West Africa, Nigeria, left bank of the Benue River, Tiv peoples, ca. early 20th century CE. An intriguing and macabre fetish figure, hand-carved from either human or ungulate bone, with a slender "body" and a large wooden anthropomorphic head on top. The bulbous head displays a tall slender nose with flared nostrils, planar cheeks, thin lips, and large glass eye panels with pupils painted underneath. Cupped ears and facial scarification nodes complete the visage, with tufts of coarse dark-brown human hair applied with mud across the domed head. The head is attached to the bone body with a thick collar of mud set with black-and-red painted seeds. Areas of black pigment embellish much of the face and ears, and deep red pigment adds color to the body. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 2.2" W x 7.625" H (5.6 cm x 19.4 cm); 8.5" H (21.6 cm) on included custom stand.
The Tiv peoples occupy much of the fertile farming areas around the Niger and Benue Rivers. Their Cross-River location means that they are regularly influenced by outside tribes who influence their traditions, culture, and art; conversely, this constant influence means that examples of identifiably Tiv art are quite rare.
Tiv works of art typically involve a simple style that does not conform to specific artistic tradition. Some pieces are generally defined by naturalistic body features, long and straight forms with integral bulbous heads, or simply carved heads attached to human or animal leg bones. Though stylistically varied, they are often symbolically associated with thwarting the idea or feelings involved with "akombo," the feeling of fear one experiences when under the influence of malevolent magical spirits and bad luck. Usually placed in the doorway of a home or simply inside a home, this is one such example of a fetish figure used to combat these evil spirits.
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-Michael Oliver collection, New York, USA
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Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age as expected, small losses to face, ears, hair, seeds, and bone body, with fading to pigmentation, and clouding to glass eye panels. Nice earthen deposits throughout.