Anonymity and attribution of historical African art

The questions we ask about the achievements of others are a measure of our own curiosity and engagement. These Yoruba, Luba, and Pende case studies suggest what is likely missing from the record of many other traditions. They also signal that authorship cannot simply be reduced to a single name. In the instances in which we are able to retrieve that information, it is urgent that we do so, as a measure of respect and means to deepen and enrich appreciation of the achievements of gifted individuals within their respective creative networks. With the passage of time, it is increasingly unlikely that this can be achieved with any degree of specificity – and where that is the case, it is important to draw attention to the dearth of specific names, as a real and significant loss. Doing so carries with it the need to provide accounts of the historical circumstances that contributed to such omissions; and it calls for renewed engagement with the continuation of artistic traditions in contemporary society.

Naming rights – anonymity and attribution in African art

Mudimbe emphasises African art’s ‘amazingly diverse, complex, and conflicting regional styles’ and the need to consider these ‘as we do literary texts’.

Article Found in the December 2020 issue of Apollo Magazine 

by Alisa LaGamma  5 Dec 2020

Of the hundreds of thousands of artefacts valorised for the creative ingenuity of their makers across sub-Saharan Africa, and now in museums and private collections around the world, few are identified by name.

From societies in which history and praise were relayed orally we are left with no literal signatures. This is not a reflection of enormous temporal divides, as it is with ancient archaeological artefacts. Instead it reflects a paradoxical legacy of Western collecting: on the one hand, the material aspect of complex traditions was historically privileged over all else; on the other, different standards were applied to the recognition of African makers’ achievements than those of their Western contemporaries.

Such collecting practices decoupled intangible and material heritage. But beyond that fact, it is disconcerting that, given the opportunity to document the material record, little effort was made to do so. Whether these objects were collected in the 19th century or the 1970s, and despite the fact that most were no more than a few generations old at the time, we are left with generic attributions to entire ethnic groups and equally vague dates, often spanning centuries. This lack of precision concerning material culture relating to an entire subcontinent has contributed to public assumptions about the lack of importance originally placed on recognising the individual men and women responsible for the objects’ creation.

Just over 20 years ago I sought to refute the notion of authorial irrelevance with ‘Master Hand: Individuality and Creativity Among Yoruba Sculptors’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – an exhibition that drew on the rich and extensive literature by Yoruba intellectuals, as well as several generations of art-historical research. The presentation outlined a creative process, examined the significance of particular sculptural genres and their interpretation by a range of individuals, and gave prominence to the authors through archival photographs and the Yoruba praise poetry that evoked their contributions and place in society. It is, however, impossible to generalise about Africa, and not least in the realm of creative expression; it is instead best defined by its immense diversity of cultures, each of which has fostered an array of distinct visual traditions. In his groundbreaking book The Invention of Africa (1988), the philosopher V.Y. Mudimbe emphasises African art’s ‘amazingly diverse, complex, and conflicting regional styles’ and the need to consider these ‘as we do literary texts’. In what follows, I offer three case studies, each of which highlights a culturally specific perspective on the significance of authorship; together, they suggest how pervasive assumptions about African sculpture reflect a widespread misreading of an array of distinct creative processes.
*


The first of these is the example of Olowe of Ise (or Olowere; c. 1875–1939), maker of an elaborately carved portal from the entrance of the Ikere Palace in Nigeria, now in the British Museum. The work was commissioned by Onijagbo Obasoro Alowolodu, the Ogoga of Ikere, who is himself depicted in the left-hand panel’s second register. Only a decade after its completion, it was lent by its Yoruba patron to be exhibited at the British Empire Exhibition, London, in 1924. What was at that time a recently completed regional landmark was displayed ostentatiously with no acknowledgement of its living author. Reaction to the work was so enthusiastic that the British Museum presented the Ogoga with an offer to acquire it for the national collection. There it remained anonymous for the next quarter of a century.
Ikere Palace door and lintel (c. 1910–14), Olowe of Ise, Yoruba peoples, Nigeria. British Museum, London

The Ogoga received a British-made throne in exchange and commissioned a replacement portal from Olowe in 1925. Rather than merely produce a copy of the original, the artist responded by carving a radically different composition; Yoruba palace decor was updated, reflecting how this society placed a premium on innovation. Roslyn Adele Walker, the author of the first monograph on Olowe and a curator at the Dallas Museum of Art, notes that from the 1940s on, many affluent Nigerian patrons replaced sculpted wood veranda posts and architectural features with concrete-covered adobe pillars. It is likely that the replacement portal of 1925 was itself eventually displaced by a renovation scheme; it is now in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The painstaking reconstruction of this art history by Walker culminated in the first catalogue raisonné of a pre-20th-century African artist, published in 1998. Until then, the achievements of Olowe of Ise had been enumerated and celebrated locally in performed oriki, or praise poetry, and through photographic documentation. More recently, the art historian Rowland Abiodun has identified a photograph of the artist himself. While it is not known when he learned to carve, Olowe began his career as a lowly messenger at the court of the Arinjale of Ise; in oriki, he is credited with sculptural programmes developed for the palaces at Ise, Ikere, Owo, and Akure.

The portrait that emerges is of a professional sculptor, from whom the most ambitious Yoruba patrons of his day sought works that were highly visible. Despite this, as Walker notes, prevailing biases were such that the official who selected the Ikere palace doors for display in London likely never thought to ask: ‘Who made this?’ It was not until after the Second World War that Olowe was recognised outside the Ekiti region as its author (by Philip A. Allison, a British forester stationed in Nigeria from 1931–59).
The artistic vision that informed Olowe’s approach is evident in the corpus assembled by Walker. The criteria used to assess his achievements are the subject of a rich Yoruba tradition of aesthetic commentary; following the completion of a sculpture, its evaluation began with a ritual announcement: ‘there ends the work of the sculptor/Let the critic start his own.’ The philosopher Olabiyi Yai emphasises that the response of a Yoruba critic never simply addresses the formal appearance of an isolated work but instead expansively invokes its carver, orisa (deities), patrons, viewers, and even the critic’s own role as commentator.

In the lexicon of Yoruba criticism sa is the verb which means ‘to select, to discern, to discriminate’, while asa is the noun used to denote the concept of ‘tradition’. In his execution of the architectural elements he designed to frame the entrances of grand residences and shrine portals as well as pillars for interior courtyards, Olowe followed the asa, developed in Ekiti-Yoruba centres. Da asa, informed departure or break with tradition, drove his expansion beyond those parameters. Contemporaries, such as Areogun of Osi-Illorin, elected to underscore the bilateral symmetry of their sculptural programmes for doors and filled their surfaces with frontal figures. In contrast, Olowe’s oju-ona, or design consciousness, is expressed through figures that extend beyond their picture frame and an allocation of space in asymmetrical panels driven by the subject matter presented. The dynamism of those compositions is further enlivened with a sense of movement and highly complex incised graphic surfaces.

Ise Palace door (Ilekun aafin) (c. 1904–10), Olowe of Ise, Yoruba peoples, Nigeria. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

These principles are manifest in the palace door produced between 1904–10 for the Arinjale of Ise to commemorate his meeting with the British travelling commissioner Captain Ambrose at the turn of the century. According to Walker it was this work that inspired the Ogoga of Ikere to enlist Olowe’s talents to produce the door and lintel now at the British Museum. The Ise portal’s right panel is now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and the left is a recent promised gift to the Met. While these material products of Olowe’s ingenuity are credited to him as an author, to reflect upon his impact it is necessary to evoke more fully the complex network of creative forces within which he operated – including the local context of patronage and aesthetic assessment in Yoruba society, which thrived on change.
*

The first study devoted to an African artist, the so-called Buli Master, was prompted by the striking style of sculptures that have since been found not to refer to the work of a single individual but to a workshop. Luba leaders in the Katanga region of south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo were patrons of sublime sculptural artefacts. Critical to a Luba chief’s investiture rites and legitimacy, such insignia of divine kingship, consecrated by spirit mediums and held in treasuries, were rarely visible. The major repository of that legacy today is the Africa Museum (or Royal Museum for Central Africa) at Tervuren, founded in 1897 by King Leopold II of Belgium to advertise the resources of his private colony, the Congo Free State. From the many 19th-century Luba works that arrived in Belgium during the colonial era, in 1947 the Flemish anthropologist Frans Olbrechts identified several as the creative output of a master of ‘the long-faced style’, or master from the town of Buli. (Olbrechts was a pioneer among Europeans in questioning the anonymity of African artists and advocating for intensive first-hand interviews and field research; his approach, in which universalist aesthetic evaluations are applied to decontextualised art, has been criticised for its ethnocentrism.)

The arrival of princely figures from the east ushered in the beginnings of the Luba state around 1400. The culture hero Mbidi Kiluwe introduced enlightened governance to the Luba, and his son Kalala Ilunga was the first legitimate sovereign. According to Luba ideology, every subsequent ruler is a personification of these bearers of culture. The art historian Mary Nooter Roberts has underscored that, in parallel, Luba title-holders and court historians to this day emphasise the conflation of all Luba insignia of office with their legendary prototypes – including staffs of office, carved ceremonial seats and bow stands, the most elaborate of which incorporate visual evocations of the source of life and perpetuation of sacred kingship in the form of female figures.


Headrest (19th century), Master of the Cascade Coiffure, Luba or Shankadi peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The forging of iron is among the technical innovations attributed to Mbidi Kiluwe. Roberts notes that Luba woodcarvers were generally blacksmiths who emphasised their connection to an originary past over individual creative identities. Accordingly, their production of sculpture, whether for Luba kings or foreign patrons, has been characterised as reworking and giving new life to pre-existing ideas. The records relating to hundreds of these artefacts now in Tervuren trace many of those that are most artistically admired in the West to eastern Luba territories. Despite such documentation, however, there is never any mention of the names of their creators. Roberts poses the question of whether this is simply a reflection of the brutal colonial mindset that dehumanised its subjects and requisitioned treasures. Although this may have contributed to the loss of information, she notes, the context in which such works were produced as sacred carriers of divine kingship consecrated by a spirit medium subsumed individual achievement into networks of royal patronage and ritual use.

Despite the Luba conceptual emphasis on reproducing ‘prime creations’, a diverse array of distinctive approaches to their formal interpretation is evident in the corpus of 19th-century Luba sculptures. In the absence of attributions to specific individuals, these works have been ascribed to an array of workshops, or ‘hands’. These stylistic groupings suggest that ateliers specialised in particular genres, rather than the full array of insignia found in a single leader’s treasury.

 


Seat of leadership (19th century), Buli Master, possibly Ngongo ya Chintu, Luba or Hemba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Since Olbrechts’ original attribution of several works to a Buli Master, that corpus has grown to some 20 objects. It appears that they are the work of several generations of sculptors based at the crossroads of the Luba and neighboring Hemba regions. A number of these are seats of office featuring caryatid figures. One of these, acquired by the Met in 1979, was the focus of an exhibition introducing the Buli Master in 1980. In this example, a female caryatid is framed by circular discs of the seat balanced on the crown of her head and a base. Eyes cast downward, she bears the weight of the world on the tips of fingers that extend from broad flattened hands to grasp either rim of the seat. The soft, expressive exaggeration of such ‘Buli’ creations contrasts sharply with the crisply defined idealisation of those by a contemporaneous master labelled ‘Warua’ (a term used by Swahili traders to refer to Luba and related people) by the German ethnographer Leo Frobenius in 1904. That corpus of especially refined works includes several ceremonial bow stands and three caryatid seats.

Prestige stool (Kipona) (late 18th–early 19th century), Master of the Warua or the Kunda, Luba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

A further workshop was responsible for some 20 exquisitely carved headrests, or ‘pillows’, designed to preserve their owners’ elaborate labour-intensive hairstyles while in repose. Likely produced in the Luba heartland, they are associated with a master from the Shankadi region.

The focal points of these more intimate prestige items are female figures who themselves model one of the most popular coiffures of the latter half of the 19th century, as worn around the towns of Kamina and Kabondo Dianda. The layered parallel steps of this ‘cascade style’ project laterally, echoing the slightly bowed horizontal neck support at the summit. The dynamism of that crowning element is amplified by the fluid asymmetrical postures of the figure. Field research has suggested that the enduring appeal of such widely favoured, signature carving styles was such that they were perpetuated by as many as three successive generations of sculptors.
*


Female mask (Gambanda) (late 19th-first decade of the 20th century), Pende peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A Pende mask carved in the DRC at the turn of the 20th century (and held at the Met since 2011) follows culturally established conventions in its representation of Gambanda, an ideal of youthful womanhood. Its author’s command of his idiom is evident in his portrayal of the oval cast of the face; the calm, level forehead; the delicate nose; the smooth plump cheeks; the seductive hooded eyes; the fine continuous brow; and the fullness of thick locks of hair. In performance, the allure of this sculptural element’s classic beauty would have been animated by a dancer whose dress, movements and hairstyle embraced fashions of the utmost contemporaneity. As with most Pende masks dispersed internationally, although this work was likely of recent vintage and in use at the time it was acquired in or before 1908 by Émile Lejeune, a Belgian colonial officer, none of the specifics of its origins have been recorded. All we can surmise about its author is that he, like the majority of Pende sculptors of his generation, was a professional blacksmith.

The art-historical research undertaken by Zoë S. Strother at the source during the 1980s allows us to anchor such works to a larger narrative of Pende society at a moment of unprecedented change. Notable among its agents was Gabama a Gingungu (1890s–1965), recognised by Pende cognoscenti as the most accomplished sculptor of the 20th century. By the 1920s Gabama had garnered acclaim both across Pendeland among dancers who favoured his masks and from a foreign clientele who published features on him in the colonial press. Despite this recognition during his lifetime and beyond, at the time of his death those works that had remained in his community were lost in the chaos, looting, and fires that ensued when its members were obliged to evacuate over the course of a rebellion against the Congolese government in the 1960s.

Gabama was instructed by his uncle Maluba, who had himself been entranced by Gizeza of Kasele’s three-dimensional modeling of his subjects. Gabama’s talent and entrepreneurial savvy led to his success as a full-time professional, with a broad market for his work. He founded his own workshop, comprised of several of his sons as well as maternal nephews, which continued into the late 1980s. Delegated to apprentices were time-consuming and labour-intensive tasks of grinding colours and processing the elaborate raffia fibre ‘hair’ added as coiffures. Among the most talented of these proteges, Nguedia Gambembo was eventually allowed to block out a mask for Gabama to complete.

Strother’s interviews and examination of photographic records with sculptors of the generation who followed Gabama led to the attribution of a mask of a chief, or fumu, which entered the Africa Museum’s collection in the early 1930s, to him. Their recognition of his particular style, luholo lu’enji, was made on the basis, Strother writes, of ‘the shape of the face, the handling of the ear, the form of the eyebrows, the prominence given the nostrils, the shape of the mouth, the form of the cicatrices, the manner of working the coiffure’. What he had achieved was to render concretely the complex character of the chief as ‘a man who is unquestionably male, potent, the father of many children, who nonetheless has a command of feminine skills’.

By focusing on the talents of the individual sculptor, however, we run the risk of ignoring or missing out on earlier phases of the creative process of even greater consequence. The launch of a successful new Pende masquerade carried the promise of lutumbu, fame and public acclaim; Gabama’s innovations as a sculptor responded to the call of Pende youth driven by the ambition to add to the repertoire. That process began with their composition of a song, followed by the development of a corresponding dance and the definition of its dramatis personae in advance of consulting a sculptor. The inventor credited with the masquerade performance of Gatomba, Miteleji Mutundu, demonstrated its song and dance to Gabama who in turn gave form to its character through a customised face mask. In such patronage networks, sculptural innovations reflect collaborations between dancers, singers, musicians and sponsors, as well as the carvers who create them. It is in this broader frame of reference that we ought to consider the Pende mask now at the Met.

The questions we ask about the achievements of others are a measure of our own curiosity and engagement. These Yoruba, Luba, and Pende case studies suggest what is likely missing from the record of many other traditions. They also signal that authorship cannot simply be reduced to a single name. In the instances in which we are able to retrieve that information, it is urgent that we do so, as a measure of respect and means to deepen and enrich appreciation of the achievements of gifted individuals within their respective creative networks. With the passage of time, it is increasingly unlikely that this can be achieved with any degree of specificity – and where that is the case, it is important to draw attention to the dearth of specific names, as a real and significant loss. Doing so carries with it the need to provide accounts of the historical circumstances that contributed to such omissions; and it calls for renewed engagement with the continuation of artistic traditions in contemporary society.

Article Found in the December 2020 issue of Apollo.

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Chief Nkuko in the MAS 100 X Congo exhibition

Dear  FRIEND,

Times are strange,

I was at the MAS museum last week here in Antwerp to see the interesting exhibition “100 X Congo”beautiful but also critical, in the interesting catalog it is mentionned some of those objects where taken by force ( Like the Nail figure from chief Nkuko that I studied here)  and that at the turn of the century African people where exhibited in the Antwerp Zoo, and that many of them died from the flu . It’s a change from the period where those crimes where hidden and that there was only praise for the colonialist that where bringing “civilisation” to Africa. We now know better and can praise the MAS for also involving Congolese scholars in the research, that’s refreshing. .

See the pictures I have taken at the MAS:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10157359035966073&type=3

But isn’t it going a bit far when the MAS Belgian conservator who also has Congolese roots Nadia Nsayi and who collaborated to do the catalog with experts from the Kinshasa museum, is pleading on television to discuss the return of those important African art objects to Congo, finding our attitude paternalistic.
Aren’t museums an Universal place for everyone, should we realy try to change the past and empty our museums from our best objects ?

There was also an activist Mwazulu Diyabanza who came to Antwerp to claim the return of the African art and chief Nkuko to Congo ( see image below) , strangely enough during his visit he wasn’t able to identify the Luba staff but seemed to be able to give an explanation on it’s spiritual signification https://www.mo.be/reportage/activist-mwazulu-diyabanza-op-bezoek-het-mas-chef-ne-kuko-moet-naar-huis

La Statue Nkisi Kondi de l’AfricaMuseum qui a été récolté par le Lieutenant Delcommune près de Boma le lendemain d’une expédition ou il avait brûlé le village qui refusait de se rendre aux ordres de Leopold II ( read more at https://africanart.press/nkisi-kondi-africamuseum/ )

Last but not least ending this sunday I have Five African Art lots at auction for you to discover

David Norden African Art. Sint Katelijnevest 27. B2000 Antwerpen. Belgium.

Phone: +32 3 227 35 40                                    email: david.norden@telenet.be

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Hemba object of the day

Dear  [Name,fallback=],

The Hemba object of the day in my Catawiki auction :

Hemba

https://www.catawiki.com/l/40148137-figure-wood-singiti-hemba-congo-drc

In a Hurry ?

https://www.catawiki.com/a/383849-exclusive-african-art-auction-private-collection

Live lots : https://www.catawiki.com/u/365835-nordend
The Flip catalog : https://online.fliphtml5.com/jqqr/yxnj/#p=1

The auction ends next sunday around 8 pm.

Figure – Wood – Luba – Congo DRC

Closes in

Figure - Wood - Luba - Congo DRC
Reserve price not met: €315

Fetish – Wood – Yaka – Congo DRC

Closes in

Fetish - Wood - Yaka - Congo DRC
Reserve price not met: €350
Masquette - Wood - Ma Go - Dan - Liberia
Reserve price not met: €200
Figure - Wood - Tchitcheri - Moba - Togo
Reserve price not met: €450
Fetish - Wood - Nkishi - Songye - Congo DRC
Reserve price not met: €800
Mask - Wood - Kpele - Senufo - Ivory Coast
Reserve price not met: €400
Mask - Wood - Chilunga Ilunga - Chokwe - Angola
Reserve price not met: €400
headle Pulley - Wood - Senufo - West Africa
Reserve price not met: €250
Reserve price not met: €375

Masquette – Wood – Dan – Liberia

Closes in

Masquette - Wood - Dan - Liberia
Reserve price not met: €250
Figure - Wood - Provenance  Herman Haan - Dogon - Mali
Reserve price not met: €1200
Reserve price not met: €222
No reserve price
No reserve price
Figures (3) - Wood - Hazomanga - Sakalava - Madagascar
Reserve price not met: €600
Fetish Dog - Nail, Wood - Nkisi Nkondi  - Bakongo - Congo DRC
Reserve price not met: €1232
Spoon - Wood - Wakemia - Dan - Liberia
Reserve price not met: €270
Mask - Wood - Okoroshi  - Igbo - Nigeria
Reserve price not met: €150
Stool - Wood - Master of Buli - Luba - Congo DRC
Reserve price not met: €400
Figure - Wood - No Price Limit - Lengola - Ituri
No reserve price
Figure - Wood - Pare - Kwere - Tanzania
Reserve price not met: €250
Fetish - Wood - Boccio - Fon - Benin
Reserve price not met: €350

Figure – Wood – Fon – Benin

Closes in

Figure - Wood - Fon - Benin
Reserve price not met: €150
Figures (2) - Wood - Evolués - Bakongo - Congo DRC
Reserve price not met: €425
Head - Wood - Boki - Anyang - Nigeria
Reserve price not met: €550
Mask - Wood - Zamble, Taitt collection - Guro - Ivory Coast
Reserve price not met: €775
Mask - Wood - Agbogho Mmwo - Igbo - Eastern Nigeria
Reserve price not met: €1200
Mask - Wood - Idimu - Lega - Congo
Reserve price not met: €450
Figure - Wood - Singiti - Hemba - Congo DRC
Reserve price not met: €1200

David Norden African Art. Sint Katelijnevest 27. B2000 Antwerpen. Belgium.

Phone: +32 3 227 35 40                                    email: david.norden@telenet.be

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Life is Strange

Dear  friends,

In a Hurry ? https://www.catawiki.com/u/365835-nordend

I hope you are all doing well in those strange days where the whole world is trying to avoid contacts, while desperately wanting to get other people around them .

My  new online auction starts Friday July 24, 2020 to end Sunday August 2, 2020 around 8 p.m. Belgian time. Remember: When you bid on Catawiki there is only 9 % on the hammer price, and if you can’t attend the end of the auction the auto-bid function is your best friend. .

The packing and shipping cost is 25€ for Europe, and 50€ outside.

This auction is made mostly from objects that did not sell during my previous auctions,  I even lowered reserve prices more, making it great  bargains .

And sorry if I do not answer your questions immediately, it might well be that I am watching my cucumbers growing…

www.catawiki.com/u/365835-nordend

Packing and transport costs are low and in house only 25€ for Europe and 50€ outside Europe, if you buy more than one lot the transportation costs are only charged once.

 

David Norden African Art. Sint Katelijnevest 27. B2000 Antwerpen. Belgium.

Phone: +32 3 227 35 40                                    email: david.norden@telenet.be

P.S. If this email was forwarded to you, know that more than ten thousand are already happy subscribers to this free African art newsletter.
To stay informed on African art auctions, Fairs, books, exhibitions, etc…

Subscribe to our African Art newsletter below:

https://africanart.press/subscribe-to-our-newsletter/

Follow my ramblings on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/african.art

Follow me on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/africanartexpert/

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Corona African Art

In order to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, our Shop in the Sint Katelijnevest 27  is temporarily closed from Saturday 14 March2020 to Monday May 11 May 2020 included, or later depending on the evolution of the pandemy and Belgian government instructions.

De Winkel is Gesloten tot minstens Maandag 11 Mei 2020 wegens de Covid-19 pandemie.

Le Magasin est fermé a cause de la pandemie du Covid-19 jusqu’au moins le lundi 11 mai 2020.

STAY SAFE, Stay Home, Avoid social contacts.

David Norden, staying alone in his shop… growing little seeds.

David Norden

Sint Katelijnevest 27

B2000 Antwerpen.

Belgium

+32 3 227.35.40

david.norden@telenet.be

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Once Upon a time … Exclusive Tribal Art Auction (Private Sale David Norden)

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a shop in Antwerp where time stood still. Once you walked in the door, your eyes would be dazzled by hundreds of ancient gods, of masks, of curiosities from Africa and all over the world, looking down from the shelves. It was like walking into a different world, a different time…like a Victorian cabinet of curiosities still alive and well in this busy world. 

…and the wonderful thing is…it’s still there… and if in Antwerp you can even go and find the shop yourself and lose yourself among the shelves, and benefit from all thirty years of his experience collecting, owning and selling some of the world’s most beautiful and refined tribal and non-western art. 

Right now there is a mask or a figure standing on a shelf in Antwerp that has been waiting for you all its life. So come and see them. They’re waiting for a new home, or place a bid on those available online.

David Norden African Art. Sint Katelijnevest 27. B2000 Antwerpen. Belgium. Phone: +32 3 227 35 40 OR email: david.norden@telenet.be

Lots in auction (ending Sunday December 1, 2019 at +/- 8 p.m. Belgian time)

Mask – Wood – Provenance Marceau Riviere – Baule – Côte d’Ivoire

Mask - Wood - Provenance Marceau Riviere - Baule - Côte d'Ivoire

Reserve price: €1500

Mask – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Ituri – Congo DRC

Mask - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Ituri - Congo DRC

Reserve price: €780

Mask – Wood – Prov – Yaka – Congo DRC

Mask - Wood - Prov  - Yaka - Congo DRC

Reserve price : €300

Mask – Wood – Published Prov Schaedler – Boki – Cross River, Nigeria

Current bid: €900

Mask - Wood - Published Prov Schaedler - Boki - Cross River, Nigeria

Reserve price: €1500

Poro Mask – Porcelain, Wood – Provenance Gaethan Schoonbroodt – Dan Gere – Liberia

Poro Mask - Porcelain, Wood - Provenance Gaethan Schoonbroodt - Dan Gere - Liberia

Reserve price: €650

Mask – Wood – Prov Carlo Bold – Suku – Congo DRC

Mask - Wood - Prov Carlo Bold - Suku - Congo DRC

Reserve price : €753

Sculpture – Wood – Prov Mark Verstockt – Mumuye – Mali

Sculpture - Wood - Prov Mark Verstockt - Mumuye - Mali

Reserve price: €450

Sculpture – Wood – Prov Donald Taitt – Mumuye – Mali

Sculpture - Wood - Prov Donald Taitt - Mumuye - Mali

Reserve price: €393

Sculpture – Wood – Prov Gaetan Schoonbroodt – Mumuye – Mali

Sculpture - Wood - Prov Gaetan Schoonbroodt  - Mumuye - Mali

Reserve price : €855

Ancestor figure – Wood – Jo Nyeleni- Prov Jan Kusters – Bamana – Mali

Ancestor figure - Wood - Jo Nyeleni- Prov Jan Kusters - Bamana - Mali

Reserve price: €958

Bird Mask – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Baoulé – Ivory Coast

Bird Mask - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Baoulé - Ivory Coast

Reserve price : €350

Shrine (figure) – Feathers, Plant fibre, Wood – Provenance Jan Van Camp – Lobi – Liberia

Shrine (figure) - Feathers, Plant fibre, Wood - Provenance Jan Van Camp - Lobi - Liberia

Reserve price : €275

Shrine figure – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Mambila – Nigeria

Shrine figure - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Mambila - Nigeria

Reserve price : €350

Small Shrine figure – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Mambila – Nigeria

Small Shrine figure - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Mambila - Nigeria

Reserve price: €350

Doll – Wood, horse hair – Provenance Donald Taitt – Lobi – Burkina Faso

Doll - Wood, horse hair - Provenance Donald Taitt - Lobi - Burkina Faso

Reserve price : €150

Mask – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Bamileke – Cameroon

Mask - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Bamileke - Cameroon

Reserve price : €470

Doll – Wood – Akuaba-Provenance Donald Taitt – Ashanti – Ghana

Doll - Wood - Akuaba-Provenance Donald Taitt - Ashanti - Ghana

Reserve price : €200

Maternity figure – Wood – Provenance Bob Germ – Dogon – Mali

Current bid: €1

Maternity figure - Wood - Provenance Bob Germ - Dogon - Mali

Reserve price not met: €250

Mask – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Dan Gere – Liberia

Mask - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Dan Gere - Liberia

Reserve price : €400

Head – Wood – Provenance Robert van der Heijden – Lobi – Burkina Faso

Head - Wood - Provenance Robert van der Heijden - Lobi - Burkina Faso

Reserve price: €635

Mask – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – lega – Congo DRC

Mask - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - lega - Congo DRC

Reserve price : €300

Ancestor figure – Wood – Nkishi – Bakongo – Congo DRC

Ancestor figure - Wood - Nkishi - Bakongo - Congo DRC

Reserve price : €250

Figure – Dense Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Lobi – Burkina Faso

Figure - Dense Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Lobi - Burkina Faso

Reserve price : €485

Cubistic Ancestor Figure – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Mumuye – Nigeria

Cubistic Ancestor Figure - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Mumuye - Nigeria

Reserve price : €400

Sculpture – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Boa – Congo DRC

Sculpture - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Boa - Congo DRC

Reserve price : €350

Female Figure – Wood – Bateba Thilkotina- Provenance Donald Taitt – Lobi – Burkina Faso

Female Figure - Wood - Bateba Thilkotina- Provenance Donald Taitt - Lobi - Burkina Faso

Reserve price : €300

Figure – Wood – Provenance Donald Taitt – Lobi – Ghana

Figure - Wood - Provenance Donald Taitt - Lobi - Ghana

Reserve price : €200

Ancestor figure – Brass, Wood – Nkishi – Songye – Congo DRC

Ancestor figure - Brass, Wood - Nkishi - Songye - Congo DRC

Reserve price : €1550

Fish figure – Wood – Kumawu – Baoulé – Ghana

Fish figure - Wood - Kumawu - Baoulé - Ghana

Reserve price : €300

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Living African Art Treasures

60X Living African Art Treasures By David Norden

Dear  Friends,

The auction catalogue is ready on LiveAuctioneers :

https://www.liveauctioneers.com/catalog/149497_living-african-art-treasures-by-david-norden/

The live auction will take place on September 22nd, 2019 at 08:00 PM BELGIAN TIME or 11:00 AM Pacific Time.

Find below images and links to my 60 very finest pieces; all lots will start at half my low estimates.Click the blue links to read the whole descriptions.

Ibo female figure NigeriaProv: Taitt collection

0001:  Ibo female figure NigeriaProv: Taitt collection

Est. €1,500-€2,500

Female Luba African

0002:  Female Luba African

Est. €900-€1,200

An early Luba figure

Prov: Patric Claes collection

0003:  An early Luba figure Prov: Patric Claes collection

Est. €1,100-€2,000

Baule tribe wood Mudfish

0004:  Baule tribe wood Mudfish

Est. €600-€1,200

Senufo top of a cultivator staff

0005:  Senufo top of a cultivator staff

Est. €700-€1,400

Mumuye Figure

0006:  Mumuye Figure

Est. €1,500-€2,500

A small Mumuye Figure

Prov: Taitt collection

0007:  A small Mumuye Figure Prov: Taitt collection

Est. €1,800-€2,500

A Mumuye Figure Prov:Mark Verstockt collection

0008:  A Mumuye Figure Prov:Mark Verstockt collection

Est. €1,200-€1,800

Urhobo figure- Nigeria Prov: René David collection

0009:  Urhobo figure- Nigeria Prov: René David collection

Est. €800-€1,500

Urhobo EDJO RE AKARE figure Nigeria XIXth century

0010:  Urhobo EDJO RE AKARE figure Nigeria XIXth century

Est. €8,000-€10,000

Dogon maternityProvenance: Bob Germ

0011:  Dogon maternityProvenance: Bob Germ

Est. €500-€1,000

A XIXth century Hemba Kusu figure 

Prov: Kahan Gallery

0012:  A XIXth century Hemba Kusu figure Prov: Kahan Gallery

Est. €8,000-€15,000

Bamana Jo Nyeleni figure

Prov: Jan Kusters collection

0013:  Bamana Jo Nyeleni figure Prov: Jan Kusters collection

Est. €3,000-€5,000

Suku mask with animal on top

0014:  Suku mask with animal on top

Est. €3,000-€5,000

Suku maskProv: Gaëtan Schoonbroodt collection

0015:  Suku maskProv: Gaëtan Schoonbroodt collection

Est. €1,500-€2,500

A Luba Chieftain diviners

0016:  A Luba Chieftain diviners

Est. €1,000-€1,500

Yaka mask

0017:  Yaka mask

Est. €2,000-€3,500

Kuba Bwoom mask

0018:  Kuba Bwoom mask

Est. €1,000-€3,000

Pende Stool 4 heads

Prov: Desaive collection

0019:  Pende Stool 4 heads Prov: Desaive collection

Est. €2,000-€3,000

Small Mangbetu stool for women Prov: Gaëtan

0020:  Small Mangbetu stool for women Prov: Gaëtan

Est. €800-€1,600

Ngombe African Stool

Prov: Alphadjo Zagamor

0021:  Ngombe African Stool Prov: Alphadjo Zagamor

Est. €700-€1,500

Hemba Figure in the style of the master of Buli

0022:  Hemba Figure in the style of the master of Buli

Est. €5,000-€8,000

Songye African Art Figure

0023:  Songye African Art Figure

Est. €2,400-€4,800

Kwele Style Head Gabon 

Prov: Frédéric Coppin

0024:  Kwele Style Head Gabon Prov: Frédéric Coppin

Est. €3,000-€4,000

Lengola-Ituri figure

0025:  Lengola-Ituri figure

Est. €1,000-€2,000

Bamana iron

0026:  Bamana iron

Est. €800-€1,200

A Chamba Figure

0027:  A Chamba Figure

Est. €1,500-€2,500

Chokwe Stool with Seated Figure

Prov: Donald Taitt

0028:  Chokwe Stool with Seated Figure Prov: Donald Taitt

Est. €1,500-€2,000

Baule female

0029:  Baule female

Est. €1,500-€2,000

Two Kafigeledio Senufo

0030:  Two Kafigeledio Senufo

Est. €2,600-€3,500

Bamileke Bull mask

0031:  Bamileke Bull mask

Est. €3,000-€4,000

Marka Ntomo mask

Prov: Philip Budrose collection

0032:  Marka Ntomo mask Prov: Philip Budrose collection

Est. €2,000-€4,000

"aringo ogun Yoruba staff.  Prov: Gaetan Schoonbroodt"

0033:  “aringo ogun Yoruba staff. Prov: Gaetan Schoonbroodt”

Est. €600-€1,200

Old Madagascar peddler figure

0034:  Old Madagascar peddler figure

Est. €1,400-€3,000

Oily Songye BelandeProv: Patric Claes collection

0035:  Oily Songye Belande Prov: Patric Claes collection

Est. €4,000-€6,000

Bamileke Flute Player figure

Prov: Gaetan Schoonbroodt

0036:  Bamileke Flute Player figure Prov: Gaetan Schoonbroodt

Est. €1,500-€2,500

Fon Voodoo figure

0037:  Fon Voodoo figure

Est. €1,000-€1,500

0038:  Southern Tanzania Masasi maskEst. €3,000-€4,000

0039:  Large Songye Hermaphrodite Figure Prov: Van …

Est. €3,000-€4,000

A fine Igala Mask

Prov: René David Collection

0040:  A fine Igala Mask Prov: René David Collection

Est. €3,000-€4,000

Bacongo horse-hair fly whisk

0041:  Bacongo horse-hair fly whisk

Est. €1,000-€2,000

A Sowei Bundu mask from the Sande society

0042:  A Sowei Bundu mask from the Sande society

Est. €1,800-€3,000

Maternity Senufo

0043:  Maternity Senufo

Est. €6,000-€12,000

Fine Guro mask

Prov: Alphadjo Zagamor collection

0044:  Fine Guro mask Prov: Alphadjo Zagamor collection

Est. €2,500-€3,500

Boki MaskProv: Schaedler

0045:  Boki Mask Prov: Schaedler
Est. €4,000-€6,000

Ibo figure- Prov: Berg-en-Dal museum

0046:  Ibo figure- Prov: Berg-en-Dal museum

Est. €2,000-€3,000

Dark Ibo mask with three miniatures on top

0047:  Dark Ibo mask with three miniatures on top

Est. €2,200-€3,500

Dan maternity Bronze by artist Ldamie of Gaple

0048:  Dan maternity Bronze by artist Ldamie of Gaple

Est. €6,000-€8,000

Ashanti goldweight

0049:  Ashanti goldweightEst. €800-€1,500

Ashanti goldweight man holding some wood and two pots

0050:  Ashanti goldweight man holding some wood and two pots

Est. €600-€1,200

Nepal Spring FigureProv: Jan Kusters

0051:  Nepal Spring FigureProv: Jan Kusters

Est. €800-€1,500

0052:  Iatmul over-modelled skull
Est. €2,000-€4,000

Mounted Pende Lizard House PanelProv: Jo De Buck

0053:  Mounted Pende Lizard House Panel Prov: Jo De Buck
Est. €3,000-€5,000

0054:  Abelam House Post Papua New Guinea

Est. €3,500-€5,000

House panel Papua New GuineaProv: Gaetan Schoonbroodt

0055:  House panel Papua New GuineaProv: Gaetan Schoonbroodt

Est. €1,000-€2,000

NOTE: My limit prices for all lots will start at half my low estimates.

Feel free to browse and pinpoint the lots you are most interested in; register for the auction today to place a bid or participate in the live bidding. It is also possible to place autobids on Liveauctioneers.

https://www.liveauctioneers.com/catalog/149497_living-african-art-treasures-by-david-norden/

Painted Washkuk Hills ceiling

0056:  Painted Washkuk Hills ceiling

Est. €1,000-€2,000

Vanuatu Ambryn Islands Graded Society Fern Figure

0057:  Vanuatu Ambryn Islands Graded Society Fern Figure

Est. €1,500-€3,500

Massim spirit figure

Prov: Gaetan Schoonbroodt

0058:  Massim spirit figure Prov: Gaetan Schoonbroodt

Est. €1,000-€2,000

A Kundu drum –Asmat PNG

Prov: Donald Taitt collection

0059:  A Kundu drum –Asmat PNG Prov: Donald Taitt collection

Est. €1,200-€1,500

0060:  Mompa Mask, Bhutan South Tibet.

Est. €3,000-€6,000

Happy reading, and happy bidding!

David

P.S.: The winners of each auction lot will get the package delivered free of charge worldwide with the printed book included. This is less of an auction catalogue than a deluxe, hardback book, which will look very much at home on a coffee table!

http://online.fliphtml5.com/jqqr/bkqt/

If you or your friends interested in African Art want to stay informed and receive my auction alerts visit:

More News To Follow. Share if you like with your friends.

David Norden African Antiques.

Sint Katelijnevest 27
B2000 Antwerpen.
Belgium
+32 3 227.35.40
david.norden@telenet.be

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Weergaloos, betoverend en brutaal geroofd

Teruggeven of niet: Congolees topstuk legt tweespalt binnen AfricaMuseum bloot

Na een jarenlange renovatie en heroriëntering ging het AfricaMuseum in Tervuren eind vorig jaar weer open. BELGA/BELPRESS
Na een jarenlange renovatie en heroriëntering ging het AfricaMuseum in Tervuren eind vorig jaar weer open. BELGA/BELPRESS

Weergaloze kunst, de expo waarmee het AfricaMuseum opnieuw de deuren opende, toont trots het spijkerbeeld Nkisi nkonde. Onderzoek toont glashelder aan dat alvast dit ene stuk brutaal geroofd werd. Tot driemaal toe werd het beeld teruggevraagd vanuit Congo. Vooralsnog zonder resultaat.

Door KARLIEN BECKERS ( De Morgen 9 Maart 2019)

Het spijkerbeeld Nkisi nkonde werd in 1878 meegenomen nadat een dorp door Belgen in brand was gestoken. PLUSJ, RMCA TERVUREN
Het spijkerbeeld Nkisi nkonde werd in 1878 meegenomen nadat een dorp door Belgen in brand was gestoken. PLUSJ, RMCA TERVUREN

‘Betoverende objecten uit het Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika.’ Zo luidt de ondertitel van Weergaloze kunst, de tijdelijke tentoonstelling die de heropening van het vernieuwde AfricaMuseum in Tervuren kracht moet bijzetten. De selectie wordt beschreven als ‘de artistieke wereldtop’. Daartussen: Nkisi nkonde, het spijkerbeeld dat je recht in de ogen staart wanneer je de ruimte binnenloopt. Dikke strengen touw hullen het beeld in een soort vreemde mantel.

Gecatalogiseerd onder ‘eo.0.0.7943’ legt het bijbehorend pamflet je uit dat aan de geest die in het beeld zou wonen magische krachten werden toegeschreven. Je kon iets wensen van het beeld, een nganga (priester) zou er dan een spijker in slaan. Als die bleef zitten, werd je verzoek ingewilligd.

Het beeld is onderwerp van een paper die Maarten Couttenier, historicus aan het AfricaMuseum, afgelopen zomer publiceerde. Gespecialiseerd in koloniale geschiedenis en de geschiedenis van musea, onderzocht hij de herkomst van het beeld.

Wat hij ontdekte, klinkt weinig fraai. Zo beschrijft Couttenier hoe Alexandre Delcommune, officier bij het koloniaal leger van Leopold II, in 1878 de dorpen rond Boma aanvalt, de latere hoofdstad van Leopolds speeltuin Kongo-Vrijstaat. In zijn memoires beschrijft Delcommune zelf hoe hij de dorpen om drie uur ‘s ochtends in brand steekt, en het beeld in de struiken vindt nadat de dorpelingen zijn weggevlucht. Niet lang na de aanval bieden plaatselijke stamhoofden de Belg geld aan om Nkisi nkonde terug te krijgen. Delcommune weigert. Sudderend conflict

In 1912 wordt het beeld als schenking opgenomen in de collectie van het museum. Wanneer het van 1967 tot 1969 als deel van een rondtrekkende tentoonstelling door de VS reist, inspireert dit de Zaïrese president Mobutu tot een vernieuwde vraag om het beeld terug te geven in een toespraak bij de VN (1973). In 2016 reist Couttenier voor zijn eigen studie naar de regio. Wanneer hij de lokale bevolking een foto van het beeld laat zien, wordt opnieuw gevraagd om Nkisi nkonde terug te geven.

Bij de heropening, in december vorig jaar, claimde directeur Guido Gryseels dat het museum voortaan een hedendaagse, kritische blik zou werpen op de koloniale geschiedenis. Dat het museum in zijn eerste expo trots blijft uitpakken met een beeld waarvan een eigen werknemer glashelder aantoont dat het geroofd is, is op zijn minst bizar. De kwestie met het spijkerbeeld legt een sudderend conflict bloot achter de museumschermen. Aan de ene kant staan de ‘vernieuwers’, die menen dat in Tervuren lang niet ver genoeg gegaan wordt. Anderzijds blijven er ook meer behoudsgezinde krachten, die elk debat over excuses en teruggave afblokken.

Opmerkelijk is alleszins dat Coutteniers onderzoek bij de huidige tentoonstelling niet vermeld wordt. Zowel de digitale brochure als het naamplaatje focust op het belang en de functie van het beeld. Stamhoofd Ne Kuko, de oorspronkelijke eigenaar van het beeld, wordt beschreven als “iemand waar Delcommune een conflict mee had”. De ‘inbeslagname’ werd door de plaatselijke leiders als “een gijzeling beschouwd”. Er wordt niet verder uitgeweid over de werkwijze van Delcommune, laat staan over de herhaalde vraag om het beeld terug te geven. Waarom niet?

“Ik vermeld Coutteniers’ onderzoek niet om verschillende redenen”, zegt Julien Volper, conservator in de afdeling Culturele Antropologie & Geschiedenis. Hij cureert de expo waar het beeld zich nu in bevindt. “Ten eerste zit er nooit een bibliografie bij. Ten tweede heb ik dit object ook zelf onderzocht, en daar verwijs ik ook niet naar. Ten derde is dit een tijdelijke tentoonstelling, met een bepaalde keuze, en zijn eigen thematiek. Ik vind dat de bezoeker niet enkel recht heeft op informatie over hoe het in de collectie is gekomen.” Volper wijst erop dat er in andere delen wel al de nadruk ligt op een dekoloniserende context. “Er zijn volgens mij meer genuanceerde manieren om aan dekolonisatie te doen.”

Moet het beeld terug? Ook Maarten Couttenier meent in zijn paper dat het antwoord lastiger is dan de vraag. Hij haalt de geopolitieke belangen, de emoties rond het debat en de praktische vragen aan, zoals waar de voorwerpen terechtkomen, hoe die bewaard zullen worden en het legale kader. Couttenier wil niet ingaan op verdere vragen over restitutie.

Curator Volper wil van teruggave niet weten. “Een samenleving is gebouwd rond rechtspraak”, zegt hij. “De Unesco-conventie over restitutie dateert uit 1970 en is niet retroactief. Beide landen hebben het verdrag geratificeerd. In die zin is er dus geen rechtmatige vraag voor restitutie mogelijk. De Tuin der lusten van Jheronimus Bosch hangt in het Prado in Spanje. Gaan we dat ook terugvragen?

“Of we het willen of niet, Congo was Belgisch. Die voorwerpen maken ondertussen deel uit van de Belgische geschiedenis. Teruggeven, in naam van wie, in naam van wat? Deze objecten zijn eigendom van de Belgische staat.” Nazisme

In Nederland hebben juist nu drie grote historische musea, waaronder het Tropenmuseum, beloofd dat ze koloniale roofkunst willen teruggeven. In België zijn we nog lang zo ver niet, blijkens de stellingname van bevoegde stemmen, zoals die van Julien Volper.

Volper mag gerust een hardliner in dit debat genoemd worden. Twee jaar geleden schreef hij er al een brief over aan de Franse krant Le Figaro met als veelzeggende titel “Laten we onze musea verdedigen”. In zijn tekst noemt hij mensen die voor restitutie pleiten “vijanden van de musea, die deze willen transformeren in tombes, ontdaan van hun schatten”. Zo argumenteert hij even verder dat ook de Joden niet alles terugkregen wat hen voor en tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog onder het nazisme is ontnomen.

Er zijn ook andere stemmen, ook in of rond het AfricaMuseum. Vlak voor de heropening van het museum ondertekenden 36 Afrika-specialisten een open brief aan voormalig staatssecretaris voor Wetenschapsbeleid, Zuhal Demir (N-VA). Ze vragen dat er afstand wordt gedaan van eigendommen die in Belgische handen zijn terechtgekomen door diefstal of plundering.

“Alles hangt af van wat je verstaat onder diefstal”, reageert Volper. Bovendien is hij ervan overtuigd dat slechts een klein aandeel van de collectie werkelijk met geweld is verkregen. Het grootste deel is gekocht of geruild. “Het museum in Tervuren bestaat al meer dan 100 jaar. Dat is een serieuze tijdspanne om een collectie uit te bouwen. Het klopt dat die objecten destijds minder geld kostten. Dat sommigen nu enorm in waarde zijn gestegen, is een gevolg van de markt.” Over een exact percentage van geruilde versus gestolen voorwerpen in de collectie kan hij zich niet uitspreken.

Van een teruggave van het spijkerbeeld kan volgens Volper geen sprake zijn. “Zelfs als dit stuk met militair geweld in onze collectie is gekomen. Het maakt nu deel uit van de geschiedenis van het beeld. We kunnen onmogelijk retroactief de misdaden uit het verleden gaan veroordelen met actuele wetgeving. Als dat het geval is, moeten we dan vragen dat de nakomelingen van bepaalde Congolese chefs die deelnamen aan de slavenhandel voor het tribunaal in Den Haag verschijnen voor de misdaden tegen de mensheid van hun voorvaderen? En als je met één stuk begint, komt er geen einde aan.” Ook wijst hij erop dat het dankzij de conservatie in Tervuren is, dat deze voorwerpen er überhaupt nog zijn. 114 werken teruggestuurd

In het debat rond restitutie wordt vaak geargumenteerd dat er geen geschikte musea zijn om de werken naar terug te sturen. Momenteel wordt er in Congo een nieuw nationaal museum gebouwd met financiering van Zuid-Korea. En in Rwanda viert het Nationale Museum dit jaar zijn dertigste verjaardag. Zou de aanwezigheid van adequate musea niets aan de Belgische houding moeten veranderen?

Tot nu toe werd er vooral gesproken over het digitaal ter beschikking stellen van de collectie. Ook door museumdirecteur Guido Gryseels. Volper sluit zich hierbij aan. “Als Congolese musea een uitbreiding van hun collectie wensen, dan ben ik absoluut bereid hen daarin te adviseren. Maar de artefacten zullen ze naar mijn mening moeten aankopen. Er is een aanbod op de kunstmarkt. Onder Mobutu zijn er overigens 114 werken op lange termijn uitgeleend aan Congo door het AfricaMuseum, daar blijven er vandaag nog 21 van over. Worden die dan ook gerecupereerd?”

Het AfricaMuseum heeft vooralsnog geen officieel standpunt ingenomen over een mogelijke teruggave. Operationeel directeur Bruno Verbergt, die namens het museum het woord voert over deze kwestie, erkent wel dat de geschiedenis van het spijkerbeeld beter gekaderd had moeten worden. “De teksten zijn door de mazen van het net geglipt”, zegt Verbergt, die bevestigt dat de teksten in alle andere tentoonstellingsruimten zijn nagekeken door externen.

Meerdere van deze experts, die het museum moesten adviseren over de diaspora, ondertekenden mee de open brief aan toenmalig staatssecretaris voor Wetenschapsbeleid Zuhal Demir (N-VA). Anne Wetsi Mpoma is een van hen. De samenwerking met het museum eindigde in mineur, vertelt ze. “Op het moment dat we erbij werden gehaald, waren de grote beslissingen al genomen. Toen de samenwerking moeizaam verliep, werden er gewoon geen vergaderingen meer georganiseerd. Ik kreeg van afzonderlijke departementen soms teksten toegestuurd, waar ik dan correcties in aanbracht. Om dezelfde tekst vervolgens nog eens toegestuurd te krijgen, zonder dat er rekening werd gehouden met mijn opmerkingen. Er was geen enkele verplichting om rekening te houden met ons advies, en als de ene afdeling het advies volgde, dan keurde de andere afdeling die weer af”.

Het kabinet van Minister voor Wetenschapsbeleid Sophie Wilmès (MR) reageert: “De minister weet dat er gesprekken zijn tussen de verantwoordelijken van het Nationaal Museum van Congo, de Universiteit van Kinshasa en het AfricaMuseum.” Ze zegt de dialoog aan te moedigen.

———-Praktisch———–

The AfricaMuseum previously The Royal Museum for Central Africa or RMCA, colloquially known as the Africa Museum, is an ethnography and natural history museum situated in Tervuren in Flemish Brabant, Belgium, just outside Brussels. It was first built to showcase King Leopold II’s Congo Free State in the 1897 World Exhibition.

Address: Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080 Tervuren Belgium

Director:Guido Gryseels (2001–) Founded: 1898

https://www.africamuseum.be/

Op Pagina 2 : België en Europa worstelen met koloniale roofkunst

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Le Butin De Storms doit-il être restitué ?

On peut se poser la question si le la tête trophée et les objets volé a lépoque par Storms doivent être rapatriés au peuple Tabwa.
Le retour de Lusinga Iwa Ng’ombe

Dans une boîte qui se trouve à l’Institut Royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique repose le crâne de Lusinga lwa Ng’ombe. Le 4 décembre 1884, ce puissant chef tabwa qui vivait dans la région du lac Tanganyika fut décapité lors d’une expédition punitive commanditée par Emile Storms. Ce militaire belge, autrefois décoré, aujourd’hui oublié, dirigeait la 4ème expédition de l’Association Internationale Africaine. Il faisait tuer les chefs rebelles et il se constituait une collection de crânes pour impressionner ses ennemis. A la fin de son séjour en en Afrique, Storms ramena le crâne de Lusinga mais aussi ceux de deux autres chefs locaux (Mpampa et Marilou). Alors qu’ils sont toujours conservés en Belgique, ces restes humains invitent à un travail de mémoire sur des crimes qui ont été commis au nom de la « civilisation » dans les premiers temps de la colonisation. Ils questionnent aussi notre présent. Peut-on se contenter d’une muette solution de « stockage » dans un musée ? La Belgique ne doit-elle tout mettre en œuvre pour rendre possible le retour de ces restes humains en Afrique? Le « butin » de Storms fut aussi constitué de plusieurs statuettes qui font partie des “trésors” du Musée Royal de l’Afrique centrale à Tervuren…

Le gouvernement belge favorable à une restitution du crâne de Lusinga!

Un article publié par Michel Bouffioux sur le site Paris Match.be, le 30 mars 2018

Trouvé sur :https://parismatch.be/actualites/132376/exclusif-crane-de-lusinga-le-gouvernement-belge-favorable-a-une-restitution-des-restes-humains

Zuhal Demir, la Secrétaire d’Etat à la Politique scientifique du gouvernement belge, se dit favorable à une évolution législative permettant la restitution aux familles congolaises apparentée…

Zuhal Demir (N-VA), la Secrétaire d’Etat à la Politique scientifique du gouvernement belge, se dit favorable à une évolution législative permettant la restitution aux familles congolaises apparentées des crânes qui ont été « collectés » par un militaire belge pendant les premiers temps de la colonisation.

Entre 1882 et 1885, le militaire belge Emile Storms commandait la 4ème expédition de l’Association Internationale Africaine dans la région du lac Tanganyika. Lorsque des chefs locaux refusaient de se soumettre à son autorité, ils étaient l’objet d’expédition punitives. Certains d’entre eux ont été décapités et leurs villages ont été incendiés et pillés. Storms faisait collection des crânes de ses ennemis. Il en ramena trois en Belgique. L’enquête publiée le 22 mars 2018 par Paris Match Belgique retraçait le parcours de ces restes humains et particulièrement de ceux appartenant à Lusinga lwa Ng’ombe, un puissant chef Tabwa qui eut la tête tranchée le 4 décembre 1884 alors que ses villages étaient réduits en cendre, que plusieurs dizaines d’habitants étaient assassinés par des mercenaires, que plus d’une centaine d’autres personnes étaient capturées sans que l’on sache ce qu’elles devinrent et que des femmes étaient victimes de viols collectifs…

En 2018, le crâne de Lusinga, ramené en Belgique par le commanditaire de ces crimes, se trouve conservé dans une boîte à l’abri des regards, au sein de l’Institut Royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique (IRSNB) à Bruxelles. Il en va de même pour un deuxième crâne, celui d’un autre chef insoumis qui s’appelait Marilou. Le troisième crâne de la « collection Storms », celui d’un prince appelé Mpampa, a disparu.

Dans le cadre de l’enquête de Paris Match Belgique, la directrice de l’IRSNB, Camille Pisani s’était déjà déclarée favorable à une restitution de ces restes humains en cas de demande d’une famille congolaise apparentée. Toutefois ces crânes sont légalement la « propriété » de l’État belge dont le patrimoine est inaliénable. Le chemin d’une éventuelle restitution, une première en Belgique, passe par l’adoption de dispositions législatives spécifiques.
« Ces crânes ne sont pas des objets de musée »

Nous avons cherché à connaître la position du gouvernement belge sur ce débat à forte teneur éthique et symbolique. C’est la secrétaire d’État à la politique scientifique, Zuhal Demir (N-VA) qui est compétente dans ce dossier car elle assure la tutelle des Établissements scientifiques fédéraux dont l’IRSNB fait partie. Après avoir lu notre enquête, la secrétaire d’État nous a fait savoir qu’elle était « très choquée » par les faits d’une extrême violence qui ont conduit, in fine, à l’aboutissement de ces restes humains dans un musée en Belgique. « Nous ne sommes pas responsables de ce qui s’est passé il y a plus de cent ans, mais nous le sommes de ce que nous faisons de ces restes humains aujourd’hui », nous dit-elle, via sa porte-parole. Elle ajoute : « Clairement, ces crânes ne sont pas des objets de musée. Ce sont des restes de personnes humaines identifiées. Nous leur devons le respect. Dès lors, si une famille congolaise apparentée devait les réclamer, je serais favorable à une évolution du cadre légal afin de permettre leur restitution. » La secrétaire d’État estime enfin que si une telle restitution devait avoir lieu, elle devrait se faire dans le cadre d’une « cérémonie officielle » afin que la Belgique contemporaine témoigne d’une « attitude respectueuse » à l’endroit des familles concernées et qu’elle prenne clairement ses distances par rapport aux faits qui ont été commis.

Des descendants de Lusinga ou de Marilou se manifesteront-ils ? L’avenir nous le dira…

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