The corner piece!!!

Yesterday I headed to downtown Manhattan to visit what I thought was a struggling estate liquidator, who promised 50% off African Art pieces.

Although the owner absolutely did right by me it seemed that the starting prices were fairly astronomical.

I finally settled on two pieces – the first piece was a “sweetener”,  a doll from the Namji tribe. Needless to say I had no idea where the doll came from and had never seen one before. My first instinct was that the doll was a fetish, a good luck charm or a protector. It turns out that it is actually used by girls to inculcate parental behavior patterns… ie. the children basically treat the doll as a child and are responsible for it’s care.

The second  piece  seemed to have stylistic characteristics very  similar to masks made by the Bembe Tribe from the Republic of the Congo. It didn’t help that the provenance of the  mask was advertised as Ibibio, which is a tribe in the southeast of Nigeria. The mask on the right is a helmet mask, an Echawokaba ; one can immediately see the similarities of the recessed orbitals, the protruding pupils,  and the use of abstract geometric patterns.

The use of a similar color combination, ie the black, white, and red pigments was also encouraging.  I suspect however that the two masks serve very different functions, but it is hard to come across some of these pieces, so a proxy at times is better than nothing.

Elanda?? The funny thing is that I totally missed the mask. It was collecting copious amounts of dust in the corner behind the entrance, behind a length of  ill placed duct tubing.

This however is where I lose my cool… on spotting the piece I behave like it’s the second coming of the Mona Lisa… yup… I hold it tenderly, sniff the wood like the bouquet of a fine wine, gently and lovingly place it on the counter, and then look the seller in her eye and pretend like i’m going to drive a hard bargain…. thankfully the owner was only too ready to clean house and was dropping the price like… well anyway, everyone knows the prom night joke.

At the end of my excursion I came up with my third or fourth (you never know sometimes), Bembe piece, and put some info for a new tribe in the database. Given that I finally paid off  (after four months), and collected a sweet Fang byeri on Wednesday, I’d say it was a really good week.

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