In 2000 our annual exhibition on traditional African Art was called "Two Hundred Years of African Metall Work". For our concept, developed to be exhibited at our show rooms in Stuttgart's Gerberstrasse, particualrly anthropologist and art historian aspects were relevant. Its premise contained several theories that contradicted accepted scientific assessments. By now all objects are certified by experts with a TL Expertise, which means that the oldest Cameroun-pieces are about 300 years old.

Peter Herrmann, August 2008

Background:
Two Dynastic Pillars from Sultan's Palace. The figures encircling the 230 cm high pillars symbolize the traditional social hierarchy of Bamoun, Cameroon (see below).

Right:
Four Memorial Heads from the late period of Benin culture:
Moro Memorial Head
Edion Edio Memorial Head of Iviovor
Ife Memorial Head
Memorial Head of General Ekeghugu Ahnekpo

Left:
An iconographic Bell with applied abstracted figures, Chicken and Rooster with beautiful filigree. (circa 1750.)

Dynastic Pillars
Sultan of Foumban's Palace.

The platform displays a brass lion and a mother-child representation — both of which are excellent examples of modern casting techniques.

A collection of pipes from the 1950s depicts an intriguing artistic form of expression.

The female figure holding a bowl most likely stems from the 18th century.

Foreground right:

A rare Brass Horn with decorative and symbolic ornamentation. Cameroon Grasslands, first half of the 20th century.


Foreground left:

Highlights of the exhibition are the two decorative ivory horns with bronze endpieces from the 18th/19th century. (Complete documentation including Cites, Customs, and age certification)

Group of Figures - The Raising of a King

This figural series portrays the raising of a king. The statues have particular art historical significance as they are the earliest known Tupuri bronzes from Chad.

Based on the age of these objects, it's possible that they had stylistic influences on the bronze work of the Cameroon Grasslands. Yet another likely explanation is that a traveling artist from the Foumban region was commissioned to manufacture these figures.

For the inland regions of Africa at this time, raw metal had a value comparable to that of gold in Europe.

Left to Right:

Mother with the infant King.

The King's mother holds a ceremonial staff (comparable to a sceptre) and the hand of the child King.

The King's mother holds the young King in one hand. The bowl in her other hand symbolizes her role as provider and nurturer.

The seated young King holds a sceptre indicating his position as ruler.

Drummer by Sokari Douglas Camp.
The work of this Nigerian-born London resident shows a changed approach to metalwork. Juxtaposed with traditional African metalwork, this piece represents the dynamics of social change.

This sculpture was part of a worldwide touring exhibition titled Africa-Explores and was also on view at the Stuttgart airport within the framework of the major exhibition Vielfaches Echo.


Foreground:

Surreal Mythological Figure Cameroon. Bronze/Copper alloy. Based on stylistic details and patination, the date of this piece is estimated at ca. 1900. 132 cm. TL-Analysis

 

Backeground:

Mother with child

Mother with two children

 

Right:

Mask from a shrine

A special themed grouping of bells

A bell held by a loop and worn on the shoulder. Highly interesting execution with a wooden Janus Head mounted to the metal body of the bell with fabric.

Iron and wood bell. The carved head depicts a noble with hat from the Cameroon Grasslands.

Symbolic brass bell. This bell had a decorative vs. functional purpose and was found in the homes of wealthy merchants.

Background:

Throne
from the Sultan of Foumban's Palace, 1800's. According to current research, numerous of the Bamoun brass objects exhibited stem from King Njoia's collection. This piece is an enthronement chair and was cast in the 1880s. TL

Left:

A brass vase from the Sultan of Foumban's palace, ca. 1900. The vessel is encircled by male figures and mounted atop a stand formed by three standing figures. The vase's lid is crowned by a seated female figure holding a small child.

Center:

Traveling King

According to the catalog "The Art of Cameroon" by Nancy W. Edelmann, this brass figure represents the Tikar King Chigna, the grandfather of Diadou, King of Klems. The King, recognizable by his headpiece, is carried on a traditional litter by four male figures and accompanied by a bugler.

A similar piece is described in the aforementioned catalogue with the note that the Bamum King Nsaangu (who reigned 1863-1889) preferred traveling by litter over traveling horseback.

The brass piece shown, was cast circa 1980. A smaller reproduction was also available for the tourist market.

Maternal figure with two children
Maternal figure with child

Depicted here are examples of a recurring motif in Africa: that of the maternal figure. These pieces from around 1900 are unusual in that the execution is surreal vs. abstract, which is more commonly found in Africa. The allegorical execution with exaggerated proportioning, is characteristic of metalwork from the Bamoun or Tikar region of Cameroon.

A portrait of a Cameroonian noble by Ralf Schmerberg complements the sculptures. Hommage à noir was the title of the portrait series which was exhibited at the New York gallery Pace-Wildenstein, as well as a parallel film project.

Background:

A rare Kotopo figural sculpture from Nigeria measuring 195 cm high.

As is the case with other brass figures, the origins of this piece is also unusual. It is likely that the figure was manufactured by a traveling sculptor. The features and hairstyle are references to the Ibo people, stemming from a region further south. Stylistic treatments which can be attributed to the Cameroon Grasslands are the ears, neck collar, anklets, and relief technique on the body.

This sculpture as well as other objects in the exhibition are of particular art historical interest as they offer insight into both African craft as well as artistic movements.



The history of this reliquary mask, designed to lie as shown, and a decorative mask for hanging, is still somewhat nebulous.

Background: Mask, Tikar.

Background:

Makanda
- a double bell from the 19th century.

The lion and brass mask were cast circa 1970 - 80.

Foreground:

Following the tradition of the Benin-Culture, personal brass memorial heads were cast in the anglophone area of Cameroon in the 1950s. However, very few of these became well-known and it appears as though they are no longer in use.

Head 1, Head 2, Head 3, Head 4.


Background:

Mafo - the King's mother. Dynasty founder of the Bamoun. Manufactured by Alhadji Daudu from Foumban ca. 1975

Foreground:

Old bronze weights from Ghana used for the weighing of gold dust. Each dealer had his own set of weights which were calibrated with special features. Figural representations were either mythological references or were simply castings of objects found in nature.

Center:

Warrior figure from the Cameroon Grasslands. Prestige object of a wealthy Cameroonian, circa 1975.
Wood bench with bronze applications.

This piece of furniture, with high sculptural value, is mounted with small bronze figures. Though it may strike those familiar with African art as being overstylized and ornate, the manufacturing date of circa 1980 marks it as stylistically typical for Cameroon.
Ivory horn with bronze endpiece decorated with lizard and two figures.

Local rulers and kings from many cultures of western and central Africa were accompanied by buglers to receptions, official appearances, councils and on military expeditions. Horns made of wood were typically found in rural areas whereas ivory was a status symbol of royalty.

Cameroon Grasslands, 18th century.
(Complete documentation including Cites, Customs, and age certification)
To the Berlin exhibition July - September 2001