Some of the best Tribal Art to come to Auction in the UK

7/06/2018     Latest News, Antiquities & Tribal

Summers Place Auctions' 10th Anniversary Auction on the 12th & 13th June 2018 will also include a
category which is relatively new to the auction house – Tribal Art. Introduced last June to such
success that all sales since have included tribal lots, this June will see some of the best Tribal Art
to come up for auction in the UK for a long time.


Highlights include a Mother and Child Sculpture from the Mabea tribe (from Cameroon) and it
comes with great provenance and was certified by P. Ratton in 1995. This standing Fang Mabea
Maternity sculpture is undoubtedly of Museum quality. The mother is carrying a child on her back
and her left leg indicates a walking movement, which is not frequently seen in African sculptures.
The eyes are inlaid with glass, the mouth has fine metal teeth and her hair dress, in leather, is
fixed with indigenous little nails. The statue has a brown patina typical for the region and dates
from the beginning of the 20th century, when it was supposedly made for a Colonial Exhibition in
France. It was originally owned by R. Caillois (1913-1978), writer, sociologist and member of the
“Académie Française”. He was in contact with Andre Breton in the 1930s and befriended Salvador
Dali, Paul Eluard and Max Ernst. Once he broke with the Surrealist movement in 1935, he started
the magazine 'Inquisitions' with Tzara and Aragon. After his death the sculpture stayed in the
family before it sold to Baroness Josephine Sloet tot Everlo, who owned the sculpture until the end
of 2014. It is estimated at £49,500 – 66,000.


Rulers throughout the many Kingdoms in the Cameroon Grassland region (Bamileke –Bamum
-Tikar) employed a range of Regalia to assert their political, economic and religious power.
Presented publicly in lavish displays of wealth and power, many court objects were distinguished
by their elaborate bead embroidery. Imported from Venice, Bohemia or Amsterdam, glass beads
were considered a luxury material whose use and distribution were controlled by the King. The
decoration of objects with vast quantities of brilliantly coloured beads transformed utilitarian
objects into symbols of royal status and prestige.

Other lots from Cameroon include a beaded Ceremonial Head "Atwonzen" from the Grassland
people. Beaded heads such as this represent trophy heads: the skulls of enemies felled in battle.
Underneath the beading is not bone, however, but wood. Relatively rare, works of this kind were
associated with powerful otherworldly forces. Atwonzen were found only in the households of the
Fon, or King, and their closest allies. This is from the 1920s and estimated at £18,000 – 24,000,
while a mouthblown Glass Dome with five fine Beaded Ceremonial Heads from the 1930s is
expected to fetch £10,000 – 13,000. Also inspired by the very old and rare Atwonzen beaded
skulls. They originate from the kingdoms located in the Dschang region. Highly symbolic, these
depictions of enemies’ heads, wooden or the real skulls themselves, were carried by rulers on
ceremonial occasions and during certain warrior dances such as the tso or nzen. They were often
covered with the same type of beads and designs; whereas the Royal Atwonzens had unique
embroideries. One is represented in the Caroline and Marshall Mount collection.


The double headed snake is the symbol of the Bamum Kingdom. Initially the King was the only
person to wear the belt made of a raffia woven strip covered with cloth and beads. After the
arrival of the Germans, important lineage representatives were also allowed to use these Regalia.
Covered with typical animal symbols, the belt from the 1930s is estimated to sell for £5,000 –
7,000. Also from the same era, a beaded Royal Headdress by the Bamileke people, made of a palm
tree fiber structure with a Leopard figure on top of the headdress, is estimated at £16,500 –
22,000 – another examples can be found in the Field Museum of Chicago.


A Runner mask "Mabu", from the Wum people, is from the 1930s and estimated at £6,000 –
8,000. The secret association (Kwifon) in each kingdom has a runner mask that serves as the voice
of Kwifon announcing their approach. Members on their missions are preceded by this mask and in
some Western Grassfield kingdoms of the past, Mabu was also the mask of executioners.
Wonderful exaggerated facial features with a nice dark finish, prominent shield-like projecting
headdress, round cheeks and open mouth, the "Mabu" also performed at funerals and
commemorative celebrations for important men of the village.


Moving South on the African Continent, the Salampasu people live east of the Kasai River, on the
frontier between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. A people with a reputation as
fearless warriors, the Salampasu have retained the custom of a rough and primitive life.
Salampasu masks were integral part of the warriors’ society whose primary task was to protect this
small enclave against invasions by outside kingdoms. Wooden masks covered or not covered with
copper sheets are worn by members of the ibuku warrior association who have killed in battle.

A female fetish 'Kusu' figure from the 1920s with wooden pegs on head and a typical raffia skirt is
estimated at £2,250 -3,000, while a Mother and Child Figure "Phemba", also from the Congo from
the beginning of the 20th century, sitting on a little stool with a knitted headdress, suggest she
was a Chief’s wife. The open mouth shows her filed pointed teeth and the object shows signs of
age and has a wonderful Patina – it is expected to sell for £14,250 –19,000.


An unusual Helmet Mask from the Luba-Hemba people, from the 1920s is estimated at £6,500 –
8,500. It reproduces the feature of the sculpture of the north-eastern Hemba. The mask was
collected at Karambare in the 1930’s by the Roman Dr. R. Sulsenti, at the time practicing in the
area. It was then acquired by Alberto Galaverni who constituted his collection with the support of
his friend Franco Monti and appeared in several publications including La mia Africa by Karen
Blixen (published Olivetti,Milano, 1981).


Other tribal art include those from the Kuba Kingdom, Central Africa, which flourished between the
17th and 19th centuries in the region bordered by the Sankuru, Lulua, and Kasai rivers in the
south-east of the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Kuba are most famous for
their monumental helmet masks, featuring, exquisite geometric patterns, stunning fabrics, seeds,
beads and shells. There was a lot of competition and it found expression in the elaboration of
these regalia objects into works of extraordinary beauty. A feathered helmet mask 'Mwaash
aMbooy mu shall' is estimated at £6,500 – 8,000.

The Ekoi-speaking peoples (Anyang, Boki, Ejagham, Keaka, and Yako) live in the Cross River
region in southeast Nigeria and Cameroon and are best known for their skin-covered masks,
which may have one, two or even three faces, and for their smaller headpieces, which represent a
head or an entire figure. The heads and skin-covered helmet-masks are unique in Africa. Earlier
skins of slaves, later skins of antelopes, were used. When the mask is made fresh animal skin is
stretched and tacked over the soft wood from which it is carved. After the skin dried, it was
stained with pigments made from leaves and bark. The skin covering of a mask served as a
magical agent to invoke ancestral spirits, thus eroding the barrier between living and dead
participants in communal rituals.


Standing Intact a 2000 year old Terracotta Figure from the Nok Culture in Nigeria was Ciram
certificate in 2013 and states “2080 +/- 180 years old” - it is in excellent condition given it is from
the 1st century and it is expected to sell for £16,500 – 22,000.

Moving to the American continent – an Eskimo Model Kayak from the 1930s - wood covered with
seal skin and lined with bone - carries an estimate of £6,000 – 8,000.What makes this model so
special is that all the hunting devices are still present: spears, harpoons, spear thrower, wood float
board, and bladder, paddles and other equipment used for seal hunting. The main use of an
Eskimo kayak was for hunting, and seals, walruses, birds and even reindeer were all hunted using
kayaks at sea.


And moving South … a neck covering headdress "Myhara" by the Rikbaktsa people of Brasil is also
included in the auction. The colourful headdress is made out of a woven crown covered with
feathers, and human hair. Rikbaktsa are locally called Canoeiros (Canoe People) or Orelhas de Pau
(Wooden Ears), alluding to their practice of enlarging their earlobes with wooden plugs. It is
estimated at £9,000 – 12,000.


For further information on the auction, please visit
www.summersplaceauctions.com or call 01403 331331.
For press information or images please contact Silke Lohmann
(silke@exclamationpr.co.uk/ 07932 618754).