August 29, 2014 4 Comments
In Collecting African Tribal art shipping becomes part of the process. More often than not the boxes are a little bigger than the usual Amazon book package and for some reason a co-worker will usually ask if there’s a little person in there…. cue the Guyanese buck script.
My standard response is that the boxes contain a ‘Guyanese buck’ (or “Bacoo” ). Similar in stature to a leprechaun of Irish folklore, but with its own peculiarities. Legends agree that they can provide their owners with any wish, but they must be fed (and kept happy) on a diet of bananas and milk. ‘Baku’ in many West African languages means ‘little brother’ or ‘short man’ and the short races (such as the pygmies) were believed to have magical powers. I warn people that upon hearing any sound from the box it would be imperative to slip a bowl of milk in. It never stops the questions.
What had actually arrived in this particular box was a Tabwa mask, complete with stand.
One of my truly illogical idiosyncrasies when bidding at an auction is not walking away empty-handed, AND disappointed. This means if there is a fantastic piece at lot #30, then I will try to get the best piece I can before lot #30 is placed on the block. In this case my perception exceeded my expectation.
I am actually fond of the Tabwa mask and sculpture traditions. The tribe used “scarification as a means of perfecting the body through motifs alluding to positive social values and cosmological principles”.  The symmetrical patterns of extensive raised cicatrices and unique hairstyles separates Tabwa sculpture and art from other tribes.
 The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas…Metropolitan Museum of Art, p.106
[E2] Buck picture Credit http://littletwotwo.hubpages.com/hub/Jumbies-of-Guyana