The double gongs were used by the oba (king) during the Emobo ceremony to drive away evil spirits. The carvings on this gong, one of only 6 known to exist, depicts the oba supported by his military commander and his heir. This is one of the oldest surviving African ivory sculptures.
This figure most likely stood on an altar dedicated to a deceased oba. His attire indicates that he is a court official and the leopard tooth necklace was only worn by warriors. The horn that the figure once held may have been used for ceremonial purposes.
African Mosaic: Celebrating a Decade of Collecting is an ongoing exhibit featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African History in Washington, DC. The exhibit is a showcase of extraordinary pieces collected by the National Museum for over ten years. The works on display come to the Museum either through donation or purchase and demonstrate the wide variety of artistic traditions from an array of African nations available to the public.
Last weekend during a quick visit to DC, I decided to spend the day at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. The first exhibit that I encountered was The Artistic Legacy of Gabon which was presented in conjunction with the Museum’s Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa exhibition. Earth Matters focused on African artists and their relationship to the land from which they draw both inspiration and materials for their work.