonous, although local migration is frequent [1-4]. The settlement is scattered, families live in simple round houses (i.e. 3-5 soukalas) connected with an exterior wall [1]. They adhere to the typical animistic beliefs of this region, including a creator god, different types of spirits, ancestor worship and reincarnation beliefs, details can be found in [1]. All sacred places and shrines are outdoors, they do not have ancestor houses, as do for instance the neighboring Lamba and Kabye [4].

Concerning the statuary, no images/photos or references of sculptures or figures attributed to the Konkomba can be found in the literature of the 19th and 20th centuries – only in recent years have works attributed to the Konkomba appeared on the tribal art market, many of them are large-scale, i.e. higher than 80 cm, see some selected examples below [6-10]. Also, it seems difficult to recognize a consistent style in these works, since they vary from highly abstract with simple volumes to much more complex compositions.

Selection of sculptures with (uncertain) attribution to the Konkomba

On the other hand, Froelich [1], who performed field studies in 1940-48 in the Konkomba region, explicitly wrote that no sculptures or figures exist or are in use in the cultural context (p. 179:… les croyances religieuses ne se traduisent pas matériellement, ni par des édifices ni par représentations anthropomorphes … il n’y a pas de fétiches auxquels est rendu un culte). Similarly, Hahn [4], who did fieldwork on the material culture (!) in that region between 1986 and 1993, wrote that few wooden objects play a role in the sacred life of the Konkomba, mentioning the wooden staff of the diviner, but no anthropomorphic representations (in contrast to their eastern neighbors, the Lamba, where those are mentioned).

This substantial contradiction is difficult to explain. It seems hard to believe that Froelich and Hahn did not notice the existence of anthropomorphic representations, since the Konkomba do not seem to have secret shrines hidden in the (simple) houses, as mentioned above, and particularly in view of the often large size of these works. It is also difficult to imagine that the Konkomba changed their cultural practices since 1993. It may thus be concluded that these works offered on the market do not originate from the Konkomba or are recent outcomes of a production destined for the tribal art market, as has also developed in the northern Moba or eastern Losso/Lamba regions in recent years.

However, it is conceivable that these works do not originate from the Konkomba, since the ethnic settlement is heterogeneous, as described above – and for instance is also the case for the northern Kusasi [11] – or due to often unclear people denominations. This assumption would be reinforced by the fact that no consistent style seems to exist in these works attributed to the Konkomba. An example is the sculpture on the far right. The original purchase certificate at hand states its origin as ‘’Komboli, Togo’’, which then mutated into ‘’Konkomba’’ in the Yale archive denomination [10]. However, looking on the map above and analyzing the style, the more appropriate origin is most probably ‘’Kambole’’, an ethnic group that lives in the south of the Tchamba and east of the Temba, whose style is very similar to that of this sculpture.The fact that the Konkomba do not form a uniform people, as mentioned above, may contribute to these problems.

[1] Froelich, Jean-Claude. La tribu Konkomba du Nord Togo. Mémoires de l’Institut français d’afrique noire. IFAN-Dakar, No. 37, 1954.
[2] Zech, Julius. Mitteilungen von Forschungsreisenden und Gelehrten aus den deutschen Schutzgebieten - Aus dem Schutzgebiete Togo. Bd. 17, 1904, 107-135.
[3] Tait, David. The Konkomba of Northern Ghana. Oxford University Press, London, Ibadan, Accra, 1961.
[4] Hahn, Hans Peter. Die materielle Kultur der Konkomba, Kabyè und Lamba in Nord-Togo. Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, Köln, 1996.
[5] Gayibor, Nicoué Lodjou. Le peuplement du Togo – état actuel des connaissances historiques. Université du Benin, Les Presses de l’UB, Lomé, 1996.
[6] Kirbach, André. Exposition catalogue 2007.
[7] Yale-Van Rijn Archive, No. 0079288.
[8] Zemanek auction catalogue, 11.07.2009, lot 238.
[10] Yale-Van Rijn Archive, No. 0112682.
[11] Keller, Thomas. Research outcome: Statuary from the Kusasi region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogspot 31.03.2017.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Research outcome: Lobi statuary – about proportions …

Proportion is one of the key parameters in style characterization in African sculpture. Olbrechts [1] was one of the first scholars who recognized this [2], followed by Perrois, amongst others, [3], who classified Fang statues (designated Fan) into four stylistic groups, mainly based on their proportions, see Fig. 1 (top). He was further able to attribute these different styles to different geographic regions and ethnic groups. Perrois also documented how the main proportions of a sculpture may already have been determined with the first strokes of the adze into the wood trunk, see Fig. 1 (bottom, 2nd from left). A similar process was recorded by Himmelheber [4] and Jaenicke [5], observing the carving of a Lobi figure by Biniate Kambire and a Lobi head by Sib Koukoure (Fig. 2 left). In the former case, the main proportions of the figure were fixed with six strokes while the facial elements of the head were, similarly, determined with just a few strokes in the early carving stage. Keller furthermore attributed small incisions at the sides of the nose wings in the works of Sikire Kambire to remnants of similar position marks [6].

Fig. 1: Proportional system to classify Fang sculptures and carving process [3]
Fig. 2: Carving process of Lobi head [5] and (presumable) remnants of position marks in Sikire works [6]

Analyzing this knowledge, the question arises as to whether the proportions of sculptures are not only style specific, but also carver specific. A hypothesis could then be that carvers have the proportions ‘’in their blood’’ and reproduce them with the first strokes of the adze, as described above. Since sculptural work in Africa has a similar significance to writing in our culture, the latter also being characterized by the proportions of characters and its scale-dependent application being ‘’in our blood’’, this hypothesis seems defensible.

First attempts have been made in [6] and [7] to investigate this hypothesis by comparing 1) the proportions of works of two different Lobi styles, and 2) the proportions of works of two different sub-styles of the same style, both to identify potential differences. The comparison focused on the proportions of sculptures attributed to Sikire Kambire (Fig. 3) [6] and those from two sub-styles of the sculptures with ‘’glasses’’ (Figs. 4 and 5) [7].

Fig. 3: Height-independent proportions of works attributed to Sikire Kambire [6]

Fig. 4: Height-dependent proportions in sub-style 1 of sculptures with ‘’glasses’’ [7]
Fig. 5: Height-dependent proportions in sub-style 2 of sculptures with ‘’glasses’’ [7]

The works attributed to Sikire Kambire exhibit, from the front view, height-independent proportions, as can be seen by the resulting horizontal and parallel lines in the normalized representation in Fig. 3, i.e. after adjusting the figure heights to the same distance between eyes and insteps. The proportions, however, of the two ‘’glasses’’ sub-styles are linearly height-dependent, i.e. the resulting lines shown in Figs. 4 and 5 are (slightly) inclined and parallel, which means that the head size for instance becomes proportionally bigger if the figure height decreases.

Fig. 6: Comparison of proportions between two styles and sub-styles and human proportions (Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, around 1490) 

The proportions of all three styles were then overlaid in Fig. 6. This shows that the proportions of the two different styles, i.e. Sikire and ‘’glasses’’, are significantly different, while smaller differences exist between the two ‘’glasses’’ sub-styles. In the latter case, it is noteworthy that the slopes of the lines are identical, however, chest and navel are clearly lower in sub-style 1 than in sub-style 2. Whether these small differences justify the conclusion that two different carvers were the creators of these two sub-styles can, however, certainly not yet be decided at this stage of the research. Aspects such as the statistically required number of figures, the obvious dispersion inherent in these roughly produced strokes that determine the main proportions, or the long period of activity of a carver need to be taken into account and examined. It is interesting, however, that 1) clear and conceptually significant differences exist between the proportions of different Lobi styles and 2) much smaller but still noticeable and consistent differences are discernable between different sub-styles. The interpretation of the latter in particular requires much more research.

Also interesting is the fact that the heads of Sikire’s works are always, regardless of height, disproportionately large compared to human proportions, which is well known in African sculpture [2]. In the case of the ‘’glasses’’ style, however, the proportions become similar to those of human beings at heights approaching 100 cm, see Fig. 6.

[1] Olbrechts, Frans M. Les arts plastiques du Congo belge. Erasme, Bruxelles, 1959 (éd. en néerlandais, 1949).
[2] Vansina, Jan. Art history in Africa, an introduction to method. Routledge, London and New York, 1984.
[3] Perrois, Louis. La statuaire fan, Gabon. Mémoires O.R.S.T.O.M., no. 59, Paris 1972.
[4] Himmelheber, Hans. Figuren und Schnitztechnik bei den Lobi, Elfenbeinküste.Tribus, Linden-Museum für Völkerkunde, Stuttgart, Nr. 15,1966, 63-87.
[5] Jaenicke, Wolfgang., 27 May 2009.
[6] Keller, Thomas. Lobi Statuary – Sikire Kambire. Keller Arts Premiers, Switzerland, 2015. Free download here.
[7] Keller, Thomas; Katsouros, Floros. Lobi Statuary – Brillen-Glasses-Lunettes. Keller Arts Premiers, Switzerland, 2014. Free download here.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fact check: A pair of Lobi Bateba figures

The attribution of a pair of figures to the Lobi is verified and further discussed in the following.

1) Factual statement (in addition to pair photo below left)

According to [1]: A pair of Lobi Bateba figures, Burkina Faso, wood, each 23cm high.
Pair in question and two figures attributed to Skire Kambire

2) State-of-the-art knowledge and discussion

Analyzing the face details and proportions reveals that this pair closely resembles works of the well-known Lobi sculptor Sikire Kambire, as shown on the right for two figures of similar size, attributed to Sikire. The figure proportions are height-independent, which is characteristic of Sikire’s works [2], but in contrast to those of other well-known Lobi sculptures, e.g. the sculptor of the ‘’statues with glasses’’, whose works have linearly height-dependent proportions [3]. Only the navel of the female figure is slightly lower, probably because the male gender is not indicated.
Height-independent proportions of Sikire Kambire statues and figures, from 19 to 63 cm height [2]

The pair seem to exhibit a sacrificial patina, similar to the one on the far right. Consequently, since these figures display much fewer ornaments than the figure with the shiny patina in the middle, the hypothesis derived in [2] seems to be confirmed, i.e. that Sikire figures manufactured for cultural use exhibit fewer ornaments than those produced for the tribal art market.

3) Conclusions

The figure pair in question can be attributed to the Lobi, and even further, most probably to the sculptor Sikire Kambire.

4) References

[1] Bellmans auction catalogue (UK), 04.04.2017, lot 862.
[2] Keller, Thomas. Lobi Statuary – Sikire Kambire. Keller Arts Premiers, Switzerland, 2015. Free download here.
[3] Keller, Thomas; Katsouros, Floros. Lobi Statuary – Brillen-Glasses-Lunettes. Keller Arts Premiers, Switzerland, 2014. Free download here.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fact check: Lobi masks (relief-heads)

The cataloguing and details of two Lobi masks are verified and discussed in the following.

1) Factual statement (in addition to photos of ''masks'' 1 & 2 below)

According to [1]: Lobi Masks, Burkina Faso, 19 & 32cm.
Dans le catalogue de Piet Meyer (Kunst und Religion der Lobi, 1981) de la grande exposition dédiée à la sculpture Lobi au Musée Rietberg de Zurich, l’une des sections les plus importantes est celle consacrée au travail de Sikire Kambire (1895-1963) de Gaoua, Haute-Volta, qui était reconnu comme étant le plus fameux sculpteur lobi. À la fin des années vingt, il fut chargé, par le Professeur Henri Labouret, de copier un masque Baoule, liant à cette occasion le style lobi à celui des Baoule (notamment au niveau du tracé de l’arcade sourcilière). Il a ensuite produit de nombreuses figures, tabourets, bâtons et masques (jusqu’alors inconnus des Lobi) dans ce style et a commencé à les vendre aux Européens en adoptant le même style pour les œuvres utilisées sur les sanctuaires lobi. Il s’agit là d’un cas classique de l’influence que l’art d’une région peut avoir sur le style d’une autre région. 
Lobi ''masks'' and Sikire Kambire relief-head

2) State-of-the-art knowledge and discussion

The state-of-the-art knowledge concerning the background of Sikire Kambire’s ‘’masks’’, and the suggestion to denominate these objects as ''relief-heads'' (term used from now on), was already discussed in two previous posts of March 12, 2017 and will not be repeated here.

Three points should be corrected however, a) Labouret was a colonial administrator until 1924, b) the Baule mask copy experiment thus took place much earlier than at the end of the 20s (also confirmed by the relief-head H6 in [2], acquired between 1921 and 1924), and c) Meyer clearly stated that his attribution of the Lobi relief-heads to Sikire Kambire was a hypothesis, which was only approved in 2015 [2].

The two relief-heads in question were already discussed in [2] and attributed to a follower/contemporary of Sikire. The face proportions match those of Sikire’s works, as shown above. However, there are significant differences, e.g. the eyes don’t exhibit the burned-in/bored pupils, which were present in Sikire’s relief-heads from the beginning (plate 16 in [3]) and interpreted as a remnant from the copied Baule mask [2]. Both relief-heads in question are also much less precisely carved than Sikire’s works, i.e. somewhat similar to (but nevertheless different from) those attributed to Lunkena Pale (see post of March 12, 2017). 

In addition to Sikire's disciples Lunkena Pale and Dihunthe Palenfo, four followers/contemporaries were identified in [2] (together with the carver of these two relief-heads), whose relief-head style is clearly different from that of Sikire’s relief-heads.

Lobi relief-heads from three further Sikire followers/contemporaries

3) Conclusions

The denomination of these relief-heads in the catalogue as just ‘’Lobi masks’’ can be validated since no attribution to Sikire is made. However, this denomination and the corresponding cataloguing (Sikire background) seem rather ambiguous, since they are not linked and no statement is made as to whether these relief-heads are attributed to Sikire or not. This leaves the reader feeling a bit lost, since the existence of disciples and followers/ contemporaries and their potential creatorship are not mentioned.

4) References

[1] Christie’s auction catalogue, 04.04.2017, lots 42&44.
[2] Keller, Thomas. Lobi Statuary – Sikire Kambire. Keller Arts Premiers, Switzerland, 2015. Download here.
[3] Labouret, Henri. Les tribus du rameau Lobi. Travaux et mémoires de l’Institut d’Ethnologie 15, Paris 1931.
[4] Pousse Cornet-Valoir, Blois, 17.03.2012, lot 187.
[5] Collection RMCA Tervuren, EO.1967.63.92/93/94.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Research outcome: Statuary from the Kusasi region, Northern Ghana-Togo

The Kusasi people live mainly in the Bawku district of the Upper East Region in Northern Ghana and partially in the western part of Northern Togo. Neighbors are the better known Mamprusi in the south and Moba in the east. This region, however, exhibits a highly diversified ethnic mix, even in the core areas of the individual peoples, and local migration is frequent. Similar to their Moba neighbors, the Kusasi are considered as being autochthonous. They adhere to the typical animistic beliefs of West Africa, including ancestor worship; the influence of Islam is still minor. Their language is Kusaal, which belongs to the Oti-Volta sub-group of the Gur languages [1, 2]. Several other denominations are used for the Kusasi: Kusaal, Kusale, or Koussasse.

Statues in (left, 1911 [3])  /  and collected in (right, 62-108cm) / the Kusasi core area (Bawku district)

Concerning the statuary, images or photos of Kusasi statues or figures cannot be found in older literature – it is only recently that works attributed to the Kusasi have appeared on the tribal art market. Interesting, however, is a photo of a statue published by Seefried in 1911 [3] and designated as ‘’Fetischplatz beim Häuptling in Kpatua, Moab-Land’’ (fetish place at the chief’s in Kpatua, Moab-region), see above left (Moab is an alternate name for Moba). The same photo was published by Küas in 1939 [4], however with the designation ‘’Fetischgerät in Kpatua-Mamprussi’’ (fetish tool in Kpatua-Mamprussi). A search for the village of Kpatua reveals finally that it is located in the (according to [5] so-called) influence area, and not core area of the Mamprusi (or Mamprussi), but in the core area of the Kusasi.

This example highlights the difficulty of attributing statues and objects of Northern Ghana and Togo to a specific ethnic group. Considering a) the above-mentioned pronounced small-scale heterogeneity of the ethnic groups and frequent migrations, b) the also frequent mixing of the cultures of autochthonous and immigrated equestrian peoples (Mamprusi, Dagomba, etc.), and c) the not always clear denominations of the peoples, a precise and unquestionable attribution of cultural objects to individual peoples in Northern Ghana and Togo is impossible in most cases. The only possible attribution seems one related to the region of collection (if reliably known): i.e., for instance, ‘’Statue from the Kusasi area’’, rather than ‘’Statue from the Kusasi’’.

[1] Schlottner, Michael: Herrschaft und Religion bei den Mamprusi und Kusasi im Nordosten von Ghana, Paideuma, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, Nr. 37, 1991, S. 141-159.
[2] Zech, Julius: Mitteilungen von Forschungsreisenden und Gelehrten aus den deutschen Schutzgebieten - Aus dem Schutzgebiete Togo, Bd. 17, 1904, S. 107-135.
[3] Seefried, Adolf von: Die Togo-Dahomey-Grenzvermessungs-Expedition nebst Mitteilungen über Togo, Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft in München, Band VI., No. 1, München 1911.
[4] Küas, Richard: Togo Erinnerungen, Vorhut Verlag Otto Schlegel, Berlin 1939.
[5] Davis, David Carson: Continuity and change in Mampurugu: a study of tradition and ideology, PhD thesis, Evanston, Ann Arbor 1984.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fact check: Lobi maternity figure attributed to Lunkena Pale

The attribution of a Lobi maternity figure to Lunkena Pale and its function are verified and discussed in the following.

1) Factual statement (in addition to photo below left, 19cm)

According to [1]: Maternité ‘’bateba’’, 19cm.
…a work of the carver Lunkena Pale from Gaoua; cf. Lit.: Bognolo, Daniela, Lobi, Milan 2007 [2].
The female figure carrying a child is used in magical practices to drive off an evil spirit that is dangerous for a pregnant woman. The fact of ritually ‘’tying’’ the object to the woman makes a link between her pregnancy and the carved image of her future motherhood so that the evil spirit will enter the object instead of her womb. (Copied from Bognolo [2])

Maternity figures from [1] and [5] and Lunkena Pale [6]

2) State-of-the-art knowledge and discussion

Denomination: Several denominations exist for these Lobi maternity figures in literature: ‘’buthib deewabii’’ [2], ‘’bateba with other tasks’’ [3], ‘’thilbou khe bambi’’ [4].

Function: In addition to the function mentioned above by Bognolo [2], a supportive function for conceiving children [3] or combating sterility [4] is attributed to these figures.

Lunkena Pale attribution: Maternity figures from this carver or his workshop are quite frequent. Further examples are shown above [5] or in the Yale-Van Rijn Archive (no. 0066598). They are clearly carved in the Bonko style, which was influenced by Sikre Kambire (1896-1963) [5, 6]. Compared to the (numerous) maternity figures of Lunkena Pale (1911- ~1975), who was one of Sikire’s disciples, however, clear differences exist in the detailing, see photos above. Works of Lunkena are not carved as precisely as those of this carver/workshop. The eyes of Lunkena’s figures are pierced in most cases (although it might look like, those of the middle figure are not pierced). The shape of the mouth and width of the nose wings are different. The arm holding the child is not detached from the body and the heads are parallel and don't look each other.

The maternity figures of this carver/workshop may rather be attributed to Tjipothe (Dikote) Dah (~1928-2009) or his workshop, who was a later contemporary of Sikire [6, 7]This seems to be confirmed by the fact that maternity figures as shown above are still in use and the workshop thus may still be active, as shown in the photos below, taken in 2015.

Diviner in Bonko (face blackened out), 2015 (photos W. Jaenicke, Berlin)

3) Conclusions

Since the function of these maternity figures is quite obvious, the interpretations found in literature do not diverge significantly, as shown above. However, the attribution of the maternity figure in question to Lunkena Pale seems questionable and cannot be validated.

4) References

[1] Zemanek Auction 85 catalogue, 04.03.2017, lot 80.
[2] Bognolo, Daniela. Lobi. 5 Continents Editions, Milan 2007.
[3] Meyer, Piet. Kunst und Religionen der Lobi, Ausstellungskatalog, Museum Rietberg, Zürich 1981.
[4] Bosc, Julien. Art et culture Lobi. Cat. exp. ‘’Magie Lobi’’, Galerie Flak, Paris 2004.
[5] Sotheby’s auction catalogues, 30.11.2010 & 24.06.2015, lot 84 & 77.
[6] Keller, Thomas. Lobi Statuary – Sikire Kambire. Keller Arts Premiers, Lully VD, Switzerland, 2015.Download here
[7] Jaenicke, Wolfgang. Dikoté Dah and an early sculpture of the Bonko style,, 20.10.2010.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fact check: Lobi head stake, ‘’baathil – khele – milkuur’’ attribution

The attribution of a Lobi head-on-post or head stake to the ‘’milkuur’’ cult is verified and discussed in the following.

1) Factual statement (in addition to photo below left)

According to [1]: Head stake ‘’baathil’’, Burkina Faso, Lobi, 52.5cm.
… such head stakes are meant as support for ‘’khele’’, a terrible power released by a killing. It is thrust into a mount of earth to form a ‘’milkuur’’ shrine. The practice of carving a head without a body and sticking it on a shrine to symbolize the great power acquired by the murderers in the ‘’milkuur’’ cult seems to originate from the ritual treatment that the Gan give the bodies of their kings and chief dignitaries. The bodies are always buried far away from the head.

No reference is provided for this factual statement; it seems that the statement has been adopted from a former catalogue [2], in which the same head has already been offered. In that catalogue, the Italian ethnologist Bognolo [3] is mentioned as reference.
Head stake / outdoor ''harvest shrine'' of Binate Kambire [8] / head in indoor shrine [6]

2) State-of-the-art knowledge (summary)

Denomination: Several denominations exist for these heads in literature: ‘’baathil’’ [3], ‘’ti bala yuo’’ [4], ‘’thilbou yo’’ [5].

Function: In addition to the function mentioned above by Bognolo [3], a protective function against witches and sorcery was attributed to these heads [4] or a representation of ancestors, as a means of mutual communication [6]. According to Meyer [4], such heads were not spread throughout the whole Lobi country.

Khele/milkuur attribution: Bognolo, in 1993 [7], designated the outdoor shrine with incorporated head, shown above (middle), as a milkuur shrine. However, according to Himmelheber [8], who took the photo, this shrine of Biniate Kambire was always sacrificed after prosperous millet harvests. In 1997, Bognolo published a photo of a head in an interior shrine (not stuck into the earth [9]), which seems to contradict the previous attribution. A similar photo of an indoor shrine is shown above (right [6]). Only in 2008 did Bognolo publish her own photo of an outdoor shrine with head [10], which she again designated as milkuur shrine. The same photo was then shown in 2015 [11]. 
Numerous publications about the background and rituals of the khele and milkuur exist [6, 12-16]. However, in no one of these, heads are mentioned that are stuck into earth mound shrines. Similarly, numerous photos of shrines, designated as milkuur shrines, were published that don’t show any head incorporated in the shrine, see photos below.

Milkuur shrines without head: left [6] / middle, with figures in left corner (but without head) [6] / right [4]

 3) Discussion and conclusions

The factual statement, in its generalized form, as presented above and by Bognolo, cannot be validated. Labouret [12] and Père [15] clearly demonstrated how the cults and rituals are heterogeneous in the Lobi country. It is conceivable that Bognolo’s statement was based on a local observation where this milkuur relationship existed. However, a generalization to the whole Lobi country does not seem admissible. Too many contradictions exist to other works.

4) References

[1] Zemanek Auction 85 catalogue, 04.03.2017, lot 148.
[2] Christie’s auction catalogue, 11.06.2012, lot 42.
[3] Bognolo, Daniela. Lobi. 5 Continents Editions, Milan 2007.
[4] Meyer, Piet. Kunst und Religionen der Lobi, Ausstellungskatalog, Museum Rietberg, Zürich 1981.
[5] Bosc, Julien. Art et culture Lobi. Cat. exp. ‘’Magie Lobi’’, Galerie Flak, Paris 2004.
[6] Antongini, Giovanna; Spini, Tito.Il cammino degli antennati, I Lobi dell‘Alto Volta. Laterza, Roma-Bari 1981.
[7] Bognolo, Daniela. Devenir sculpteur chez les Lobi, in: Créer en Afrique, 2e Colloque Européen sur les Arts d’Afrique Noire, Paris 1993.
[8] Himmelheber, Hans. Figuren und Schnitztechnik bei den Lobi, Elfenbeinküste, Tribus, Linden-Museum für Völkerkunde, Stuttgart, Nr. 15, 1966.
[9] Bognolo, Daniela. Djetó! fait attention! Le "chemin de la sculpture" chez les Lobi du Burkina Faso, Journal des africanistes, Paris, Nr. 67 (1), 1997.
[10] Bognolo, Daniela. From ritual to protection: objects in transition, Constellations – studies in African art, Neuberger Museum of Art, New York, Vol. 1, 2008.
[11] Fischer, Eberhard; Homberger, Lorenz. Les maîtres de la sculpture de la Côte d’Ivoire. Catalogue d’exposition, Skira, Paris 2015.
[12] Labouret, Henri. Les tribus du rameau Lobi. Travaux et mémoires de l’Institut d’Ethnologie 15, Paris 1931.
[13] Traore Dominique. Cérémonies de purification chez les Lobi (Haute-Volta), Notes africaines, Institut français d’Afrique noire, Nr. 43, 1949.
[14] Bonnafé, Pierre. Fiéloux Michèle: Le dédain de la mort et la force du cadavre – souillure et purification d’un meurtrier Lobi (Burkina/Haute-Volta), Etudes rurales, Editions de l’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, Nr. 95-96, 1984.
[15] Père, Madeleine. Les Lobi: tradition et changement, Burkina Faso. Tome 1: village et traditions; Edition Siloë, Laval 1988.
[16] Cros, Michèle. Anthropologie du sang en Afrique: Essai d'hématologie symbolique chez les Lobi du Burkina Faso et de Côte-d'Ivoire, Editions L'Harmattan, Paris 1990.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fact check: Tamberma Power Figure?

The attribution of a sculpture, designated as ''Power Figure'' (''Fetischfigur'' in German), to the Tamberma people of Northern Togo is verified and discussed in the following.
Tamberma power figure (?) vs. (presumable) Tamberma bride figure / Takienta with mound shrines

1) Factual statement (in addition to the photo above left)

According to [1]: Power figure, Togo, Tamberma, 84.5cm,
wood, middle brown patina, paint remains, zig-zag-shaped armless body rising from one foot, middle part wrapped in animal skin, oval head with prominent chin, face accentuated by red paint, brows and eyeleashes made from blue wool, … ; the Tamberma are neighbours of the Lamba and Losso, living in Northern Togo. The meaning and function of their figures is not researched up to now.

2) State-of-the-art knowledge (summary from [2-6])

The Tamberma live in the eastern part of the Northern Togo and western part of Benin (where they are called Somba). They are neighbors of the Lamba, Losso and Kabye (in Northern Togo). Based on their remarkable mud tower-houses (Takienta), their region was added to the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites in 2004 [2].

The cosmology of the Tamberma is manifested in their mud houses. Ancestor, spirit and personal shrines consist of conical mounds of hollow structure, which are placed in front of the houses and seen as miniature versions of the latter. They thus fulfill the functions normally associated with sculpture in Africa – the reason why sculpture is rare and plays a minor role in the Tamberma culture [3].

Nevertheless, several types of wooden figures are used. During funerals, roughly carved figures represent the deceased; only arms, genitals and head are marked [3-5]. They are left in the cemetery where the body has been buried [6]. Other wooden, female figures, representing brides, are carried by men during their initiation (Lifoni). Their physiognomy is more defined than that of the funeral figures [5]. They are rather pole-like in form (similar to Moba figures) and exhibit both arm and leg and face details; they also wear cords around the hips like young women [6]. The above figure on the right (collected in the Tamberma region, 51.5cm) seems to represent a bride figure (according to [6]). Other human figures also related to men’s initiation are kept in the granary support [5]. Furthermore, modelled clay figures are sometimes placed in front of the houses; they represent the ‘’people of the earth’’ (Bakabaniba), who guard the earth and the underworld [5].

The appearance of the Tamberma figures, as described above, thus coincides with the reduced and abstract conception of the statuary of their neighbors [7] and of Northern Togo in general [8].

Sewane [5]: mound shrines (left), funeral figure in front and more detailed figure behind (right)

3) Discussion and conclusions

It is confirmed that the Tamberma are neighbors of the Lamba and Losso in the Northern Togo. However, research has been conducted and a certain amount of knowledge about the statuary of the Tamberma exists.

The power figure attribution seems in contrast to the purposes of the Tamberma figures, as described above. The expressive conception, distinct detailing and materials used for this figure seem in opposition to those of the statuary of the Tamberma (as described above), their neighbors and of Northern Togo in general.

The factual statement thus cannot be validated.

4) References 

[1] Zemanek Auction 85 catalogue, 04.03.2017, Lot 245.
[2] Koutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba:
[3] Blier, Suzanne Preston. Architecture of the Tamberma (Togo). PhD thesis, Columbia University, USA, 1981.
[4] Padenou, Guy-Herman; Pastor-Barrué, Monique. Architecture, société et paysage Bétammaribé au Togo. Presses Universitaires du Mirail, Toulouse, 2006.
[5] Sewane, Dominique. Le souffle du mort: La tragédie de la mort chez les Batãmmariba du Togo, Bénin. Plon, Paris, 2003.
[6] Blier, Suzanne Preston. Personal communication, 2012.
[7] Amrouche, Pierre. Corps & décors, statuaire Lamba et Losso du Togo. Editions Berggruen, Paris, 2008.
[8] Amrouche, Pierre; Thiam, Amadou. Art Moba du Togo. Catalogue d’exposition, Paris, 1991.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Fact check: Origin of Sikire Kambire braids

The qualification and attribution of a specific hairstyle displayed on some sculptures of Sikire Kambire – the laterally hanging braids – are verified and discussed in the following.

1) Factual statement

The Italian ethnologist Daniela Bognolo wrote in 2015 about the style of Sikire Kambire [1]:
D’autres détails relèvent également la tendance du sculpteur à introduire des éléments étrangers à sa culture dans les objets ’’exotiques’’ qu’il réalisait pour les ’’Blancs’’. Cette statue féminine, par exemple, est pourvue d’une coiffure typique des femmes peules, bien différente de celles représentées selon la tradition dans la statuaire ’’lobi’’.

Sikire Kambire statue with braids - Lobi Tegessje, 1935 [2]

2) State-of-the-art knowledge

Hairstyles with laterally hanging braids are known in the Lobi culture, as confirmed on the photo above, taken by Paul Julien in 1935, showing the hairstyle of a Lobi-Tegessje [2]. The author is not aware of any earlier sculptures with similar braids from other carvers

3) Discussion and conclusions

It seems true that laterally hanging braids are a new element in the iconography of the Lobi statuary. Their carving requires a high level of craftsmanship, as shown on the photo above, which underlines the exceptional skills of this sculptor/artist. Lobi carvers normally are unskilled.

However, laterally hanging braids are not foreign and not exotic and well present in the Lobi culture. The core of the factual statement thus cannot be validated.

4) References

[1] Fischer, Eberhard; Homberger, Lorenz. Les maîtres de la sculpture de la Côte d’Ivoire. Catalogue d’exposition, Skira, Paris, 2015.
[2] Julien, Paul. Lagerfeuer am Äquator. Eberhard Bockhaus, Wiesbaden, 1950.