Iagalagana, Halos, and Price Points

African Tribal art pricing is not intuitive and is very subjective. Premiums can be based on provenance, age, patina, originality, rarity, and any number of other less material factors.

mumu-00_w

Mumuye Tribe: Iagalagana (Claiborne Mumuye)

m13865_ni

Mumuye location : Northeast Nigeria, below the Benue river.

The Mumuye have an interesting statuary tradition in the Iagalagana. These were used as abstractions of incarnate tutelary spirits. The recently acquired ‘Claiborne Mumuye’ from the Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg collection was purchased at auction. It’s one of the ‘providential’ cases where a piece with a Sotheby’s provenance was not advertised as such, however this did not materially detract from the bidding. In the piece shown above some of the interesting factors include the slight tilting of the head, the cubist forms, and the sculptor’s longitudinal development of the chest area.

Mumuye Buddies

Mumuye Buddies – AplusAfricanArt collection.

One of my pet theories in developing relationships with customers is having comfortable price points, not just from the customer’s end but also from the dealer’s end. Invariably this requires acquiring, and keeping a couple Stars, and developing the concept of the Halo effect. This allows customers to understand much of the pricing dynamics inherent in investable African Tribal art. While I am not a huge fan of provenance the fact is that it has become a major pillar in an entire industry,  and once understood enables customers to more comfortably purchase affordable pieces of African Tribal Art.

Currently one of the amazing (read as disappointing) aspects of Collecting African Tribal Art is that the African American community for the most part remains largely uneducated about the beauty of their ancestral art forms, and have pretty much been priced out from serious collecting, (see interesting ends to the collections of Bayard Rustin and Merton Simpson).

 

 

Advertisements

The Mumuye , Thomas, and “Iagalagana”

 Many people (regardless of race), have inculcated a fear of  the Mask Tradition of Tribal Africa. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most simplistic, and sinister is the mistaken belief that all Tribal African masks and statuary are possessed by spirits. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, and should not be a detraction to Collecting African Tribal Art.

Mumuye Statues : AplusAfricanArt.com

The Mumuye carve very stylistic statues called “iagalagana”. These statues portray a figure within an imaginary cylinder, hence the shape of the arms in wrapped fashion encircling the body. What is particularly fascinating is the use of space, and the representation of the surfaces in the elbow region. The historical western spiel is that the statues themselves represent “tutelary” spirits. Yet the argument can be made that this may be the “western” perspective of a very innocent, cultural, and complex relation.

A tutelary spirit need not be a separate entity, a demon, or a ghoul from hell. This is not part of Tribal Africa, nor is it common among peoples who practice animism. A spirit may simply reflect what is in the observer, and also what one perceives by the actions, shape, or form of the observed. With such a view one can see a tree being described as having an aged spirit, or a gentle, peaceful spirit, or life force. The “iagalagana” seem to have been carved to represent the “spirit” of the trees. They are therefore abstractions of an esoteric dimension captured in shapes that are themselves abstractions of the human form. This thinking presents a certain harmonic composition which makes a fair cultural fit. It would seem a stretch that a carver could himself carve a spirit or develop a home for a spirit without some intermediary religious activity.

Fine Mumuye : Dafco Gallery - White Plains, NY

The characteristic markings on the “Iagalagana” are simply representative of the Mumuye tradition and culture.

The Mumuye have a unique appearance. Their distinct style of dress clearly sets them apart from their neighbors. Men wear one or more leather girdles, the ends of which are decorated with beads and cowries (bright shells). Goat skins are also worn with the girdles. Both men and women wear beads, brass and iron bracelets and anklets, and pieces of wood in their ears. Women also tattoo their stomachs and wear straw and wood in their pierced nostrils. Men file their four upper front teeth to points. Rows of small cuts are made above the eyes, at the temples, and on the cheeks of most Mumuye. [1]

Finally one may look to the Gospel According to Thomas – an early Christian document, found in Egypt, in December 1945.[2]

77  Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained.

Split a piece of wood; I am there.

Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”[3]

 

African Tribes, Demographics, & The Slave Trade Map

Information on African Tribes – Demographics, Politics, Religion, History, Economy, Tribal Art, Neighboring Tribes, Culture, Language.

Aka Akan Akuapem Akye Anyi Aowin
Asante Babanki Baga Bali Bamana Bamileke
Bamum Bangubangu Bangwa Baule Beembe Bembe
Benin Kingdom Berber (Amazigh) Bete Bidyogo Biombo Bobo
Bushoong Bwa Cameroon Grasslands Chokwe Dan Dengese
Diomande Djenn� Dogon Ejagham Eket Ekoi
Esie Fang Fante Fon Frafra Fulani
Guro Hausa Hemba Holoholo Ibibio Idoma
Igala Igbira Igbo Igbo Ukwu Ijo Kabre
Karagwe Kassena Katana Kom Kongo Kota
Kuba Kurumba Kusu Kwahu Kwele Kwere
Laka Lega Lobi Luba Luchazi Luluwa
Lunda Luvale Lwalwa Maasai Makonde Mambila
Mangbetu Manja Marka Mbole Mende Mitsogo
Mossi Mumuye Namji (Dowayo) Ngbaka Nkanu Nok
Nuna Nunuma (Gurunsi) Ogoni Oron Owo Pende
Pokot Punu Salampasu San Sapi Senufo
Shambaa Shona Songo Songye Suku Swahili
Tabwa Tuareg Urhobo We Winiama Wodaabe
Wolof Woyo Wum Yaka Yaure Yombe
Yoruba Zaramo Zulu

 

Destinations of Slaves and their Origins

PROJECTED EXPORTS OF THAT PORTION OF THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH SLAVE TRADE HAVING IDENTIFIABLE REGION OF COAST ORIGIN IN AFRICA, 1711-1810. [1]
 
Senegambia (Senegal-Gambia) * 5.8%
Sierra Leone 3.4%
Windward Coast (Ivory Coast) * 12.1%
Gold Coast (Ghana) * 14.4%
Bight of Benin (Nigeria) * 14.5
Bight of Biafra (Nigeria) * 25.1%
Central and Southeast Africa (Cameroon-N. Angola) * 24.7%
SENEGAMBIA: Wolof, Mandingo, Malinke, Bambara, Papel, Limba, Bola, Balante, Serer, Fula, Tucolor
 
SIERRA LEONE: Temne, Mende, Kisi, Goree, Kru.
 
WINDWARD COAST (including Liberia): Baoule, Vai, De, Gola (Gullah), Bassa, Grebo.
 
GOLD COAST: Ewe, Ga, Fante, Ashante, Twi, Brong
 
BIGHT OF BENIN & BIGHT OF BIAFRA combined: Yoruba, Nupe, Benin, Dahomean (Fon), Edo-Bini, Allada, Efik, Lbibio, Ljaw, Lbani, Lgbo (Calabar)
 
CENTRAL & SOUTHEAST AFRICA: BaKongo, MaLimbo, Ndungo, BaMbo, BaLimbe, BaDongo, Luba, Loanga, Ovimbundu, Cabinda, Pembe, Imbangala, Mbundu, BaNdulunda
 
Other possible groups that maybe should be included as a “Ancestral group” of African Americans:
 
Fulani, Tuareg, Dialonke, Massina, Dogon, Songhay, Jekri, Jukun, Domaa, Tallensi, Mossi, Nzima, Akwamu, Egba, Fang, and Ge.

References

[1] http://wysinger.homestead.com/mapofafricadiaspora.html

My Tribal African Art Vibe

It’s amazing… I picked up one piece, and now I have to admit the apartment is literally crawling with African Tribal Art . They have settled into their own groups… adhering to the ‘melting pot’ philosophy of American lore yet strangely dominating my small universe in their own unique ways. Collecting Tribal African Art is turning out to be both fun and instructive. There are many important  values and norms one can distill from the tribal cultures.

Bambara Maternity Statues

Bambara - Maternity Statues

Maternity

The Bambara maternity statues offer peaceful, even tranquil backdrops of mothers with children playing on their laps. Their poised beautiful faces, on slender necks, slim figures with slight postnatal curves evoke a sense of definitive idealism.  Who would not want to recreate the peaceful scenes?  In start contrast the Baga Nimba is large and domineering, the first figure facing the door, the large head, almost an arm wide, with heavy breasts and braided plaits signifying a mature fertile woman who has had children. This represents the maternal feature of motherhood, the eagle watching over her brood and promising times of plenty. If hope grows the contrast in size is well reflected in the group of Aku’ba dolls from the Ashante Tribe of Ghana.

Ashanti Akua'ba dolls

The legend of Akua and solving the riddle of her barrenness using her doll is now interwoven with the myth of producing progeny of beauty and grace.

Teaching

The Mumuye tribe of Nigeria produce sculpture called iagalagana which represent tutelary spirits and which offer an aesthetic abstract form that truly fascinates, incorporating a high degree of heterogeneity.

Mumuye Tribe - Iagalagana

‘They seem to be reminders of living together in a multicultural society, one were we are enough alike to be able to speak to one another, yet different enough for everyone to have something to say.’  [1]

Mende, Sowei Mask : "The Renewed Spirit rising from the water"

Not to be outdone , the Sowei mask, from the Mende of Sierra Leone is the maternal disciplinarian – representing the  passage from adolescence to adulthood, and the rebirth in a more developed value system with higher expectations, and greater responsibility.

Luck

Nikisi - Protection against "Bad Luck"

The rabbit feet of Tribal African Art would be the Nikisi from the Kongo Tribe. The startling images of upraised hands and nail impaled bodies were used to keep away sickness, bad luck, misfortune, bind promises, and repel evil spirits. One can never have too many.

Reliquaries

From the Mahongye, to the Kota, to the Fang the reliquaries were used to guard the remains of ancestors. To the nomadic tribes this was important since their link to the past is the thread that held the value systems in the communities on a consistent footing through the years. The abstract nature of their sculpture, developed perhaps by a need to conserve space, resulted both in beautiful works, and a holistic representation of social concepts.

Fang Tribe, Bieri sculpture

I particularly admire the Fang representation of the “Balance of Opposites” – using the proportions of a child whilst representing a strong powerfully built adult; showing power yet at the same time exhibiting calm. Forces we wrestle with on a daily basis, even today.

%d bloggers like this: