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Tribal Art

“I forced myself….to examine these masks, all these objects that people had created with a sacred, magical purpose, to serve as intermediaries between them and the unknown, hostile forces surrounding them, attempting in that way to overcome their fears by giving them colour and form. And then I understood what painting really meant….I had found my path."

Pablo Picasso, 1907 (on viewing the African collection at the Trocadero Museum of Ethnology with Andre Derain)

Collectors of Tribal Art are fascinated by the objects created by indigenous artists who live in traditional communities across Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, including the Arctic. This vast area includes so many different cultures that it seems almost ridiculous categorise it under one title. Formerly described by the pejorative term “Primitive Art”, it’s now become fashionable, particularly in Francophone countries, to describe it as “Arts Premiers”. Whatever we call it, it consists of the religious sculptures, arms and weapons, textiles and body ornaments, domestic utensils and furniture, and musical instruments created and used for ritual and cultural ceremonies. Objects carved for commercial sale are not regarded at Tribal Art.

Each cultural region will be known for certain objects have become characteristic of that culture. For example, Oceanic art collectors often focus on the wonderful variety of war clubs that were produced in the 19thCentury from communities in the various islands of Polynesia and Melanesia. African Art collectors may be interested in masks or figurative sculptures from all cultures in the continent, or they may focus on items form a single Tribal group like the Yoruba in Nigeria or the Zulu of south Africa. Either way, generally speaking these sorts of handmade objects are increasingly rare and are commanding higher and higher prices. The UK has become a great depository for historic ethnographic objects due to its colonial history, and wonderful works of art can still be found in families with ancestors who travelled the empire as soldiers, merchant seamen, missionaries or administrators. Of particular interest are items from the Maori of New Zealand, aboriginal nations in Australia, Pacific clubs, African masks, sculptures and weapons, native American clothing, New Guinea shields, and Inuit hunting utensils

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