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John Hewett, Londres
James Freeman, Kyoto, Japon, acquis auprès de ce dernier
Collection privée, acquis auprès de ce dernier avant 1985
La statuette illustrée en comparatif de ce lot à la page 99 du catalogue ne provient pas de la Collection Vander Straete mais de la Collection Jernander.
The figure illustrated as a comparable on page 99 of the catalogue does not come from the Vander Straete Collection but comes from the Jernander Collection.
Post Lot Text
A NEWLY DISCOVERED TABWA FIGURE by Bernard de Grunne
The Tabwa, and the related chiefdoms, reside in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, numbering about 120,000 people circa 1960. Their vast territory is bound in the north by Kalemie (Albertville), the south by Moliro, the east by the Luvua river and the west by the western shore of Tanganyika lake.
Tabwa statuary is characterized by four formal characteristics: a majority of male figures (from 118 figures with indubitable sexual characteristics, 80 are male and 38 are female), a medium size of 38 cm. (height average for a corpus of 160 figures), in comparison to neighboring statuary styles - Hemba, Boyo, Kusu, Songye, the presence of many delicate scarifications on the face, torso and back, along with very elaborate headdresses.
I have divided Tabwa statuary into four large distinct stylistic areas. (1)
1.The Classical Central Style, corresponding to the Manda, Tumpa, Zongwe, Kalezi, Kapampa and Kilunga chiefdoms
2.The Inland Style influenced by the Luba art with the Bwile and Bakwa Mwenge chiefdoms
3.the Northern Style with the Tumbwe, Kansabala and Mpala chiefdoms
4.The Southern Style with the Moliro, Nsama and Kaputa chiefdoms
The great variety and sophistication of Tabwa headdresses are probably their most striking iconographic characteristic. I distinguished two main headdress styles: the braided headdress, the skullcap headdress and an intermediary type, the braided-skullcap headdress.(2)
The braided style is typical of the northern Tabwa, as noted by Father Pierre Colle, who underscores that the Tumbwe (northern Tabwa) wear a headdress with long hanging braid (3). However, as early as 1888 Jacques and Storms describe in detail the skullcap style as characteristic of the central Tabwa territory in the Marungu region: "the front of the head is shaved in order to enlarge the forehead. The hair is arranged in small, separate tufts that are coated with grease and clay reducing them to about the size of a hazelnut; the head is therefore covered with linear series of these spheres, then dusted with red powder."(4)
The Hewett figure is exemplary of the intermediate braid and skullcap style: the skull is entirely covered with a cap composed by a fine network of these small, aligned and coated tufts and joined by a long braid hanging from the top of the skull, the upper part of the forehead having been shaved to look bare.
This braid has a trapezoidal shape, larger at the top and tapering downwards. It reaches down the back to the shoulder blades and is largely detached on the back side; it is likely affixed in this manner thanks to a rigid structure of small twigs in the hair. Geometric patterns formed by parallel lines, in cross or diamond shapes, decorate the braid which is divided into two parts by a central line. This geometric pattern, whose symbolic meaning has been analyzed in great detail by the anthropologist Allen Roberts, is called balamwezi, "the dawn of the new moon". The balamwezi pattern is an omnipresent decorative motif in Tabwa art: it is found on the hair of figures and masks, on musical instruments, stools and chiefs thrones, neckrests, baskets and braided mats. (5)
Who is represented by this charming figure? Tabwa myths celebrate Kyomba, founder and revered hero of the Tabwa tribes, who carried in his hair the elements of Tabwa civilization: the seeds of the plants essential to life, the fire (symbol of politic power) and the basket for tax collection (symbol of economic power). Kyomba would have been also at the origin of agriculture, which he founded by planting his hair to fertilize the soil. Kyomba is, among the Tabwa, considered as the leader, the father, the husband, the ideal lover.(6) He became the ideal model for Tabwa artists in their representation of chiefs and important ancestors, as well as an example or primary object, perfect archetype, of both mythic and artistic levels. Tabwa statuary represents the leaders of various clans: Tanga, Kiubwe, Tumbwe and Manda. Other great ancestors still can be considered as close reproductions of Kyomba evolving over time. Thus the richness and variety of hairstyles of the Tabwa statuary can be explained by Kyomba's importance in the Tabwa mythology. Studying the Tabwa dynastic clock is equivalent to finding the chronology of the different hairstyles.
The Hewett figure is part of the Central Style corpus, but with some Inland Style influences related to Luba styles: the head is more spherical, the mouth open with thick and fully formed lips, the modeling is softer and realistic with a clearly defined musculature, the eyes are either half-closed or open and defined by thick eyelids, and finally, few scarifications except on the face.
Within this Central style, it is definitely part of a corpus of four similar figures that I attribute to the same sculptor. Three of these figures are male and one is female. The first was part of the collection of the Belgian art dealer Jean-Pierre Jernander (7), the second was in the collection of H.R.H. Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg (8), the third is in the Menil Foundation collection, Houston (9). These four figures undoubtedly came from the same village sanctuary, located in the central area of the Tabwa territory between Moba and Moliro. We can also add to this group a fifth female figure formerly from my father's collection (10). This last figure was collected within the Tabwa country, on the road between Baudouinville and Manono.
In a broader perspective of the Bantu population's art history, it is worth restating the assumption suggested by Professor Albert Maesen on the deep historical links between Chokwe statuary and its famous figures of the civilizing hero, Chibinda Ilunga, and Tabwa statuary (11). These two traditions share a common refinement in the morphological details, the importance attached to the representation of very elaborate headdresses and by the smaller scale of their statuary. Do not forget that the Chokwe hero Chibinda Ilunga was the grandson of a Luba Pre-Tabwa? prince, originating from Moba, in the heart of Tabwa territory.
(1): Bernard de Grunne, La sculpture Tabwa, Master degree essay, Institut of Archeology and History of Art, Catholic University of Louvain, 1980, pp.83-97 and François Neyt, "Tabwa Sculpture and the Great Traditions of East-Central Africa," in Evan M. Maurer and Allen F. Roberts, Tabwa. The Rising of a New Moon: a Century of Tabwa Art, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 1986, pp.76-79
(2): Bernard de Grunne, op. cit., 1980, p.71-74
(3): R.P. Pierre Colle, Les Baluba, Collection Monographiques, XI, Brussels, 1913, Vol I, p.8
(4): Victor Jacques and Emile Storms, Notes sur l'ethnographie de la partie orientale de l'Afrique équatoriale, in Bulletin de la société d'anthropologie de Bruxelles, 1886-87, p.30
(5): Allen F. Roberts, "Social and Historical Contexts of Tabwa Art," in Evan M. Maurer and Allen F. Roberts, Tabwa. The Rising of a New Moon: a Century of Tabwa Art, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 1986, p.2
(6): A.F. Roberts, Heroic beasts, Beastly heroes: Principles of Cosmology and Chiefship among the Lakeside Batabwa of Zaire, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Chicago, 1980, p.412-413
(7): Christian de Quay and Francis Lombrail, Collection Annie et Jean-Pierre Jernander, Paris, Drouot Richelieu, Expert Bernard de Grunne, 26 June 1996, lot 14
(8): Christie's Paris, Art Africain et Art Océanien, Paris, 11 December 2007, lot 270
(9): Kristina van Dyke, ed., African Art from the Menil Collection, Houston, The Menil Foundation, 2008, fig.115, p.227
(10): Evan M. Maurer and Allen F. Roberts, Tabwa. The Rising of a New Moon: a Century of Tabwa Art, Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 1986, fig.32, p.138
(11): Bernard de Grunne, "The concept of Style and its usefulness in the study of African Figurative Sculpture," in Siegfried Gohr, Afrikanische Skulptur. Der Erfindung der Figur, Köln, Museum Ludwig, 1990, p. 44, note 5.