This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1997. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.
"Horse and Rider" presents a wide range of traditional
sculpture of a very prestigious theme in African art. Only the greatest
leaders were depicted on horseback. Owning a horse was a luxury, only for
the rich and.powerful or those of high rank. Being shown on horseback was
a great honor buf so was ownership of a sculpture of a horseman, celebrating
aesthetic expression and indicating wealth and status.
The tradition of horseman as icon has existed for 1000 years in Mali and we have an excellent and varied selection of Dogon works. Large wood pieces would have been the focus of important shrines, and commemorated respected deceased leaders, gods or mythological ancestors. Many would depict a hogon, the supreme officeholder, a semi-divine leader of great wisdom, or even an ancient emissary from a distant land. We have several large works, some covered bowls with horsemen, an unusual Tellem piece and smaller figures.
The Dogon also have bronze and iron horsemen that have a power and permanence belying their small size. Some Dogon doors and Bamana pieces complete the works from Mali.
The Yoruba of Nigeria contribute the second impressive grouping
beginning with a large colonial-style shrine piece. Other equestrian figures,
for Orisha shrines or altars, show the importance of the leader symbolically
with disproportionate size and careful execution. The horse received more
summary treatment. Large complex Epa headdresses, with the horseman
surrounded by followers on foot, share this convention. Other Yoruba works
and examples from the Benin, Tikar, Baule and Luba peoples
complete the exhibition. Prestige, power and human intelligence fused with
animal strength create an impressive show.