Monday, August 7, 2017

Research outcome: Statuary from the Losso region, Northern Togo

The Losso people live in the plane between the northern Defale mountain chain and southern Kabye massifs, in the Doufelgou prefecture of the Kara region in northeastern Togo [1], see Fig. 1. The district capital Niamtougou is part of their settlement area. Their main neighbors are the Lamba and Kabye in the north and south and the Bassari and Tamberma in the southwest and northeast. The denomination ‘’Losso’’ originated from the Kabye and was adopted by the colonial administration while they call themselves ‘’Naudeba’’ [1] or ‘’Naudemba’’ [2] (or ‘’Nawdba’’ in more recent works). Frobenius however did not differentiate between Losso and Lamba and denominated both ‘’Losso’’ [3]. Maybe his travels across the Losso and Lamba regions were too short, only a few days in January 1909 [4], to capture the ethnic differences. Nonetheless, he recorded that the languages in Niamtougou and Defale (Lamba region) were different, the former comprising Mossi and the latter Tem elements. This coincides with the later view that – while the Lamba and Kabye are autochthonous and have Tem-related languages – the Losso migrated from northern Mossi-speaking territories, and infiltrated between the Lamba and Kabye at the beginning of the 17th century [1, 2]. Furthermore, in the southwestern region, around Yaka and Agbande, Losso-designated people also live, who however are former Kabye [1].

Fig. 1. Maps of Losso region and neighbors, including Lamba and Losso figures at their location of collection acc. to [5]

Little is known about the sociopolitical organization and cosmology of the Losso [1]; Frobenius wrote that the human nature and type and form of settlement were the same everywhere, i.e. in the Losso and Lamba regions [3]. He mentioned the role of twins and reincarnation beliefs, which are both typical for this region. Information provided by Amrouche [5] was mainly acquired in the Lamba region, but then generalized to include Lamba and Losso, mainly based on the frequent intermixing of the two peoples and similar cultural practices, see [6] about the Lamba.

Fig. 2 Figures acquired by Amrouche and attributed to the Losso based on the location of collection [5]

Concerning anthropomorphic representations, Amrouche published more than 150 Lamba and Losso figures in 2008 [5]. He emphasized that normally it is not possible to differentiate between Lamba and Losso figures. For a few of them he knew the collection location and thus attributed them to the Lamba or Losso, see Fig. 2 for the latter and [6] for the former. However, as can be seen in Fig. 1, none of the figures attributed to the Losso originated from the Losso core region, as indicated by Froelich [1]; the locations were situated in the transition zones between Losso and Lamba or even in the Lamba region (e.g. Agbassa) or in the southern part where the Losso were former Kabye. He also mentioned the existence of Losso terracotta figures similar to those of the southern Kabye. Regarding the purpose of these figures he did not differentiate between Lamba and Losso and mentioned the use in the cult of twins and bush spirit or ancestor representations, see [6] for more details. Concerning the typical scarifications exhibited by most of these figures, he emphasized that they are not an indication of ethnic affiliation. Frobenius and Fröhlich already mentioned in this respect that the Losso adopted the scarification designs from the Kabye [3, 1].

Strangely, much earlier, Frobenius had written that no representations of ancestors or amulet applications existed and that the people were poor in terms of formal expressions of their religious life [3]. He only mentioned phallus-like mounds at the entry of each hut-compound (called ‘’funfure’’) on which all the sacrifices were made. In the Frobenius online archive [7], drawings of about 100 objects are shown (vessels, pipes, knives, hoes, stools, bells, bracelets, etc.), mainly from Niamtougou (Losso) and Defale (Lamba), but none of an anthropomorphic representation. Frobenius however was attentive to figurative works as corresponding drawings from the Kabye region demonstrated. Furthermore, he was accompanied by Kersting [4] and they were together in Defale on January 18, 1909, where Kersting had already collected three Lamba figures in 1899 according to [8], see Fig. 1 (left, the three figures with white background). Frobenius’ statement above can thus not be understood.

Compared with the knowledge available about the Lamba, as summarized in [6], little information about the Losso has thus been published so far and many uncertainties and contradictions still exist. It seems that the Losso adapted to the neighboring Lamba and Kabye and adopted their way of life and cosmology after their immigration, keeping only their different language. The same may therefore apply to their figurative work. The wide stylistic variation across the Lamba and Losso regions remains surprising, varying from highly abstract to more naturalistic expressions. The different styles furthermore seem completely mixed and a smoother transition from the highly abstract style of the northern Moba to the more naturalistic styles of the southern Temba and Tchamba, as it might have been expected, cannot be discerned.

References

[1] Froelich, Jean-Claude. Notes sur les Naoudeba du Nord-Togo. Bulletin de l’IFAN, Dakar, Vol. 12, No. 1: 102-121, 1950.
[2] Froelich, Jean-Claude; Alexandre, Pierre; Cornevin, Robert. Les populations du Nord-Togo. Monographie Ethnologiques Africaines, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1963.
[3] Frobenius, Leo. Und Afrika sprach, Band 3: Unter den unsträflichen Aethiopen. Vita, Berlin, S. 348-378, 1913.
[4] Hahn, Hans-Peter. Leo Frobenius' Reise durch Nord-Togo in den Jahren 1908/09: Ethnologische Dokumentation und koloniale Sichtweise. In: Peter Heine u. U. v. d. Heyden (ed.): Studien zur Geschichte des deutschen Kolonialismus in Afrika, Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus, S. 259-279, 1995.
[5] Amrouche, Pierre. Corps & décors, statuaire Lamba et Losso du Togo. Editions Berggruen, Paris, 2008.
[6] Keller, Thomas. Research outcome: Statuary from the Lamba region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 22.07.2017.
[7] Frobenius Online Archive, http://bildarchiv.frobenius-katalog.de/.
[8] Krieger, Kurt. Westafrikanische Plastik I. Museums für Völkerkunde, Berlin, 1965.

Blogposts related to the statuary of Northern Togo / Ghana:

Research outcome: Statuary from the Lamba region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 22.07.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Mamprusi region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 01.07.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Gurma region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 18.06.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Kabye-Kabre region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 10.06.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Tchamba region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 20.05.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Temba region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 06.05.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Konkomba region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 21.04.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Kusasi region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 31.03.2017.
Fact check: Tamberma Power Figure? Blogpost 18.03.2017.



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Research outcome: A Fon sculptural oeuvre from southern Benin

In our Western world an artwork is usually closely linked to its creator, the artist, who is well known. This is different for objects originating from Africa, e.g. sculptures or masks – also classified as artworks when arriving in our world – where the creator is unknown in most cases, mainly because, in his world, he is normally not creating an artwork but a utilitarian object that has to fulfill specific functions within his (animistic) belief system. However, maybe because this anonymity regarding the creator seems to conflict with our rational mindset, attempts are made to abolish this anonymity and identify specific ‘’artists’’ by attributing to them groups of works that seem to originate from the ‘’same hand’’, i.e. based on similar features of the appearance such as proportions or details, as demonstrated for instance in the case of the ‘’African Masters’’ of the peoples of the Ivory Coast in [1].

Remaining focused on (wooden) sculptural works, this attribution of sculpture groups to individual carvers works well as long as the sculptures remain unaltered after the creation (carving) process, apart from acquiring patina through ritual use and age. In many cases, the function of the work is furthermore closely related to this form of appearance, i.e. the function may be expressed by different body postures or gestures, as is for instance the case in the statuary of the Lobi [2]. The diviner therefore normally defines the appearance first and the carver subsequently executes the work accordingly.

Fig. 1. Fon sculptural oeuvre from southern Benin

However, there are cases where the sequence of interaction between carver and diviner is reversed and the carved work is altered after execution, e.g. in the ‘’Bocio’’ (or ‘’Bochio’’) statuary of the Fon people from southern Benin. In this case, the function is attributed not primarily by a specific posture or gesture of the carved sculpture, but by subsequent surface additions such as skulls/bones, cords/ropes/chains, cloths or peg inserts, defined and selected by the ‘’activator’’ according to [3], i.e. priests, diviners or geomancers. The appearance of the (wooden) sculpture, due to these additions, may thus become circumstantial and their main role seems to be to act as a vehicle for the additions. Accordingly, Bocio sculptures are not categorized based on the wooden sculpture appearance only, but on the combination of sculpture and surface additions, i.e. their configurations and interactions, see below [3].

Since the significance of the wooden Bocio sculptures is often marginal, they are executed by unskilled carvers in most cases, who often work in compounds and centers [3]. However, there are a few exceptions where collaboration between highly skilled sculptors and activators leads to – seen through Western eyes – exceptional artworks. The wooden sculpture may then also assume a significant part of the function through a more complex design, e.g. exhibiting double or Janus heads.

Fig. 2. Head details from Fig. 1

Works resulting from such (presumable) collaboration between a highly skilled sculptor compound and activators are shown in Fig. 1 (denominated S1-S12). The attribution to one sculptor compound is mainly based on the similar characteristic shape and details of the head, e.g. the large ears placed above the eye level in particular (unless the figure is small, as in S12), or the high occiput, as shown in Fig. 2. The remaining body parts are rather simplistic (if visible); two designs can however be differentiated, 1) board-like flat torsos with detached and slightly bent arms (S1-S4), or 2) rounded torsos on the front side with attached arms bent at right angles (S6-S11). A close look at the heads also reveals that those of the second group are slightly more angular than in the first group. Furthermore, in the first group, the forehead of S1 is a bit more arched and the facial details seem more elaborated than in S2-S5. However, in the latter cases these details are covered by an encrusted patina or have been rubbed off and thus cannot be really compared with those of S1. Common elements to both groups, in addition to the head similarities, are the large cone-shaped protruding breasts in the case of female figures (S2-S4, S7, S9, S11) and the short thighs. This oeuvre seems thus to originate from two or three sculptors, who may however have adhered to the same compound in view of the significant stylistic similarities.

Sculpture S1 has a Janus head (the rear one being much smaller) while S6 and S12 exhibit double-heads side by side on the same neck, and in S9 and S10 two figures are joined together. The main surface additions are skulls (S1, S4, S8, S11), cords (S4-S5, S8-S12) and cloths (S11, S12), however, in some cases they might have been lost (S2-S3, S6-S7). Furthermore, a photo in [4] shows sculpture S1 on a shrine, whose location is indicated as Ouidah and sculpture S6 was also collected in Ouidah according to [5]. The village of Ouidah is situated near the Benin coast and this origin thus conflicts with the style description of the coastal area in [6] and [3]. Blier in [3] attributed S1, S8, and S11 (i.e. nos. 96, 129, 132 in [3]), to the Abomey style, which is located further to the north.

The basic wooden sculptures do not differ as much as do the functions that may be attributed to these works according to [3]. S1, S6 and S12 seem to represent Bigble-Bocios (Janus or two heads), S4 and S11 Wutuji-Bocios (swollen belly), S8 a Kpodohonme-Bocio (pierced by a peg), and S9 and S10 Bla-Bocios (bound with various materials). However these attributions are not so clear since Kennesi-Bocios may also exhibit swollen bellies and S9 and S10, if interpreted as Janus representations, may also belong to the Bigble-group. Blier accordingly also noticed that, based on the appearance only, the identity or function of a Bocio cannot be determined. Further information about the detailed functions of these Bocios is given in [3, 17, 18] (amongst others).

To conclude, since Bocio sculptures originate from teamwork between sculptors and activators and the wooden sculpture has normally a minor significance in relation to the whole work, their attribution to individual sculptors seems meaningless in this case. These complex oeuvres are much more difficult to capture and thus resist our urge for rational classification far more than the initially mentioned ‘’African Masters’’.

References

[1] Fischer Eberhard; Homberger Lorenz. Afrikanische Meister, Kunst der Elfenbeinküste / Les maîtres de la sculpture de Côte d’Ivoire / Maskers en beelden uit Ivoorkust de kunstenaars ontdekt. Zürich/Paris/Amsterdam, 2014.
[2] Keller, Thomas. Lobi Statuary. Keller Arts Premiers, Lully VD, Switzerland, 2011. Free downloadhere.
[3] Blier, Suzanne Preston. African Vodun – art, psychology and power. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1995.
[4] Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, "The Ben Heller Collection", 1 December 1983, lot 51.
Further information (provenance, publications): Yale-Van Rijn Archive, No. 0003028.
[5] Yale-Van Rijn Archive, No. 0043542 (incl. further information about provenance and publications).
[6] Merlo, Christian. Les ″Botchios″ en civilisation béninoise. Musée d’Ethnographie Genève, Bulletin Annuel 20: 97-115, 1977.
[7] André Kirbach, exhibition catalogue, Düsseldorf, 2005.
[8] Zemanek auction, 27 August 2016, lot 244.
[9] Joaquin Pecci Gallery, Parcours des Mondes, Paris, 2015.
Also in: Exhibition catalogue, "Vaudou", Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, 2011.
[10] Christie's, Paris, 13 December 2011, lot 261 / Yale-Van Rijn Archive, No. 0129292.
[11] Yale-Van Rijn Archive, No. 0037110.
[12] Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, "The Ben Heller Collection", 1 December 1983, lot 55. / Yale-Van Rijn Archive, No. 0043582.
[13] Olivier Castellano catalogue, ‘’Dualité, l’esprit et son double’’, 2012.
[14] Exhibition catalogue, "Vaudou", Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, 2011.
[15] Sotheby's, New York, 15 November 1985, lot 90 / Yale-Van Rijn Archive, No. 0043579 & 0060128.
[16] Craig De Lora Tribal Art, New York, 2010.
[17] Hübner, Irene. Geestenkracht, vodun uit West-Afrika. Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal, 1996 (including English translation).
[18] Brosthaus, Karl-Heinz. Skulpturen und Objekte aus der Region des Königreiches Dahomey – Sammlung Birgit Schlothauer und Gustav Wilhelm. Exh. cat. Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, Marl, 2008.



Saturday, July 22, 2017

Research outcome: Statuary from the Lamba region, Northern Togo

The Lamba people live in the Defale mountain chain and neighboring northern plane of the Keran and Doufelgou prefectures of the Kara region in northeastern Togo [1], see Fig. 1. Their main neighbors are the Losso and Kabye in the southeast, the Konkomba and Bassari in the west and southwest, the Tchokossi in the north and Tamberma in the northeast. They are subdivided into four regional groups, the Diffal in the mountain region, the Namba in the Kande region, the Manganasise in the western part (around Anima, Kadjalla, Tchesside and Tchore), and the Manganopo in the Pesside and Leon region (where they are mixed with Kabye people), see Fig. 1 (the reference-dependent different spellings were maintained), [2, 3]. The settlements of Lamba and Losso are often intermixed, which may be the reason why both were sometimes confused or not differentiated from each other in the colonial era [4]. The Lamba are considered as being autochthonous, originating from the former Lama people. Their language is Lama, which is related to that of the Kabye and Temba [2, 3].

Fig. 1. Maps of Lamba region (Defale Mountain chain and northern plane) and neighbors

The sociopolitical organization and cosmology are very similar to those of the Kabye, including the scattered settlement, the clan as main unit, the creator god (called in this case asegi [3]), the world of intermediary (harmful or benevolent) spirits (alewa or emezea in [3] and alua or rana in [4]) and ancestors, the latter being venerated in ancestor houses (sina in [3], souna nampee in [4]). Typical reincarnation beliefs exist, i.e. each body is inhabited by two ‘’principles’’, a spirit (kalisha) that can come back in (even) several newborns and the soul (lciyam) that dies with the body [3]. Formerly harmful persons may incarnate in wild game [4]. The cosmology descriptions according to Froelich [3] and Amrouche [4] differ to some extent, in particular concerning the world of the spirits.

Fig. 2. Figures collected in the Lamba region or attributed to the Lamba since 1899

Anthropomorphic wooden figures were already collected very early in the Lamba region by the colonial administrators Kersting in 1899 and Rigler in 1900, see Fig. 2 [5, 6]. The appearance of these figures is very different, and a common style cannot be derived. Two figures similar to the one collected in 1900 were published in [7] and [8] while the former, in contrast to the latter, was not specifically attributed to the Lamba. Froelich strangely did not pay a lot of attention to these figures and in 1963 [3] only mentioned the existence of clay figures sold to travelers and protective charms without any further details. Hahn in 1996 [2] mentioned two types of figures, 1) Baobab tree branches representing deceased persons during funeral ceremonies (thus similar to the Tamberma), and 2) roughly carved figures (dumpu) representing and replacing deceased twins. He further referred to the figures collected by Kersting and Rigler.

Fig. 3. Figures acquired by Amrouche and attributed to the Lamba based on the location of collection [4]

Amrouche acquired more than 150 figures between 2004 and 2008 in the Lamba and Losso regions, see [4]. However, he knew the collection location for only a few of them, which he could then clearly attribute to the Lamba, see Fig. 3. According to Hahn’s map [2] (Fig. 1 right), the two figures on the far right were not from the Lamba region however (which does not exclude the possibility that they originated from the Lamba people due to the above-mentioned ethnic mix). Amrouche also emphasized that normally it is not possible to differentiate between Lamba and Losso figures. Nevertheless, he tried to establish a morphologic classification, which however (and not surprisingly) does not seem very conclusive. Again a uniform style cannot be recognized in Fig. 3 and the appearances are furthermore different from those figures collected near Difale and Tyessidé (Fig. 2). As also mentioned by Amrouche, the stylistic variation is large, ranging from geometric/stylized to more figurative/ naturalistic. The figures are rather small, 10-50cm, made of hardwood or clay, and many of them exhibit scarifications. According to Amrouche, Lamba figures are basically used for three purposes, 1) to replace deceased twins as mentioned above (rimpu or dumbia), 2) to provide a home to spirits (alua or rana) or ancestors, or 3) to trap harmful spirits released from hunted wild game (souna kplass). This summary is based on around ten interviews in villages in the west of Kande and is (understandably) not always conclusive.

References

[1] Gayibor, Nicoué Lodjou. Le peuplement du Togo – état actuel des connaissances historiques. Université du Benin, Les Presses de l’UB, Lomé, 1996.
[2] Hahn, Hans Peter. Die materielle Kultur der Konkomba, Kabyè und Lamba in Nord-Togo. Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, Köln, 1996.
[3] Froelich, Jean-Claude; Alexandre, Pierre; Cornevin, Robert. Les populations du Nord-Togo. Monographie Ethnologiques Africaines, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1963.
[4] Amrouche, Pierre. Corps & décors, statuaire Lamba et Losso du Togo. Editions Berggruen, Paris, 2008.
[5] Krieger, Kurt. Westafrikanische Plastik I. Museums für Völkerkunde, Berlin, 1965.
[6] Sydow v., Eckart; Kutscher, Gerdt. Afrikanische Plastik. Gebrüder Mann Verlag, Berlin, Tafel 113D, 1954.
[7] Fagg, William. African Sculpture from the Tara Collection. London: University of Notre-Dame, 1971. 
Yale-Van Rijn Archive No. 0040708.
[8] Expo cat.: 5000 Jahre Afrika-Ägypten-Afrika/5000 Years Africa-Egypt-Africa, W. and U. Horstmann Collection and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ed. by Peter Junge & Dietrich Wildung, Berlin: SMB/Kettler, 2008.
Yale-Van Rijn Archive No. 0108040.

Blogposts related to the statuary of Northern Togo / Ghana:

Research outcome: Statuary from the Mamprusi region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 01.07.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Gurma region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 18.06.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Kabye-Kabre region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 10.06.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Tchamba region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 20.05.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Temba region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 06.05.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Konkomba region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 21.04.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Kusasi region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 31.03.2017.
Fact check: Tamberma Power Figure? Blogpost 18.03.2017.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fact check: The Lobi Gbokho Style

The attribution of Lobi sculptures to a Lobi carver family as far back as the 19th century is discussed. The most interesting aspects are how the fairly precise dating of the carvings, e.g. ‘’towards 1880’’ and the life periods of their creators (e.g. ‘’about 1830-1905’’) were derived.

1) Factual statement

Daniela Bognolo in [1] attributed nine sculptures to a four-generation family of five Lobi carvers in Gbokho, now also known as Bonko, a village about 10km from Gaoua (Burkina Faso); carver names, their life periods and the carving dating of the sculptures, denominated S1-S9, are summarized in Figs. 1-3. The name of the village, Gbokho, designated the name of the style. The two sculpture groups S1/S7 and S2/S3/S8/S9 were attributed to the same carvers, i.e. Sona Pale (the founder of the style) and Niokhite Palenfo (a nephew of Sona) respectively. With the exception of S7-S9, all the sculptures are in European private collections. S7-S9 belonged to Gbonlare Youl, S8-S9 were photographed on his private indoor shrine. The above history of the Gbokho style is based on interviews with Gbonlare Youl (today and in the following also denominated Youl Bolare) in around 1997 [2].

Fig. 1. Sculptures dated and attributed to carvers back to the 19th century, from [1], adjusted to same eye–instep reference distance

2) State-of-the-art knowledge

Several sculptures similar to S1 are known to exist – one was sold by Sotheby’s in 2002 for instance. Another similar one was offered for sale on tribalartforum.com in 2010; however, it was attributed to the carver Dikote Dah (and not Sona Pale), who was a contemporary of Sikire Kambire and lived from about 1928 to 2009 less than 2km from Bolare [3]. Subsequently, in 2014, all the S1-S9 sculptures were attributed to the Dikote Dah rather than to the Bolare workshop on tribalartforum.com. A sculpture similar to S3 was published by Katsouros and attributed to a follower of Sikire Kambire [4]. Gottschalk published a photo of Youl Bolare’s indoor shrine in 1999, see Fig. 3 (middle, taken in 1994) [5]. The photo also shows (together with S8/S9) two figures of a different style than the Gbokho style of S1-S9, see Fig. 3 (right, the two figures at mid-height).

Concerning the famous Lobi sculptor Sikire Kambire (1896-1963), Bognolo in [2] wrote that Sikire’s father sent him to Okuena Palenfo, Bolare’s grandfather, where, together with Bolare’s father, Kpalangothe Da, he learnt the art of carving. Disciples of Sikire were Lunkena Pale and Dihunte Palenfo, while (known) contemporaries were Youl Bolare, Dikote (also Tjipothe) Dah, Pessare Dah and Kilithe Nufe [3].

Fig. 2. Differences in head proportions of two figures attributed to Sona Pale, from [1], shown for two different reference distances

3) Discussion and conclusions

One of the most significant elements of a style are the proportions, see [6] (amongst others). The S1-S7 sculptures were analyzed in this respect in Figs. 1 and 2. Clear differences resulted between groups S1/S3 and S2/S4/S5, see Fig. 1. In the former group (marked with yellow background), the navel location is significantly lower than in the latter group (green background) and the belly shape is thus different. Also, the height of the knees is much lower and legs and arms are more bent in the former than in the latter group. This could also be seen from the side views during the museum exhibitions (of which [1] is the catalogue); the sculptural expression of the two groups was different. It thus seems questionable that sculptures S2 and S3 originate from the same carver, Niokhite Palenfo, as claimed by Bognolo. She also attributed S1 and S7 to the same carver, Sona Pale. The proportions of the head elements, however, are very different, see Fig. 2 (S7 is only partly shown in [1]). Depending on the reference distance (two examples are shown), the eyes/ears in S1 are significantly lower/higher than in S7. The style is thus clearly different and again it is questionable whether S1 and S7 are from the same carver.

Fig. 3. Left: two figures attributed to Niokhite Palenfo on indoor shrine of Youl Bolare, from [1]; 
middle/right: Bolare’s indoor shrine with figures of different styles [5]

Unfortunately, Bognolo did not disclose how she constructed the dating of the genealogy and sculptures shown in Fig. 1. It is well known that memory in this respect, in a culture without written history, does not stretch back much more than two generations in most cases. Also she does not disclose how she was able to attribute these individual sculptures, located in Europe, to these deceased carvers. Was it based on photos that she showed Bolare in 1997 – which seems the only possible way …? If so, how reliable would the results of this process be? – particularly if the contradictory analysis of the proportions above and the attribution of similar works to more recent carvers are taken into account, as mentioned above? It is regrettable that these questions are not addressed in [1] and thus give rise to significant doubts regarding the whole work. If this genealogy and the corresponding attribution of these sculptures cannot be confirmed, other carvers might even be the origin of this style, typical for the Bonko region ... one candidate may be Sikre Kambire.

The factual statement above concerning the Gbokho style and its history can thus not be validated at this stage due to lack of information.


4) References

[1] Bognolo, Daniela. Die Kunst der Lobi: Afrikanische Meister und ihre Ausdrucksformen / Art Lobi: les styles et ses maîtres / De Lobi en hun subgroepen,
in/en Fischer Eberhard; Homberger Lorenz. Afrikanische Meister, Kunst der Elfenbeinküste / Les maîtres de la sculpture de Côte d’Ivoire / Maskers en beelden uit Ivoorkust de kunstenaars ontdekt.
Zürich/Paris/Amsterdam, 179-208/179-208/144-169, 2014.
[2] Bognolo, Daniela. Djetó! Fait attention! Le "chemin de la sculpture" chez les Lobi du Burkina Faso, Journal des africanistes, Paris, Nr. 67 (1), 123-134, 1997.
[3] Keller, Thomas. Lobi Statuary – Sikire Kambire. Keller Arts Premiers, Switzerland, 2015. Free download here.
[4] Katsouros, Floros. Lobi-Figuren, chefs d’oeuvre und Kultobjekte. Verlag Ethnographika, Hannover, 2013.
[5] Gottschalk, Burkhard. Bei den Wahrsagern im Land der Lobi. Africana incognita, Verlag U. Gottschalk, Düsseldorf, 1999.
[6] Keller, Thomas. Research outcome: Lobi statuary – about proportions … Blogpost 14.04.2017.




Saturday, July 1, 2017

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

The Mamprusi people live in the northeastern part of the Northern Region and the Upper East Region of Ghana and in the west of northern Togo. Main neighbors in the north are the Kusasi, the Moba in the west and in the south the Dagomba, see map. They are an equestrian people that immigrated from the northeast in the 14th century and founded the Mamprusi state (or kingdom) from which the Dagomba and Mossi states then separated [1-3]. A parallel authority system developed, i.e. a chieftainship established by the immigrated people and an acephalous custodianship of the earth maintained by the autochthonous population. However, both peoples adhere to similar animistic belief systems as are typical in northern Ghana and Togo [3] and as described in previous blogposts, see list below.


Davis [2] differentiated the traditional settlement area and the sphere of influence of the Mamprusi according to Fig. 1 (right) and revealed that the settlement was very heterogeneous in 1960; only about 44% of Mamprusi lived in the traditional area together with strong minorities of the Bimoba (designation of the Moba in Ghana), Konkomba, Kusasi, Frafra, Tampolensi and Mossi. The Mamprusi, however, were the dominant ethnic group. According to Schlottner [3], local migration was also frequent. Furthermore, the people denominations are quite confusing, with the Mamprusi calling themselves ‘’Dagbamba’’ (anglicized Dagomba) and calling the Dagomba ‘’Yoba’’ (people of the forest). The Kusasi denominate both, Mamprusi and Dagomba, as ‘’Dagbamba’’ [1, 3]. Further synonyms of Mamprusi are Mamprussi or Manpelle. The language is Mampruli, which belongs to the Oti-Volta sub-group of the Gur languages.

Fig. 1. Sculpture in Kpatua (1911 [4], left), sculpture in Mamprusi village (1969/70 [6], middle), Mamprusi area (from [2], right)

Wooden anthropomorphic representations originating from the Mamprusi are neither mentioned in the literature of the 19th and 20th centuries nor found in museum archives. A photo of a female sculpture in Kpatua, i.e. in the influence sphere of the Mamprusi, was published in 1911 [4] and 1939 [5] under different denominations (Moab-region, Kpatua-Mamprussi), see Fig. 1 (left). Kpatua is situated in the Kusasi core region (Fig. 1, right), see blogpost about the Kusasi, which also addresses these contradictory denominations. A similar male sculpture was photographed by Zwernemann in a Mamprusi village in 1969/70 (Fig. 1, middle), where Moba were also living however [6]. Probably due to the resemblance to Moba figures, he attributed the work to the Moba.

Fig. 2. Wooden sculptures attributed to the Mamprusi, 2012 [7]

It was only in 2012 that a series of sculptures attributed to the Mamprusi was offered for sale from the same source, see Fig. 2 [7]. These works were large-scale (between 90 and 180cm) and, albeit related, clearly different from typical Moba sculptures. The faces in particular are much more detailed than in Moba works, in which facial elements are in fact rather rare. The same questions arise as was already the case for the southern Konkomba. How was it possible that such large-scale sculptures remained undiscovered until a few years ago? Were they thought of as not being saleable on the tribal art market? If so, but why are they not mentioned in the ethnological literature? Or are these recent ‘’inventions’’ just manufactured for the market? Furthermore, in view of the high level of heterogeneity of the settlements and the Zwernemann example, both mentioned above, it cannot be excluded that these works do not in fact originate from the Mamprusi but were only collected in the Mamprusi region.

References

[1] Iliasu, A. A. The origins of the Mossi-Dagomba states. Research Review, 7(2), 95-113, 1970.
[2] Davis, David Carson. Continuity and change in Mampurugu: a study of tradition and ideology. PhD thesis, Evanston, Ann Arbor, 1984.
[3] Schlottner, Michael. Herrschaft und Religion bei den Mamprusi und Kusasi im Nordosten von Ghana. Paideuma, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, Nr. 37, 141-159, 1991.
[4] Seefried, Adolf von. Die Togo-Dahomey-Grenzvermessungs-Expedition nebst Mitteilungen über Togo. Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft in München, Band VI., No. 1, München, 1911.
[5] Küas, Richard. Togo Erinnerungen. Vorhut Verlag Otto Schlegel, Berlin, 1939.
[6] Zwernemann, Jürgen. Schutzgeistfiguren der Moba und Gurma in Nord-Togo. Tribus, Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Band 46, 157-188, 1997.
[7] Art-VS, Dr. Volker Schneider, home page.


Blogposts related to the statuary of Northern Togo / Ghana:

Research outcome: Statuary from the Gurma region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 18.06.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Kabye-Kabre region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 10.06.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Tchamba region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 20.05.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Temba region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 06.05.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Konkomba region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 21.04.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Kusasi region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 31.03.2017.
Fact check: Tamberma Power Figure? Blogpost 18.03.2017.



Sunday, June 18, 2017

Research outcome: Statuary from the Gurma region, Northern Togo

The Gurma people live mainly in the southeast of Burkina Faso, their main neighbors there are the Peul in the north and Mossi in the west. However, their settlement area also extends to Niger in the west and in the south to Benin and northeastern Togo where the Moba are their neighbors in the west, see map [1-4]. They are said to originate from peoples that left northern Ghana in the early 12th century and founded the Gurma kingdom, which was influential until the arrival of the French at the end of the 19th century but then lost its significance [1, 3, 4]. Alternative names for Gurma are Gourma or Gourmantche. Their language is Gurma, which is related to the Mossi language and belongs to the Oti-Volta sub-group of the Gur languages.

The Gurma are agriculturalists and live in scattered settlements of circular compounds that are composed of small earthen huts with straw roofs. The cosmology consists of the creator god (tienu) and several types of spirits such as the ancestors and buli who mediate between god and human beings [3]. Each person consists of six physical and non-physical components, i.e. gbannandi (physical body), yienu (god-consciousness), ciciliga (guiding spirit), naano (soul), cabili (destiny), and naali (ancestor form, which can incarnate). Different types of jingili altars exist in the compounds, i.e. semi-circular stone altars, in which sacrifices are offered.

Fig. 1. Figures collected (or seen [4]) in the Gurma region

Wooden and iron anthropomorphic representations originating from the Gurma are mentioned and shown in [4-6], see Fig. 1. As these figures demonstrate that they cannot be differentiated from those of their western neighbors in Togo, the Moba, with the exception of the two figures on the right, the far right one being clearly subjected to western influence according to [4]. Geis-Tronich mentioned that such post-like representations originating from the Gurma can only be found in northern Togo and the adjacent southern part of Burkina Faso, but more to the north they don’t exist [4]. This is confirmed and explained by the facts that 1) Zwernemann collected the figures shown in Fig. 1 in Nakitindi-est, i.e. in northern Togo [5], and 2) the Gurma have adopted the language and customs of the Moba in that specific region, according to Cornevin [7].

Moba figures represent cicili protective spirits that are attributed to human beings by the creator god (yendu) [5]. The cicili, even those of decedents, can ask for materialization in the form of a wooden or iron figure through a diviner. Similarly in the Gurma cosmology according to Swanson, as mentioned above, one human component is the guiding spirit, ciciliga, so the religious beliefs of the Moba and Gurma are thus similar [5]. However, Swanson did not mention the existence of any anthropomorphic representations [3]. The centers of his research region were Pama and Fada N’Gourma, which are 30-130 km to the north of Togo – thus most probably already in regions which were not under Moba influence and where such figures do not exist according to Geis-Tronich [4]. The unanswered question that rises from the fact that the Moba and Gurma have similar belief systems is why the Moba have anthropomorphic representations of the protective/guiding spirits but their neighbors, the Gurma (if uninfluenced by the Moba), do not? 

References

[1] Menjaud Henri. Documents ethnographiques sur le Gourma. Journal de la Société des Africanistes, tome 2, fascicule 1, 35-47, 1932.
[2] Froelich, Jean-Claude. Les sociétés d'initiation chez les Moba et les Gourma du Nord-Togo. In: Journal de la Société des Africanistes. 1949, tome 19, 99-141, 1949.
[3] Swanson, Richard Alan. Gourmantche ethnoanthropology: a theory of human being. University Press of America, Lanham, MD USA, 1985.
[4] Geis-Tronich, Gudrun. Materielle Kultur der Gulmance in Burkina Faso. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 1991.
[5] Zwernemann, Jürgen. Schutzgeistfiguren der Moba und Gurma in Nord-Togo. Tribus, Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Band 46, 157-188, 1997.
[6] Online archive of Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, EO.1968.54.6&7, collected in Togo by Walter Verheyen.
[7] Cornevin, Robert. Histoire du Togo. Editions Berger-Levrault, Paris, 1959.


Blogposts related to the statuary of Northern Togo / Ghana:

Research outcome: Statuary from the Kabye-Kabre region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 10.06.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Tchamba region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 20.05.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Temba region, Northern Togo. Blogpost 06.05.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Konkomba region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 1.04.2017.
Research outcome: Statuary from the Kusasi region, Northern Ghana-Togo. Blogpost 31.03.2017.
Fact check: Tamberma Power Figure? Blogpost 18.03.2017.