This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1995. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.
"African Metalworks" focuses on the impressive and diverse
ways metal was forged, cast, hammered and embellished in traditional African
sculpture and artifacts. The exhibition is arranged in groupings of related
works, emphasizing the strength and variety inherent in the metal work from
each tribe. Forged iron pieces include selected groups of Fon royal staffs,
Yoruba osanyin healing staffs, Dogon multiple lamp structures and Bamana
figures. Cast pieces in bronze or brass range from Benin figures, reliefs,
bells and royal leopards, Dogon equestrian figures, Yoruba edan figures,
Cameroon bracelets and pipes to small Ashanti goldweights, all made by the
one-of-a-kind lost-wax process.
There are also displays of large Turumba, Bangala and Kuba currency pieces, bracelets, anklets, Ethiopian crosses, Taureg necklaces, pendants and more. Works that incorporate both metal and wood include plated Bakota and Mahongwe reliquary guardians, Malinke and Bamana masks, Yoruba orisha oka staffs, knives, spears, axes, tools and Bakongo nail fetishes. The pieces served ritual or functional purposes and played important roles in their communities, making this a spiritual as well as a beautiful show. Using metal required great technical skill, displaying a strong love for the material and a desire for objects of permanence. The patina of age and use embellish these creations with unusual power.
FON, IRON ROYAL STAFF, Republic of Benin, Photograph © John Urban
Staffs made of iron and brass were displayed in royal compounds to affirm kingly power. Usually depicting a king with related motifs, they were called "Asen" and commemorated past rulers.