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Lot 15: Mali, DOGON. Masque cimier. Bois polychrome
October 4, 2012
Enghien-les-Bains, FranceLive Auction
Tribal art is the visual arts and material culture of indigenous peoples. Also known as Ethnographic art, or, controversially, Primitive Art, tribal arts have historically been collected by Western anthropologists, private collectors, and museums, particularly ethnographic and natural history museums. The term "primitive" is criticized as being Eurocentric and pejorative.
Tribal art is often ceremonial or religious in nature. Typically originating in rural areas, tribal art refers to the subject and craftsmanship of artefacts from tribal cultures.
In museum collections, tribal art has three primary categories.
African art, especially arts of Sub-Saharan Africa
Art of the Americas
Oceanic art, originating notably from Australia, Melanesia, New Zealand, and Polynesia)
Collection of tribal arts has been historically been inspired by the Western myth of the "noble savage", and lack of cultural context has been a challenge with the Western mainstream public's perception of tribal arts. In the 19th century, non-western art was not seen by mainstream Western art professional as being as art at all. The art world perception of tribal arts is becoming less paternalistic, as indigenous and non-indigenous advocates have struggled for more objective scholarship of tribal art. Before Post-Modernism emerged in the 1960s, art critics approached tribal arts from a purely formalist approach, that is, responding only to the visual elements of the work and disregarding historical context, symbolism, or the artist's intention.
Major exhibitions of tribal arts in the late 19th through mid-20th centuries exposed the Western art world to non-Western art. Major exhibitions included the Museum of Modern Art's 1935 Africa Negro Art and 1941 Indian Art of the United States. Exposure to tribal arts provide inspiration to many modern artists, notably Expressionists, Cubists, and Surrealists, notably Surrealist Max Ernst. Cubist painter, Pablo Picasso stated that "primitive sculpture has never been surpassed."
The Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association (ATADA), was founded in 1988, by a group of independent antique tribal art dealers to form a professional association of dealers that would provide education for the public and set standards for the trade. They recognized that tribal and ethnographic art had reached a level of specialization found in other art fields and were concerned by the volume of misidentified and pastiche materials on the market. Members offer buyers a guarantee that objects they sell are as represented regarding age, authenticity and extent of restoration.
The ATADA is a non-profit membership organization of respected and established tribal art dealers from across the United States. ATADA was formed to represent professional dealers of antique tribal art. Their objectives are to promote professional conduct among dealers and to educate the public in the valuable role of tribal art in the wealth of human experience. The organization's highest-priority goals, are: 1) to encourage the public to educate themselves in the cultures these objects represent and the roles they played within the cultures; and 2) to provide a set of standards for the trade and present ourselves to the public as a trustworthy association of art dealers adhering to the tenets outlined in ATADA bylaws.Included in the ATADA goals statement is the assurance that "the materials and goods utilized or accorded reverence by functioning religious or cultural communities, as part of their system of religious beliefs or practices, should receive appropriate protection from commercial exploitation and market pressures. Tribal leaders, dealers in tribal arts and appropriate government officials should work together to establish norms and procedures for ensuring that protection. Concern for the protection of legitimate, ongoing religious beliefs and practices, however, should not constitute grounds for objection to trade in objects that are no longer of religious significance to any extant culture, whether due to extinction of the religious system or the fact that the object itself has lost whatever religious significance it might once have had. Nor should such concerns interfere with the right of the legitimate owners of ceremonial objects to dispose of those objects as they see fit, as long as no applicable laws are violated."The ATADA currently publishes The ATADA News and The ATADA Membership Directory. The first issues of the ATADA Newsletter were published in 1988, first edited by Gary Spratt, then by Ramona Morris, then by Alice Kaufman. The name of the publication is now the ATADA News.
Members are generally regarded as authorities in the field of antique tribal art. ATADA Members are required to uphold ethical standards as defined in the ATADA Bylaws, and must agree to honor the ATADA guarantee of authenticity and condition for all American Indian and Tribal Art sales. In addition to demonstrating a commitment to enriching the cultural lives of their communities, members share their expertise through significant exhibition, informative catalogs, and by offering quality works of art whose authenticity is unconditionally guaranteed.The "2009-2010 ATADA Members Gallery and Directory" lists members by surname and allows them to post a full-color, annotated image of some of their best available pieces. ATADA has vetted the images of all objects displayed, while each member retains responsibility for authenticating and identifying their own objects. Each ATADA member has pledged to honor the guarantee of authenticity and condition.On February 24, 2006 the ATADA launched a Lifetime Achievement Award "for contributions to the understanding and preservation of tribal art".
Indigenous peoples primarily refers to ethnic groups that have historical ties to groups that existed in a territory prior to colonization or formation of a nation state, and which normally preserve a degree of cultural and political separation from the mainstream culture and political system of the nation state within the border of which the indigenous group is located. The political sense of the term defines these groups as particularly vulnerable to exploitation and oppression by nation states. As a result, a special set of political rights in accordance with international law have been set forth by international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and the World Bank. The United Nations have issued a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to protect the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and natural resources. Depending on which precise definition of "indigenous people" used, and on the census, estimates of a world total population of Indigenous people range from 220 million Indigenous peoples in 1997 to 350 million in 2004.
In the post-colonial period, the concept of specific indigenous peoples within the African continent has gained wider acceptance, although not without controversy. The highly diverse and numerous ethnic groups which comprise most modern, independent African states contain within them various peoples whose situation, cultures and pastoralist or hunter-gatherer lifestyles are generally marginalized and set apart from the dominant political and economic structures of the nation. Since the late 20th century these peoples have increasingly sought recognition of their rights as distinct indigenous peoples, in both national and international contexts.Batwa Pygmy with traditional bow and arrow.Although the vast majority of African peoples can be considered to be indigenous in the sense that they have originated from that continent and middle and south east Asia, in practice identity as an "indigenous people" as per the term's modern application is more restrictive, and certainly not every African ethnic group claims identification under these terms. Groups and communities who do claim this recognition are those who by a variety of historical and environmental circumstances have been placed outside of the dominant state systems, and whose traditional practices and land claims often come into conflict with the objectives and policies promulgated by governments, companies and surrounding dominant societies. Given the extensive and complicated history of human migration within Africa, being the "first peoples in a land" is not a necessary precondition for acceptance as an indigenous people. Rather, indigenous identity relates more to a set of characteristics and practices than priority of arrival. For example, several populations of nomadic peoples such as the Tuareg of the Sahara and Sahel regions now inhabit areas in which they arrived comparatively recently; their claim to indigenous status (endorsed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights) is based on their marginalization as nomadic peoples in states and territories dominated by sedentary agricultural peoples. The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC) is one of the main trans-national network organizations recognized as a representative of African indigenous peoples in dialogues with governments and bodies such as the UN. IPACC identifies several key characteristics associated with indigenous claims in Africa:political and economic marginalization rooted in colonialism;de facto discrimination based often on the dominance of agricultural peoples in the State system (e.g. lack of access to education and health care by hunters and herders);the particularities of culture, identity, economy and territoriality that link hunting and herding peoples to their home environments in deserts and forests (e.g. nomadism, diet, knowledge systems);some indigenous peoples, such as the San and Pygmy peoples are physically distinct, which makes them subject to specific forms of discrimination.With respect to concerns expressed that identifying some groups and not others as indigenous is in itself discriminatory, IPACC states that it:"...recognises that all Africans should enjoy equal rights and respect. All of Africa's diversity is to be valued. Particular communities, due to historical and environmental circumstances, have found themselves outside the state-system and underrepresented in governance...This is not to deny other Africans their status; it is to emphasise that affirmative recognition is necessary for hunter-gatherers and herding peoples to ensure their survival."At an African inter-governmental level, the examination of indigenous rights and concerns is pursued by a sub-commission established under the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), sponsored by the African Union (AU) (successor body to the Organization of African Unity (OAU)). In late 2003 the 53 signatory states of the ACHPR adopted the Report of the African Commission's Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities and its recommendations. This report says in part (p. 62):...certain marginalized groups are discriminated in particular ways because of their particular culture, mode of production and marginalized position within the state[; a] form of discrimination that other groups within the state do not suffer from. The call of these marginalized groups to protection of their rights is a legitimate call to alleviate this particular form of discrimination.The adoption of this report at least notionally subscribed the signatories to the concepts and aims of furthering the identity and rights of African Indigenous peoples. The extent to which individual states are mobilizing to put these recommendations into practice varies enormously, however, and most Indigenous groups continue to agitate for improvements in the areas of land rights, use of natural resources, protection of environment and culture, political recognition and freedom from discrimination.
African art constitutes one of the most diverse legacies on earth. Though many casual observers tend to generalize "traditional" African art, the continent is full of people, societies, and civilizations, each with a unique visual special culture. The definition may also include the art of the African Diasporas, such as the art of African Americans. Despite this diversity, there are some unifying artistic themes when considering the totality of the visual culture from the continent of Africa.Most African sculpture was historically in wood and other organic materials that have not survived from earlier than at most a few centuries ago; older pottery figures are found from a number of areas. Masks are important elements in the art of many peoples, along with human figures, often highly stylized. There is a vast variety of styles, often varying within the same context of origin depending on the use of the object, but wide regional trends are apparent; sculpture is most common among "groups of settled cultivators in the areas drained by the Niger and Congo rivers" in West Africa. Direct images of deities are relatively infrequent, but masks in particular are or were often made for religious ceremonies; today many are made for tourists as "airport art". African masks were an influence on European Modernist art, which was inspired by their lack of concern for naturalistic depiction.Later West African cultures developed bronze casting for reliefs to decorate palaces like the famous Benin Bronzes, and very fine naturalistic royal heads from around the Yoruba town of Ife in terracotta and metal from the 12th-14th centuries. Akan goldweights are a form of small metal sculptures produced over the period 1400-1900, some apparently representing proverbs and so with a narrative element rare in African sculpture, and royal regalia included impressive gold sculptured elements. Many West African figures are used in religious rituals and are often coated with materials placed on them for ceremonial offerings. The Mande-speaking peoples of the same region make pieces of wood with broad, flat surfaces and arms and legs are shaped like cylinders. In Central Africa, however, the main distinguishing characteristics include heart-shaped faces that are curved inward and display patterns of circles and dots.Eastern Africans are not known for their sculpture, producing much textile art, but one sculptural style from the region is pole sculptures, carved in human shapes and decorated with geometric forms, while the tops are carved with figures of animals, people, and various objects. These poles are, then, placed next to graves and are associated with death and the ancestral world. The culture known from Great Zimbabwe left more impressive buildings than sculpture but the eight soapstone Zimbabwe Birds appear to have had a special significance and were mounted on monoliths. Modern Zimbabwean sculptors in soapstone have achieved considerable international success. Southern Africa's oldest known clay figures date from 400 to 600 AD and have cylindrical heads with a mixture of human and animal features.