Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Zulu Tribe Information

Zulu Tribe Information

Zulus are decended from the Ngunis who migrated south from central or east Africa to settle in what is now known as KwaZulu-Natal. They are known across South Africa as a tribe of warriors with strond fighting spirit, but are just as famous for their beautiful beaded crafts.

In 1787 a boy, Shaka, was born out of wedlock to the chief of the Zulus, a small group of about 1500. Shaka had big dreams for his peopleand on his fathers death set about realizing them.

Starting with the limited men available to him, Shaka revolutionised military tactics and orginization, and over 12 years built a formidable force that subdued many of the neighboring groups. The Zulu chiefdom grew into the mighty Zulu empire.

Shaka was betrayed and assassinated by his half-brothers, resulting in the gradual weakening of the empire due to to factors, infighting within the Zulu nation and the arrival of the Afrikaaners, followed by the British.

The biggest defeat of British colonial history was ..........................................................(more)

Rare Mwila Omba Impende Shell Necklace - For African Art Gallery

Rare Mwila Omba Impende Shell Necklace - For African Art Gallery

Impande Shell Status symbols

Impande Shell Status symbols

Benin Royal Art Benin Bronze

Benin Royal Art Benin Bronze


A fine collection of Benin Royal artifacts, showcasing the outstanding lost wax bronze castings that were made in the Kingdom of Benin.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

African Art Museum Again Delays Opening of Site on Fifth Avenue

Citing construction delays, the Museum for African Art said on Friday that it had pushed back the planned opening of its new Manhattan home by about six months, from April 2011 to September or October of that year.
The museum will occupy the lower floors of a 19-story condominium building, designed by Robert A. M. Stern, on Fifth...........(read more)

Cleveland Museum of Art Acquires Collection of Objects from Southern Africa and Contemporary Work by Tony Oursler

Until recently, objects from southern Africa — which are typically small, domestic and personal — have been perceived as being more ethnographic than artistic in nature.
CLEVELAND, OH.- A collection of 19th- and 20th-century portable objects from southern Africa and a contemporary sculpture and video piece from American artist Tony Oursler are the latest...................(read more)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Benin Bird of Prophecy Plaque

Plaque: Three men striking idiophones with Birds of Prophecy

Origin: Edo, Court of Benin
Approximate Age: 16th / 17th Century
Size: 20.5 Inches x 18 Inches

The event portrayed in the plaque shown here is a defining moment in the history of the kingdom of Benin—a court ceremony that commemorates the victory of a sixteenth-century king, Esigie, over seemingly insurmountable odds. Both the work itself and the ritual represented constitute tributes to a divine king's ability to triumph over fate and destiny.

The musical instrument held by each of the three protagonists in this choreographed celebration scene is an idiophone, or clapper, consisting of a cylindrical shaft topped by a bird-motif finial. Each man is holding the clapper in one hand and a metal rod in the other, and two of the men (the central figure and the figure at the right) appear to be striking the rod against the bird's beak. The display and use of these handheld clappers in performances by Benin titleholders are the musical and visual highlights of an annual court festival known as Ugie Oro.

Although Benin artists invariably rendered it with exacting details, which include a long neck with wattles and narrow bib below its long, curved beak, it is difficult to determine what species of bird it might be modeled after.

Consequently, it may be that as a metaphor for an abstract concept—prophecy—ahianmwen-oro is a mythical creature that has been interpreted by Benin artists as a composite of different birds.

From the reign of Esigie onward, the bird of prophecy has been regarded as a sign that the kings of Benin are endowed with the power to alter the course of history. Before that time, according to oral history, it was associated with predictions of disaster. On the eve of an epic crisis involving combat against a formidable enemy, the Igala, its appearance before Esigie and his troops was interpreted by his diviners as a portent of a devastating outcome. Rather than follow their advice to heed the "bird that cries disaster" and retreat, Esigie defied the prediction and rallied his troops to proceed into battle. His audacity was rewarded. Under Esigie's command, the Benin army went on to defeat the Igala and further expand the kingdom's sphere of influence. As a means of commemorating this victory, Esigie commissioned the royal brass-casters to create instruments personifying the augury he had triumphed over, kingly counterparts to diviners' staffs.-

Art historians have noted that it was probably during the reign of Esigie, or of Ewuare a century earlier, that the brass-casters were organized as a professional association within the palace. Among the genres of artistic expression that flourished under Esigie's visionary leadership are the "bird of prophecy" idiophones and the rectangular architectural plaques that were displayed on the palace's facade. The example shown here is especially effective in achieving Esigie's goal of reinforcing the power and mystique of divine kingship at Benin while immortalizing his own quest to alter the course of history.


Barbara PLANKENSTEINER (Hg.): Benin. Könige und Rituale. Höfische Kunst aus Nigeria, Wien 2007, S. 446.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fali African Fertility Dolls

When a young Fali man is preparing for marriage, he carves a doll, known as ham pilu from wood, decorating it with hair, beads, and other small fetish objects. This doll is given to his fiance, who wears it in a baby carrier on her back. The doll is a symbol of their mar
riage commitment and represents their future child. The man gives the doll the gender that he desires for his first-born. The young woman cares for the figure until the promised child is born; at this point, the couple carefully stores the doll away.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


These black punu Ikwara masks, which meted out justice, danced only at twilight or at night, on stilts made from musasa, muri-ditenga - 'the tree of the ghosts', which, by all accounts were much shorter than those used by the daytime Okuyi dancers. Punu (and Galwa, Lumbu or Shira) black masks in museums and collections are much rarer then the others, perhaps because of their dangerous and frankly evil nature, which, may have prompted the villagers to conceal them carefully from European collectors (like all objects connected in some way with witchcraft) and, when they had been discovered, to be more reluctant to sell them to travelers than other more banal items.

Visions of Africa: Punu" - Louis Perrois and Charlotte Grand-Dufay ISBN:978-88-7439-401-2

Punu Okuyi Masks

The okuyi or mukuyi mask, originating from the Punu in southwest Gabon, represents and idealized female face. Indicated by the scarification on the face area, consisting of nine dots, and according to some, have a sexual connotation. Another sign of female gender is the coiffure.

The ritual function fulfilled by these masks is normally at funeral ceremonies, when they are danced as embodiments of the spirits of the ancestors. In the masquerade, the dancers, wearing costumes of raffia or cotton fabric and animal pelts, move with amazing agility on stilts up to six and a half feet in height.