Monday, April 9, 2007

Tuareg Jewelry at Sujaro...

Head of an Oba (Chief)

Origin: Benin, Nigeria Composition: lost wax caste bronze

This bronze head is thought to represent an early Oba or Chief. The Oba has reigned in Benin, Nigeria with his ancestors, since the 15th century. Since that time, bronze heads in the image of the Oba and other royal court officials have been caste using the lost-wax method and given as a tribute to the Oba and royal family. They were kept as possessions to demonstrate the prestige and power of the royal family. Historically, the head would be placed on a royal altar, and displayed as signs of the wealth of the Chief. The hole in the back of the head was originally intended to house an ivory tusk, which would protrude from the head and also be an object of prestige. The holes in the face are thought to be made to function to hold a veil of beads.

...or, how your friends show you more of the world. Last year, I met a new friend, K from Chicago, who attended a training seminar with me here in San Fran, for certification of a predominant software in our industry.

During the week here, she discovered a fantastic African gallery near our offices in the financial district. Sujaro.... purveyor of African Textiles and artwork. We spent nearly two hours downstairs in the cellar gallery, filled with totemic idols and feathered gods, wood and bead and stone and bronze and copper and paint, (C, much like our Southern Philippines, the statuary and beadwork and textiles from the different tribes and villages were so beautiful.) She told me that she and her brother went on a visit to Africa some time ago and brought back some wonderful artwork and statuary from their travels, a few pieces carried by hand rather than checked into the luggage cargo.

K pondered the jewelry case last and we learned about the Tuareg Tribe of Niger, West Africa. She left with 2 beautiful pieces of silver and onyx.

From the gallery website:

Traditionally the Tuaregs, including the Koumamas, were nomads living in the Sahara desert. Some of the family have now settled in Agadez in northern Niger. Agadez is an ancient town at the crossroads of the camel caravan trade routes.

Every piece of Koumama jewelry is handmade, and most pieces are variations on the traditional designs. Some jewelry is made by the ancient lost wax method. First a piece of jewelry is carved in wax. The figure is then encased in clay and fired. Next liquid silver is poured into the mold. After cooling the clay is broken off and the silver piece is cleaned, filed and engraved. Finally, carbon is rubbed into the silver to highlight the engraving and the jewelry gets its final polishing. Other jewelry is made by first pouring molten silver into a small trough to form a bar. The bar is then repeatedly heated, pounded and shaped.

1 comment:

Republic of Candy said...

I'm scared of antique statues and other such relics, which I think comes from my fear of santos and other such religious relics. Irrational, illogical -- but I'm still scared of them!

But that jewelry is nice! I'm obviously not a jewelry expert, but those pieces are very Byzantine in its cut and weight, without the religious iconography, of course.