Galerie Peter Herrmann, Berlin 2004


The Leopard and the Spider in the Art and Mythology of the Cameroonian Grassfields

In addition to its work with contemporary African artists, Galerie Peter Herrmann also exhibits a permanent collection of traditional art from Africa. Once a year, the gallery presents a special exhibition on traditional African art (Bronze from Africa in 2000, Stuttgart, and 2001 in Berlin, the best of the Peter Herrmann Collection in 2002, and Beadwork from South Africa in 2003). This year, NOMGUIH’E pe'e MALOMGUEGUIH'E: The Leopard and the Spider in the Art and Mythology of the Cameroon Grassfields — a show featuring works from the collections of Klaus Paysan and Peter Herrmann and curated by Paris-based art historian Yaëlle Biro — will be on view from September 5 to October 8, 2004.

Biro selected the objects — which include stools, masks, vessels, architectural elements and smoking pipes in materials like bronze, wood, clay, even beaded raffia — based on their representative aspects, rarity and motifs: In Cameroonian tradition, both leopard and spider symbolize royalty, albeit in different ways.  The leopard, which signifies strength and power, is closely linked to the king (some of whom equate themselves with the leopard), while the earth spider embodies wisdom, spirituality and enlightenment. The spider is the connection between life and death, and is often used for divination. The objects, all bearing leopard or spider motifs, originate from the grass fields in northwestern Cameroon. Photographs and film material from the Paysan collection will also be on view. Born in Stuttgart in 1930, collector Klaus Paysan has traveled to Africa more than 100 times since 1960 and has amassed a significant collection of traditional African artworks. More than 80,000 visitors recently viewed his exhibit Afrika. Tiere, Masken und Magie at the Naturkundemuseum in Stuttgart. Paris-based art historian Yaëlle Biro recently completed the first portion of her studies in African art history at the Sorbonne and will begin her doctoral studies this October. Her master’s work dealt primarily with Cameroonian Grassfields, and concentrated on this region’s artistic representation of the leopard. This exhibition is, so to speak, the result of her work.

Press Text - Kimberly Bradley