Property from the Estate of Sheldon M. Tucker, Houston
TEKE-TSAYE MASK, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Width: 11 ½ in (29.2 cm)
Henri Lecler, Geneva
Parke Bernet Galleries, New York, African & Oceanic Art, Property of Henri Lecler, December 7, 1968, lot 81
Sheldon M. Tucker, Houston, acquired at the above auction
Created by the Teke-Tsaye people, who live in the eastern region of the Republic of Congo, the discoid shape and polychromatic design covering the surface of this mask combine to create an abstract aesthetic. According to Marie-Claire Dupré, these complex patterns are all esoteric designs and decoding them could help uncover "important information on the history of the Teke tsaye" (Dupré, "Masque de danse ou cartes géopolitiques [...]", Cahiers des sciences humaines, No. 26, 1990, pp. 447-471).
The iconography of the masks, born from dreams and the use of hallucinogenic roots, are arranged symmetrically and are associated with secret knowledge that "commemorates the sky, the stars, the migration of the tsaayi, and the relationship between the stars, nature spirits, and veiled presence of ancestors" (Neyt, Fleuve Congo, Paris, 2010, p. 69).