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A Fine Old Mumuye Figure Benue River Valley Region Nigeria Africa

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Collection No. TB-3912
Size Height 56cm
Oceanic Arts Australia buys and sells tribal New Guinea art

A Fine Old Mumuye Figure Benue River Valley Region in Nigeria West Africa

This fine older and used Mumuye Figure is from the Benue River Valley Region of Nigeria Africa. This figure does not depict ancestors but rather incarnates tutelary spirits. The figures have many functions both ceremonial and used by traditional healers.

These bold forms of Mumuye Sculpture appeared alongside modern Western artworks in William Rubin’s 1984 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, ‘Primitivism’ in Twentieth-Century Art, and again when the theme of juxtaposition was reprised exactly a quarter-century later in the Foundation Beyeler’s own Visual Encounters: Africa, Oceania, and Modern Art.

A Mumuye figure in the British Museum that once attracted Henry Moore, on p.105 of Notebook no.3 of 1922-4 (the so-called Primitive Art notebook), in which Moore made drawings of many sculptures then on display in the BM. The sculpture again caught Moore’s attention in 1951 when it was displayed in an exhibition of tribal art that formed part of the Festival of Britain.

Again echoing Henry Moore’s cue, the strongest claim to distinctive handling of space in what, since the later 1960s, have been identified as Mumuye figure sculptures were made recently by the art historian Frank Herreman, ‘The use of negative space between the arms and the torso represents the most important plastic feature of a Mumuye figure. Beginning as an artist’s observation about an unfamiliar artwork, negative space has become a characteristic attribute of figures attributed to Mumuye’s ethnicity.

The Art historian Frank Herreman writes “

Negative spaces are not absences but positively delineated, fully present voids. The description feels apt not just for style but more generally for the historical study of Mumuye arts. For over forty years, these three figures constituted the sum of metropolitan evidence for Mumuye figure sculptures, although they were not recognized as such until the late 1960s when a ‘Mumuye style’ was delineated in the context of examples flooding into Europe from Nigeria.

I have collected a few antique African Sculptures based solely on their forms, Mumuye &  & Yaka / Suku Figures from the Congo.  I wanted to see what they looked like next to sculptures from Papua New Guinea & they look great together.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic and African Art

See my new EXHIBITIONS GALLERY  showing the Museums and Art Galleries Exhibitions that I provided artworks for over the past 40 years. There is the link to the article about my artworks published in the prestigious Louvre Magazine in 1996

I have artwork for Museums and art Galleries but also for collectors at every stage of their collecting. I want to encourage people to explore the fine art of New Guinea & West Papua and the Pacific Islands and to be able to see and touch the artworks in a relaxed and friendly manner in my Sydney Gallery. I would like to invite you to visit my gallery and see the artworks in person and also look at my website www.oceanicartsaustralia.com where there are many Galleries & Sub Galleries to explore.

My Gallery of nearly 40 years is the last physical gallery in Sydney that specializes in New Guinea and Oceanic Art.  Sydney is very close to New Guinea & the Pacific Islands where all of these amazing artworks came from, Australia’s closest neighbors.


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