PRIVATE COLLECTION

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Mask

Lumbu, Gabon

Late 19th cent. 

Wood, pigments, kaolin

50 cm

 

Provenance

Collected by the colonel Le Meillour before 1914
Formerly in Pierre Dartevelle’s collection, Brussels - Formerly in Alain de Monbrison’s collection, Paris - Formerly in Tao Kerefoff’s collection, Paris
Formerly in Philippe Ratton’s collection, Paris

Anna Demina Collection, Milan


Exhibitions/Publications

Perrois & Grand-Dufay, Punu, Milan, 5 Continents Ed., 2008, n°36
GEO-Graphics: a map of art practices in Africa, BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts
Brussels, 2010, p.240
Neyt, Fleuve Congo. Arts d'Afrique centrale: correspondances et mutations des
formes, Paris, Musée du quai Branly/Fonds Mercator, 2010, p.298, n°192
Galerie Monbrison, Hong Kong, Chine, during "Art Basel Hong Kong", Hong Kong
Convention and Exhibition Centre, 24-26 March 2016, cat fig.15
Galerie Ratton, Paris, Gabon, June-September 2017, pp. 84-85
Les Forêts natales, Arts d'Afrique équatoriale atlantique, Musée du quai Branly -
Jacques Chirac, Paris, 3 October 2017-21 January 2018, p. 153, n°295

Origins, A Vision on African Art, Dalton Somaré Gallery, Milan, 2019, pp. 60/63

Description

Extremely rare example of Lumbo horned mask, which explains why the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac presented it twice : for the exhibitions Fleuve Congo in 2010 and Forêts Natales in 2017-2018. One of the only other old example known of the corpus is the one from André Fourquet and Arman collection (cf comparable below). Charlotte Grand-Dufay (in Les Lumbu, un art sacré, 2016, p.58) specifies: "Among the polychrome masks, there are those who have a human face with animal horns, they represent 1% of the corpus studied for the book Punu in 2008. The one from the former André Fourquet and Arman collection is exceptional (figure 35), typically lumbu by its heart-shaped face accentuated by the black forehead enhanced by a red band, the eyes in an arc of a circle, the nose and the mouth drawing an 8. This type of mask was part of the initiation rituals and the horns evoke more those of the buffalo than those of the antelope. "
Louis Perrois in Punu en 2008 tells us also regarding the Fourquet mask (p.140) : “It was probably a spirit of the “bush” that intervened in some Okuyi rites associated with initiation into the mwiri.”. And in the same publication he gave the following description of our horned mask : « This mask, collected by Colonel Le Meillour in the French Congo sometime before 1914, has long curved monoxylous horns. This black animal headdress is flanked by small longitudinal plaits and slanting tresses. The triangular face whitened with kaolin has half-closed eyes, a short nose and a pursed mouth. A thick braid forms a “handle” under the chin. This type of mask may come from the coastal region of the lower Nyanga.”
François Neyt in Fleuve Congo, 2010, p. 295, adds about our mask and the one from the Fourquet collection: “On this backdrop, here are some significant masks of the Okuyi. The first two (Figs., 192 and 193) are anthropomorphic, while being clad with animal appendages. The horns, antelope for the first, buffalo for the second, evoke the spirits of the forest. These are reminiscences of forest crops and one immediately thinks of the kwele cultures and beete rituals described in the first part of this study.»
The particularity of our mask (unique to the best of our knowledge) comes from the representation of twisted antelope horns and in particular those of the male hippotrague (see photo below) referring certainly to the masculine character of this mask. Charlotte Grand-Dufay (ibid) thus specifies p. 36 : "If female masks are identified with keloids on the forehead and temples in the form of scales - four, but especially nine or twelve - tinged with red and inscribed in a rhombus or a square, masks without scarification would be masculine and reserved for initiation ceremonies of mwiri according to Felix.”