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Nigerian Traditional Artifacts

August 1 through October 31, 1998

Among the people who live in Nigeria are the Yoruba, the Ibo, the Ibibio, the Ogoni, the Edo, the Beni, the Ekoi, the Igala, the Mumuye, and the Igbo. Each group produces a distinctive art form. Probably the most famous art forms from Nigeria are those produced by the ancient Nigerian Ife and Benin civilizations. The Ife and Benin so-called "bronzes" are not surpassed in beauty or technology by any artisans anywhere in the world. The Gallery did an on-line exhibit last year showcasing metal-work from Nigeria and its neighbors, that included many Ife and Benin items, and in the near future we will be mounting another exhibition of Ife and Benin artifacts. The purpose of this show is to explore the wide variety of artifacts produced from wood, beads, and textiles by the people of Nigeria. This show will feature items from the Yoruba, Igbo, Ibibio, Ekoi, Ogoni, and Ibo peoples.

When viewing these items, keep in mind that they are not "art" in the European sense of the word. By that I mean that they were not produced to hang on a wall or grace a knick-knack shelf. They were produced for a specific purpose in African society. Furthermore, the art we see in European museums often misrepresents the aesthetic of African societies. Many of the "masks" seen in museums and galleries are only a part of the religious regalia that represents the total countenance of the "dancer" who performs the ceremony. Many of the items were never intended to be seen motionless or at eye level, the most common position for such objects in museums. Furthermore, many museums display items that would no longer be utilized in traditional African societies. Items on which the color has faded, which are badly eroded by termites or time, with missing arms or legs would have been discarded were it not for anxious European collectors who mistake antiquity for quality.

Despite these caveats, we present for your education and entertainment "Nigerian Traditional Artifacts." To see masks as they appear in traditional ceremonies, see THE DANCE, ART, AND RITUAL OF AFRICA by Michel Huet.