Statue, Dogon, Mali
- haut. 102 cm
- 40 in
Collection René et Odette Delenne, Bruxelles , acquis ca. 1962
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Die Kunst von Schwartz-Afrika, 31 octobre 1970-17 janvier 1971
Munich, World cultures and Modern Art: The encounter of 19th and 20th century art and music with Asia, Africa, Oceania, Afro - and Indo-America, 16 juin-30 septembre 1972
Leuzinger, Die Kunst von Schwartz-Afrika, 1970, listé, n° A56
Wichmann, World cultures and Modern Art: The encounter of 19th and 20th century art and music with Asia, Africa, Oceania, Afro - and Indo-America, 1972, n° 1862
Petridis, Fragments of the Invisible: The René and Odette Delenne Collection of Congo Sculpture, 2013, p. 101, n° 55
Dogon figure, Mali
"The canoes of this archipelago are unlike any others we have seen [...]. Those designed for war are topped by long wooden spikes with rounded and curved ends; rich sculptures are often used to decorate them" (Dumont d'Urville, Voyage au Pôle Sud et dans l'Océanie, sur les corvettes "l'Astrolabe" et "la Zélée", 1842-1846, t. V, p. 110, December 1838). Known as nguzunguzu, these war-canoe prow figures from the Western Solomon Islands — and the head-hunting tradition to which they belonged — were an endless source of fascination for European travellers. Far from the "horrible image on the prow [...] with the mouth of a demon" described with horror by the Reverend Alfred Penny in 1903, this is the finest expression of the art of the Solomon Islands.
Its distinctive small scale highlights the refinement of the carving and the intricacy of the elaborate décor, with inlays of chiselled nautilus fragments. While the classical morphology of nguzunguzu figures was inspired by the canine-looking spirit Tiola, here the work draws on naturalism and combines, in perfect harmony, idealized beauty and signs of sensory powers. From sight first, but also from speech, hearing and smell, the nguzunguzu drew its faculty to "observe, intercept, react and interact with any malicious spirit met during the trip, [making it] essential to the success of head-hunting expeditions to the neighbouring islands, which played a central role in religious, but also economic and political life in the western Solomon Islands " (Hviding in Mélandri, L'éclat des ombres. L'art en noir et blanc des îles Salomon, 2014, p. 124). Finally, the remarkable quality of the sculpture is complemented by the traces left by traditional tools, a sign of its antiquity.