Faustus' posting of the Muppets and Harry Belafonte for February 13th over at The Search for Love in Manhattan made me take a good look, for the first time in a while, at what surrounds me every time I sit down at the computer - masks that Laurent has brought back from his trips to Africa.
He brought back the first when he went to Togo on a project back in the spring of 1982. Its not actually a mask but a totem to be placed on the hut of the Principal wife of the Tribal Chief. Carved in acacia then covered in a type of pitch, its inlaid with copper, small smooth stones and coloured beads. It's always been the one I've treasured the most and has been in every home we've lived in from Ottawa to Rome.
On one of his regular trips from Cairo, where he lived at the time, to the refugee camps outside Khartoum he found this mask from Central Equitoria (Juba) region in the south of Sudan. The wood has been carved in a distinctively Central African design then covered with a thin layer of leather.
While on several temporary assignments to Lagos he found some examples of the West African carvers' art in the local markets: Masks and totems from the Cameroons, Chad, Ghana and Nigeria.
I not sure if this one was meant to be a bird, animal or human and I until I took these pictures today hadn't noticed that it was asymmetrical.
Update: Laurent left the following comment: All the masks are from separate Tribal groups. They are meant to represent this or that Tribe. The one with the multiple marking on the face in white is in fact beauty scars to adorn the faces of males of that tribe near the coast of Cameroon. We really should talk more.
Now I may be reading more into things than are there but I would say chances are this one is a fertility symbol of some sort. Though one friend did think it may have been the inspiration for one of the characters on Futurama and a few people have found it creepy. I like it.
I was asking Laurent if he thought this Nigerian mask didn't have almost a European look to it - perhaps a representation of a slave trader? He thinks I may be forcing a meaning on it. I really wish we had more history on these.
Another mask carved in wood and then covered in leather. The features and animal symbol on the forehead are outlined in a braided leather. Its a very intricate piece of workmanship.
This is Laurent's favorite and my least favorite - again Nigerian but this time worked in metal. For some reason the crocodile and two smaller faces have alway disturbed me.
16 febbraio - Santa Guiliana