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Sub-Saharan African Art

From the collection of Dr. Martha Ehrlich

This exhibition offers a wide range of stone, wood, metal and fiber from traditional African cultures. Ranging from the Neolithic era to the 20th century, all of these pieces are comments on deeply-felt beliefs and the aesthetic ideals of the peoples who made them, whether they were intended for utilitarian use as pottery, cloth, weapons or seating, for religious use as masks or figures, or to enhance the prestige of leaders. Through their forms and meanings, these objects serve as points of contact between the living, the ancestors and the spirit world.

Below are images of a selection of pieces that can be seen in the exhibition. Click each image to see a larger view.

Click here to view Dr. Ehrlich's faculty page

Fante Gunpowder Stool
Fante, Ghana
20th C.
Wood male leader's "gunpowder" stool

Asante Chiefs Stool
Asante, Ghana
20th C.
Chief's stool with silver ornaments; male pattern; large size indicates important leader

Boni Headrest
Boni, Somalia
20th C.
Man's wood headrest

Shona Headrest
Shona, Zimbabwe
1874-1894
Softwood headrest

Kuba Tukula Container
Kuba, Dem. Rep. of the Congo
20th C.
Wooded cylindrical container for tukula (camwood powder)

Asante Kuduo
Asante, Ghana
1600s
Cast brass kuduo; valuables container; early type close to Islamic prototypes

Asante Shrine Spoon
Asante, Ghana
c. 1700
Cast brass ring-top shrine spoon

Asante State Sword
Asante, Ghana
20th C.
State sword, openwork iron blade with hornbill, wood handle with traces of gold leaf

Mangbetu Throwin Knife
Mangbetu, Dem. Rep. of the Congo
20th C.
Man's throwing knife, iron, wood

Asante Swordbearers Hat
Asante, Ghana
20th C.
State swordbearer's hat; rawhide covered with sheet gold with attached wood objects covered in sheet gold

Asante Linguist Staff
Asante, Ghana
20th C.
"Linguist" staff ( okyeamepoma); complete, 3 pieces, hen with chicks

Asante Linguist Staff
Asante, Ghana
20th C.
"Linguist" staff finial ( okyeamepomatire); wood, gold leaf, chameleon on box of clothes

Asante Linguist Staff
Asante, Ghana
20th C.
Wood "linguist" staff finial of a Sankofa bird

Yoruba Shrine Lamp
Yoruba, Nigeria
20th C.
Elaborate forged iron shrine lamp with eight birds

Dida Raffia Skirt
Dida, Ivory Coast
20th C.
Woven, tie-dyed tubular raffia skirt; ceremonial wear

Yoruba Gelede Mask
Yoruba, Nigeria
20th C.
Wood Gelede mask

Ibo Maiden Spirit Mask
Ibo, Nigeria
20th C.
Wood beautiful maiden spirit of the men's Mmwo society

Ogoni Female Mask
Ogoni, Nigeria
20th C.
Wood female mask with black "corkscrew" hairdo

Ogoni Eket Face Mask
Ogoni/Eket, Nigeria
20th C.
Small wood face mask with coats of red paint; for yam harvest dance

Asante Akuaba
Asante, Ghana
20th C.
Small wood akuaba with square eyes

Yoruba Ibeji Figure
Yoruba, Nigeria
Early 20th C.
Old male Ibeji figure with long neck, small head, hands free of body