Friday, April 27, 2012

Nommo Figure with Raised Arms - African Wood Sculpture, Mopti Region, Mali, 11th-15th Century (possibly)

The Tellem are thought to have occupied the region of the Bandiagara escarpment until the sixteenth century. The human form with raised arms is a common pose for Tellem sculptures and is said to refer to prayers for rain, crucial in this dry region.


Female Figure - African Dogon Wood Sculpture, Central northern Bandiagara escarpment, Mopti Region, Mali, Early 17th Century

Figures like this one were placed on ancestral altars as links to a deceased person’s soul. It is likely that this figure represents a Nommo, one of the first created beings, who, according to Dogon mythology, had a combination of male and female traits.


Seated Musician (Koro Player) - African Dogon Wood and Iron Sculpture, Central northern Bandiagara escarpment, Mopti Region, Mali, Late 18th Century

This figure wears a necklace called a korte. Consisting of a series of packets containing verses from the Qur’an, the korte is worn for protection—indicating the influence of Islam even among the Dogon, a largely non-Islamic people.


Mother and Child (Phemba) - African Sculpture, Kongo Central Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th Century

Medium: Wood, beads, glass mirror, metal, resin


Two Women, Harlem - Toned gelatin silver photograph by American Photographer Consuelo Kanaga Mid-Late 1930's

Frances with a Flower - Gelatin silver photograph by American Photographer Consuelo Kanaga Early 1930's

Consuelo Kanaga, one of the pioneers of modern American photography, began her career as a photojournalist in 1915 in San Francisco. In the 1920s, Alfred Stieglitz inspired her to develop a more aesthetic approach, and a trip to Europe in 1928 awakened her lifelong preoccupation with European modernist painting and the ways in which that work was influenced by the sculpture of Africa. Kanaga successfully combined a Pictorialist aesthetic with a realist strategy, producing handsomely composed and carefully printed images. She was one of few white American photographers in the 1930s to make artistic portraits of African Americans.

In Frances with a Flower, the focus is so sharp that the slightly rough texture of the woman’s skin, shiny with perspiration at the hairline, seems palpable. The forehead, nose, and cheeks, highlighted by flash, contrast with the deep-set eyes lost in shadow, thus producing a sculptural dimension that turns the photograph into hills and valleys of light. The stark white blossom pressed to the woman’s nose emphasizes the sensuality of her face.