East Finchley African art expert shows us the highlights of his collection
- Credit: Archant
David Malik lives in East Finchley with his wife and young child. He is currently studying for a PhD in African Art History at SOAS and the V and A as well as dealing in African art. He specialises in work from central Africa, in particular the Democratic Republic of Congo and also from Sierra Leone. He discusses four of his favourite pieces that he will be selling at Tribal Art London.
Bundu Sowei/Nowo mask, Sierra Leone, early 20th century, £4,500
The masks of the Sande society provide a unique example of masquerade performed by women in sub-Saharan Africa, where masking is normally a male prerogative.
I particularly like this mask for its nicely carved hairstyle as seen on the upper part of the mask. Another interesting feature is the combination of Islamic and indigenous iconography. Masks such as these are worn by senior members of the all-female Sande society during rite-of-passage ceremonies that signify a girl’s transition to adulthood. They are carved expressions of local ideals of feminine beauty, health and serenity that vary widely in their detail.
Male statuette attributed to the Tabwa, Democratic Republic of Congo, late 19th to early 20th century, £17,200
This unique statue from the eastern part of DRC is one of my favourite objects of all time. It’s a very powerful statue with striking facial features and a beautiful patina all over. It was originally collected in situ by Edouard d’Orjo Marchovelette around 1925 and was later exhibited at the Brussels World Fair in 1958.
Punu Mukudj Mask, Gabon, early 20th century, £3,900
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In the Punu communities of southern Gabon, mukudj masks are considered portraits of an exceptionally beautiful female member. The hairstyle, featuring a prominent sagittal lobe flanked by two side tresses, is a classic style of dressing women’s hair practiced throughout the region during the 19th century. This object is an interesting example of an ‘early collected’ mask (this means it was acquired before it had played active part in local masquerade performances).
Kota Reliquary Mbulu, Gabon, early 20th century, £11,500
This is a fantastic example of a Kota reliquary. The Kota once used reliquary guardian figures (mbulu ngulu) to protect and demarcate the revered bones of family ancestors. The bones were preserved in containers made of bark or basketry and the mbulu ngulu stood atop this bundle, bound to it at the figure’s lozenge-shaped base. It is thought that the figurative form of the mbulu ngulu was intended to reinforce and communicate the reliquary’s intense power.
Kota mbulu ngulu are unique among African sculptural forms in their combination of wood and hammered metal.I particularly admire the abstract qualities of this object. Pieces like this inspired European visual art styles and movements of the early 20th century. In fact, my love of the German Expressionists is what first drew me to collecting African art.
The UK’s only non-Western art fair, Tribal Art London, opens its third annual staging at Mall Galleries, London SW1 this year, from September 1 to 4.