Illustration principale
Okuli figure
Koro/Gwari, Northern Nigeria, circa 1900

Wood
Height : 112 cm

Provenance : Galerie Walu, Zurich (1983)
Collection Heinke, Bollingen (Switzerland)
This visually inventive sculpture brilliantly illustrates one of the littlest known corpus in the
world of African art. Although it unmistakeably comes from a region between the Middle Benue
River and the Cross River region, it is attributed, depending on the source, either to the Gwari
populations or to the Koro sculptors.
In the typology established by Antonio Casanovas and Ana Gaspar in their groundbreaking exhibition
“Origenes. Artes Primeras. Colecciones de la Peninsula Ibérica”, in Madrid 2005, two distinct
styles particularly stand out and are considered archaic.
One is the “cylindrical style”, exemplified in particular by the statue in the National Museum of
Lagos (inv. n° 721.1246H; cf. Phillips, Africa. The Art of the Continent, p. 26, n° 5) and by the present
sculpture. Known as okuli, these figures, tapering into a cylindrical base, were used to ritually
pound the ground during great ceremonies.
The second group is the “cylindrical style with separate legs,” named obakuli, of which the sculpture
exhibited by the Galerie Arte Y Ritual in 2005, and later sold for a record price at Sotheby’s,
Paris in June 21st 2017 (lot 43), was a superlative example.
The formal affinities these works share with the Mumuye statuary are strengthened by a likely
common prophylactic purpose. Kept away from view, they received regular offerings to protect
their owners and were exhibited only when important guests arrived (Conde Prado, Joyas del
Niger y del Benue, 2003, p. 88).
Here, the talent of the artist is evident in the unique reinterpreation of the human figure reduced
to the essential, the purity of the sculptural gesture which only details the features of the face and
the feminine attributes and comes to life in the nuances of the deep patina clearly echoes some of
the most inventive and abstracted figurative sculptures of Pablo Picasso.
Price : on request
Illustration secondaire