African Art

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  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights. This ivory pendant mask is one of a pair of nearly identical works; its counterpart is in the British Museum in London. Although images of women are rare in Benin's courtly tradition, these two works have come to symbolize the legacy of a dynasty that continues to the present day. The pendant mask is believed to have been produced in the early sixteenth century for the Oba Esigie, the king of Benin, to honor his mother, Idia. The Oba may have worn it at rites commemorating his mother, although today such pendants are worn at annual ceremonies of spiritual renewal and purification. In Benin, ivory is related to the color white, a symbol of ritual purity that is associated with Olokun, god of the sea. As the source of extraordinary wealth and fertility, Olokun is the spiritual counterpart of the Oba. Ivory is central to the constellation of symbols surrounding Olokun and the Oba. Not only is it white, but it is itself Benin's principle commercial commodity and it helped attract the Portuguese traders who also brought wealth to Benin. The mask is a sensitive, idealized portrait, depicting its subject with softly modeled features, bearing inlaid metal and carved scarification marks on the forehead, and wearing bands of coral beads below the chin. In the openwork tiara and collar are carved stylized mudfish and the bearded faces of Portuguese. Because they live both on land and in the water, mudfish represent the king's dual nature as human and divine. Having come from across the seas, the Portuguese were considered denizens of the spirit realm who brought wealth and power to the Oba.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a remarkable series of works were created to adorn the exterior of the royal palace in Benin City. A seventeenth-century Dutch visitor to the court of Benin, Olfert Dapper, described the sprawling palace complex—with its many large courtyards and galleries—as containing wooden pillars covered from top to bottom with rectangular cast brass plaques. These plaques are understood to have autonomous meaning and to tell complex narratives in relationship to one another. At some point the plaques were removed from the palace facade, as they were no longer there when the British arrived in the region. One scholar has surmised that they "were kept like a card index up to the time of the Punitive Expedition, and referred to when there was a dispute about courtly etiquette." The authors of such works were far more concerned with the communication of hierarchies and status than in capturing individual physical features. These plaques conform to a convention of "hierarchical proportions" wherein the largest figure is the one with the greatest authority and rank. In this example, it is a warrior chief. He is in the center, flanked on either side by soldiers of lesser rank. Regalia and symbols of status are emphasized above all other aspects of the subject depicted. For example, the warrior is shown with leopard-spot scarification marks and a leopard-tooth necklace, which associate him with the stealth, speed, and ferocity of the leopard. As "king of the bush," the leopard is one of the principle symbols of Benin kingship. Additionally, the warrior chief wears a coral-studded helmet and collar, a lavish wrap, and a brass ornament on his hip. In his left hand he carries a ceremonial sword, a gesture of honor and loyalty, and holds a spear in his other hand. The servile status of the figures flanking the warrior chief is indicated by the objects they carry. One attendant has a fan used to cool the warrior chief, the other a trumpet to announce his presence. A third attendant brings a box containing an offering of kola nuts for the oba (king).
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • Slide concept by William V. Ganis, PhD FOR EDUCATIONAL USE ONLY For publication, reproduction or transmission of images, please contact individual artists, estates, photographers and exhibiting institutions for permissions and rights.
  • African Art

    1. 1. African Art
    2. 2. Nok Art
    3. 4. Nok Head from Jemaa, Nigeria 5th century B.C.E. terracotta 9 13/16 in. high
    4. 5. Nok Head from Jemaa, Nigeria 5th century B.C.E. terracotta 14 3/16 in. high
    5. 6. Igbo-Ukwu Art
    6. 7. Equestrian figure on fly-whisk hilt from Igbo-Ukwu, Nigeria 9th to 10th century copper -alloy bronze 6 3/4 in. high
    7. 8. Ife Art
    8. 10. King from Ife, Nigeria 11th to 12th century zinc brass 18 1/2 in. high
    9. 11. Benin Art
    10. 12. Ivory belt mask of a Queen Mother (Idia) from Benin, Nigeria mid-16th century ivory and iron 9 3/8 in. high
    11. 13. Altar of the Hand from Benin, Nigeria 17th to 18th century brass 17 1/2 in. high
    12. 14. Warrior Chief and Attendants from Benin, Nigeria ca. 1550-1650 brass 18 3/4 in. high
    13. 15. Djenne Art
    14. 16. Mother and Child from Djenne, Mali 11th to 14th century terracotta 11 in. high
    15. 17. Sapi Art
    16. 18. Sapi warrior from Sierra Leone 15th century serpentine 7 1/2 in. high
    17. 19. Master of the Symbolic Execution Saltcellar Sapi-Portuguese from Sierra Leone 15th to 16th century ivory 16 7/8 in. high
    18. 20. Great Zimbabwe
    19. 21. Bird with crocodile image on top of stone monolith from Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe 15th century soap stone bird image 14 1/2 in. high
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