Bangwa Maternity Figure, Cameroon

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Lot 97
Bangwa Maternity Figure, Cameroon

Sold for US$ 181,325 inc. premium

African and Oceanic Art

13 May 2019, 17:00 EDT

New York

Bangwa Maternity Figure, Cameroon
height 29 3/4in (75cm)

Provenance
Baron Freddy Rolin Collection, New York/Brussels
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the early 1980s

According to Robert Brain, 'The Bangwa--also known as Fontem--are a group of western Bamileke chiefdoms in Cameroon well known for their portrait figures of royals and for the terror masks associated with their secret societies. On the whole, their numerous mother and child figures have not been noted in surveys of African maternity figures . . . A number have unfortunately disappeared into the limbo of private collections. For this reason and as a result of the haphazard spoliation of the Bangwa royal treasure houses, we are rarely able to trace the exact provenance of a piece or to gather details about its sculptor . . .

Nevertheless, in style and symbolic accoutrements [as in the work presented here] it is typical of the various kinds of statues of Bangwa women. These include portraits of chiefs' first or favorite wives and of "queen mothers," who are in fact the chiefs' sisters . . .

The mother and child statues celebrate womanhood and extol the idea of maternity and fecundity. This insistence on fertility is linked with a twin cult: twins and their parents are given special signs of respect, one of which is the carving of statues in their honor." (Vogel, Susan, For Spirits and Kings - African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1981, pp. 183-4.)

Both impressive and expressive, this figure twists and contorts in multiple directions. One of the most striking features is her open, gaping mouth with exaggerated, bared teeth. Her hunched back is clearly divided down the middle and tapers down to a narrow waist. Her seemingly skinny arms are of different size, the right stretching across the front and holding the left breast to the feeding baby which appears almost animal-like with its hind legs bent upwards and connecting to the right arm; varied light and dark glossy patina.
Contacts
Bangwa Maternity Figure, Cameroon
Bangwa Maternity Figure, Cameroon
Bangwa Maternity Figure, Cameroon
Bangwa Maternity Figure, Cameroon
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