Front Cover
 Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Figures of wood in west Africa

Title: Figures in wood of West Africa
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00003994/00001
 Material Information
Title: Figures in wood of West Africa
Physical Description: xlix p. : plates, map. ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Underwood, Leon, 1890-
Publisher: J. Tiranti
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: 1947
Subject: Sculpture -- Africa, West   ( lcsh )
Wood-carving -- Africa, West   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: "Short bibliography": p. 26.
General Note: English and French.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00003994
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: African Studies Collections in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001668727
oclc - 02601988
notis - AHY0554
lccn - 49004426 //r63

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Half Title
        Half Title
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
    Figures of wood in west Africa
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
        Page xvi
        Page xvii
        Page xviii
        Page xix
        Page xx
        Page xxi
        Page xxii
        Page xxiii
        Page xxiv
        Page xxv
        Page xxvi
        Page xxvii
        Page xxviii
        Page xxix
        Page xxx
        Page xxxi
        Page xxxii
        Page xxxiii
        Page xxxiv
        Page xxxv
        Page xxxvi
        Page xxxvii
        Page xxxviii
        Page xxxix
        Page xl
        Page xli
        Page xlii
        Page xliii
        Page xliv
        Page xlv
        Page xlvi
        Page xlvii
        Page xlviii
        Page xlix
        Map 1
        Plate 1
        Plate 2
        Plate 3a-b
        Plate 4a-c
        Plate 5a-b
        Plate 6
        Plate 7
        Plate 8
        Plate 9
        Plate 10
        Plate 11a-b
        Plate 12
        Plate 13
        Plate 14
        Plate 15
        Plate 16
        Plate 17
        Plate 18
        Plate 19a-b
        Plate 20a-b
        Plate 21
        Plate 22
        Plate 23a-b
        Plate 24
        Plate 25
        Plate 26
        Plate 27
        Plate 28
        Plate 29
        Plate 30
        Plate 31
        Plate 32
        Plate 33
        Plate 34
        Plate 35
        Plate 36
        Plate 37
        Plate 38
        Plate 39a-b
        Plate 40
        Plate 41
        Plate 42
        Plate 43
        Plate 44
        Plate 45
        Plate 46
        Plate 47a-b
        Plate 48a-b
Full Text















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Preface v
The appeal of primitive art vi
Past triumphs revealed by present difficulties Ix
Realism and abstraction x
African art and religion xiii
Religious and pure abstraction xv
Antiquity, climate, materials, tradition xvI
African abstraction of form Xix
The African school xxm

Preface xxvII
L'attrait de l'art primitif xxvII
Les triomphes du pass sont r6v6l6s par les difficulties
pr6sentes xxx
R6alisme et abstraction xxx
L'art et la religion africain xxxI
Abstraction pure et religieuse xxxi
Antiquit6, climate, mat6riaux, tradition xxxvi
L'abstraction de la forme en Afrique xxxvI
L'Ecole Africaine XL

Short bibliography xxvi
Index and descriptive notes to the plates XLIII
Map giving provenance of specimens shown L



In writing of the art of West Africa, I have
had prominently in mind the uncertainty about the
meaning, in the twentieth century, of the term
primitive applied to art. Our increased knowledge
of the past has brought forth such a variety of ele-
ments in the make-up of primitive that they ex-
clude from its meaning any general association with
crudeness. Elements like naturalism, as in pre-
historic art, schematism, as in the art of the child
and the bushman and abstraction, as in the art of the
negro and others, require to be twisted into a single
yarn of numerous strands from both past and pre-
sent. The relationship of such varied elements in
primitive art of the past has not been clarified by
students of archeology and pre-history who, with
scientific method, have discovered and preserved the
earliest examples for us.
Only in the consciousness of the living artist may
these separated elements be reunited. I, for instance,
long interested in all forms of primitive art, see a
connection between such various forms. They
evolved in the changing habitat of the deity-the
spiritual essence which prompts all artistic expres-
sion. The speculative opinions on the abstractions
of West African art, expressed in these volumes, are
based on this proposition. It may be very briefly
stated as a transition in three degrees.

First, in the realistic primitive art of pre-historic
The deity, the force demanding artistic expression,
resided in the object represented. The bison, for
example, the subject of many cave drawings, was
both worshipped and eaten.
Second, in the abstract primitive art of West
Africa and elsewhere:
The invisible deity inhabiting a world of spirits,
was separate from its artistic representation in the
sensible world, yet associated with it.*
Third, the art of the present-day transition to a
psychological degree of the Christian era:
The world of Spirits (in the second degree of
transition) becomes depopulated and the deity re-
sides in the individual conscience.
This hypothesis gives both the realism of palaoo-
lithic art and the abstraction or non-realism of West
African art spiritual (religious) significance in dif-
ferent forms. In the representation of an unseen
spirit in West Africa, a realistic likeness of its coun-
terpart in the sensible world is not fitting; only suffi-
cient resemblance is necessary to identify the one
with the other. If this idea finds acceptance as a
fair accounting for the abstract character of West
African art, it is all that is required of it here. It
may, however, be added that the appearance of
naturalism in Greek art is to be regarded, not as a
return to the first degree, but as a loss of abstraction
in the second. The Greek's refinement of abstrac-
*Occasional ceremonial eating of the deity survives under totemism
and, in symbolical form, in the Christian sacrament.

tion eventually defeated its own purpose, resulting in
an expressionless naturalism. This was brought
about by their awakening scientific knowledge and
the increasing practice of mensuration, and was con-
tinued until expression was restored in Europe by the
primitive reaction of the Romanesque and Byzantine


For permission to reproduce works and valuable assistance,
acknowledgements and thanks are due to the Trustees of the
British Museum, Horniman's Museum and The Royal Scot-
tish Museum, and to Mr. R. P. Bedford, Mr. M. Cockin, Mr.
W. B. Fagg, Mr. Rene d'Harnoncourt, Miss Gertrude Hermes,
Mr. J. Keggie, Mr. W. O. Oldman, and Mr. B. Hughes-

The Appeal of Primitive Art
HE art of West Africa has but recently freed
itself from its protective chrysalis of ethnology
in Europe, in which it lay secluded for so many
years, and has made its appeal to the public on
aesthetic grounds. Since its emergence from the
museum glass case, in the last thirty years, the public
has seen a good deal of it in art exhibitions and be-
come aware of its influence upon European experi-
mental art technique. Art tradition has in fact be-
come for us more eclectic; to be drawn from wider
sources in the past. The European's view of history
is no longer what it was-confined to the narrow
consideration of his own particular strain and
descent, traced in the spoken and written word. He
has now an added interest in the picture of his pro-
genitors, outside the limited sphere of such evidence.
Archaeology and other sciences have helped to re-
move his bias of isolation. They may have widened
his spiritual horizon but they have unsettled his
spirit in doing so. They have shown him beneath
the dust of the past other factors of more ultimate
importance than the local struggles of despotic rulers
which crowded his pages of history.*
*A few fragments of pre-historic sculpture were recovered from the
debris smothering the hearths of pre-historic man: in 1909, at WVillen-
dorf, Austria, was found a small female figure (about 5 ins. high, in
oolite limestone) of proportions considered grotesque and called steato-
pagus." It was embedded 6 ft. from the surface in the loess of a rail-
way cutting, near a charcoal hearth, and was considered to be of
Aurignacian or Solutrian age-30,000 (?) years.

Dust has been wittily described as matter in the
wrong place. Truant specks of significant ancient
matter have been finding their way to the right place
-in the service of man. How much of this reassort-
ment of matter is due to the deliberate methods of
science or to man's mere speculative belief is not be-
ing considered here; but where art has helped to
model man in the past there can be little doubt that
speculative belief has played a leading part. Un-
recorded history, brought to light by science, shows a
recurring pattern of man groping eternally amid the
ashes on the hearth of his ancestors-in search of the
Phoenix egg. Man's invention of the Phoenix myth
itself, is evidence of his urge to search amid ancestral
ashes. We may not question the importance of such
restless activity in removing dust and debris from the
art of remote antiquity. It can make only one point
in the mystery of man's existence-his genius for
observation in the pursuit of the sublime. Man in
his passage from dust to dust periodically searched
the ancestral piles for some lost grain to stimulate
his new grasp at perfection. The artist of the West
began to see the curios of West Africa in a new

Past Triumphs Revealed by Present Dificulties.
During the last hundred years in Europe the tech-
nique of the visual arts has turned gradually from
the classical precedent towards the primitive. In
this turning away we are to note two impulses; first,
in the break away from the old classical subject

matter, a heightened naturalistic technique was
attempted, on the lines of the new optical science,
resulting in impressionism; second, when the possi-
bilities of employing optical science in art were ex-
hausted the artist became post-impressionist and
turned his attention from science to the study of
primitive art. His hunt for the Phoenix egg amid the
ancestral ashes was renewed. The artist, as post-
impressionist, studied the art of West Africa among
that of other primitives. Impressionism had failed
to occupy the place of discarded classical subject
matter in art, with the new optical technique; but I
have not space to elaborate this statement. We must
regard impressionism and post-impressionism as im-
pulses concerned with little more than technique-
not as the theme of a fresh renaissance, but as the
avoidance of old belief-as far as that was possible
in the search for a new technique. Impression-
ism preserved the old classical standards of draw-
ing, based upon an intellectual understanding of
mensuration, but this too was banished under post-
impressionism in its study of primitive art." A
yearning for subject matter, a regret at its absence,
was clearly felt, but none could be found to embody
its departed spirit.
Surrealism represents an attempt made to rein-
state subject matter, in an emancipated form, by
presenting the visual stuff that dreams are made of.
It was presented with artificial juxtaposition, in imi-
tation of that strange but logical confusion of the
Abstraction in West African art and its distinction from the "pure "
abstraction in post-impressionism are discussed at more length in the
volume on Masks.

subconscious mind, as expounded by analytical psy-
chologists. But this ingenious simulation was too
intellectual for picture making. The intellectual
endowments of individuals in large communities are
too unequal for a common appeal to be made via
the intellect. Surrealism called for and largely pro-
duced a host of interpreters.
It has been necessary to state the foregoing very
briefly to put us in touch with the significance of
abstract form in West African art. For us as for the
eary impressionists African art may be seen inti-
mately, in its primitive beauty and strength, through
the spectacles of contemporary art. The outstand-
ing distinction between the post-impressionist and
the African, whose art he had begun to study, lay in
the different position art occupied in their respective
lives. Van Gogh and Gauguin, well aware of the
wider appeal of the art of the primitive to his
people, were unable to restore this appeal of art to
the lives of their own people.

Realism and Abstraction.
A simple and universal* faith finds expression in
the carved figures of West Africa. The abstract
treatment of form in African art is a survival of a
more general prototype which, in Europe, lasted un-
til early Greek art. It disappeared to reappear
again in Romanesque and Byzantine art. In the
Elgin marbles and African carvings in the British
Museum may be seen two forms which sculpture has
Universal within the confines of tribal culture and its influence.


given to diverging beliefs. Realism in Greek art re-
flects the intellectual development of the Greeks and
its demand for more and more detailed comparison
between sculptured form and natural form. The
Greeks expressed the figure in its muscular complexi-
ties. They arrived at this by a reasoning observation
of its surface subtleties, which anticipated the artist's
study of anatomy. In early Greek art the head was
expressive but in the later periods the body took pre-
cedence as the focal point of expression and the head
became a placid mask. At this point late Greek and
African art (considered as the prototype of early
Greek) stand farthest apart. The African carver
treats the form non-realistically and focuses expres-
sion in the head.* Logic and proportion have no
part in his attainment of sculptural unity. The
African carver derives all his forms from a close
study of nature but he abstracts the forms of nature
beyond an immediate or direct comparison with her
models. His work possesses a unity of a different
kind which I will call pre-logical for, unlike the
Greek, it demands no confirmation by a logical com-
parison with nature's forms. Before leaving Greek
sculpture it is as well to note that the most sculptur-
ally eloquent of the Greek works are from the earlier
periods when the sculptor was allowed more per-
sonal deviation from the measured ideal. In fact,
the slavish perfection which was attained ultimately
by mensuration in late examples took the life and
expression from Greek art.
Although the head is much enlarged as the focus of expression in
African art, portraiture appears to have been introduced by foreign

Abstraction of natural form, in some degree, may
be considered as the verb of the sculptor's language.
This variation from the natural form in the art of the
past, either primitive or classical, Christian or pagan,
is the something-in-common which links different ex-
amples, and makes more obvious differences super-
ficial to them as works of art. The direct and pre-
logical technique of the African carver, dealing in
abstract form with the subject matter of common
belief, gave it an appeal to the hearts of the many as
well as the heads of the few. Lost as mere fetish
figures in a more material world, African work de-
pended for its rediscovery as works of art upon a
bridging of the gap between European and African
ideas, involving a less stigmatic interpretation of the
word primitive.
By looking at it along with the art of Greece, and
through the contemporary looking-glass which has
already become primitive-tinted, we may see what
to expect from the art of West Africa.

African Art and Religion.
In the volume on The Masks of West Africa I have
said that the carved representations of nothing but a
colony of spirits have come to be regarded, by our less
credulous selves, as works of art. A lucidity suffuses
works done under the persuasion of a belief. It is
something which is added to the spiritual meaning
of the belief, and survives it-in works which after-
wards rank as world masterpieces. The significance
they acquired as religious expression becomes trans-

muted into significance as works of art, long after the
dogma and doctrine of their originating belief have
passed into oblivion. Regarded in this way, as the
documents of the essence of a forgotten belief,* works
of art leave their natal environment of particular
dogma and doctrine behind.
As this principle of contiguity seems unquestion-
able in art of no matter what origin, it may not be
out of place to give a couple of quotations typical of
conflicting views about the value of belief in connec-
tion with primitive art. The first is by Professor
Olbrechts, Curator of the Ethnographical Museum of
Ghent, who writes:
"A great deal of aesthetic satisfaction can be got from the
mere contemplation of primitive works of art, without regard
to their origin or social function." He adds to this: "Our
esthetic joy may be greatly increased by the study of the life
and customs that gave these works their existence."
But woe to those who in sympathy should turn for
further enlightenment on the life and customs to
Frazer's Golden Bough, on which he spent so many
years of his life collecting, sifting and arranging
primitive customs and beliefs. In his preface to
Aftermath, supplement to The Golden Bough, he
I was beguiled, as by some subtle enchanter, into inditing
what I cannot but regard as a dark, a tragic chronicle of
human error and folly, fruitless endeavour, wasted time and
blighted hopes." He concludes: ". at the best the
chronicle may serve as a warning, as a sort of Ariadne's
thread, to help the forlorn wayfarer to shun some of the
Forgotten for Europeans; perhaps, unrealisable. Rattray says some
Ashanti words have meanings which are untranslatable

snares and pitfalls into which his fellows have fallen before
him in the labyrinth of life."
Yet, in the presence of the very real esthetic
pleasure we receive from West African art, we cannot
abandon Professor Olbrecht's hope, for Frazer's des-
pair. We have to decide that even if the beliefs and
customs of primitive man be found wrong, his faith
in himself expressed in his art is right, no matter how
inadequately this faith may be expressed in his cus-
toms and beliefs.' The aesthetic pleasure his art gives
must remain a mystery between ourselves and art,
and not confused with the conditions of its back-
ground. For only if these two remain distinct (the
constancy of art and the changeableness of life) have
we any prospect of reconciling the opposed views
(hope and despair) on the value of art of the past.

Religious and Pure Abstraction
These works retain their aesthetic significance even
though the customs and beliefs are dead which'gave
rise to the works. So dogma and doctrine, of what-
ever kind, seem unimportant so long as belief is pre-
sent. An abstract belief without dogma and doc-
trine was not possible for African man nor, if it had
been, would it have given his art both individual
expression and a common appeal and bound his
people together in tribal life. Individual expression
and common appeal are the attributes of any great
and enduring art. Notwithstanding its gloomy im-
perfections of custom and belief, African society was
a fellowship founded near to the earth. Speaking
of sacred groves, Frazer says:

"All this, the grove, the tree and the stone represent the
EARTH, the sacred mother of all things."
In the Shongo cult of the Yorubas, at one time a
tribe of the most extensive influence in Nigeria, the
motif most frequently addressed by the carver to the
spirits controlling fertility is Mother and Child-
MOTHER EARTH feeding mankind. Every tribal
African identifies himself with mankind, the animals
and even trees, as children of the earth. It is not
difficult to accept the value of belief to the tribal
African, for it is impossible to conceive what he
would have done about life without it even had he
known his dogma and doctrine were shortly to be dis-
credited. The carver contributed vital expression to
this belief. In a language of common currency he
created an imagery representing the spirits control-
ling fertility, a first principle in the well-being of
himself, his family and tribe.
In the case of the Christian, his faith is itself an
abstract, withdrawing control from the spirits of
primitive faith, and placing it largely in the believ-
er's conscience. It calls for a representation by art
of the ideal type of human, to house the abstract
ideal conscience. Its Madonnas are representations
of ideal woman, not spirits. Religion and art for the
primitive are parts of life not to be considered separ-
ately. The business of art for him is to represent or
mirror with common appeal the unseen world of
spirits in their separate characters and identities con-
trolling man's well-being in the fertility of the earth.
Woman representing Mother Earth is portrayed
with the humility of the vulgar type, not the ideal.*
*See plates 16 and 17.

In such a setting, abstract art like pure "music of
the West could have no existence as a creative pro-
duct separate from the common touch and appeal.
The Western idea of "pure" abstraction in the
visual arts arises from the intellectual promotion of
the spirits controlling Africa, to atoms and electrons
going about their legitimate impersonal business, in
control of an impersonal universe.
Logically enough, a tribal African does not offend
his conscience in transgressing his belief, but the
spirits of the unseen world, whose offence if un-
checked would provoke them to take revenge upon
him, his family or whole tribe. The external world
has been denuded of spirits by Western man who has
included all their spiritual values in his conscience.
Their common appeal has been lost in the vagueness
of their abstract identities in conscience. The lepre-
chauns may still visit the Irish but they are no longer
sufficiently feared and respected to be honoured with
creative expression. It seems clear that faith must
be held with an esteem as moving as love and fear
for it to produce a religious art in which the creative
energy, controlled by emotional gears, has a common
appeal-no matter what direction it is given by

Antiquity, Climate, Materials, Tradition.
The question of the age of works is a difficult one
in the general obscurity of the dark continent."
Roger Bacon said that there is only one darkness and
that is ignorance. In a territory which is without

written records and in which mention of a military
defeat was forbidden on pain of death, no chrono-
logical order may be given to works of art. African
art therefore has to be seen in the same way as pre-
historic; without centuries and decades, in terms of
The vast area of the scene, profuse in animal life
and vegetation is inhabited by man at an advanced
stage of primitive development. Friendly climate
and fertility of the soil have a restraining influence
upon the development of the inhabitants. Agricul-
ture made an advance but domestication of cattle
was prevented by the tse-tse fly. On the tribal scale
there have been innumerable stirrings and fermen-
tations, liberating and suppressing in turn various
internal influences. Africa absorbed all external
influences without losing much to any of them,
before the penetration by Western science and in-
dustrialism. A degree of immunity to malaria was
acquired by the inhabitants, greatly assisting their
defence against foreign invaders. The archaeologist
finds surprises which suggest intrusions and foreign
influences that have vanished beyond other trace.t
The humidity of the climate is corrosive to all
materials, and the white ant is a rapid destroyer of
wood. It is unfortunate that wood should be the
staple material of the carver and the diet of the
white ant in a country which has no readily work-
The attempt made by a Parisian dealer, to date works in terms of
centuries, must be regarded as purely fanciful where it is not estab-
lished upon European influence.
t The bronze heads of Ife; steatite figures of Essie and terracottas of
femme, to mention Nigeria alone.


able stone. But this fact may have helped in pre-
serving the art of ancestor worshippers from the
static style of stone. The perishable condition of
wood, allowing no work to become a fixed example
for over-long, assisted the dynamic variety of style
so characteristic of West African art. But it is ques-
tionable if tribal life in small units would have sub-
mitted to a static tradition, even had it suited the
temperament of the African. A plentiful supply of
durable stone would nevertheless have had some in-
fluence in binding a style which we find so free. For
had, let us say, the porphyry sculptures of Egypt
crumbled away every few years under the attentions
of climate and white ant, no gigantic pharaohs
would have stood in the deserts, prohibiting for
dynasties any but the most superficial variations in
Egypt's. great and revered ancestral style. The ex-
traordinary versatility of African carvings, though
in the greater part due to the character of the race,
must have found some support in the corruptibility
of the limited materials.

African Abstraction of Form.
I can find no better, term for the abstraction in
negro sculpture than pre-logical form. What-
ever the term employed it must also be valid for that
abstraction found in its incipient form in children's
drawings. The adult negro preserves -the child's
initial impulse for self expression. Children's draw-
ings have a disarming simplicity like the humanity
of negro work. They share a freedom from self-

consciousness, though neither child nor negro thinks
the sensible world surrounding him looks like his
representations. Except ye become as little children
-without innocence, the unquestioning simplicity
of a child, undue regard will be paid to those non-
essentials that frustrate the expression of faith. Roger
Fry says in his Art of the Bushmen*:
The primitive drawing of our race is singularly like that
of children. Its most striking peculirity is the extent to which
it is dominated by concepts of the language. In a child's
drawing we find a number of forms which have scarcely any
reference to actual appearances, but which directly symbolise
the most significant concepts of the thing represented. For a
child a man is the sum concept of the head (which in turn
consists of eyes, nose and mouth), of his arms, his hands (five
fingers), his legs and his feet. Torso is not a concept which
interests him, and it is, therefore, usually reduced to a single
line which seems to link the concept-symbol head with those
of legs. The child does, of course, know that the figure thus
drawn is not like man, but it is a kind of hieroglyphic script
for man, and satisfies his desire for expression."
We must acknowledge Fry's shrewd observations
on the similarity between the drawings of the child
and the bushman. The bushman and the child draw
in a style known as schematism. This may be ex-
plained, as Fry suggests, as a sort of abbreviated
naturalism or shorthand statement-" hieroglyphic
script." It must not be confused with the negro ab-
straction which I have called pre-logical form. The
negro's treatment of the torso is as direct as the
child's drawing of the head (eyes, nose and mouth)
but it is not so simple and crude. He is interested in
"The Art of the Bushmen-Vision and Design," by Roger Fry. An
article reprinted from the Burlington Magazine, 1910.


those features of the torso giving expression to his
belief: the navel-the cord of life; the mother's out-
thrusting breasts-sustainers of infant life; the pubis
-the portal of life and, the cicatrices and tribal
markings on the body-his passport to join the spirits
of his tribal companions in the life after death. With
these features duly emphasised by enlargement and
simplification he seeks to give the torso the divine
aspect of the threshold of the supernatural world.
The plain surfaces of the torso and the limbs have
no meaning for him, with their subtle surface undu-
lations. His only use of these parts is to reduce them
to assist in the expression of the capital features,
bringing them into a new unity as a representation
of a spirit, in which he sees the supernatural world
reflected in the sensible.
A child knows nothing of the features of the torso.
He draws the sense organs of the head because for
him they represent the mysterious sensible world he
is entering gradually with the aid of adults. The
child would not mistake the face of another for his
mother's. He is aware of the subtler features of the
head but they have as yet no meaning for him. The
European child soon acquires a conscience to deal
with the spirits inhabiting the negro's world of belief.
In his interest in fairy tales and in his private
moments with his young companions he shows the
old inherited disposition to people the sensible world
about him with spirits. Neither child nor negro
carver is intellectually interested in form, otherwise
they could not use it so freely nor would they care so
little for the fate of their finished work. The child

discards and destroys his work, and the primitive
that of his defeated enemies-no matter what
aesthetic merit it possesses. Yet the negro's carving
could not surpass the child's drawing in complete-
ness or finality, as it does, if he had not some interest
in form. The nature of his intimacy with form is
perhaps best described by an analogy. To him, form
is a token of indirect value-much in the same way
as we consider the formula in making out bank
cheques; extremely important in every detail but of
no value unless there is credit to meet the draft. No
one, outside a school of accountancy, makes out and
receives bank cheques for the sake of their appear-
ance. Bank cheques become our fetish-as carving,
for the negro-but never our idol. Negro art is a
creative representation like the drawing of the child
which has for a time the power to stimulate his grasp
at something unseen by an abstraction of something
When form is employed in the indirect manner of
the child, the negro carver and our bankers, all its
values are pressed into the service of expression. No
self-conscious technique is permitted to divert the
urgency of expression. The grammarians of form (to
paraphrase a term from the study of languages*)
.come later to make it a self-conscious technique with
hair-splitting shades of meaning. This happens
when the fire of the first purpose is down to embers.
Philology-the study of languages in connection with the whole
moral and intellectual action of the peoples using them; but the most
common meaning now is science of language; linguistic science; often
expressed by the comparative title of comparative philology-Concise
English Dictionary. The intellectual study of form becomes as de-
tached from the urgency of its original use in art as it does in lan-

The African School.
The art schools of West Africa were its secret
societies. Captain F. W. Butt-Thompson says of
them in his West African Secret Societies:
They were instituted to enforce and maintain tribal tradi-
tions, customs and beliefs that were in danger of changing or
becoming obsolete. The organizers were champions of the
old against the new, as some of their descendants still are.
They were restrictors of mental advance and punishers of the
heretic and the unorthodox. They were clever enough to
know that prohibition alone was not sufficient foundation for
any society desiring longevity, and, therefore, made their
societies the repositories of folk-lore, myths and history and
the conceptions of art and culture and learning and wisdom
the tribe possessed. Moreover, they became the teachers of
these things. The only teachers."
Primitive institutions such as these first conserved
the arts and developed them by organising their
common appeal. Art flourished under them as long
as their powers of conservatism expanded, but when
their expansion ceased and conservatism became
absolute and static, art declined. The axiom of their
wisdom was to interpret and impersonate the spirits
of the unseen world in a form of belief which sur-
vived long in the isolation of Africa. Art expressed
their religious emotions in organised and restrained
Early European. adventurers who went to West
Africa found art in full flower of expression,
which they did not understand. They and the early
missionaries saw nothing of value in pagan ways and

beliefs comparable to Christianity and much was
destroyed in the zeal of punishment and conversion.
No constructive comment may be made upon that.
What was preserved for curiosity or scientific interest
had long to wait in Europe-for a more eclectic
meaning in tradition-before it was to receive any
recognized spiritual significance there. Europe's
economic penetration of Africa short-circuited any
further evolution. Who can say if the West Africa
of the future-its people equipped with a European
conscience, in place of a host of spirit mentors-will
find a new form of artistic expression?
The carver's knowledge of form was confined to
its volume and surface. He knew how to make his
material* express the emotions of his simple belief.
We do not find him attempting in his figures the ex-
ploration of space by an arrangement of his forms on
a spiral axis; the spines of his figures are never repre-
sented in rotation, giving all views (front, side and
back) a variety of outline.t He seldom turns the
head upon the neck. His carvings present but two
views in contour, front and side. Curiously, and per-
haps significantly, the child, in carvings of Mother
and Child, is an exception. In works from both
Yorubaland and the Belgian Congo, the child is re-
presented in a freer attitude in contrast to the
Most of their work was in wood, the subject of this volume, but
they had the same sympathy for all materials in which they worked.
t Some notable exceptions to this observation are the stone figures
(steatite nomalies" and rice gods) of Sierra Leone. They are of
ancient origin and probably of foreign influence. Other exceptions such
as the Portuguese riflemen and archebusiers in bronze from Benin, are
also accepted as in an introduced style.

straight uprightness of its mother. Generally speak-
ing, the rigidity of posture in African carvings leaves
all suggestion of movement to the subtle variation of
forms and surfaces.
The cosmogony of primitive Africa does not ex-
tend to the free spaces beyond its tropical forests and
above its moody blue and leaden sky, which is re-
garded as a solid plane-a ceiling. Africa, in its art,
reflected the limited boundaries of its sensible world;
back, front and sides of figures-the four winds; the
feet and head-earth and sky. The unseen places
in which the African's spirit may have roamed did
not call upon his imagination to explore them in
sculptural form.



Kjersmeir, Carl, Centres de Style de la Sculpture Africaine. Paris,
Sweeney, J. J., African Negro Art. N.Y., 1935.
Maes, J. et Lavachery, H., Art Negre. Brussels, 1930.
Herskovito, Melville J., The Background of African Art. Denver,
Guillaume, Paul and Munro, Thomas, Negro Sculpture. 1926.
Portier and Poncetton, Les Arts Sauvages Afrique.
Einstein, La Sculpture Africaine. Paris, 1920.
Olbrechts: Foreword, Primitive Art Exhibition, Berkeley Gallery,
June, 1947.
Underwood, Leon, Masks of West Africa. 1947.

Dennett, R. E., Nigerian Studies. At the Back of the Black Man's
Rattray, Ashanti, Religion and Art of the Ashanti.
Fraser, J. G., The Golden Bough.
Monod, Th., Au bord de l'Ocean Ten6breux; Atlantic et Afrique.
Spearing: The Childhood of Art.
Burton, R. F.: Notes on Certain Matters Connected with the Daho-
man. Memoirs-Anthropological Society, Vol. 1, No. 10. 1863.
Bulletins of L'Institute Francais d'Afrique Noir. Notes Africaines.

Kingsley, Mary, West African Studies, travels in West Africa.' 1897.
Clarke, J. D., Omu: An Educational Experiment.
Gorer, G., Africa Dances. London.
Frobenius, L., Africa Genesis. (Translations of Folk Lore).
Gorvie, Max, Old and New in Sierra Leone.
D'Albeca, A. L., La France au Dahomey.
Fry, Roger, Vision and Design.

En traitant de 1'Art de 1'Afrique Occidentale, j'ai eu
particulierement present a I'esprit le vague qui, au XXeme
si&cle, s'attache au sens du terme primitif, appliqu6 a 1'art.
Notre connaissance accrue du passe a fait 6clore une telle
variet6 d'616ments dans la conception du mot primitif qu'ils
excluent de son sens toute association avec la grossieret6. Des
616ments, comme le naturalism dans I'art pr6historique, le
schimatisme dans l'art chez I'enfant et I'homme des forces, et
l'abstraction, par example dans lart negre et d'autres encore,
demandent A etre tiss6s tels les fils d'une meme toile, compre-
nant a la fois le passe et le present. Les rapports entire des
616ments si varies dans l'art primitif ancien n'ont pas 6t6
6claircis par les 6tudiants de Farch6ologie et de la pr6histoire
qui, I'aide de la m6thode scientifique, en ont d6couvert et
conservi pour nous les tout premiers examples.
C'est seulement dans la conscience de l'artiste vivant que
ces 616ments s6par6s peuvent 8tre r6unis. Pour moi, par
example, qui m'int6resse depuis longtemps A toutes les formes
de l'art primitif, il existe un rapport entire des formes si variees.
Elles ont 6volu6 suivant les modifications de I'habitat de la
divinity : essence spirituelle qui inspire toute expression artisti-
que. Les speculations sur les abstractions de l'Art de 1'Afrique
Occidentale, exprimees dans ces pages, sont bases sur cette
proposition: tres briivement, on peut la considered comme
une transition op6r6e en trois stages.
Premidrement, art primitif realiste des temps prehistoriques.
La divinity qui exigeait une expression artistique, r6sidait dans
l'objet repr6sent6. Par example, le bison, sujet de nombreux
dessins de grotte, 6tait a la fois ador6 et mang6.
Deuxidment, 'art primitif abstrait de 'Afrique Occidentale
et d'ailleurs. La divinity invisible qui habite le monde des
esprits 6tait distinct de la representation artistique du monde
sensible et cependant lui 6tait associ6e.*
*La manducation solennelle et occasionnelle de la divinity survit dans
le tot6misme et, sous une forme symbolique, dans le sacrement chretien.


Troisement, I'art contemporain qui, psychologiquement
parlant, est en transition avec I're chritienne. Le monde des
esprits (celui du deuxieme degr6 de transition) se d6peuple et
la divinity reside dans la conscience individuelle. Cette
hypothhse rev8t A la fois le r6alisme de l'art pal6olithique et
l'abstraction ou l'absence de r6alisme dans 1'Art de 1'Afrique
Occidentale d'un sens spiritual, c'est-a-dire religieux qui prend
diff6rentes forces.
Pour repr6senter un esprit invisible de 1'Afrique Occidentale
une resemblance r6aliste de sa contre-partie dans le monde
sensible ne convient pas; seulement une resemblance
suffisante est n6cessaire a les identifier. Si on trouve que cette
id6e fournisse une explication acceptable du caract&re abstrait
de l'Art de l'Afrique Occidentale, c'est tout ce qui est requis
Il est cependant possible d'ajouter que l'aspect naturaliste
de l'art grec doit 6tre regard non comme un retour du
premier stage, mais comme une diminution de l'abstraction
du second. Le raffinement de l'abstraction chez les Grecs
d6joua son dessein et eut pour r6sultat le naturalism d6nu.
de toute expression. Celui-ci fut amen6 par 1'6veil de leurs
connaissances scientifiques et la pratique croissante de la
mensuration, et se poursuivit jusqu'd ce que 1'expression
retrouvat sa place en Europe dans la reaction primitive des
styles Roman et Byzantin.

'ART de 1'Afrique Occidentale ne s'est lib6r6 que
r6cemment en Europe de la chrysalide protectrice de
1'ethnologie dans laquelle il reposait depuis tant
d'annies, et a exerc6 un attrait sur le public pour
des raisons esth6tiques. Depuis son emergence de la vitrine de
mus6e pendant les trente dernieres ann6es, de nombreuses
expositions en furent faites, et le public s'est rendu compete
de l'influence que cet art exerce sur l'art technique et experi-
mental europ6en. La tradition artistique est en fait devenue

plus 6clectique, et a 6t6 tire d'un passe aux sources plus
large. L'Europ6en considere maintenant I'histoire sous un
autre jour. II ne la confine plus a 1'6tude 6troite de sa propre
descendance et des traits qui lui sont particuliers, 6tude base
sur le language parl6 et 6crit; mais son int6r8t s'accroit mainte-
nant de la connaissance de I'image de ses ancetres, hors de la
sphere limited de cette evidence. L'archdologie et les autres
sciences ont contribu6 a lui 6ter tout sens d'isolement. Mais
tout en l6argissant son horizon spiritual elles ont jet6 le trouble
dans son esprit. Sous la poussi6re du pass elles lui ont r6v6l6
d'autres facteurs d'une importance ultime plus grande que les
luttes r6gionales entire des chefs despotiques qui remplissent
les pages de son histoire.* On a d6fini avec esprit que la
poussi&re 6tait de la matiere au mauvais endroit. Les petits
grains vagabonds, molecules de poussiere ancienne charges de
sens, ont trouv6s leur propre endroit enfin-au service
de l'homme. Dans ce r6ajustement de la matiere, quelle part
revient aux m6thodes ddlib6r6es de la science ou a la simple
croyance speculative de l'homme, il n'entre pas dans notre
sujet de le dire, mais la oi l'art a contribu6 a fagonner
I'homme dans le pass on ne peut mettre en doute que la
croyance speculative ait jou6 une part important. Des
vestiges de l'histoire, mis a jour par la science, r6v&lent un
certain sch6ma recurrent qui montre l'homme, tatonnant
6ternellement parmi les cendres du foyer de ses anc8tres -
a la recherche de l'oeuf du Phoenix. L'invention meme du
mythe du Phcenix est l'evidence du d6sir puissant de I'homme
a fouiller dans les cendres ancestrales. Nous n'avons pas le
droit de mettre en question l'importance de cette activity
incessante, livr6e a enlever la poussiere qui recouvre les ruines
de l'art des 6poques les plus recul6es. Cette activity r6vele
seulement une chose dans le myst&re de l'existence de
Des fragments de sculpture prehistorique ont et6 decouverts sous les
debris qui couvraient les foyers de I'homme pr6historique: en 1909, A
Willendorf en Autriche, on trouva une petite statue de femme
(d'environ cinq pouces de haut, en calcaire oolithique) de proportions
considerees comme grotesques, et appelee steatopage. Elle etait
enfouie A six pieds de profondeur, dans le remblai d'une voie ferree,
pros d'un foyer de carbon de bois. On pense qu'elle remontait A 1'age
d'Aurignac ou de Solutre (30,000 ans avant J. C. ?).

1'homme: son genie d'observation dans la poursuite du
sublime. L'homme qui est poussiere et retourne a la poussiere
a remu6 p6riodiquement les amoncellements de 1'antiquit6
pour y trouver quelque grain de poussiere 6gar6e qui puisse
le pousser a s'emparer d'une perfection nouvelle. L'artiste de
1'occident commence a consid6rer sous un nouveau jour les
objets d'art bizarre de 1'Afrique Occidentale.
Les triomphes du passe sont redvlds par les dificultis
Durant les cent dernieres annees en Europe, la technique
des arts visuels s'est oriented graduellement du pr6c6dent de
1'epoque classique a celui de 1'epoque primitive. Dans cette
nouvelle orientation il faut noter deux impulsions. Premi&re-
ment, la rupture d'avec le sujet classique ancien fut suivie
d'un effort vers une technique naturaliste perfectionn6e,
suivant la voie de la nouvelle science optique : le r6sultat en
fut l'impressionnisme. Secondement, lorsque l'artiste eut
6puis6 tous les usages possibles de 1'optique, il devint post-
impressionniste et tourna alors son attention vers 1'6tude de I'art
primitif. Sa recherche assidue de l'ceuf du Phcenix au milieu
des cendres millionaires fut renouvellee. L'artiste post-
impressionniste 6tudia 1'art de 1'Afrique Occidentale entire
autres arts primitifs. Dans le domaine de 1'art, 1'impres-
sionnisme, aid6 de la m6thode de la science optique, avait
6chou6 a prendre la place du sujet classique alors ecart6,
mais je n'ai pas la place ici d'l6aborer cette declaration. Nous
devons regarder 1'impressionnisme et le postimpressionnisme
come des movements touchant les choses guere plus pro-
fondes que la technique-et non come le theme d'une innova-
tion mais plutBt comme un d6sir de fuir une croyance ancienne
dans la recherche d'une nouvelle technique. L'impressionnisme
conserve les rigles classiques de dessin, fond6es sur une com-
prehension de la mensuration, mais celles-ci furent rejet6es par
le postimpressionnisme apris 1'etude que fit ce movement de
primitif.* Les adeptes de ce movement 6prouvaient le d6sir
Voir le volume sur les Masques pour un essai plus complete sur
l'abstraction dans l'art de l'Afrique occidentale, et sa difference de
l'abstraction pure du post-impressionisme.

d'un sujet et en regrettaient l'absence, mais n'en purent trouver
qui remplacat I'inspiration envol6e.
Le surr6alisme represente un effort vers la restauration d'un
sujet, sous une forme 6mancipee, par la presentation visuelle
de ce don't sont faits les raves. Cette presentation 6tait
op6rbe par une juxtaposition artificielle qui imitait la confu-
sion strange mais logique du subconscient telle qu'elle est
exposee par les psychanalystes. Mais ce d6guisement
ing6nieux etait trop intellectual pour produire des tableaux.
Les dons intellectuals des individus des groups important de
la soci6t6 sont trop inegaux pour qu'on puisse faire appel au
group par l'interm6diaire de intelligence. Le surr6alisme
n6cessitait et suscita surtout des lgions d'interprktes.
Ce pr6ambule 6tait n6cessaire pour nous faire sentir la signi-
fication de la forme abstraite de l'art de 1'Afrique Occi-
dentale. Pour nous comme pour les tout premiers impres-
sionnistes l'art africain peut 8tre vu intimement dans sa
beauty et sa puissance primitives, dans le miroir de l'art
contemporain. La distinction majeure entire le post-
impressionniste et l'africain don'tt celui-lA avait commence A
6tudier l'art) reside dans la position diff6rente que l'art occu-
pait dans leurs vies respective. Van Gogh et Paul Ganguin,
conscients de l'attrait plus general de l'art primitif pour son
people ne purent pas 6largir cet attrait de l'art dans la vie de
leurs propres compatriotes.

Realisme et abstraction.
C'est une foi simple et universelle* qui trouve son expression
dans les statues sculpt6es de 1'Afrique Occidentale. Le traite-
ment abstrait d'une forme chez l'africain est une survivance
d'un prototype plus general qui, en Europe, dura jusqu'a
l'art primitif grec. II disparut pour reparaitre A nouveau dans
I'art Roman et l'art Byzantin. Sur les marbres d'Elgin et sur
les sculptures africaines du British Museum on peut voir deux
formes donnies par la sculpture A deux croyances divergentes.
Universel a l'int6rieur de la zone de culture de la tribe et de son


Le r6alisme de I'art grec reflite le d6veloppement intellectual
des grecs qui exigeait une comparison de plus en plus
d6taill6e entire la forme sculpt6e et la forme naturelle. Les
grecs exprimaient les complexitis muscuaires du corps
human; ils y atteignirent par l'observation raisonn6e des toutes
les subtilit6s ext6rieures de forme qui anticipaient l'6tude de
l'anatomie par l'artiste. Dans l'art primitif grec la t8te 6tait
expressive, mais plus tard le corps prit pr6c6dence et devint le
point central d'expression alors que la tete devenait un
masque placide. C'est A ce point-la que l'art grec avanc6
et l'art africain (consid6r6 come le prototype de l'art primi-
tif grec) sont le plus 6loign6s l'un de 1'autre. Le sculpteur
africain traite la forme d'une maniere non r6aliste et centralise
1'expression sur la tete.* La logique et les proportions n'ont
aucune part dans sa r6alisation de l'unit6 sculpturelle. Le
sculpteur africain tire toutes ses formes d'une 6tude appro-
fondie de la nature, mais il en tire une abstraction qui d6passe
toute comparison immediate ou directed avec les modules de
la nature. Son oeuvre posside une unit d'une espece
diff6rente que j'appelerai pre-logique car, contrairement
a I'oeuvre grecque elle n'exige aucune confirmation apport6e
par la comparison logique avec les formes naturelles. Avant
de quitter la sculpture grecque, il est bon de faire remarquer
que les plus 6loquentes oeuvres de sculpture grecque sont celles
des 6poques primitives, 6poques ot l'on permettait a chaque
artiste individuellement de d6vier davantage de I'id6al 6tabli.
En fait, -la perfection servile atteinte en dernier lieu grace a
la mensuration dans les derniers examples de sculpture de l'art
grec, lui enleva toute vie et toute expression.
Ce proc6d6 d'abstraction op6r6 sur une forme naturelle
peut en quelque sorte etre consid6r6 comme le verbe du
language du sculpteur. Cette variation de la forme naturelle
dans I'art du pass, qu'il soit primitif ou classique, chr6tien
ou paien, est le facteur commun qui lie entire eux des examples
diff6rents et rend superficielles des differences plus 6videntes
entire ces ceuvres, en tant qu'ceuvres d'art. La technique
*La thte des statues 6tant de proportions exager6es, en tant que
centre d'expression dans l'art africain, le portrait semble avoir ete
introduit par une influence 6trangere.

directed et pr6logique du sculpteur africain qui s'occupait sous
une forme abstraite du sujet de croyance commun a tous, lui
attirait tous les coeurs aussi bien que les totes de quelques uns.
Egar6es et trait6es de simples f6tiches dans un monde plus
mat6rialiste, les ceuvres africaines d6pendaient, pour etre
reconnues come oeuvres d'art, d'un trait d'union entire les
concepts europ6ens et africains impliquant une interpr6ta-
tion moins stigmatisante du mot primitif. En 6tudiant cette
oeuvre parallelement a I'art de la Gr&ce, et a travers le miroir
contemporain qui s'est d6ja ombr6 d'art primitif, on peut
deviner ce qu'est I'art de 1'Afrique Occidentale.
L'Art et la religion africains.
Dans le volume sur les masques de 1'Afrique Occidentale,
j'ai dit que les representations sculpt6es d'une colonies d'esprits
sont maintenant consid6r6es par nos ames moins cr6dules
come des ceuvres d'art. Une certain lucidity baigne les
ceuvres inspires par la foi. C'est quelque chose qui s'ajoute
a la signification spirituelle de la croyance et qui survit dans
des oeuvres qui apris, occupent leur rang parmi les chefs-
d'oeuvres du monde. Le sens qu'elles acquierent en tant que
symbols d'une foi religieuse, se transmue en sens artistique,
longtemps apris que sont oubli6s le dogme et la doctrine qui
leur ont donn6 naissance. Vues sous cet angle-la, come des
documents de l'essence d'une croyance oublie* les oeuvres d'art
laissent loin derriere elles leur milieu original, leur dogme et
leur doctrine particuliers. Comme le principle de contiguity
semble indiscutable dans tout art quelle que soit son origine
- il n'est peut-8tre pas d6plac6 de faire deux citations typi-
ques d'opinions contradictoires sur la valeur de la croyance
par rapport a l'art primitif.
La premiere est du professeur Olbrechts, conservateur du
Mus6e Ethnographique de Gand, qui 6crit: "on peut tirer
beaucoup de plaisir esth6tique a la simple contemplation
d'oeuvres d'art primitif, sans tenir compete de leur origine ou
de leur function social a cela il ajoute "notre joie esth6ti-
Oublie des Europeens et peut-etre irr6alisable. Rattray dit que
certain mots d'Ashanti ont des sens qui ne sont pas traduisibles.
Rattray, Ashanti.

que peut etre grandement accrue par 1'Ntude de la vie et des
mceurs qui donnlrent naissance a ces ceuvres." Mais malheur
a ceux qui, par sympathie et pour accroitre leurs connais-
sances, se tourneraient vers The Golden Bough de Frazer! Il y
passa bien des ann6es de sa vie a compiler, trier et classer des
documents sur les mceurs, coutiunes et croyances primitives.
Dans sa preface a Aftermath, supplement de The Golden Bough
il dit: "Je fus entrain6 come par quelque subtil enchanteur
a r6diger ce que je ne puis consid6rer qu'une chronique
sombre et tragique d'erreurs et de folies humaines, d'entre-
prises st6riles, de temps perdu, d'espoirs bris6s." II conclut
"tout au plus cette chronique peut servir d'avertissement,
comme une sorte de fil d'Ariane qui aidera le malheureux
voyageur a 6viter certain des pi&ges et des trappes oii ses
camarades sont tombs avant lui dans le labyrinthe de la vie."
Pourtant, en presence du plaisir esth6tique tris r6el que nous
ressentons devant 1'art de 1'Afrique Occidentale nous ne
pouvons renoncer a 1'espoir du Professeur Olbrecht, pour nous
laisser aller au d6sespoir de Frazer. II nous faut d6cider que
m8me si les croyances et les coutfumes de l'homme primitif
peuvent 8tre erronees, sa foi en lue-meme, exprimee dans son
art, est just, quelle que soit la manihre inadequate don't il
d6crive ses croyances et ses mceurs. Le plaisir esth6tique que
donne son art doit rester un mystere entire nous-memes et
l'art, et ne doit pas etre confondu avec son milieu. Car c'est
seulement si ces deux 616ments (la permanence de I'art et le
mutability de la vie) restent distincts que nous pouvons
entretenir 1'espoir de r6concilier les opinions opposes (espoir
et d6sespoir) sur la valeur de l'art du passe.

Abstraction pure et religieuse.
Ces oeuvres retiennent un sens esth6tique meme si les
coutimes et croyances qui leur ont donn6 naissance sont
mortes. Ainsi, quels que soient le dogme et la doctrine, ils
semblent futiles tant que la foi est pr6sente. Une croyance
abstraite sans dogme ni doctrine n'6tait pas possible a l'afri-
cain non plus que eft elle 6t6 possible elle n'aurait donned
A son art 1'expression individuelle, l'attrait pour tous. ni la


puissance unifiante qui amena les tribus a se former.
L'expression individuelle et 'attrait pour tous sont les attri-
buts de tout art grand et durable. Malgr6 les m6lancoliques
imperfections de ses mceurs et de ses croyances, la soci6t6
africaine 6tait une union don't les racines 6taient dans le sol.
Parlant des bois sacr6s, Frazer dit: Tout cela, la plantation,
l'arbre, la pierre repr6sentent la terre, mire sacr6e de routes
choses." Dans le culte de Shongo des Yorubes, qui furent
pendant un temps, une tribu qui exerca une influence
extensive sur la Nigeria, le motif le plus fr6quemment mis en
usage par l'artiste pour invoquer les esprits qui dispensent
la fertility est celui de la mere et de l'enfant: notre mere, la
Terre, nourrissant l'humanit6. Chaque membre de la tribu
en Afrique s'identifi6 avec I'humanit6, les animaux et meme
les arbres, en tant qu'enfants de la terre. II n'est pas difficile
d'accepter l'importance de sa croyance chez un africain, car
il est impossible de concevoir quelle attitude envers la vie il
aurait eue sans foi, m8me s'il avait su que bient6t son dogme
et sa doctrine allaient etre mis en doute. Le sculpteur dotait
cette croyance d'une expression vitale. Dans une langue qui
avait course il cr6ait des images repr6sentant les esprits qui
donnaient la fertility, premier principle qui assurait sa bien-
6tre, celui de sa famille et de sa tribu.
Dans le cas du chr6tien, sa foi est en elle-m8me une abstrac-
tion qui retire tout contr6le aux esprits de la foi primitive et
le place en grande parties dans la conscience du croyant. Cette
foi demand une representation artistique du type id6al de
l'homme pour abriter I'id6al abstrait de la conscience. Les
madones sont des representations de la femme id6ale, non
d'esprits. Pour le primitif, la religion et l'art sont des aspects
de la vie qu'on ne doit pas consid6rer s6par6ment. Pour lui,
l'objet de I'art c'est de r6pr6senter ou de refl6ter, en plaisant a
tous, le monde invisible des esprits avec leurs caract6risques et
leurs identit6s s6par6es, r6gissant les conditions du bien-&tre
de l'homme par la fertility de la terre. La femme, represent-
ant notre mere, la Terre, est inspire d'un type humble et
commun non id6alis6. Dans un tel cadre, I'art abstrait, tout
comme la musique pure de I'Occident, ne pouvait exister, en
tant que creation, distinct du goft et des m6thodes communs.

La conception occidentale d'abstraction pure dans les arts
visuels provient de la promotion intellectuelle des esprits qui
r6gissaient 1'Afrique en atomes et electrons qui se livrent a
leurs affaires l1gitimes et impersonnelles, tout en gouverant
un universe impersonnel.
II suit logiquement que, en transgressant sa foi, l'homme de
la tribu africaine n'offense pas sa conscience mais les esprits
du monde invisible don't la colere non apais6e les pousserait a
exercer leur vengeance sur lui, sa famille ou la tribu entire.
Le monde externe a 6t6 d6nu6 d'esprits par l'occidental qui a
renferm6 toutes ses valeurs spirituelles dans sa conscience. Le
vague qui s'attache a I'attrait de toutes ces entit6s don't le si6ge
est la conscience leur a fait perdre leur popularity.
Les leprechauns peuvent encore se rencontrer en Irlande,
mais ils n'inspirent plus ni assez de frayeur, ni assez de respect
pour qu'on les honor d'une expression cr6atrice. Il semble
clair que la foi doive 8tre aussi forte que les emotions d'amour
ou de crainte pour produire un art religieux don't la puissance
cr6atrice, r6gl6e par un jeu d'6motions variees, fasse appel a
tout le monde quelle que soit la direction que lui donne la
Antiquiti, climate, materiaux, tradition.
La question de l'anciennet6 des ceuvres d'art est rendue
difficile par l'obscurit6 g6n6rale du continent noir. Roger
Bacon a dit qu'il n'y avait qu'une seule obscurity et que c'6tait
I'ignorance. Dans un territoire qui ne posside pas de r6cits
6crits et oiu la mention d'une d6faite militaire 6tait d6fendue
sous peine de mort, on ne peut donner aux ceuvres d'art aucun
ordre chronologique. C'est pourquoi on doit regarder lart
d'Afrique de la meme faqon que I'art pr6historique, sans
siecles ni decades, en terms d'evolution.*
Un pays d'une vaste superficie oi la faune et la flore sont
abondantes est habit par Phomme qui a atteint un 6tage
avanc6 dans le d6veloppement primitif. Un climate clement
et la fertility du sol ont une influence mod6ratrice sur 1'evolu-
L'essai fait par un marchand parisien de dater les ceuvres d'art en
terms de siecles dolt etre regarded comme une pure fantasie tant que
ces oeuvres ne subissent pas d'influence europ6enne.

tion des habitants. L'agriculture fit des progres mais 1'l6evage
des troupeaux fut empech6 par la mouche ts6-ts6. Dans les
tribus, il y eut d'innombrables movements de r6volte en
ferment, lib6rant ou r6primant tour a tour des influences
int6rieures varies. L'Afrique absorba toutes les influences
ext6rieures sans rien perdre a cause d'elles, avant la p6n6tra-
tion op6r6e par la science et I'industrialisme occidentaux.
Une certain immunity contre le paludisme fut acquise par les
habitants, qui les aida beaucoup h se d6fendre contre les
envahisseurs strangers. L'arch6ologue a des surprises en
d6couvrant des signes d'intrusions et d'influences 6trang&res
qui ont disparu sans plus laisser de traces.*
L'humidit6 du climate corrode toutes substances et la fourmi
blanche ou termite est un destructeur du bois tris rapide. II
est regrettable que le bois soit la matiere par excellence don't
travaille le sculpteur et don't se nourrit la fourmi blanche
dans un pays qui ne possede pas de pierre se pr8tant facile-
ment A la sculpture. Mais il est possible que ce fait ait
contribu6 A preserver 1'art des adeptes du culte des dieux
lares du danger du style statique de la pierre. Le bois 6tant
p6rissable ne permettait a aucune ceuvre d'assumer un
caract&re de dur6e et ceci ajouta I la vari6t6 de styles et au
dynamisme si caract6risque de l'art de 1'Afrique Occidentale.
Mais la question est de savoir si la vie de tribu en petits
groupements se serait soumise a la tradition statique meme si
elle avait convenu au temperament de l'africain. Une
resource abondante de pierre durable aurait eu neanmoins
quelque influence stabilisatrice sur un style que nous trouvons
si spontan6. En effet supposons que les sculptures 6gyptiennes
de porphyre se soient 6croul6es en quelques ann6es a cause du
climate et de la fourmi blanche, aucun des gigantesques
pharaons ne se serait dress au-dessus des deserts prohibant
aux dynasties a venir toute variation, sauf les plus-superfi-
cielles, dans l'art antique, majesteux et r6v6re de 1'Egypte.
La diversity extraordinaire des sculptures africaines, bien
qu'en grande parties die au caractere de la race a di& trouver
quelque appui dans la corruptibility des mat6riaux limits.
Les t&tes de bronze de Ife; les statues steatites d'Essie et les terres
suites de Jemme, pour ne mentionner que la Nigeria.

L'Abstraction de la forme en Afrique.
Je ne peux trouver de terme plus just pour d6finir
1'abstraction dans la sculpture negre que celui de forme
pre-logique. Quel que soit le terme employee, il faut aussi
qu'il soit valide pour d6crire 1'abstraction que l'on trouve sous
sa forme naissante dans les dessins d'enfant. L'adulte nigre
conserve l'impulsion initial qu'a l'enfant pour s'exprimer.
Les dessins d'enfant ont une simplicity naive qui s'apparente
au caractere human de l'ceuvre nigre. Ils sont tous les deux
exempts de timidity, quoique ni 1'un ni 1'autre ne croie que
le monde sensible qui l'entoure resemble aux representations
qu'il en donne. Si vous ne devenez de petits enfants .. ."
sans cette innocence cette simplicity de l'enfant qui ne met
rien en doute, on rendra un hommage exag6r6 a ces traits
secondaires qui mettent obstacle a I'expression de la foi -
Roger Fry a dit dans l'Art of the Bushman :* Les dessins
primitifs de notre race ressemblent 6trangement a ceux des
enfants. Leur caract&re le plus frappant est leur d6pendance
des concepts du language. Dans un dessin d'enfant on trouve
un certain nombre de formes qui ne r6pondent guere a des
apparences r6elles, mais qui symbolisent directement la con-
ception la plus significative de la chose repr6sent6e. Pour un
enfant la conception d'un homme se resume en la t&te (qui a
son tour consiste en yeux, nez et bouche), les bras, les mains
(cinq doigts), les jambes et les pieds. Le torse ne l'int6resse
pas et il est par consequent r6duit en g6n6ral a une seule
ligne qui semble constituer le lien entire le symbol du concept
tete et les jambes. L'enfant salt naturellement que le corps
ainsi dessin6 n'est pas come celui de l'homme mais c'est
une sorte de hi6roglyphe de I'homme, et cela satisfait son d6sir
d'expression." II convient de reconnaitre la perspicacity des
observations de Fry sur la similarity entire les dessins de
I'enfant et de I'homme de la fort. Leur dessin est d'un style
appel6 sch6matisme. On peut 'expliquer, comme le suggere
Fry, comme une sorte de naturalisme abr6g6 ou une d6clara-
The Art of the Bushmen-Vision and Design par Roger Fry. Article
reimprimn dans le Burlington Magazine de 1910.


tion faite en st6nographie ou signe hieroglyphique. Ce qu'il
ne faut pas confondre avec 1'abstraction faite par le nigre
que j'ai appelke forme pr6-logique. La mani&re don't le nigre
interprite le torse est aussi directed que celle de l'enfant
dessinant la thte (avec les yeux, le nez et la bouche) mais elle
n'est pas si simple ni si grossi&re. II s'int6resse a ces caracteres
du torse qui donnent une expression a sa croyance : le nombril
- le cordon ombilical, les seins en saillie de la mare qui
entretiennent la vie de I'enfant; le pubis portail de la vie,
et les cicatrices et les signes distinctifs de la tribu sur le corps
- passport qui lui permettra de rejoindre les esprits de ses
compagnons de tribu dans la vie de l'au-dela. En insistant
sur ces traits et en les l6argissant tout en les simplifiant il
cherche a donner au torse l'aspect divin qui distingue le seuil
du monde surnaturel. Les surfaces planes du torse et les
membres avec leurs ondulations superficielles et subtiles ne lui
disent rien. Son seul usage de ses parties du corps est de
diminuer les forces conceptuelles pour arriver a exprimer les
traits capitaux et les amener a former une nouvelle unit qui
repr6sente un esprit: dans cet esprit il voit, refl6t6 dans le
monde sensible, le monde surnaturel.
Un enfant ignore tout des caract6ristiques du torse. II
dessine les organes des sens de la tete, car pour lui ils
repr6sentent le monde sensible et myst6rieux oiu il entire
graduellement avec 1'aide des adults. L'enfant ne con-
fondrait pas le visage d'un autre avec celui de sa mare. II
est conscient de la subtilit6 des traits qui distinguent une tete
d'une autre mais ces traits n'ont encore aucun sens pour lui.
Le petit europ6en acquiert bient6t une conscience pour se
comporter correctement envers les esprits qui habitent le
monde spiritual du negre. Par l'int6r8t qu'il porte aux contest
des f6es et dans ses rapports intimes avec ses jeunes compag-
nons, il montre quil a h6rit6 de ses ancetres la tendance A
peupler d'esprits le monde sensible. Ni l'enfant, ni le sculp-
teur negre ne s'int6ressent intellectuellement a la notion de
forme, autrement ils ne pourraient en user si librement ni se
soucier si peu du sort de leur oeuvre. L'enfant d6laisse et
d6truit son travail, et le primitif celui des ennemis qu'il a
vaincus quelle que soit la valeur esth6tique de I'ceuvre.

Pourtant la sculpture du nigre ne pourrait surpasser le dessin
de l'enfant par son fini ou sa finality comme elle le fait, si le
negre ne portait pas quelque inteirt a la forme.
La nature de son intimit6 avec la forme est peut-8tre mieux
d6crite par le mot analogies. Pour lui la forme est le gage
d'une valeur indirecte comparable a celle que nous
attachons A la formule d'un chique; c'est quelque chose de
trks important dans le detail mais qui n'a aucune valeur s'il
n'y a un credit en banque pour le couvrir. Personne, si ce
n'est dans une &cole de comptabilit6, ne fait ni ne recoit de
cheques pour le plaisir d'en faire. Les cheques sont notre
f6tiche comme la sculpture pour le nigre mais jamais
notre idole. L'art nigre est une representation cr6atrice, tel
le dessin de l'enfant, qui a pour un temps le pouvoir de lui
donner une impression d'emprise sur quelque chose d'invisible
qu'il obtient en tirant l'abstraction de quelque chose de vu.
Quand 1'enfant, le sculpteur noir et nos banquiers se servent
d'une maniere indirecte de la forme, toutes ses valeurs sont
mises au service de l'expression; la n6cessit6 pressante
d'expression est telle qu'aucune technique n'a le droit de
Les grammairiens de la forme (pour paraphraser un terme
emprunt6 au domaine des langues") viennent plus tard qui
rendent cette expression conscience d'elle-meme grace a la
technique avec des nuances subtiles de sens. Ceci se produit
quand le feu de l'enthousiasme initial est r6duit A des cendres
L'Ecole Africaine.
Les 6coles des beaux-arts de I'Afrique Occidentale consti-
tuaient ses soci6t6s secretes. Le capitaine F. W. Butt-
Thompson, parlant d'elles dans ses Societids secretes d'Afrique
Occidentale -" Elles furent institutes pour maintenir en
Phililogie: etude des langues par rapport a Faction morale et
intellectuelle des peoples qui s'en servent; mais le sens le plus repandu
maintenant est science du language; science linguistique souvent d6finie
par le titre comparatif de philologie compare (Concise English Dic-
tionary). L'etude intellectuelle de la forme devient aussi d6tachee de
la necessity of elle etait originellement employee dans le domaine de
l'art qu'elle l'est dans le domaine ds langues.

viguer les traditions de la tribu, ses coutimes et ses croyances
qui 6taient en danger de changer ou de tomber en d6suetude.
Les organisateurs etaient des champions de I'ancien contre le
nouveau, comme le sont encore certain de leurs descendants.
Ils restreignaient le progres mental et punissaient les h6r6ti-
ques. Ils 6taient assez intelligent pour savoir que la prohibi-
tion seule ne suffisait pas pour fonder une soci6t6 d6sirant
8tre assure de long6vit6 et par consequent firent de leurs
soci6t6s les sanctuaires des 16gendes, des mythes, de l'histoire
et des conceptions d'art et de culture, de connaissances et de
sagesse que la tribu poss6dait. De plus, ils se mirent a
enseigner toutes ces choses --et ils en 6taient les seuls
De telles institutions primitives prot6g&rent les arts et les
d6velopp&rent en les rendant populaires. Sous leur influence
les arts furent florissants tant que leur puissance conservatrice
grandit mais du moment oi leur expansion cessa et que le
conservatism devint absolu et statique, les arts d6clinerent.
La formule de leur sagesse 6tait l'interprItation et la personni-
fication des esprits du monde invisible dans un culte qui
surv6cut longtemps dans l'isolement oii 6tait I'Afrique. L'art
exprimait leurs emotions religieuses sous une forme organis6e
et retenue. Les premiers explorateurs europ6ens qui allrent
en Afrique Occidentale y trouverent un art 6panoui qu'ils ne
comprirent pas. Eux et les premiers missionnaires n'attacher-
ent aucune valeur aux moeurs et croyances paiennes qui soit
comparable au christianisme et d6truisirent bien des choses
dans leur zele A chatier et a convertir.
On ne peut faire aucun commentaire positif Ih-dessus. Ce
qui fut conserve par curiosity ou par int6r8t scientifique dit
attendre bien longtemps en Europe- un sens plus 6clectique
de la tradition que l'on reconnaisse sa port6e spirituelle.
La p6n6tration 6conomique de I'Afrique par l'Eirope
coupa court A toute continuation d'6volution. Qui peut
savoir si l'Afrique Occidentale de l'avenir- son people 6tant
pourvu d'une conscience europeenne au lieu d'une phalange
de mentors spirituels--ne trouvera pas une forme nouvelle
d'expression artistique?

La connaissance de la forme du sculpteur 6tait limit6e au
volume et a la surface. II savait comment faire rendre A sa
matiere* les emotions de sa foi simple. Nous ne voyons pas
l'artiste dans ses statues essayer d'explorer 1'espace en arrange-
ant ses formes autour d'un axe en spirale; les colonnes vert6-
brales de ses statues ne sont jamais repr6sent6es en rotation ce
qui donnerait diff6rents angles, une vari6t6 de contours,t
qu'on les regarded de face, de c6t6 ou de dos. La tete tourne
rarement sur le cou. On ne peut regarder ces sculptures
que de deux fagons, de face et de c6t6. Il est curieux et peut-
etre significatif de remarquer que l'enfant, dans les sculptures
de mere et enfant fait exception. Dans les ceuvres provenant,
soit du Yorubaland, soit du Congo belge, 1'enfant est repr6-
sent6 dans une attitude plus abandonn6e qui contrast avec
la raideur droite de sa mare. G6n6ralement parlant, la
rigidity de pose que l'on trouve dans les sculptures africaines
laisse toute suggestion de movement a la vari6t6 subtile des
formes et des surfaces.
La cosmogonie de 1'Afrique primitive ne s'6tend pas aux
spaces libres qui d6passent les forts tropicales et par-dessus
son ciel bleu profound si variable, que l'on regarded comme un
plan solide, un plafond- 1'Afrique, par son art, reflite les
frontieres limit6es de son monde sensible; le dos. le devant,
les c6t6s des statues--les quatre vents; les pieds et la tate-
terre et ciel. Les lieux obscurs oiu l'esprit africain a pu battre
la champagne ne susciterent aucune exploration de son
imagination qui l'ait pouss6 a faire des recherches sur la
forme sculpturelle.

La plupart de ses ceuvres etaient en bois (ce qui constitute le sujet
de ce volume) mais il avait un sens artistique legal quelle que soit la
matiere don't il se servit.
t De notables exceptions A cette observation sont des statues de pierre
(les nomalies steatites et les dieux de riz) de la Sierra Leone. Elles sont
d'origine tr s ancienne et probablement dies A une influence etrangere.
D'autres exceptions telles que les soldats portugais et les arquebusiers en
bronze de Benin sont aussi acceptees comme appartenant A un style


1. BAGA, French Guinea. Height 24 ins. Blackened. British
Style shows some affinity to the Mende figures of Sierra Leone.
2. MENDE, Sierra Leone. Height 18 ins. Palmwood. British
The body is hollow beneath the neck and the head detachable.
The style of the head is particularly reminiscent of the steatite
nomalies" and rice gods of more ancient origin, found beneath
the surface in Sierra Leone.
3A. MENDE, Bo district, Sierra Leone. Height 12 ins. In possession
of Government Training College, Bo.
3B. MENDE, Sierra Leone, Height 46 ins. Blackened. British
4A. MENDE, Sierra Leone. Height 19 ins. Blackened. British
4B. MENDE, Sierra Leone. Height 18 ins. Blackened. In possession
ment Training College, Bo.
4c. MENDE, Sierra Leone. Height 17 ins. Blackened. British
Female figures of the Mende show great expression of a human
kind, varying from a resigned piety to a geniality which
approaches humour. The Mende made few male figures in wood.
5A. BAULE., Ivory Coast. Height 48 ins. Hardwood dark. R. P.
Bedford, Esq.
5. BAULE, Ivory Coast. Height 36 ins. Horniman's Museum.
These figures have the same air of pious humility as the Mende
figure, Plate 3b.
6. BAULE, Ivory Coast. Height 18 ins. Hardwood dark Royal
Scottish Museum, Edinburgh.
Ancestor figure. Enthroned (?). Compare with the fetish figure
of the Lower Congo (Plate 36B). The attitude in both is that of
repose and conservation of energy, but its rendering in these two
figures is very different from that of similar attitude in early
Demeters of Greece and the Pharoahs of Egypt. In these latter
it expresses absolute stasis.
7. BAULE, Gold Coast. Height 11 ins. and 12 ins. Collection of
R. P. Bedford, Esq.
From the necklet of the female of these two ancestor figures is
suspended a Victorian sixpence dated 1901.

TO THE PLATES-continued

8. ASHANTI, Gold Goast. Height 15 ins. Blackened. Collection
M. Cockin, Esq.
"Akaba" or unusual ancestor figure? See Plate 10.
9. ASHANTI, Gold Coast. Height about 14 ins. Osses wood.
Collection M. Cockin, Esq.
The executioner. The Ashantis were not great carvers of
figures, and those they made usually relate to their military might
and austere justice; executions, prisoners and captors and inci-
dents from Ashanti life.
10B. ASHANTI, Gold Coast. Height about 11 ins. Blackened. Col-
10s. ASHANTI, Gold Coast. Height about 11 ins. Blackened. Col-
lection W. O. Oldman, Esq.
Known as Akabas or dolls and carried by women desiring a
child. The large head with regular features and long thin neck
are Ashanti points of beauty which it is desirable the expected
child should possess. Only those features of the body which are
associated with reproduction and fertility are represented on a
cylindrical torso with arms merely indicated by stumps.
llA YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height 9 ins. In possession of the
& B. author.
The enlargement of the head is a pervading characteristic of
these twin figures.
12A. YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height 9 ins. Coloured red
(tukula). In possession of the author.
12B YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height 9 ins. Coloured red
(tukula). British Museum.
Ibegi twins (A and B). Coloured: head-dresses indigo; bodies
red (tukula).
13A, YORUBA (Northern), Southern Nigeria. Height 9 to 11 ins. In
B, & possession of the author.
c. These little Yoruba figures are known as Ibegi twins, possessed
by Yorubas who have lost a twin by death. A figure of the same
sex is carried or kept in the house to appease the spirit of the dead
child, so that should it return it may not find the living twin com-
panionless and take it away.
14. Detail of Plate 15.
15. YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height 24 ins. Cotton wood. Part
coloured with native pigment and part with imported. Native
colours: black (dye); white (kaolin); and red ochre. Imported
metal-base pigments: ultramarine and chrome yellow. In posses-
sion of the author. Representing Woman as bearer of children,
carrier of water, preparer of food.

TO THE PLATES-continued

16. Detail of Plate 17.

17. YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height, 27 ins. Head-dress coloured
indigo, figure red (tukula). In possession of the author.
Yoruba woman personifying The Earth Feeding Mankind. The
colouring of this figure is obviously symbolical-the red earth of
Africa. The advanced primitive style of the Yorubas in this work
recalls that of the Byzantine school which returned to the direct-
ness of primitive art.

18. YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height 20 ins. Blackened. Horni-
man's Museum.
Mother and Child. The simple ascending mass and enlarge-
ment of the mother's head in this group points to its motive as
representing the dignity of human fertility.

19. YORUBA (Northern), Southern Nigeria. Height 15 ins. Head-
dress coloured indigo. Collection of Rene d'Harnoncourt, Esq.,
The fertility motive in a Shongo priest's staff. Pendulous and
heavy-laden breasts have become a point of beauty, recalling the
representation of women in an advanced stage of pregnancy in
Flemish art of the 15th Century. African women sometimes band-
age their breasts to produce this effect.

20A. YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height 15 ins. Royal Scottish
Museum, Edinburgh.
A Shongo priest's staff.

20B. YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height 21 ins. Coloured: figure,
indigo; robe, painted with pattern of native weaving in indigo
and red (tukula). In possession of the author.
Compare the enlarged head of this figure with the reduced head
of the mother in Plate 17. In this figure (Plate 20b) woman
is represented in her biological role-human fertility; whereas
in Plate 17 she personifies, with her child mankind, a more com-
prehensive idea of fertility-that of the earth. The association of
the idea of woman as mother of the race with mother of the uni-
verse (the earth of Africa) is emphasized in sculptural expression
by a reduction of the head, thereby giving a monumental scale to
the body.

TO THE PLATES-continued

21. YORUBA, Southern Nigeria. Height about 24 ins. Blackened.
Horniman's Museum.
The dignity of motherhood. The sculptured treatment suggests
a multiplicity of children; more than the three represented.
22. -? Southern Nigeria. Height 14 ins. Collection M.
Cockin, Esq.
All expression in form is given to the axial rhythm of the erect
posture, resulting in an effect of line rather than volume. This
figure and the two on Plate 23 are probably household divinities.
23A. IBIBIO. Uyo district, Southern Nigeria. Height 10 ins. Black-
& B. ened. British Museum.
A linear groove defines clothing on body, cheekbones and
eyebrows of 23a. Enrichment of the plain surface of the
bodies by increased relief of significant features (nipples, umbili-
cus, genitals and kneecaps), brings the bodies into a sculptural
balance with the heads.
24. SOBO or IJAW(?), .Southern. Nigeria. Height 42 ins. Iroko
wood, coloured similarly- to Plate 25. Collection W. O. Old-
man, Esq.
The treatment of this is not wholly a composition of several
forms, as in Plate 25, but a combining only of the significant fea-
tures of such forms for the achievement of a new unity. The
cockatrice of Europe is a survival of this idea. The fanged maw
and legs of the animal at the base are those of the leopard. The
leopard's head is reduced to a fanged mouth, mounted directly
without body on legs. The legs are painted with leopard's spots.
Does it mean ferocious speed or swift ferocity? The head of the
divinity or spirit in the centre is attended on each side by baboon-
like figures with human-faced birds (messengers?) on their heads,
the divinity being surmounted by a composite and human-faced
animal. The subject of the piece seems, with its tribal totem above,
to be based upon fleet ferocity.
25. IBO, Southern Nigeria. Height 72 ins. Iroko wood. Coloured
with native pigments and trade ultramarine. Collection WV. 0.
Oldman, Esq.
The art form of this work, termed an Ikeng" figure, is that
of the totem pole. The long-eared tribal spirit personified at the
top is smoking a pipe. Beneath it are various attributes represented
by figures and objects. In the middle section, supporting the
tribal spirit, is woman representing human fertility and, at the
base, a pipe-smoking executioner or perhaps head-hunter.

TO THE PLATES-continued

26. MUNSHI, Northern Nigeria. Height 35 ins. British Museum.
There is a resemblance in the broad sculptural treatment of this
figure with the Chamba figure of Plate 27; but there is also a
delicacy and refinement of line such as result only from a tradi-
tion of long development, yet there are no known figures of the
same provenance to this one. It has some distant, generic resem-
blance to the many hundred steatite figures discovered in an old
sacred grove at Essie, Southern Nigeria, in 1931.
27. CHAMBA, Northern Nigeria. Height about 24 ins. Blackened.
The features of the head picked out in white (kaolin). British
The sculptured features of the torso are those connected with
fertility (sex, navel and nipples). A gentle spiral movement, like
that suggested in vegetation, is imparted by the arrangement of
planes in the arms, and is heightened by the slight cast of the head
to the left. It gives the figure the impression of being planted on
the soil and aspiring to the light and air.
28. ?, Cameroons. Height 24 ins. Plates of thin brass
applied. Horniman's Museum.
This figure has some affinity with the Fang figures of Plates 29
and 31.
29. FANG, French Gaboon. Height 25 ins. In possession of
B. Hughes-Stanton, Esq.
The head of a child on its mother's back is invariably turned to
one side. Whenever the frontal direction of the head is varied
in African figures, it is given a full quarter turn. No lesser turn
occurs. R. E. Dennett, discussing African cosmogony, says that
the Yorubas lived in a square universe.
30. FANG, Gaboon. Height 10 ins. Brass pupils to the eyes. Col-
lection of Robert Sainsbury, Esq.
Ancestor spirit represented iby the head alone. Abstractions of
the natural form of the head are carved in such a way as if
drawn out in some elastic material, giving the head a wraith-like
aspect. One feels it must relate to a gentle spirit.
31. FANG, Gaboon. Height 24 ins. Originally had metal plates
applied. In possession of Blair Hughes-Stanton, Esq.
The sensitive form of this figure conveys a spirit-like gentleness
in the subject similar to Plate 30.
32. Detail of Plate 31.


TO THE PLATES-continued.

33. BAKOTA, Ogowe district, French Congo. Height about 30 ins.
Overlaid with repouss6 copper and brass. British Museum.
The body of the ancestor is reduced to a mere lozenge, a form
which has some special significance for the tribe, as cryptograms,
in various forms of lozenge, appear in relief on the reverse of
these Bakota figures.
34. KUYU, Belgian Congo. Height 28 ins. Blackened and coated
with gum. In possession of Blair Hughes-Stanton, Esq.
The form has great stability and repose. It may be a fetish
figure of oracle. The mouth is depicted as if about to speak.
There is no receptacle for medicine in the figure but it may have
been applied to the surface with the gum.
35. BABEMBE, Belgian Congo. Height 51 ins. British Museum.
36A. BABEMBE, Belgian Congo. Height 9 ins. British Museum.
Emphasis is given to the feet and the tribal cicatrization of the
body in these small figures of Babembe. See Plate 35.
36B. LOWER CONGO. Height 6 ins. In possession of James Keggie,
Esq. A fetish figure.
37. LOWER CONGO. Height 36 ins. Horniman's Museum.
A nail fetish. Expression is concentrated in the head. The
body is kept plain to receive the nails of devotees; instruments of
sympathetic magic.
38. LOWER CONGO. Height 18 ins. In possession of Miss Gertrude
The deified spirit of intoxication (?).
39. BAYAKA, Belgian Congo. Height 14 ins. Brass-headed nails in
forehead. The Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh.
A fetish figure with enlarged feet conveying the idea of firm
contact with the earth.
40. BANGENDI, sub-tribe of the Bushongo, Sankura River, Belgian
Congo. Height 10 ins. British Museum.
Collected by Torday and described as a "house charm."
Features selected for emphasis in this figure of a female spirit are
head, hands and feet (foreparts missing). The features of the torso
are grouped closely to present a sort of visage, secondary to that of
the face.
41. BAMBALA, sub-tribe of the Bushongo. King Shamba Bolongongo
of the Belgian Congo. Height 24 ins. British Museum.
The famous statues of the Congo rulers are more portrayals of
an ideal type than of individuals. They have rather less varia-
tion of individual features than the bronze heads of Benin and
considerably less than those of Ife.

TO THE PLATES-continued.

4-2A. BENA LULUA, Belgian Congo. Height 10 ins. A, Collection W.
& B. O. Oldman, Esq.: B, in possession of J. Keggie, Esq.
The tribal markings, passports to tribal quarters in the life here-
after, are given prominence in these elaborate and sensitive little
figures. Note the projection of the navel cord in Fig. B; the
thread which at birth connects man with the spirit world whence
he came.
43. BALUBA, Belgian Congo. Height 22 ins. Blue bead necklace.
Collection W. O. Oldman, Esq.
Both head and torso in different degrees are compressed in
volume for the more dominant display of their respective enlarged
features. The enlarged head, hands, and feet are significant-the
feet especially, of a grip on the earth. Beauty demands the ex-
traction of the front teeth.
44. BALUBA, Belgian Congo. Height 21 ins. Elaborate cicatrization
on body, back and front. Collection W. 0. Oldman, Esq.
A large cavity at the back of the head for the reception of medi-
cine to consecrate and empower the fetish figure in the service of
the spirit personified by it.
45. BALUBA, Belgian Congo. Height 29 ins. Collection W. O.
Oldman, Esq.
A full stomach and a large head are elected as significant and
supported on sturdy legs by large feet. A fine appreciation of the
thrust of the pelvis on the head of the trocanter is made to give
effect to the weight of the stomach.
46. URUA, Belgian Congo. Height 12 ins. British Museum.
Limbs diminished and flexed to give prominence and straight-
ness to head and torso is typical of Urua figures.
47. WABEMBA, Belgian Congo. Height 8 ins. Collection W. 0.
Oldman, Esq.
Male and female figures jugated at the head by a symbol of
the male and female organs of sex.
48. BAJOKWE, Angola, Spanish West Africa. Height 11 ins. Col-
lection of R. P. Bedford, Esq.
The soldier-raider-hunter needs large able hands and firm feet.

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