Emerging from soft shadows, this understated collection highlights three African objects in subtle repose. We see a circle, a sphere and a cone, each element essential to the overall harmony of the composition, yet each unique in form and materials. Together they act like friends from different points of origin, distinctive in character and temperament, yet in this moment, coming together to create a tranquil, agreeably balanced whole.
The large spherical vessel was hand-molded from terra-cotta clay by the Nanu People of Burkino Faso. Its unique, square-cut opening and corresponding lid help mitigate evaporation and spillage. The square opening on top is matched with striated triangles and decorative protrusions aligning with the four corners of the lid. To the right of this vessel sits an antique hat made by the Lega People of the Congo. These hats serve as “honors,” or “diplomas” awarded to the highest achievers within Bwami – a secret society of elders that govern the life ways of the Lega. Bwami membership reflects strong, personal character and high achievement. The Lega hat also functions socially as a symbolic bond with one’s ancestors, and moreover, is closely linked to a specific proverb through which principles of Bwami life ways are disseminated to younger Lega. On the far left of the tableau lies a bright red, diagonally beaded bracelet, likewise of African descent.
REFERENCES: 1- Biebuyck, Daniel P. 1982. “Lega Dress as Cultural Artifact.” Journal of African Arts. Vol. 15, No. 3.
2- Dawson, Douglas. 2009. Chicago: Douglas Dawson Gallery.