24 MAORI WAR CANOE BAILER ('TIHERU' OR 'TATA'), NEW ZEALAND Hard wood with brown patina
Large scoop with a cylindrical grip engraved with a protective manaia pattern at the top. The base of the item has a tongue sticking out of the mouth and eyes decorated with the same curls and curves that appear on Maori boat bows and sterns. The sacred nature of the piece (essential to the warriors’ survival in stormy seas) explains the protective designs such as the manaia, the bird man spirit, battling negative forces, and intercessors between the worlds of the living and the dead. This type of piece is particularly rare in private collections and pops up in some museums such as the National Museum of New Zealand in Wellington which has a very similar piece (ME. 590) described as the Te Huringa I period (see Te Maori, page 206). The Ngati Porou style is typical of productions from the Gisborne Region on the North Island’s north east coast and appeared in the early 19th century. 1972.450 is painted white under the piece; RW 69-288 is painted red.
the Wunderman collection and now at the Dapper Museum dating between 860 and 1040 AD (illus. 1). It stands out for its graphic details and is the oldest sub-Saharan wooden sculpture outside Egypt.(4) These sceptres were undoubtedly carried by high Soninke dignitaries as in other Soninke statues depicting a sceptre with no human figuration hanging off a dignitary’s shoulder (illus.2) Finally, what does this Soninke statue mean? These are undoubtedly important figures who have commissioned their own portrait: war leaders, migration heroes and religious figures. Recent work among the Dogon tribe confirmed the results of our research into terracotta statue iconography from the Inland Niger Delta(5). Dogon statues, like some Djenné-Djenno terracotta statues, were commissioned by people whislt alive and in their image(6). These are portraits of living people. The anthropologist Jacky Boujou believes that Dogon statues became portraits of elders upon the death of the commissioner of the piece just like a dead person becomes an ancestor once the appropriate rites have been conducted(7). The Soninke people were the first pre-Mande tribe to found a Sahel state known by Arab travellers as the Ghana Empire and based in Wagadu. Countless large Mande families can retrace their roots to this Wagadu Empire, the cradle of Soninke culture. Some Soninke clans may have played a major role in the spread of Islam from the 10th century but others founded this age-old statue art that is an enduring testament providing precious information about ancient Mande civilisations and revealing undisputable links with their Djenné-Djenno neighbours, all born of and fed by Joliba, the great Niger River, and its Bani tributary. Bernard de Grunne
28 AN DUGO SONINKE ANCESTOR FIGURE, MALI Wood with brown patina
Publication : - Philippe Guimiot, Regards sur une collection, Bruxelles, 1995 - Bernard de Grunne, Terres Cuites de l'Ouest Africain, Louvain-La-Neuve, 1980, fig. 25
Bernard de Grunne, “Heroic Riders and Divine Horses : An Analysis of Ancient Soninke and Dogon Equestrian Figures from the Inland Niger Delta Region in Mali”, in The Minneapolis Institute of Art Bulletin, Volume LXVI, 1983-89, Minneapolis 1991:78-96 (2) Bernard de Grunne, ed., Mains de Maîtres. A la découverte des sculpteurs d’Afrique, Brussels, Espace Culturel BBL, 2001 (3) Rita Bolland, Tellem textiles Archeological finds from burial caves in Mali’s Bandiagara Cliff, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, 1991, p. 195 (4) G. Dieterlen et alii, Dogon, Paris, Musée Dapper, 1994, pp. 34-35 (5) Bernard de Grunne, Divine Gestures and Earthly God. A study of the ancient Terracotta Statuary from the Inland Niger Delta in Mali, Unpub. Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1987 and Bernard de Grunne, Djenné-jeno. 1000 ans de sculpture en terre cuite au Mali, Brussels, Fonds Mercator, 2014 (6) Walter van Beek, « Functions of Scultpure in Dogon Religion, » in African Arts, vol. XXI, n° 4, August 1988, p. 60 (7) Jacky Boujou, « La statuaire Dogon