■ DRUM FRONT MBEMBE
CROSS RIVER, NIGERIA
Height: 106 cm. (41¾ in.) |
US$16,000-20,000 | £13,000-16,000
Alain Dufour, Paris Private French
collection, acquired from him in 1976
Var-Matin, 9 July 1976
In southern Nigeria, in and around the delta, near the Cross-River, there used to be large horizontal slit drums decorated with mostly maternity representations. The stereotypical subject shows a woman holding a child in her lap, seeming to want to present it to her clan or deities. Sometimes the sculpture is a bust or a figure in arms, or in the shape of a prostrate animal. This type of object was found in different populations, the Mbembe, the Igbo, the Igala. Displayed in a village square, they were exposed to bad weather, which eroded their surface.
Some specimens like this one have preserved traces of polychromy despite exposure to wind and rain. The large drums were
revered as statues of ancestors.
In the 1970s, the Héléne Leloup Gallery in Paris presented a unique group of Mbembé drum bows collected by an African antique dealer. This ensemble was the subject of an exhibition in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2015.
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