African art at its best, just around the corner

Akan-Ghana, Head, terra cotta, 18 th century

Akan-Ghana, Head, terra cotta, 18 th century

Because I know nothing about African art, I always concentrate on the aesthetically beauty of sculptures and masks I discover, and Musée Dapper is a perfect showcase for such pleasures. The exhibition, « Chefs d’œuvre d’Afrique » is a tribute to the museum’s founder, Michel Leveau, an engineer who spent his life in Africa and collected top pieces in African art with his wife Christiane (born in Cayenne, Guyana).

Kota/Ndassa-Congo, figure de reliquaire

Kota/Ndassa-Congo, figure de reliquaire

The museum, located in a little street near Place Victor Hugo, takes its name from Olfert Dapper, a Dutch humanist who described “his” Africa in a book, « A description of Africa » published in 1668. He never travelled there but listened to many adventurers and travellers who had.

Bangwa, Cameroun, Lefem statue looking like a princess

Bangwa, Cameroun, Lefem statue looking like a princess

The exhibition on two floors shows close to a hundred pieces characterisesd by their stylisation and abstractness. Some of the heads are striking and it seems that Leveau concentrated on aesthetics when he collected. Each statue is both religious, or used for cult, and artistic. Materials vary from wood to feathers, hair or vegetals. Central Africa and Western Africa are the two geographic areas of the collection.

Kongo, Democratic republic of Congo, nkisi statue

Kongo, Democratic republic of Congo, nkisi statue

The cult to ancestors in Gabon, Congo and Cameroun rivals with the political power of sculptures and coiffes. The statue Lefem from Bangwa in Cameroun is so strong that you cannot resist watching it for long minutes.
I had felt the same emotion the first time I visited the Barbier Mueller collection in Geneva. This museum is the result of one man’s passion and it shows. Each object is striking and one comes out of the place slightly shaken.

Fon, Kingdom of Dahomè, King Glèlè

Fon, Kingdom of Dahomè, King Glèlè

Do take the time to watch the fun documentary on tatoo and hair « You can touch my hair » by Antonia and Abigail Opiah in the first room and taste the Ivory coast food in the café downstairs. And beware ! the museum is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (until July 17 th)

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