African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection

My dialogue with African art derives from the conviction that artistic creation arises from a common fund of
humanity and that in the discovery of aesthetic solutions the making of masterpieces supersedes regions,
cultures, and becomes part of the treasures from all places and all times of human creation.
Armand Arman

African Faces, African Figures: The Arman Collection is an extraordinary collection of more than 180 visually
provocative objects from diverse regions of Africa. These objects were gathered over the past 40 years by world
renowned French painter and sculptor Armand P. Arman, an artist who came to prominence during the 1960s as
part of the Paris-based Nouveau Realisme, or New Realism, movement and his American wife Corice Canton.
Though previously shown only in parts at national and international locations, this exhibition gathers these rare
and beautiful African objects together for the first time.

While the Armans never attempted to create a comprehensive overview of sub-Saharan African art, they put
together a collection of the highest quality African objects from diverse regions and cultures. Objects in the
exhibition include Mende helmet masks (Sierra Leone and Liberia); Fang and Kota reliquary figures (Gabon); and
Kongo power figures (People's Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola). African Faces,
African Figures presents a variety of objects produced in Africa, along with descriptive text about the aesthetics
and anthropology of each group by authors including Helene Joubert, Anne Marie Bouttiaux-Ndiave, Christopher
Roy, Louis Perrois, Alain Nicolas, Gustaaf Verswijver, Luc de Heusch, Els DC Palmenaer, and Jacques Lombard.
Organized by the Musee d'Arts Africains,
                                                    '
Oceaniens, Amerindiens ol Marseille (France), African Faces, African Figures is accompanied by this full-color
catalogue with articles by Alain Nicolas, the Director of the Musee d'Arts Africains, Oceaniens, Amerindiens;
Jean-Hubert Martin; and Jacques Kerchachc, along with two extensive interviews with Arman conducted by
Monique Barbier-Mueller and Alain Nicolas. The catalogue is richly illustrated and provides extensive descriptions
of the objects and the peoples that produced them, including historical, religious, and geographic information.

Photographs: Gerard Bonnet
The Kota and Mahongwe
Collections
Additional information
According to oral tradition, an entire complex of related peoples—speaking Mbede or Mbete, and today occupying
the region of the Sangha toward present-day Central African Republic and in the north of the Democratic Republic of
Congo—began progressive migrations to the south beginning in the eighteenth century: Many such waves
made their way to the valleys of a vast zone bordering Congo and Gabon, toward the upper Qgowe and the Zanaga
region. These peoples, designated by the term Kota, from the name of one of the groups (the Kota-Kota or, from the
area near the Ivindo), were the Obamba, Mindassa and Bawoumbou, on the one hand, and the Mahongwe, Shake,
Shamaye, on the other, as well as some other small groups of lesser demographic importance.

In times gone by, the Kota did not bury their dead, but "exposed" them in the distance of the forest. Only the chiefs of
lineages were interred. Gradually, contact was entered into with other peoples (the Fang?) and the custom of burying
important persons, then "treating" their remains, was begun. It is worth noting that, until relatively recently, persons
dying in special circumstances—accident, suicide, execution for crimes or sorcery, etc.—would not have been allowed
a normal burial. Kota rituals allied to ancestor cults aimed to honor illustrious deceased members of the lineage, but
also would carefully keep them out of the reach of other villagers.

E. Andersson has shown, in a very erudite analysis of Kota religious beliefs, that: 'for the Kota, the concept of 'good'
has its basis in the fusion of two rather dissimilar notions of the divine." The belief in a celestial Nzambe and a
terrestrial Nzambe, reflects the fusion of two religious universes and two cultures. The god of heaven being "the
ancient god of a hunting people living under a patriarchal system and coming from the east, in all likelihood with a
Hamitic component. " The god of earth would be "the god—or the goddess—fertility of an agrarian people; of
matriarchal law, a people encountered by the ancestors during the course of their migrations. " It is true that today
one again finds the two types of organization, patriarchal in the north, matriarchal in the south.
113
Reliquary Figure
Kota-Mindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 39.8 cm.

114
Reliquary Figure
Kota-Mindumu/Ondumbo Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 33.7 cm.

115
Reliquary Figure
Kota-Mindumu/Ondumu Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 42.6 cm.
Sale at Sotheby's, New York, 15 April
1988, no. 115.

116
Reliquary Figure Kota-Mindumu/Ondumu
Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood,copper H. 42 cm.
Publications –F/ Chaffin. L’Art kota, p. 98, no. 21.

117
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 58.9 cm.

118
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 62 cm.

119
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 44.5 cm.

120
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 68.5 cm.

121
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 45.7 cm.

122
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 54 cm.

123
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 64.2 cm.
Formerly     in     the     R.     Duperrier Collection.
Publications:
-L. Perrois, Arts du Gabon, Arts d'Afrique noire,
Arnouville, 1979, no. 221 a and b, p. 216.
-WM. Robbins & N.I. Nooter, AJhcan Art in
American Collections, Smithsonian Institution Press,
Washington, 1989, nos. 913-914.
-F. Chaffin, I Art kota, p. 306, no. 189.

124
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon (Upper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 58 cm.

125
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 42.7 cm.
Sale at Loudmer and Poulain (Druot), 8
June 1978, n   320, under the heading
"Collection Pinto."
Publications:
-F. Chaffin, L'Artkota, p. 224, no. 12S.
101
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon (Tipper Ogowe)
Wood, copper; H. 49 cm.
Sale of the H. Rubinstein Collection,
21-29   April   1966   at   Park-Bernet
Galleries, New York, catalogue n° 203.
Publications:
-F. Chaffin, L'Art kota, p. 140, no. 2.

102
Reliquary Janus Rgure
Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 56.2 cm.
Sale of the De Mire Collection, Dec.
1931, Paris.

103
Reliquary Janus Figure
Southern Kota, Gabon/Congo
Wood, copper; H. 61.8 cm.

104
Reliquary Figure
Southern Kota, Gabon/Congo
Wood, copper; H. 69.3 cm. Publications:
-Werner  Gillon,  Collecting African Art, 1979.
-F. Chaffin, L'art kota, p. 204, no. 104.

105
Reliquary Figure
Southern Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 46.5 cm.

106
Reliquary Janus Figure
Southern Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 58.5 cm.' Sale of the H. Rubinstein
Collection, 21-29   April    1966   at   Park-Bernet
Galleries, New York, catalogue n° 200.

107
Reliquary Figure
Southern Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 48 cm.

108
Reliquary Figure
Southern Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 46.5 cm.

109
Reliquary Figure
Southern Kota, Gabon/Congo
Wood, copper; H. 46 cm.

110
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon/Congo
Wood, copper; H. 37 cm.

111
Reliquary Figure Fragment
Kota-Shamaye
Gabon (north of Okoudja)
Wood, copper; H. 24 cm.
Formerly   in  the  Jacques   Kerchache
Collection.

112
Reliquary Figure
Kota, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 54 cm.
Sale at Loudmer and Poulain, Paris, 14
June 1979, lot 166.
Sale at Sotheby's, London, 3 July 1989.
The Mahongwe constitute the northern branch of the Kota peoples. Numbering between 3,000 and 5,000
individuals, distributed over several groups in two cantons near Mekambo and the region bordering Congo-
Brazzaville up to Kelle, they have long remained apart owing to their obstinate resistance to the penetration of
French administration. The Mahongwe practice an ancestor cult (bwete) that was at the center of a system of beliefs
and rites. Fearful of the deceased, above all the phantoms that wander the forest (menkuku), but also the living-
dead (elolongo)—beings who have been rejected by the world of the dead—the Mahongwe showed particular
devotion to relics of important ancestors of the lineage, guarantors for the protection and survival of the group.

These relics, augmented by some "charms" and other power substances, were kept in woven rattan baskets upon
which were arranged reliquary figures in wood plated with thin brass strips, plates or wire. Copper originally came
from the mines of Niari, and later from recycling. Even some old ancestor skulls were themselves covered with brass
plates as well.

The sub-style of the Mahongwe, formerly exhibited as Ossyeba, was not properly identified until 1966, after field
research in east Gabon. The Libreville Museum conserves the first boho-na-bwete discovered in situ close to
Mekambo: these are the reference examples which have allowed us to more accurately characterize Mahongwe art
and, more particularly, to be able to discern two types of related objects, the large bwete (the founders of the
lineage) and the small (their successors).

These reliquary figures were exhibited during the course of public dances associated with the initiation ceremonies
and rituals involving magical therapy. All such objects disappeared from the villages between 1940 and 1960.
Confiscated by missionaries or destroyed by prophets of new syncretic religions (the "Mademoiselle" cult, for
example), others were sometimes merely hidden in ancient cemeteries, deep in the forest, where, accidently, some
are still been recovered.
L.P.
91
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 25 cm.
Formerly  in  the Jacques   Kerchache Collection.
Dated: late 19th/early 20th century.

Exhibition:
Le   m'boueti   des   Mahongoue,   Jacques Kerchache 1967.

Publications:
- ]. Kerchache, J.L. Paudrat & L. Stephan, L' Art africain, Mazenod, Paris 1988, no. 591, p. 427.
— C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, 1967 , p. 67, no. 22.
- F. Chaffm, L'Art kota, p. 92, no. 15.
— Arts d'Afrique noire, nos. 5 and 20.

92
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon (Mekambo region)
Wood, copper; H. 45 cm.
Formerly   in   the  Jacques   Kerchache Collection.

Exhibition:
Le   m'boueti   des   Mahongoue,   Jacques Kerchache 1967.

Publications:
- C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, 1967, p. 63.

93
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 36 cm.

94
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 28 cm.

95
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper, iron; H. IS cm.
Formerly  in  the Jacques   Kerchache Collection.
Exhibition:
Le   m'boueti   des   Mahongoue,   Jacques
Kerchache 1967.
Publications'.
- C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, 1967, p. 36-37, specimen 8.
- F. Chaffm, L'Art kota, p. 88, no. 12.

96
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 43.5 cm.

97
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. SO cm.
Formerly  in  the  Jacques   Kerchache Collection.
Sale at Sothebv's,  London,  30 March 1987,

Exhibition:
Le   m'boueti   des   Mahongoue,   Jacques
Kerchache 1967.

Publications:
— C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, 1967, p. 26, specimen 23.
— F. Chaffin, L'Art kota, p. 87, no. 10.

98
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 37 cm.

99
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 33 cm.

Exhibition;
Le   m 'boueti   des   Mahongoue,   Jacques Kerchache 1967.

Publications:
— C. Roy, J. Kerchache, Le m'boueti des Mahongoue, 1961.

100
Reliquary Figure
Mahongwe, Gabon
Wood, copper; H. 41 cm.
Rand African Art
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to see my Kota "You Be the Judge" page with 22 more figures.

Go to see pictures of my
Kota mbulu ngulu figure

Go to see pictures of my
Mahongwe bwete figure
Amateur, Accumulator,Collector, Connoisseur
by Jacques Kerchache

CLICK HERE to go to the brief article by Jacques Kerchache on his friendship and experiences with Arman.
Interview - Arman Armand
New   York,    December    2nd,     1995
by Alain Nicolas
From the book on Arman's collection:
African Faces, African Figures
Arman, in 1985, before his "L'Heure de Tous" (Time for All) in front of the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris.
Arman, 76, Found-Object Sculptor, Dies

By KEN JOHNSON
Published: October 24, 2005 - NY Times
Arman, the French sculptor known internationally for his surprising accumulations of trash and found objects,
died Saturday at his home in New York. He was 76.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Corice Canton Arman.

A founding member of the Nouveau Réalistes, a group that included Yves Klein, Daniel Spoerri and Jean
Tinguely, Arman made his mark in the 1960's. For a famous exhibition in 1960 at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris he
responded to Klein's exhibition "La Vide" ("The Void"), which consisted of an entirely empty gallery, by filling the
gallery floor to ceiling with rubbish and calling it "Le Plein" ("Full Up").

Arman went on to create accumulations of all kinds of objects, from partly squeezed-out paint tubes immersed in
cast plastic to a 106-foot-high stack of military vehicles embedded in concrete, in Beirut; called "Hope for Peace,"
that 1995 work was commissioned by the government of Lebanon. He made sculptures out of everything from
buttons to typewriters, musical instruments, car parts and bicycles, and he manipulated them in all sorts of ways -
sometimes violently, as in works that involved dissection, burning and exploding, and sometimes by creating
elegantly patterned arrangements.

Like the found-object works of Marcel Duchamp, those of Arman challenge conventional notions about the nature
of art. And like the serialized Pop Art works of Andy Warhol, they reflect anxieties about social issues like
consumerism, waste and individuality in a society of mass production.

Arman was also an avid collector of art and antiques, from knives to jukeboxes. His collections of Japanese arms
and armor and of African art have been exhibited in museums around the world.

Armand Pierre Fernandez was born on Nov. 17, 1928, in Nice in the south of France. (A printer's error prompted
him to drop the d from his name in 1958.) His father, an antiques dealer, was an amateur painter and musician,
and Arman began painting as a child. After earning a baccalaureate in philosophy and mathematics in 1946 he
began to study painting at the École Nationale d'Art Décoratif in Nice, where he met Klein. Later he studied
archaeology and Asian art at the École du Louvre.

Arman made Surrealistic paintings in the 40's and moved on to abstraction in the 50's. An exhibition of works by
Kurt Schwitters inspired his lifelong interest in assemblage, and he began to produce his accumulations of trash
and found objects in the late 50's.

In 1951 Arman became a teacher at the Bushido Kai Judo School in Madrid, and in the early 50's he served for
two years as a medical orderly in the French army in Vietnam.

Arman had his first solo exhibitions in London and Paris in 1956, and he was later included in many important
international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale and Documenta 4 in Kassel, Germany. He represented
France in Expo '67, the world's fair in Montreal. He had his first solo show in New York at Cordier Ekstrom Gallery
in 1961, and in 1964, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis organized his first American museum retrospective. In
2001, the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain in Nice mounted a retrospective.

Arman received United States citizenship in 1973, keeping his French citizenship. Since 1975 he had maintained
homes and studios in New York and in Vence, France.

His first marriage, to Eliane Radigue, ended in divorce.

Arman is survived by his wife; his children from his first marriage, Francoise Moreau of Paris and Anne Lamb of
Montpellier, France; his children from his second marriage, Yasmine Arman and Phillippe Arman, both of New
York; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. His son Yves died in 1989.
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