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Ivory and Stone: Direct Connections between Sculptural Media along the Coast of Sierra Leone, 15th–16th Centuries

L’ivoire et la pierre : relations directes entre les productions sculptées dans ces matériaux sur la côte de Sierra Leone aux XVe-XVIe siècles
Frederick John Lamp
p. 11-42
Traduction(s) :
L’ivoire et la pierre : relations directes entre les productions sculptées dans ces matériaux sur la côte de Sierra Leone aux XVe-XVIe siècles [fr]

Résumés

Depuis la découverte de sculptures anciennes en pierre en Sierra Leone, et l’attribution d’œuvres en ivoire au sein des collections européennes aux Sapi, peuples anciens de Sierra Leone, la question de leurs relations est posée. Où étaient les ateliers des tailleurs sur ivoire et les ateliers des tailleurs sur pierre ; étaient-ils les mêmes ? Quelques exemples ont un contenu identique. Les motifs suggèrent que les sculptures en ivoire destinées aux Portugais traduisaient ceux de la culture et la philosophie sapi, et, peut-être même copiaient directement la tradition locale sur pierre. Quelques autres exemples suggèrent l’adoption dans la sculpture en pierre de motifs portugais présents sur des objets en ivoire. Des similitudes stylistiques peuvent se manifester dans les caractéristiques schématiques des physionomies et des gestes et de la posture. Les artistes chargés de sculpter l’ivoire pour les Portugais auraient été des artistes déjà hautement reconnus dans leur propre communauté et sculptant pour leur propre société.

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Introduction

  • 1 This essay was first presented in two papers at the conference, African Ivory: Commerce and Objects (...)

1In the past few decades, a particular body of similar ivory carving has emerged in European collections, usually coming from a royal “cabinet of curiosities”, “kunstkammer” or “wunderkammer”, often without provenance or clear attribution. These are principally in the form of lidded chalices believed to have functioned as saltcellars, and trumpets (oliphants), spoons and forks, all richly carved with figurative ornamentation, most now believed to have been made by African artists for European clients (Fig. 1), and now the subject of this essay.1

Figure 1 – Elephant Ivory carving in European and American collections

Figure 1 – Elephant Ivory carving in European and American collections

- a. Oliphant. Elephant ivory tusk and metal (gold?), 8.9x52.7 cm
Collection Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (USA); Inv. No. 2006.51.192
© Yale University Art Gallery
- b. Saltcellar. Elephant ivory, 29 cm
Collection
Galleria Estense di Modena, Modena (Italy); Inv. No. 2433
© Su concessione del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali e per il Turismo, Archivio fotografico delle Gallerie Estensi
- c. Spoon with figures. Elephant Ivory, 24 cm. Finial of two birds alternately facing up and down. Collapsible stem
Collection Museum Fünf Kontinente, Munich (Germany); Inv. No. 26.N.129
Photo: Mulzer; ©
Museum Fünf Kontinente
- d. Pyx Illustrating the Betrayal and Crucifixion of Christ (missing lid and feet)
Collection The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (USA); Inv. No. 71.108
© The Walters Art Museum

  • 2 Approximately 150 objects, at my latest count. This includes objects documented in collections but (...)

2Only in 1959, did William Fagg attempt to assign them to Africa in a catalogue of specimens from the British Museum, but, piece by piece, most of them have been re-attributed specifically to the Sapi peoples of Sierra Leone.2 The reason is the similarity in style to the ancient stone figures found in Sierra Leone (Lamp 2018), and the discovery of Portuguese manuscripts from the early sixteenth century describing the importation of such ivory carvings from Sierra Leone. The debate that has ensued is whether the ivory carvings and the stone carvings were isochronic creations, and, if so, whether they were made in the same place, by the same artists.

3Much debate has been exercised over the question of the termination of the manufacture of both these ivory and stone objects, tied to the conquest by Mande invaders and the overturning of the political and social order in the second half of the sixteenth century. Were the events cataclysmic, as earlier scholars had suggested, or were they of no consequence to the arts and economy of the region, as some later scholars have argued (Hart 1995; Mark 2007)? Specifically, do these events suggest an end, or a diminishing, or even a re-energizing of the artistic enterprise of the Sapi? In a separate article, I have tackled the thorny question of cultural disjunction in the sixteenth century (Lamp forthcoming 2021).

4Regarding the beginnings, early dates for the ivory work found in European collections are relatively obvious, corresponding to the arrival of the Europeans on the west coast of Africa, but recent studies have posed a much greater antiquity for the stone sculpture, problematizing the nexus.

  • 3 Many hundreds of these objects I have examined in person through many years of museum research thro (...)

5This paper is a reconsideration of these questions of dating and connections. I will draw conclusions from my examination of more than 2,200 extant objects of art attributed to the Sapi before the eighteenth century.3 What are the uses and limitations of stylistic analysis? What can iconography tell us about the identity of the artists in the timeframe in which they functioned? I will relate my findings to an extensive reading of published and unpublished transcriptions of early manuscripts from Portuguese, French, German, and English writers from the end of the fifteenth to the end of the seventeenth century (see references). What do the manuscripts tell us about the mixing of unrelated peoples in the area at the time, the results of intra-African contact, the results of European contact, and the impact on material culture which one can read into the forms and the imagery? I will also draw from my extensive field research among both the Temne of Sierra Leone and their relatives the Baga of Guinea, from 1967 to 2013, and upon decades of research on the arts, culture, and language of these two Sapi peoples in library, museum, and archival resources.

The Protagonists in this Drama: The Sapi and the Mani

  • 4 “The Proto-Southwestern Mande language split into daughter languages more than 2000 years ago.” (Va (...)
  • 5 The Vai and Kono are classified as a Western periphery of the Manding Language Cluster, which is th (...)
  • 6 See a detailed account in Lamp 2018.

6The peoples of southern Sierra Leone and northern Liberia are now seen as the result of several campaigns of Mande overlords (called “Mani” or “Mane” in the early literature) into the area, noted by European writers in the sixteenth century as particularly hegemonic. These incursions originated probably in the vicinity of the Upper Niger River in present-day Guinea, and likely had been somewhat continuous for some five hundred years or more. The Mende, Loko, Loma, Gbandi, and other Mande-language groups in Sierra Leone, northern Liberia and bordering Guinea, are probably the result of the mixing of these invaders with indigenous populations.4 The Kono in Eastern Sierra Leone and the Vai in southwestern Sierra Leone have retained much of the Manding (northern Mande) language, so the link to core Manding group, the Maninka (or Malinke people), is very clear.5 There is some consensus that the specific invasion of the southern coast to the Sierra Leone Estuary was led by Vai/Manding speakers with accumulated cohorts from other inland Mande groups (Dwyer 2005; Jones 1981; Massing 1985).6 Various European accounts locate the conquest roughly within the decade 1550–1560.

  • 7 Drawing upon the word for “tongue” in these languages.

7It should be kept in mind that, simply stated, the Mani were linguistically related to the present-day Mende, Loko, Loma, and Gbandi peoples in this region, constituting the Southwest Mande language group, as well as the Kono and Vai, more closely related to the Manding, all within the larger Mande language family. The Sapi linguistic descendants are the Temne, Bullom, Bom, and Kim in Sierra Leone, the Baga, Kokoli (Landuma), Tsapi (or Tyapi), and Mmani (Mandenyi) in coastal Guinea, the Kissi in the forest region of southeastern Guinea bordering Sierra Leone, and possibly the Gola at the northern Liberian border with Sierra Leone (Fig. 2). These today constitute the Mel language family designated by David Dalby (1965).7 The designation Sapi was still being used by the beginning of the nineteenth century in first-hand field reports by European visitors (Durand 1802: 137).

Figure 2 – Map of modern Sierra Leone and Guinea language groups

Figure 2 – Map of modern Sierra Leone and Guinea language groups

Drawing: Frederick J. Lamp

8Elsewhere (Lamp 2018) I have suggested that that the coming of the Europeans at the end of the fifteenth century created markets on the coast that the Mande/Mani were eager to exploit, and they did so ruthlessly, with superior weaponry. My position, which I outline in more detail in a separate article, is simply that after what seems to be a relatively peaceful period of Sapi rule on the coast of Sierra Leone and Guinea, the invasion by the Mani could not have resulted in “things as usual,” and that, although “destruction” is clearly too strong a word – as we know that Temne, Bullom, and Baga society continued on to the present day – “disruption” cannot be denied, and cultural disjunction seems obvious from both the testimonies and an analysis of the material culture itself (Lamp 2018, forthcoming 2021).

  • 8 I should add that I see no similarity in the examples Hart (1995) gives of body scarification. He c (...)

9Stylistically, the stone figures from southwestern Sierra Leone bear little resemblance to the work produced by the groups currently occupying the area, documented for the last two-and-a-half centuries (Lamp 1990). William Hart responded to the contrary, and I should say that both he and I have shown that some limited comparison can be made between some formal characteristics of the ancient stone and ivory figures and work produced in southern Sierra Leone from the late eighteenth century to the present, including neck rings, scarification marks, the shape of ears, and hairstyle (Hart 1995: 60–79; Lamp 1983: fig. 17). Although it might be expected that a few features would endure, I am unconvinced that Hart has shown significant continuity specifically in style. Most of his examples come from the Mende, and even the Krio in Sierra Leone who have absolutely no claim to heritage from the Sapi. Furthermore, there is a gap of probably 250 years from the last carving of stone figures to his example of a figure collected possibly in the 1790s.8 My opinion remains that the styles of the sixteenth century in Sierra Leone and those extant examples of the modern era from the nineteenth century onward in southern Sierra Leone are dramatically different. When did the change occur?

Dating of the Stone and Ivory Sculpture

  • 9 These results of material taken in isolation, not in the context of a controlled archaeological con (...)

10The stone figures cannot be dated scientifically, but historical and ethnographic data do suggest an antiquity, at least along the coast, generally predating the mid-sixteenth century. I have previously documented the lab testing of two wood figures resembling the ancient stone figures from the inland region of eastern Sierra Leone and Guinea Forestiere (Lamp 2018).9 The calibrated dating as far back as the tenth century CE should not be considered definitive for carvings in this style, but it does suggest an antiquity much earlier than we had presumed, generally given as fourteenth or fifteenth century. If the stone figures from the interior date this far back, do the stone figures from the coast also?

Figure 3 – Objects in terracotta and stone

Figure 3 – Objects in terracotta and stone

- a. Human Head. Terracotta, 13.6x9.5 cm. Coastal style
Collection Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, Tervuren (Belgium); Inv. No. EO.1984.26.2
© Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale
- b. Human Figure. Stone, 50 cm. Central style
Collection The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial (USA)
Coll., Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller; Inv. No. 1979.206.270
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection
- c. Male Figure Holding a European Lidded Tankard. Stone, 12 cm. Coastal style
Collection The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (USA); Inv. No. 1991.137
© The Baltimore Museum of Art

  • 10 Some of the ceramic heads have been dated by thermoluminescence analysis (varying from the 13th to (...)

11Comparisons can also be made with some outstanding examples of terracotta heads (Fig. 3a; Lamp 1990, 2018). These compare closely with the coastal style of the Sierra Leone stone figures and heads with large, bulging eyes, broad flared nose, and heavy lips. Some full figures in clay exist also, although the style is difficult to pin down. The testing of the clay heads or possible organic remains inside the hollows or associated with the heads might be fruitful, though one needs to be cautious with dating by thermoluminescence isolated from controlled archaeological excavation.10

12There is some evidence in the inland corpus of stone figures of the prior arrival of peoples from the north. Clearly the incoming Mande would have reached the inland Kissi area long before reaching the coast. The hundreds of figures from the Kissi area sporting turbans (Lamp 2018: fig. 16) suggest Islamic influence, as noted above. But we do not know that the Mande who entered the forests of southern Guinea and eastern Sierra Leone were Muslim at this point. Álvares, in 1615, stated that the Mani had introduced the bow and arrow to the Sapi on the coast (Álvares 1615[1990]: fol. 77), but probably this had been introduced far earlier in the interior, as several stone figures from the Kissi area are shown holding a bow (Lamp 2018: fig. 71), though coastal figures do not. These examples indicate perhaps Mande influence inland but do not prove Mande involvement in the carving.

  • 11 See also Fagg (1959), which is useful only for its illustrations and descriptions of the objects, a (...)
  • 12 See arguments in Lamp (forthcoming 2021). Thiago Mota (2019) has continued Mark’s thesis, arguing o (...)
  • 13 To my knowledge, only one Sapi ivory carving, a saltcellar, has been subjected to carbon-14 dating (...)

13An end-point dating of the stone figures has also been suggested by a comparison with the ivory carvings from the coast of Sierra Leone found in European collections. Portuguese trading records indicate that the importation of these ivories, apparently carved exclusively for European consumption, ended by the mid-sixteenth century when the attention of the Portuguese turned to points further along the coast (Ryder 1964; Grottanelli 1975: 20, 22; Dittmer 1967: 197).11 Peter Mark (2009, 2014) has argued that the carving of ivory continued through the late seventeenth, enduring through all the political turmoil, but there are no Portuguese references specifically to ivory saltcellars or hunting oliphants after 1550.12 We do not have the object collection data from European collections to resolve this issue. And scientific lab testing is of no use for organic material of this recent age.13

  • 14 Collection of the National Museet, Copenhagen, No. EGc.12. Also Collection of the Musée du quai ­Br (...)

14Mark bases his argument on the many sources in the seventeenth century that report on the brisk trade in ivory along the coast of Sierra Leone and Guinea, from the Sierra Leone Estuary northward to the Rio Nunez. André Donelha, in 1625, reported a great trade in ivory at the Ribe River, a tributary to the Sierra Leone Estuary (Donelha [1625]1977: 75, 89, 103). And he mentioned a Sapi group under the control of Mani overlords who used ivory trumpets in war. But these would have been side-blown trumpets, as used in this area by chiefs’ trumpeters until this day (Fig. 12c), documented to the 1690s,14 and presumably in use before the Europeans came. This certainly does not refer to the end-blown trumpets with elaborate scenes of the European hunt carved earlier for the Europeans (Fig. 1a). Francisco de Lemos Coelho, in 1669, mentioned “many curiosities that the negros make from ivory” in the town of Mitombo (Port Loko). He also specified the carving of human figures in ivory to represent the Temne “corofim” (aŋ-kǝrfi), or spiritual beings, for indigenous ritual, not for sale to the Europeans (Coelho 1669[1953]: 237, see also 58–59, 68–69, 73, 209, 211, 216, 231, 234–235). None of these seem to have survived to the present day.

15But Mark’s critical source is a passage by Manuel Álvares, in 1615 ([1990]: fol. 55v):

“Because of their ability and intelligence some of them have the gift of artistic imagination… The variety of their handicrafts is due to their artistry. [They make] tagarras [karo in Temne, “a wooden bowl”], which are large dishes of wood, most unusual and beautiful, and that here are used at table… spoons made of ivory, beautifully finished, the handles carved in entertaining shapes, such as the heads of animals, birds or their corofis (idols) [aŋ-kǝrfi in Temne], all done with such perfection that it has to be seen to be believed; betes [a-gbet in Temne, sing.] or rachons, [probably do-tshom in Baga, sing.] which are round and are used as low seats, and are made in curious shapes to resemble lizards and other small creatures. In sum, they are, in their own way, skilled at handicrafts.”

16It is possible that the decorative ivory spoons mentioned here were of the same quality and form as those that ended up in European collections (Fig. 1c), and also possible that these were either made for the Portuguese to export, or served as prestige items for local African display. The mention of decorative seats may call to mind the round stools of the Baga, which Hart has compared to the Sapi ivory saltcellars in their form, supported by figures, and especially decorated with figures of lizards or crocodiles. Álvares does not specify which group he describes here, but it is in the general context of his discussion of the Baga and Temne coast from the Rio Pongo to the Sierra Leone Estuary. Still, it is a stretch to imply that since they had such stools, and fine wooden bowls, that they were also still carving ivory saltcellars and trumpets for sale to the Europeans. Another caution about Álvares, that others have also pointed out, is that we are never sure whether he is writing about the present or telescoping into the past, as he borrowed heavily from earlier writers and the recollections of aged informants, and often seems to be writing in the “ethnographic present” (Horta 2011).

17Álvares (1615[1990]: fol. 64r–64v) referred to various types of carved images, apparently among the Temne, judging from the vocabulary, probably on the northern coast of Sierra Leone:

“Their intercessors are idols too, for instance the images as portraits of their parents, children, wives, brothers, and so on. There is such a collection of these images that they have to be seen to be appreciated. Some are hewn out of blocks of wood with skill, and show the face and other features… Some are sculpted on small stones or on rocks.”

18This testimony could suggest a continuing stone-carving tradition in the early seventeenth century (“are sculpted”), but it could also refer to previously-carved stone figures currently in use in shrines. It should be noted, however, that no collecting of ancient stone figures has ever been documented on the northern coast of Sierra Leone or northward into coastal Guinea.

Location of Discoveries

19Although several early sources mention the carving of objects in ivory for the Portuguese, including saltcellars and trumpets, no writer identifies the exact location of this manufacture. Various sites are indicated to be prime sources of carved ivory, for example, Mitombo (present-day Port Loko), but with no specification of the exact type of object. We do not know exactly where the saltcellars and trumpets were carved, or by whom.

  • 15 All responses have been given either privately, or orally in the conferences in Lisbon on the Afro- (...)

20The style of the figures of humans and animals on many of the saltcellars were compared, by William Fagg first in 1959, with the small stone figures found today in Sierra Leone, although he did not enter into a specific stylistic analysis, leaving it to the reader to accept the obvious. But in the end, Fagg concluded that the ivories were more likely to have come from Nigeria, where similar styles can be found. In fact, this attribution still holds for a small body of ivory saltcellars, despite recent attempts by Peter Mark (2007, 2015) to re-attribute them to the Sapi, which has been thoroughly repudiated by all other scholars of the Sapi, and of the Edo (of the Kingdom of Benin) and Yoruba of Nigeria.15 The more recent conclusion by William Hart and Christopher Fyfe (1993: 84) that “it is hard to see how there can be the direct connection between the stone carvings and the Afro-Portuguese ivories” is really curiously off-base. Hart repeated his skepticism later, that “the similarities between the Sapi-Portuguese ivories and the nomoli stone sculptures are not as close as is often claimed… it is clearly impossible to use stylistic resemblance to the Sapi-Portuguese ivories as an indicator that stone sculptures were being made in the 16th century.” He challenged the pioneering work in a dissertation written by Kathy Curnow, writing that both “Fernandes and Pacheco Pereira appear to identify as the places where the finest ivory carving was carried out…around the Sierra Leone Estuary and the Greater and Lesser Scarcies…. In short, there are geographical reasons as well as reasons of chronology for questioning Kathy Curnow’s claim…that the makers of the Sapi-Portuguese ivories also carved nomoli” (Hart 1995: 28, 31–32; Curnow 1983: 91).

  • 16 All published full transcriptions and translations of Pacheco Pereira, in 1892, 1905, 1937, 1956, a (...)

21In fact, Pacheco Pereira ([1506–1508]1967: 96, 98, 101), mentions ivory spoons, specifying as the sources 1)both the mouth of the convergence of the Scarcies Rivers and 2) the Bullom coast south of the Sierra Leone Estuary.16 Fernandes, in 1506–1510 ([1951]: 76, 96, 104), specified saltcellars, spoons, and bracelets, naming the coast of present-day Guinea to probably the Scarcies Rivers, and Serra Lyoa, which at that time, designated the coast from the Iles de Los (at present-day Conakry) through the Sierra Leone Estuary to the southern Bullom Shore as far as Cape Mount at the border of present-day Liberia. So, Hart is wrong about the geography not coinciding.

22No controlled archaeological study has ever been undertaken, although many figures come by way of finders or traders who have stories to tell about their discoveries, not always easy to corroborate. Not a single written report is available from a participant or an eyewitness (primary source) to any excavation. There are secondary reports of excavations, and there are primary and secondary sources on the site of collection – a few specific to the town, chiefdom, or district, which may or may not be the site of excavation or ancient origin.

23The majority of ancient stone figures fall into three basic categories of style, which I have described in detail elsewhere (Lamp 2018). I also mapped the origins of documented stone figures, drawing from the available collection registers. They center around three distinct areas: Sherbro Island (coastal style), central Mende land in Bo District (central style), and a large area surrounding Kissidougou in Guinée Forestiere, including the adjacent Kono District in Sierra Leone (inland style). The critical datum revealed in this mapping of sites is that no collection of an ancient stone figure has been credibly documented at the Sierra Leone Estuary, the Freetown Peninsula, or the area of Port Loko (Mitombo in the early sources), nor anywhere on the coast north of the Jong River opposite Sherbro Island. Examples have been found in eastern Temneland, but none are in the coastal style that is comparable to the style of the ivories.

24Note, again, that there are no primary sources on the excavation of any ancient stone figure; there are secondary reports of excavations, and there are primary and secondary sources on the site of collection – a few specific to the town, but most to only the region – which may or may not be the site of excavation or ancient origin.

25It is the coastal style of Sapi stone figures, centered at Sherbro Island, which concerns us here, in relation to the ivory carvings, clearly executed and procured on the coast. If the ivory artists and the stone artists were one and the same, it would follow that the ivory was also carved on Sherbro Island, by the southern Bullom. But the early sources on the region, in reports and on maps, seem to focus specially on the Freetown estuary and connecting rivers such as the Mitombo, leading to present-day Port Loko.

  • 17 Jorge de Aguiar, in 1492, drew a small island at the site of Sherbro. Juan de la Cosa, on his map o (...)
  • 18 Pacheco Pereira, 1506-1508 (Kimble 1967: 97), mentions many sites along the coast as far as the pen (...)
  • 19 British Museum, Egerton MS 2803.
  • 20 Sherbro/ Shebora is probably an English corruption of the original title, “Seribora,” as it has bee (...)

26Sherbro was not a principal port in this region, it was little known, and, in fact, could not be approached by sailing ships because it is surrounded by shoals and a shallow channel. Several late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth-century maps roughly indicate the island in the correct place, but with no name.17 Early writers mention sites on the mainland, but not the island.18 Bartolomeu Velho, in 1560, located a large island at this site, opposite the mainland he indicated as “as caboas” [“the capes”?] (“camboas” in an Italian map of 1508).19 He also indicated “caga chiboli,” which may or may not be the first reference to “Sherbro,” originally more likely “Shebora” (the current title of Bullom kings), with an r-l transformation (Shebola/Chiboli), not uncommon both in sixteenth-century Portuguese and in Sierra Leone languages.20 D’Almada, in 1594, was the first to specify clearly this island by name, which he and Álvares, in 1615, both called “Tausente,” both around the turn of the seventeenth century (d’Almada 1594[1964]; Álvares 1615[1990]: fol. 86v).

27So some of the earliest writers were aware of this large island, roughly the same size as the Freetown Peninsula, but they neglected to name it, and they don’t seem to have known it as well as they knew the Freetown Peninsula, with its deep, natural harbor on the north side, and surrounding shores of the Sierra Leone Estuary. To my knowledge, no writer specified a market in carved ivory coming specifically from Sherbro Island or the opposite shore of the mainland.

  • 21 Mark does not cite the document or a secondary source, or reproduce these records. If the original (...)

28According to Peter Mark (2019: par. 14), there are extant Portuguese customs records, however, from 1505, indicating that the earliest ivories arriving at the port of Lisbon came “on ships that had stopped in Sherbro.”21 But this is not evidence that the ivories were boarded there, as the ships almost certainly would have stopped also at the main port of the region, the Sierra Leone Estuary. And it is not evidence that the Portuguese disembarked there, or knew the island except from afar, as no large ship could approach Sherbro Island.

29Thus, we are left with a disjuncture between the written reports focusing mainly on the Sierra Leone Estuary from which the majority of trade in all sorts of goods was conducted, and the collection reports on the stone figures that focus on the Sherbro area.

Cross-Examination: Same Artists in Stone, Ivory, Terracotta, and Wood?

30There is some very rare evidence, apart from similarities with the ivory carvings, that the carving of the coastal stone figures did continue through the coming of the Europeans, thus coinciding with the carving in ivory for the Europeans. One figure in the Baltimore Museum of Art appears to be holding a European tankard (Fig. 3c). Metal tankards in this style, usually in pewter, did not become popular until the sixteenth century in Europe, and they were mainly used for beer, echoing, in their shape, the medieval wooden casks with iron staves around the middle. Once they came into fashion, they were everywhere. Álvares, in 1615 ([1990]: fol. 61v), wrote for what seems to be the Temne area, judging from vocabulary used, that “For use at table, the richer sort possess basins, and Flemish tankards for drinking from.”

31Hart (1995: 27) has dismissed this example as “a slender foundation on which to claim positively that… stone sculpture continued in Sierra Leone in the early 16th century,” because it is so idiosyncratic, therefore of dubious authenticity, in his view. But it has been examined thoroughly by conservators, who can see no evidence of forgery. The exception cannot be simply dismissed in order to maintain an argument. This figure is in a “classical” style, not decadent or aberrant in any stylistic way, and one must assume that it comes from a larger, continuing tradition, and is not isolated. The fact that European imagery are not commonly found on the stone figures should not be surprising, as the stone sculpture was clearly meant for an indigenous context, reflecting traditional African phenomena.

32Hart (1995: 28, 33–35) dismissed comparison with the stone figures on the argument that the ivories are more delicately carved. But this is simply a function of the medium. Ivory can be carved in extremely delicate configurations, but steatite, a talc-schist, is quite brittle, like slate, which shatters easily, and the carving of figures must be restricted to larger volumes, without great delicacy, except in relief, where it can be supported. If one considers the restrictions of medium, the coastal-style stone figures are almost identical in style to the ivory figures carved on saltcellars, trumpets, spoons, and other items.

33Hart also argues that the ivory figures are often clothed, whereas the stone figures are not, but there are many exceptions to this, especially in the central style (e.g. Fig. 3b) and to some extent in the interior style. There are quite a few figures wearing a similar type of garment that is almost identical to that found on ivory liturgical vessels (called a “pyx”) carved by the Sapi for the Portuguese, and depicting Portuguese dress (Fig. 1d; see also Bassani & Fagg 1988: figs. 75–78, 137–141, 176, and cat. nos. 57–59). As for the general nudity in the stone figures, one must note that the ivory carvings were meant to represent, for the most part, the Portuguese, and were made for the Portuguese to carry home, whereas the stone figures were meant to represent the ancestors of the Sapi, and were made for their ritual use. Ancestor figures throughout Africa are almost always represented nude. Furthermore, as I have already shown, the antiquity of stone figures greatly precedes the ivory carvings and the coming of the Europeans.

34There is evidence of European imagery in the stone figures that seems to come directly from the practice of Sapi artists carving ivory saltcellars for the Europeans, and evidence of indigenous Sierra Leone imagery in the saltcellars as well, suggesting that the carvers of these ivory masterpieces also carved for the indigenous market. The imagery carved in relief on the Sapi-Portuguese ivory trumpets (oliphants) is almost exclusively European in derivation (Fig. 1a) – the only exceptions being crocodiles and possibly snakes (never in the tableaux in bas-relief, but in the 3-dimensional ornamentation). It is implied in the stylistic categories developed by Curnow (1983) and Bassani & Fagg (1988), that the saltcellars and the oliphants may not have been carved by the same set of artists. Were the artists of the ivory saltcellars, in fact, the same artists who created stone figures in the same late period?

Mutual Imagery – European Sources?

35There are a few examples that suggest the adoption of Portuguese imagery found on the ivory saltcellars directly into the carving of stone. If so, obviously, this would indicate a continuation of the stone carving tradition beyond the arrival of the Europeans on the Sierra Leone coast, and possibly well into the mid-sixteenth century.

36Hart (1995) acknowledged the existence of carved spiraled fluting on a Sapi figure “similar to the spiral decoration found on so many Sapi-Portuguese salt-cellars and horns,” suggesting that it could indicate a coeval connection between the ivory carving and the stone carving. The problem with this example is that it is fluting (Fig. 3c) rather than gadrooning, which is what we see on the socles of the ivory saltcellars. The fluting may derive from European images, but not from any extant Sapi ivory carving.

37There are, however, some vague examples of spiraled gadrooning on the socles of several Sapi stone figures in the coastal style (Fig. 4), two from the Museum der Kulturen, Basel, acquired in 1901 and 1907 (already published in 1908 by Rütimeyer: Fig. 6), and others from private collections. These are rare, indeed, but what is surprising is that there are any, given the complete difference in function and patronage. This almost certainly derives from Portuguese gadrooning (Figs. 11d, 11f), as there are no known precedents in other art of the region, thus it is further evidence of the continuation of stone carving into the era of European contact.

Figure 4 – Stone figures with gadrooned socles. Coastal style

Figure 4 – Stone figures with gadrooned socles. Coastal style

- a. Male Figure. Dark steatite; 14 cm
Collection
Museum der Kulturen, Basel (Switzerland); Inv. No. 2567
©
Museum der Kulturen
- b. Male Figure. Steatite; 13 cm
Collection
Museum der Kulturen, Basel (Switzerland); Inv. No. 1370
Photo: Frederick J. Lamp; ©
Museum der Kulturen
- c. Human Figure. Stone
Collection
Edmondo Trombetta, Monza (Italy)
©
Edmondo Trombetta
- d. Human Figure. Stone, 10.5 cm
Collection Unknown
Rights reserved
- e. Male Figure. Stone, 13 cm
Collection Lawrence S. Reed, Houston, Texas (USA)
© Lawrence S. Reed

38A kind of heavy twisted rope appears in both the ivory carvings (Fig. 5a) and the stone figures, often interwoven with upright staves, forming spaces, sometimes held apart by human hands. To what kind of rope this refers is unclear – perhaps a sort of nautical rope of Portuguese import. Indigenous peoples also for long used ropes, for example in fishing, and in making rope, but in the known examples it is not a thick rope, but rather light rope or twine, and they did not have large boats necessitating nautical rope to secure a ship to a dock. Several stone figures seem to be holding ropes, but one in particular (Fig. 6c), clearly holds a twisted rope, from which are suspended three crotal bells. I show these examples not because they are conclusive of identical content, but to put them on record for further analysis and research.

Figure 5 – Ropes and interlaces

Figure 5 – Ropes and interlaces

- a. Saltcellar. Elephant ivory, 16 cm
Collection
Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen (Denmark); Inv. No. EDc 67a
Photo: Frederick J. Lamp; ©
Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen
- b. Male Figure Reclining on a Board. Steatite, 36 cm. Coastal style
Collection British Museum, London (G.-B). Inv. No. 1904.4-15.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum
- c. A Mende Sande Dancer, with the title of “Sampa,” Dambarra village, August 1934, in a command performance for the photographer
Photo: Paul Julien, PJU-2256; ©
Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam (Netherlands)
- d. Postcard: Mende Sande Initiates, 1920s
Collection Gary Schulze, New York
Photo: Alphonso Lisk-Carew; © Gary Schulze
- e. Saltcellar (detail). Elephant ivory, 30.5 cm
Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. AF.35.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum
- f. Female Temne Twin Figure. 20th century. Wood, 24 cm
Private Collection
Photo: Frederick J. Lamp

Figure 6 – Leaders with skulls, leaders on elephants

Figure 6 – Leaders with skulls, leaders on elephants

- a. Saltcellar Surmounted by a Male Figure Surrounded by Decapitated Heads (detail) with modern restorations removed digitally by Frederick J. Lamp. Elephant ivory, 43 cm
Collection
Museo delle Civiltà/Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnografico, ‘Luigi Pigorini’, Rome (Italy); Inv. No. 104079
© Museo delle Civiltà
- b. Male Figure Surrounded by Decapitated Heads (rear view). Steatite, 19 cm. Coastal style. Collection
Franco Monti, Milan (Italy)
© Franco Monti
- c. Male Figure Seated on a Stool that Rests on Three Skulls, with a Crocodile on the Back of the Stool. Steatite, 24 cm
Private Collection Zurich (Suisse)
Photo:
Galerie Alain Bovis, Paris (France)
- d. Male Figure Riding on an Elephant. Steatite; 22.5 cm. Coastal style
Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. 1953 Af.19.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum
- e. Saltcellar with Male Figure Riding on an Elephant (detail). Elephant Ivory, 22.5 cm
Collection
Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna (Austria); Inv. No. 118.609
©
The Weltmuseum Wien
- f. Staff finial (missing shaft). Temne, Sierra Leone. 20th century. Wood, polychrome, 56 cm
Collection Unknown
Photo: Frederick J. Lamp; Rights Reserved

39Some of these examples are undeniably European in origin, and, in some cases, clearly Portuguese. Others are tenuous, and would require further examination. Quantitatively, one can say that the Portuguese influence upon the Sapi stone figures is small, but significant in suggesting some continuity in the production of the stone figures. The Sapi content in the Sapi-Portuguese ivories, on the other hand, is certain and pervasive.

Mutual Imagery – Indigenous Sources?

  • 22 See Lamp (1983) for a fuller examination of the significance of iconography from modern Temne ethno (...)

40The most compelling argument for a connection is that some of the content carved on the ivory saltcellars is exactly the same (although never on the oliphants). One could argue that ivory carvers simply copied earlier forms in stone, or vice-versa if one accepts the continuing stone-carving tradition into the European era. But this is unlikely for the reasons given above demonstrating coeval production. Many of these motifs give evidence that the carvers of ivory for the Portuguese were translating imagery from Sapi culture, and perhaps directly from the stone carving tradition, perhaps from their own work.22

41Compare the finial configuration on one ivory saltcellar (Fig. 6a) to the imagery in one stone carving (Fig. 6b): in the stone figure, seven heads surround the figure on the ground and two more are suspended by a sling from the head of the central figure. The imagery in stone compares with the funeral ceremony described by Valentim Fernandes, in 1506–1510 ([1951]: 90), among the Sapi, the commemoration of the deeds of a warrior-king:

“They place the deceased seated in a chair with most of the garments he owns... and they place a shield in his hand and in the other a spear and a sword in his belt. And if he is a man who has killed many men in battle, they put all the skulls of the men he has killed in front of him.”

  • 23 This was first discovered and explored by Tagliaferri & Hammacher (1974, fig. 6).
  • 24 The visiting Europeans were quite fascinated with the savagery of the Mani conquerors, described in (...)

42If the ivory carving represents these deeds, it seems to depict the living, active king surrounded by the skulls of the men he has killed, and perhaps in the act of a decapitation, rather than the cadaver prepared for burial.23 In the case of the stone figure, I have argued elsewhere (Lamp 2018) that it probably would have been placed on a shrine devoted to the ancient kings and chiefs, so a depiction of the deeds of a king is very much in keeping with the context of its use. It is curious that the same carver, or perhaps another carver also familiar with the highly sacred burial ritual, would have carved this on commission from Portuguese visitors. But, obviously, he did.24

43There are also other images of decapitation in the stone figures, such as a man seated on a stool, with the decapitated heads around him, and a crocodile crawling up the back of the stool (Fig. 6c). This figure even more closely resembles the description given by Fernandes, perhaps the cadaver seated on his stool.

  • 25 The oliphant with the finial in the form of a man riding a feline was discovered by Bassani (1994) (...)
  • 26 The rafters of a house and the radiating staves of an umbrella are called “the elephant (ɔ-rank)” i (...)

44Quite a few mounted stone figures are represented, some on ambiguous quadrupeds, others on what seem to be elephants (Fig. 6d), or felines (Fig. 7a). Similar figures can be found in ivory—both elephants (Fig. 6e), and perhaps felines (Fig. 7b).25 There is no record of elephants (much less cats) ever having been used to carry riders in West Africa, but this is most certainly a metaphorical rather than a literal juxtaposition: the Temne more recently frequently indicated hieratic or socially supporting relationships through the use of vertical superstructure in sculpture (for example, a person standing atop an elephant, surmounted by a bird – Fig. 6f). For the Temne I learned there are two animals associated with royalty: the elephant (representing strength and support) and the leopard (representing justice, the right to seize, and aggression toward enemies).26 The supporting of a human figure by an elephant or a leopard would refer to the legitimacy of royal prerogative.

Figure 7 – Leaders on leopards (?); zoomorphs-anthropomorphs

Figure 7 – Leaders on leopards (?); zoomorphs-anthropomorphs

- a. Male Figure Riding on a Leopard? (top of head damaged). Stone. Coastal style
Private Collection
Photo: Leonard Kahan Gallery
- b. Oliphant with Finial in the Form of a Male Figure Riding on a Leopard (detail of finial). Elephant Ivory, 74.6 cm
Collection
Musée Calvet, Avignon (France); Inv. No. U 166
© Musée Calvet
- c. Anthropomorphic/Zoomorphic Figure (Finial for a Blade?). Elephant ivory, 17.6 cm
Collection Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (USA); Inv. No. 62.28
© Seattle Art Museum
- d. Anthropomorphic/Zoomorphic Figure. Stone, 13.3 cm. Coastal style.
Collection Gary Schulze, New York (USA)
© Gary Schulze
- e. Saltcellar Lid (saltcellar missing). Elephant ivory, 11.6 cm
Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. 7398
© The Trustees of the British Museum

45There is a considerable number of stone figures, seemingly in the coastal style, that combine anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features. These seem to have a human face and body, but they have a large open mouth with bared teeth, and often the long, pointed ears of a canine or feline (Fig. 7d). Others seem more zoological, but usually with some anthropomorphic features. Among the Sapi ivory carvings there is also a number of zoomorphic human figures or anthropomorphic animal figures. In the collection of the Seattle Art Museum is an ivory figure (Fig. 7c) that was long thought to be the handle of a blade but may actually be simply an independent figure, or the finial of a staff, as it is too large to have been decoration for a saltcellar. Here the anthropomorphic head, with its dressed coiffure, has a wide-open jaw with exposed teeth. Two ivory saltcellars bear finials depicting an animal with a very long jaw, exposing a long row of teeth. One of these, of only the front legs and head, seems to be an elephant (Figs. 1b, 9f); although the jaw is damaged, there are the remains of what appear to be a trunk and two tusks. Another (Fig. 7e), with a long jaw with open, bared teeth, is exaggerated and could be any number of animals, but does have some characteristics of a feline, with a healthy circle of heavy teeth, pointed round ears, and a long tail reaching to the ground. Several stone figures also depict anthropomorphic beasts with long jaws. One is shown with its hands raised to the sides of the head, perhaps a human figure wearing a mask (Tagliafferi 1989: fig. 82). There appear to be short horns curving forward in the manner of ram’s horns, diagnostic of several twentieth-century masks of this region. Others are somewhat similar although the figures appear to be grasping the snout, but they could also be masks.

  • 27 Men and women with powers of sorcery are well-known in Sierra Leone to turn into crocodiles, serpen (...)

46All these figures show a similar anthropomorphization of the beast in either the body or the face that seems to derive from indigenous conceptions of the natural and spiritual world. Even today, spiritually powerful persons such as kings and chiefs are said to be able to morph into such animals as crocodiles and leopards, in order to pursue their enemies.27 Furthermore, among many ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, each clan is associated with a totemic animal ancestor, as reported thoroughly by Northcote Thomas in 1916 ([1970], I: 132–142). This may be what we are seeing in both the stone figures and the ivory figures, suggesting that the carvers of both shared a mutual worldview. Interpreters of this worldview are generally the savant elite, and they are few, and this certainly would have been the case in the sixteenth century. It would have been a very small group of artists-priests who would have had the esoteric formation to have produced works of art that expressed the most sacred concepts, as it is today.

  • 28 I am indebted to José da Silva Horta for pointing out the example in an oliphant (see Bassani & Fag (...)

47The form of the crocodile features prominently on both the ivory carvings and the stone figures. On the stones, the crocodile is often depicted vertically, facing up, on the back of a seated figure, with its head against the back of the human figure’s head, and sometimes with its tail wrapped around the front of the figure (Fig. 8a). On an ivory carving of a head and neck in the British Museum described as a sword hilt, a crocodile climbs the back of the human figure in exactly the same way (Fig. 8b). The form and style of this crocodile is almost identical to that on the stone figure. Sometimes the vertical crocodile is in front of the figure, held in his hands. Often the crocodile climbs the back of a tripod chair on which the human figure is seated. On the ivory saltcellars, crocodiles are ubiquitous, sometimes swarming around the body and the base of the saltcellar (Fig. 8c), sometimes climbing the struts between the human figures. In two cases, the vertical, upright crocodile appears to be swallowing a human figure up to the neck (Fig. 8d).28 In another, a crocodile seems to devour a human figure from below the torso, while another attacks the head (Fig. 8e). This interplay between human beings and devouring crocodiles fits in very neatly with indigenous concepts in Sierra Leone of the transformation of spiritually-powerful human beings into crocodiles for the purpose of executing justice. The heads of the women’s Sande Society and the men’s Pɔrɔ Society are said to be able to go under the water and play with the crocodiles, with impunity. Human figures with crocodiles behind them, or held before them, would almost certainly be figures of extraordinary spiritual powers.

Figure 8 – People and crocodiles

Figure 8 – People and crocodiles

- a. Male Figure with a Crocodile on his back. Stone, 20.5 cm. Coastal style
Private Collection
© Hughes Dubois, Brussels-Paris
- b. Anthropomorphic/Zoomorphic Truncated Figure. Elephant ivory, 11.4 cm
Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. 9037
© The Trustees of the British Museum
- c. Saltcellar bowl and lid surmounted by a male figure seated on a tripod stool (missing its original substructure, with modern restorations removed digitally by Frederick J. Lamp). Elephant ivory, 15 cm. Center back leg of tripod stool is missing
Collection Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (USA); Inv. No. 68.10.10 a, b
© Seattle Art Museum
- d. Saltcellar (missing lid). Elephant ivory, 13 cm
Collection
Museum der Kulturen, Basel (Switzerland); Inv. No. 111.21.474
© Museum der Kulturen
- e. Saltcellar with Eight Figures. Elephant Ivory, 23.5 cm
Collection British Museum; Inv. No. Af1867,0325.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum

48The Janus figure is a common motif in the stone figures as are Janus heads on the ivory human figures (Figs. 7e, 9c), and also opposing figures of both humans and animals (Fig. 1c). Again, whether it means the same in both genres is difficult to tell. But it is a common motif in African art to the present, and is frequently found in twentieth century Sierra Leone figural sculpture. In my field research among the Temne, I found that it can represent dual vision – forward into the physical world that we live in, and backward into the spiritual world of the ancestors and ethereal spiritual beings.

49On the stone carvings we sometimes see a curious motif of a circle on the face, and elsewhere on the head, often a series of concentric circles (Figs. 9a, 9b, 11b). One ivory figure on a salt cellar shows a similar circle on the forehead (Fig. 9c). A similar circle appears on the body of saltcellars (Figs. 1b, 9c). Like the Janus head, the circle is a universal motif. But I know of no precedent on the face in Luso-Portuguese or Western European art. It does not appear frequently on the Sapi carvings, and the meaning is not clear. But since the circles on the face in both the ivory figure and the stone figures were carved by Sierra Leonean artists, it is not unreasonable to infer that they may have the same meaning.

Figure 9 – Concentric circles, shields, chairs, and necklaces

Figure 9 – Concentric circles, shields, chairs, and necklaces

- a. Truncated Human Figure (detail). Stone, 16 cm. Central style.
Collection Unknown
Photo: Frederick J. Lamp; Rights reserved
- b. Head of a King (Maha Yafa). Steatite
Collection Museo delle Civiltà/Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnografico, ‘Luigi Pigorini’, Rome (Italy)
© Museo delle Civiltà
- c. Saltcellar (detail of finial). Elephant ivory, 30.4 cm
Collection Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (USA); Inv. No. 81.17.189
© Seattle Art Museum
- d. Male Figure Holding a Shield. Green stone 18.5 cm. Coastal style. Central figure holds a shield on the left arm; right arm grasps a small female figure in front (head broken off)
Collection
Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern (Switzerland); Inv. No. Sie Leo 279
© Bernisches Historisches Museum
- e. Human Figure Seated on a Forked Chair. Stone, 23 cm. Coastal style
Collection Unknown
Rights reserved
- f. Alternate view and detail of Figure 1b, with a digital restoration of a possible figural type that may have occupied the seat originally, as well as the crossbar of the seat, by Frederick J. Lamp
- g. Truncated Male Figure. Stone, 12.7 cm. Coastal style
Collection Gary Schulze, New York (USA)
© Gary Schulze

50Interlacing cords or arabesques are found throughout the corpus of both stone and ivory sculpture (Figs. 5b, 5e). A single interlace of two strands on one ivory saltcellar in the British Museum (Figs. 8e, 10b) may replicate that found on the chests of the female initiates of the Bondo or Sande association (Figs. 5c, 5d), who are said to “die” when they enter the initiation. It is also found on several twentieth century Temne sculptures representing young women at their initiation (Fig. 5f).

  • 29 Personal communication with photographs.

51Some figures hold what appear to be whips, axe blades, clubs, or spears, usually in the right hand. Some also bear a round shield in the left (Figs. 6a, 6b, 8d, 9d). Denise Paulme (1954: 144) believed that these armaments were evidence of the Portuguese presence in the sixteenth century, which would indicate a late date of the carving of the stone figures in the Kissi area, but there is no evidence of a Portuguese military presence in Sierra Leone. The shield depicted here was probably made of leather, like those used to the present by the Southern Bullom, as documented at Shenge, just south of the Freetown peninsula, by H.U. Hall in 1937 (1938: fig. 43), and by Gary Schulze in 2016.29 There it is part of the regalia of the Laka, the messenger and guard of the men’s Pɔrɔ association. Álvares (1615[1990]: fol. 61v) described the Sapi shield in 1615 as “like large wheels and are made of skin.” Alvares Velho in 1499 ([1960]), Valentim Fernandes in 1506–1510[1951], and, a century later, Baltasar Barreira in 1607 (Hair 1978), and still later, André de Faro in 1664 ([1945]), together describe the existing Temne and Bullom use of round shields made from the hides of elephants or buffaloes (Hirschberg & Duchâteau 1972: 13; Fernandes 1506–1510[1951]: 94; Hair 1978: 93; de Faro 1664[1945]: 86; Fyfe 1964: 22; Hair 1976: 19; Hart 1995: 38).

52The images of the weaponry in the stone figures of both the coast and the interior contrast with descriptions of Mani weaponry, as described in most detail by d’Almada in 1594 (Fyfe 1964: 44):

“The shields they have are made of reeds and rushes, and are big enough to cover a man completely; their swords are short, they have a knife instead of a dagger, and they carry another knife tied up to their left arm. They have long iron arrows sharpened at both ends, which enables them to strike both ways. When fighting they have two holsters, which are quivers, with many arrows.”

53The tripod chair that was still often seen in the twentieth century in southern Sierra Leone is depicted frequently in the stone figures (Figs. 6c, 9e) and also in two examples of the ivory saltcellars. The form of the tripod chair consists of two diverging posts attached at the top, with a horizontal beam near the bottom, composing a triangle, and a post at the rear for support. The seated figure would sit on the horizontal beam and lean against the two diverging posts. In one ivory carving, the rear support of the tripod stool is missing (Fig. 8c). In another, the rear support is in the form of an animal, as mentioned above, which does not truly support the chair, as the jaw does not reach the ground (Figs. 1b, 9f, a reconstruction), so it is only an allusion to the tripod chair, perhaps, again, conflating the support of the elephant in royal symbolism.

54A certain kind of necklace is seen commonly on the stone figures (Fig. 9g), and on the ivory figures (Figs. 7b, 11d), for both men and women, suggesting a thin strand suspending a row of long objects, which may be carved wood pendants, or perhaps ivory. There is no evidence that the European merchant seamen and missionaries, all men, wore necklaces on their visit to Sierra Leone. But there is plenty of evidence that the Sapi, both men and women, wore them, in various materials, thus, again, an indigenous origin. Perhaps they are leopard’s teeth, as worn traditionally by Temne chiefs, or, more probably, stone or coral beads, which were documented in the early Portuguese sources such as Álvares in 1615 (1615[1990]: fol. 62): “[Men and women] hang strings of… crystal and coral, etc., around their necks and arms.”

Stylistic Comparisons

55Here we examine the detailed features of the stone figures and the ivory figures for comparison and contrast, as it is in the human body where the greatest articulation can be found. Among the ivory figures, there is considerable homogeneity, which is understandable, as the ivories carved for the Portuguese were executed over a relatively short period of time, perhaps over one or two generations, perhaps in a very restricted geographical area, and conceivably by just a few artists. Kathy Curnow (1983), followed by Bassani and Fagg (1988), discerned three separate schools with possible subdivisions of the ivory saltcellar carvings, simply by stylistic analysis. Among the stone figures there is a vast diversity in style, many idiosyncratic, as the execution of these figures probably ranged over 600 years or more, and covers a large area from the southern coast of Sierra Leone to the forest area of Guinea, and perhaps beyond. It is the coastal style that resembles most the style of the ivory figures, which I use as examples throughout this paper. I select objects here to show the similarities that exist, but there are many hundreds of figures in stone that do not resemble the ivory figures, even from the coastal region. We must keep in mind that most of the Sapi stone figures would not have been carved by the same artists who carved the ivory sculptures for the Portuguese, by virtue of the far deeper time period and the broader geographical range. One might speculate that the stone figures that do exhibit features in the same style as the ivory figures are contemporary with the ivory figures, providing a small wedge into the inscrutability of stone figure dating.

56Of those that do resemble the ivory carvings, in the comparison of the head in ivory and stone (Figs. 6a, 10a), we see an elongated, prognathic, diagonal face with a prominent nose with enlarged nostrils, and large lips somewhat in the shape of two discs covering most of the area of the lower face. The eyes are also oversized, and framed by a raised line indicating the lid and the lower edge. The nasal bridge is long and straight, and begins between the inner points of the eyes rather than at the forehead, consistent with West African physiognomy.

57Although there are many variations, there is one very prevalent characteristic of the shape of the ear in both coastal-style stone figures and the ivory figures. The ear is the most complicated form on the human body, and one of the most diverse, and therefore one of the most difficult forms to replicate in drawing or sculpture. Pre-modern African art is almost always schematic rather than naturalistic, so it is interesting to see how the Sierra Leone artists chose to portray it. Two of the most common among the Sapi sculptures are a kind of “C-shaped,” or “question mark,” or “comma” form (Figs. 6a, 10a, 10b), sometimes a circle with an angle indenting the front, resembling three-fourths of a pie, punctuated by a dot in the middle of the angle (Figs. 7e, 10c). I have counted at least fifty stone figures in this general style. Most of the ivory figures are similar.

58The beard, in both the ivory figures (Fig. 6e, 7e) and the stone figures (Fig. 10d), is often depicted as a thin line of dots extending from the chin to over the ear. This, of course, also is schematic, as no natural beard appears in such a form. So, it is a conscious artistic choice, and a rather idiosyncratic one, pertaining perhaps not to a single ­artist, but to a regional style.

Figure 10 – Ears, beard, and braids

Figure 10 – Ears, beard, and braids

- a. Human Figure. Steatite; H: 13.5 cm. Coastal style
Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. Af1920,0503.1
© The Trustees of the British Museum
- b. Alternate View and Detail of Figure 8e
- c. Kneeling Human Figure Holding a Smaller Kneeling Human Figure. Steatite, 15 cm. Coastal style
Collection
Estate of Boris Kegel-Konietzko, Hamburg (Germany)
© Kegel-Konietzko Gallery
- d. Male Figure Holding an Animal Head (detail). Stone, 22.9 cm. Coastal style
Collection Gary Schulze, New York (USA)
© Gary Schulze
- e. Male Figure (detail). Steatite, 25 cm. Coastal style
Collection
Carlo Monzino, Lugano-Castagnola (Switzerland), till 2006
From Susan Mullin Vogel (1986): 32, fig. 24

59There is sometimes a very curious representation of what seem to be braids on the top of the head (Figs. 9c, 10e). The several thin braids emanate from the crown of the head and extend over the head. They end in a spherical shape, perhaps depicting braids to which a large bead is attached at the end. This seems so particular that it is likely to be a regional or local convention, although otherwise the styles of the three objects I have found are sufficiently different as to rule out a single artist or workshop.

60The prominent scapula on many coastal-style stone figures (Figs. 11a, 1b) is found on a few of the ivory carvings (Fig. 11c), in a square, blocked-out shape. A similar shape is found on nineteenth and twentieth century Baga figures further north on the coast of Guinea, which I have pointed out elsewhere in my study of Baga art, among several comparable features (Lamp 1983). Again, as this is a schematic form exaggerating the naturalistic, it is particular to this area.

Figure 11 – Scapulae, feet, legs

Figure 11 – Scapulae, feet, legs

- a. Male Figure (rear view). Steatite, 18 cm. Coastal style
Collection Unknown
Rights reserved
- b. Male figure (rear view). Stone
Private Collection
© Bruno Claessens
- c. Alternate view and detail of Figure 6a
- d. Saltcellar. Elephant ivory, 18.5 cm
Collection Weltmuseum Wien (Austria); Inv. No. 118.610
© Weltmuseum Wien
- e. Human Figure. Dark steatite, 18 cm. Coastal style
Collection
Museum der Kulturen, Basel (Switzerland); Inv. No. 2561
© Museum der Kulturen
- f. Saltcellar. Elephant ivory, 30.5 cm. The head of the finial figure is a modern restoration (removed digitally by Lamp)
Collection
Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin (Germany); Inv. No. III C 4886
Photo: Waldtraut Schütz-Schneider;
© Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum/Claudia Obrocki

  • 30 Hill, personal communication, 8 October 1989.

61Many stone figures hold their hands to the chin, and this provides another comparison with Baga figures. This is also seen in the corpus of Sapi ivory carvings (Fig. 11d). In the case of the stone figures, the hands are often seen grasping the beard, but not always. Matthew Hill has suggested to me that this may simply be a structural device, to support the head.30 But there are many Sapi and Baga figures, with equally large heads, where the arms fall down by the sides, or grasp the knees. So, I believe it has iconographic significance, but I do not know its meaning.

62In both media, stone and ivory, one often finds a curious convention of rendering a seated figure with the lower legs bent from the knee out and behind, realistically possible only for a contortionist (Figs. 11e, 11f). I am not aware of this posture in nineteenth-twentieth century Sierra Leone art. Although it is sometimes difficult to tell, it seems that this convention applies only to female figures in both media. So, it is not arbitrary.

63The manner of depicting the feet is varied in the case of both stone and ivory figures carved fully in the round, but there is one style frequently used in which the feet are flat and splayed upon a base, in low relief, seemingly disconnected from the leg (Figs. 9d, 11d). Since many examples are not in this style, this may be a regional convention of a particular workshop or regional group of workshops. Or it may represent the late period in which ivory figures were carved for the Portuguese. This, again, is a convention followed in many Baga figures in the twentieth century.

64Some of the above comparisons are certainly tenuous, such as the shape of the feet or the position of the arms. I include them with the caveat, reluctant to discard them without further analysis, as comparisons simply to keep in mind. Other comparative forms are relatively rare and may be simply anomalies. But some stylistic conventions are quite particular, conventionalized, and unusual, certainly not random. Taken as a whole, I believe they are a mutual way of conceptualizing the human form, and show a close connection between some stone figures and the ivory figures carved for the Portuguese.

  • 31 This similarity between the Sapi stone figures and the Baga wood figures was first pointed out by F (...)

65Some may argue that the schematic traits that I have specified may simply be cultural conventions shared over a long period of time and a broad regional space, rather than the signifiers of individual workshops or individual carvers. The fact that many of these conventions are shared by the modern Baga would support that.31 I have argued elsewhere that these were Sapi conventions which were lost among the Temne when they were overtaken by Mani warlords permanently after the middle of the fifteenth century, but maintained by the Baga in the North who never lost their independence to the Mani. There is no way to prove this, as we do not have extant examples of Temne or Baga art for a period of about 250 years until the late eighteenth century. But when Temne art does appear from the eighteenth century it is radically different from the styles of Sapi art, contrary to arguments by Hart (1995) mentioned above. While it is true that these artistic conventions do not necessarily prove that the carvers of the ivory sculptures and the stone figures were one and the same, the evidence I have provided does suggest that they were from the same societies, sharing not only the same stylistic conventions but also the exact same content and iconography in particular cases.

66Where they, in fact, in these cases, of the same region, the same set of villages, the same clan, the same house and family, the same workshop, or even the same artists? In the cases detailed above, where the ivory figures and the stone figures bear nearly identical imagery, it seems reasonable to postulate that the artists could have been the same, or, at least, that they were traveling in the same circles, adherents to the same worldview and the same cultural conventions. Where the features are in an almost identical style, it seems likely that both the ivory carving and the stone carving come from the same hand, or, at least, from the same workshop or a regional set of workshops. Logically, it would have been the existing artists in the societies on the coast of Sierra Leone who would have been recruited to carve for the visiting Portuguese.

67By comparison, carvers in Sierra Leone in the twentieth century were in great demand by many people in their society – paramount chiefs, section chiefs, the heads of Pɔrɔ and Sande, the heads of medicine societies such as Yassi and Njayei, the heads of initiation societies, and men and women of social and economic distinction. The Mende carver Vandi Sona, and his son Ansumana, working in the mid-twentieth century, were a great example – they carved Sande helmet masks, figures for the Njayei medicine society, ivory snuff containers, combs, chiefs’ trumpets, and everything that patronage demanded (Fig. 12). They would also carve for Europeans (Phillips 1995: 149–150).

Figure 12 – Sculpture of Vandi and Ansumana Sona

Figure 12 – Sculpture of Vandi and Ansumana Sona

- a. Female Figure. Mende, Sierra Leone. 20th century. Artist: Vandi Sona. Wood, 59.4 cm
Collection The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (USA); Inv. No. 1986.45
© The Baltimore Museum of Art
- b. Female Ancestral Mask (N
ɔwo), Sande Association, Mende, Sierra Leone. 20th century. Artist: Vandi Sona. Wood, 36 cm
Private Collection
© Photo: Thomas Lother & Volker Thomas, Nürnberg, courtesy of
Zemanek-Münster
- c. Chief’s Oliphant. Mende, Sierra Leone. 20th century. Artist: Vandi Sona’s son Ansumana Sona. Elephant ivory, wood, 68 cm
Collection Minneapolis Institute of Arts, New York (USA); Inv. No. 2011.70.45
© Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Conclusions

68The dating for the stone figures, especially for those in the inland area of the present-day Kissi, continues to be revised and enlarged. I have long argued for the beginning of the end of such stone carving sometime around the dating given in the early sources for some kind of major upheaval with the hegemony of the immigrant Mani over the indigenous Sapi in the mid-sixteenth century. This would correspond to what most scholars assume to be the period of the carving of the ivory saltcellars and trumpets made for the visiting Europeans exhibiting very similar stylistic aspects. Some evidence of European features suggest that these artists or continuing workshops were still carving stone in these styles for indigenous use, into the sixteenth century, when the carving of ivory saltcellars apparently ceased and they probably were no longer imported by the Portuguese, despite some arguments to the contrary (Mark 2007: 205). These correspond in style and content to the coastal stone figures.

69There is certainly disjunction beginning in the mid-sixteenth century, with regime change throughout the region and concomitant changes in artistic style, artistic representation, and the institutions that sponsored art through the very well documented early-seventeenth. There are also, clearly, some continuities.

70Stone work continues to be excavated informally by local people in Sierra Leone today. If the ivory saltcellars and trumpets were, in fact, carved in Sierra Leone, could excavation possibly unearth the evidence of this activity and even material remains? Artists’ workshops generally leave artists’ middens, with discarded artworks in breakage, changes in plans, disgruntled clients, and other interventions. The early Portuguese sources tell of the burials of kings with their artistic treasures. I have not given many firm answers here, but have attempted to raise questions about social disjunction and the continuity of style, and what the characteristics of materials can tell us.

71Interpreting the gestures, posture, dress, and attitudes inherent in ancient figures of any kind is always complicated when we do not have a clear picture of the society and the culture of the time, with written documents or illustrations from the time, or archaeological evidence. And it is even more difficult when we do not know for certain the relevant span of time, and we are not sure of the identity of the makers. We know that there has been considerable mobility of West African peoples in this region in the past millennium, and before, because of the modern polyglot, diverse religious, political, and kinship systems, as well as the influx of Europeans, Near Easterners, and Africans from other regions, with admixture, and the introduction of new religions, complicating notions of ethnicity. But we do have some historical and linguistic evidence on the evolution of peoples and societies in this region, running continuously for almost 600 years to the present, enough to suggest some durable strains of language and culture, and some precedence. There are early European accounts of indigenous ritual, material culture, nomenclature, and practice that resemble very closely those of contemporary peoples throughout this region in minute detail (Lamp 2016; Hair 1967). Comparing the ancient attributes seen in sculpture with the contemporary practices of living people is always risky. But it can be productive to judiciously examine those attributes that still seem to persist in the cultures of the descendants.

72Excellence in carving does not happen overnight – it is always the result of many years of training and experience. It is really inconceivable that the artists who were called upon to carve in ivory for the Portuguese would not have been already highly trained, experienced, competent artists among their own people, carving for indigenous patronage. They would have been carving spoons, trumpets, bowls, snuff containers, staffs, ritual masks, wood figures, and stone figures for their own kings, chiefs, and other people of means. They would carve whatever was asked of them, in any form desired by the patron. The carvers of ivory saltcellars, spoons and forks, dagger handles, and hunters’ trumpets for the Portuguese would certainly already have been the accomplished and certified artists of their own communities on the coast of Sierra Leone.

  • 32 There is a very close resemblance between the facial features in these ivories and those of Yoruba (...)
  • 33 Under a grant from the Social Science Research Council, Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, 1988.

73Peter Mark (2015) has argued that too many art historians have relied upon stylistic analysis in the attribution of the Afro-Portuguese ivories, in ignorance of archival documents, and on this basis he reassigned a body of ivory saltcellars to the Sapi that had been assigned to Benin by previous scholars. I think everybody, including Mark, now recognizes that this was in error because of the vast difference from the Sapi style already known, and the very close resemblance of the features to those of not only Benin but also the Yoruba of Nigeria, and also because of the distinct content and iconography.32 I should say that I agreed with Peter Mark on the importance of historical written documents, which is why I studied Portuguese before my doctoral work, learned to read sixteenth-century Portuguese, and spent a summer in Lisbon and Paris in 1988 searching the numerous archival collections for documentation on the early Portuguese and French contact in Sierra Leone.33 The written documents also have much to tell us about the cultural and artistic conventions of the time. But it is equally true that a complete reliance upon the written sources, ignoring current ethnography and stylistic analysis is perilous. I would say that a careful art historian analyzes both the archival documents and the artistic style, content, and iconography, situating all within ethnographic context, in keeping with our origins in the disciplines of history, ethnology, and aesthetic philosophy.

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Notes

1 This essay was first presented in two papers at the conference, African Ivory: Commerce and Objects, 15th-18th Centuries, at the University of Lisbon, School of Arts and Humanities, 15-16 March 2017 and 25-27 February 2019. The research toward this work has been generously supported by Portuguese national funds through the FCT (Foundation for Science and Technology) under the project “African Ivories in the Atlantic World: a Reassessment of Luso-African Ivories”, PTDC/EPHPAT/1810/2014 (2017); Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut (2004-2014); Social Science Research Council, Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship (1988); National Endowment for the Arts, Fellowships for Museum Professionals (1985); Social Science Research Council, International Doctoral Research Fellowship (1979-1980); and the Council on African Studies, Yale University (1980).

2 Approximately 150 objects, at my latest count. This includes objects documented in collections but not found, at present. Some of the early museum and palace documents assigned them to India or Turkey.

3 Many hundreds of these objects I have examined in person through many years of museum research throughout Europe and North America. Most are available to me through photographs, often with multiple views, which I have been collecting since the 1970s. My Archive of the Art of the Mel-Speaking Region, West Africa (Lamp 2019) contains images of approximately 2,200 stone figures attributed to the Sapi (or their ancestors/descendants before the 20th century), 150 ivory carvings from the Sapi (including saltcellars, trumpets, utensils, etc.), and approximately 70 works in other media attributed to the Sapi. I would like to acknowledge also Guy and Titus van Rijn for images drawn from their African Heritage Documentation & Research Centre (AHDRC) 2019 and Yale University-van Rijn Archive of African Art (YVRA) 2014.

4 “The Proto-Southwestern Mande language split into daughter languages more than 2000 years ago.” (Valentin Vydrine in personal communication, 03 January 2019).

5 The Vai and Kono are classified as a Western periphery of the Manding Language Cluster, which is the core group of the larger Mande Language Family (Vydrine 1995; Vydrine et al. 2006).

6 See a detailed account in Lamp 2018.

7 Drawing upon the word for “tongue” in these languages.

8 I should add that I see no similarity in the examples Hart (1995) gives of body scarification. He cites figurative stools as possible descendants of the figurative saltcellars, but stools supported by figures are found all throughout Africa, and the principal example he cites is quite dubiously from this area. The styles he cites of the Oje society headdresses made and used in Freetown owe their origins to some very far away sources, especially the Yoruba and Ibibio of Nigeria, brought through the relocation of captives from the slave trade to Freetown in the nineteenth century. The possibility of stylistic continuity from the Sapi stone figures in modern Sierra Leone is therefore incredibly remote.

9 These results of material taken in isolation, not in the context of a controlled archaeological context, must be taken with caution, as there are many variables. Furthermore, we cannot know how much time elapsed between the cutting of the wood (reflected in the dates) and the carving of the object. Given that caveat, the resulting calibrated dates range from CE 928 to 1394, results given by NSF-Arizona AMS Laboratory (University of Arizona) for AA3844 (715± 70 BP) and AA86397 (988± 34 BP).

10 Some of the ceramic heads have been dated by thermoluminescence analysis (varying from the 13th to 18th centuries), but the results are of little scientific use. TL is extremely unreliable without archaeological context, and a single sample is not sufficient.

11 See also Fagg (1959), which is useful only for its illustrations and descriptions of the objects, although he is to be given credit for having first suggested the possibility of a Sierra Leone origin for the ivories (though he rejected it at that time).

12 See arguments in Lamp (forthcoming 2021). Thiago Mota (2019) has continued Mark’s thesis, arguing on the basis of what he considers to be Islamic elements in the Sapi saltcellar imagery, but he draws from Portuguese documents so far ranging geographically (the Senegambia) as to be irrelevant. He bases his conclusions upon two items: 1) the dress, and 2) an unidentifiable object held in the hands of two male figures. He argues that the dress is Muslim, and indigenous, when, in fact, oliphants unequivocally depict European men in European hunt scenes wearing the identical dress. He argues that the object held in the hand is a Muslim writing board, when, in fact, it is three-dimensional, not flat, and it is held horizontally, not vertically as a Muslim writing board must be held in order to read or write. Thus, this essay is unusable. There is, however, a quasi-Islamic West African cabalist element, the hatumere, in other ivory works, both saltcellars and oliphants. Hatumere, used in amulets, is a pan-West/North African motif, used not only by Muslims, and its roots are ambiguous, and more than a millennium old.

13 To my knowledge, only one Sapi ivory carving, a saltcellar, has been subjected to carbon-14 dating (Bobin & Bouvier 2013: 138, fig. 3). But the results are of little use, as the early dates begin at 1438, twenty-three years before the first documented European visit to the coast, by Pedro da Sintra, and the latest dates, 1518-1593, are of low probability. “The principle and unescapable hurdle is that radiocarbon dating does not provide any precision for the period spanning 1450 AD to 1950 AD” (personal communication from Gregory Hodgins, Director of the Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility, Department of Physics, at the University of Arizona).

14 Collection of the National Museet, Copenhagen, No. EGc.12. Also Collection of the Musée du quai ­Branly-Jacques Chirac, Paris; ex Musée de l’Homme, Paris, MH 33.6.4; on loan from the Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Médailles, Paris; ex Cabinet royal des Curiosités (Collection de Louis XIV, 1638-1715).

15 All responses have been given either privately, or orally in the conferences in Lisbon on the Afro-Portuguese ivories in 2017 and 2019. To date, no response has been published, and Mark has published no recantation.

16 All published full transcriptions and translations of Pacheco Pereira, in 1892, 1905, 1937, 1956, and 1967, mistakenly transcribe the word collares (necklaces), but Afonso & Horta (2013: 82 & n. 11), upon a re-examination of the original manuscript, have re-transcribed the word as cohares [sic for colhares, which is to say, colheres, in modern Portuguese]. This strengthens our references to items made for, or purchased, by the Portuguese, specifically.

17 Jorge de Aguiar, in 1492, drew a small island at the site of Sherbro. Juan de la Cosa, on his map of 1500 (Museo Naval, Madrid), does not go further south than what he calls the Rio de la Sierra, probably Kandiga or Bumpe rivers south of the peninsula. Maps in the sixteenth century mention the names of rivers, and a region named “Camboas,” but not one mention of Sherbro Island by any name. The Cantino Planisphere, 1502 (Cortesão & da Mota 1960: 7 & 10), marks five rivers from the peninsula to Cabo das Palmas, but no mention of the Bullom or of Sherbro Island, although it locates a large island, proportionately correct, if misshapen, at the correct site, but also doesn’t seem to name it, and it identifies sites on the mainland by names unknown today.

18 Pacheco Pereira, 1506-1508 (Kimble 1967: 97), mentions many sites along the coast as far as the peninsula, and then a note on the Boulooes” south of the “Sera,” and a location of the Cabo de S. Anna (corresponding to the Bay of St. Anne between the peninsula and the cape), which is the westernmost point of Sherbro Island today Fernandes, 1506-1510, did not mention it. Thomas Cavendish and George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, both in 1586, mentioned only an area called “Madrabumba” or “Madre bombo,” corresponding to the southern Bullom shore (Hair 1984).

19 British Museum, Egerton MS 2803.

20 Sherbro/ Shebora is probably an English corruption of the original title, “Seribora,” as it has been otherwise articulated (Sherabola in Coelho 1953: 72, 230), although this refers to a different island on the northern coast). Seri is an alternate name for the Kamara among the Temne, given variously as shere, xere, sire, or shyèrè in the early literature, ‘traditionally the earliest Mande clan in the western Sudan’ (Massing 1985: 25; McCulloch 1964: 56). Álvares (1615[1990]: fol. 54r, 66, 71, 73v, 83-84v & 88-89v; see also Donelha 1977: 105, 11921, 253, 255, 257, 269, on chieftaincies) made repeated references to the chiefs’ title Sera, and the locative Bure. The name continues in Bure Chiefdom in Port Loko District, and its famous Paramount Chief Bai Bureh, who led a rebellion against the British in 1898.

21 Mark does not cite the document or a secondary source, or reproduce these records. If the original wording is “in Sherbro,” this could refer to Sherbro Island or the entire area of the Southern Bullom (Sherbro) people, including the mainland.

22 See Lamp (1983) for a fuller examination of the significance of iconography from modern Temne ethnology.

23 This was first discovered and explored by Tagliaferri & Hammacher (1974, fig. 6).

24 The visiting Europeans were quite fascinated with the savagery of the Mani conquerors, described in great detail in the voluminous reports of Manuel Álvares (Lamp 2018, ­forthcoming 2021), so it would not be surprising if they would have asked for a tableau of the butchery in ivory.

25 The oliphant with the finial in the form of a man riding a feline was discovered by Bassani (1994) after his monumental work with Fagg (Bassani & Fagg 1988).

26 The rafters of a house and the radiating staves of an umbrella are called “the elephant (ɔ-rank)” in Temne, as they support the sheltering element. The umbrella is an insigne of chiefly authority (Lamp 2018).

27 Men and women with powers of sorcery are well-known in Sierra Leone to turn into crocodiles, serpents, or leopards to pursue their enemies. Such terror was spread by the “Leopard Society,” about which much was written in the early 20th century. Some sources are: Burrows (1914); Fama (1939:109-111; Mason (1910); Beatty (1915). On the serpent transformation: Little (1951[1967]: 231-133). For a recent analysis of this phenomenon, José da Silva Horta has called my attention to Rosalind Shaw (2002).

28 I am indebted to José da Silva Horta for pointing out the example in an oliphant (see Bassani & Fagg 1988: Fig. 106). It is a rare example of an indigenous motif on a Sapi-Portuguese oliphant, as they usually depict only European imagery, such as the hunt, harpies, royal crests, etc.

29 Personal communication with photographs.

30 Hill, personal communication, 8 October 1989.

31 This similarity between the Sapi stone figures and the Baga wood figures was first pointed out by Fagg (1968: Fig. 50).

32 There is a very close resemblance between the facial features in these ivories and those of Yoruba and Benin sculpture from the sixteenth century onward. Most tellingly, the naturalistic representation of horses in the round, and the soldiers riding them, could have been achieved only by direct exposure to real horses and cavalrymen, from personal observation, drawn from nature, not from two-dimensional images. By contrast, representations of a horse and rider on Sapi oliphants are quite crude, resembling more of a feline, and the European rider is a hunter pursuing a stag and a boar, not a soldier, indicating that they were copied from probably a small picture of a European stag hunt (Bassani & Fagg 1988: front cover, figs. 99, 128, 151-152, cat. 101, back cover; see also figs. 95, 146, 550). There is no record of the Portuguese using horses in early Sierra Leone contact, and, indeed, there was never a Portuguese military presence in Sierra Leone, which is why it was such a safe haven for renegade Portuguese fugitives known as Tangomãos and Lançados to live undisturbed among the indigenous people on the coast of Sierra Leone, conducting their own independent trade. There was, however, an important Portuguese military presence in southern Nigeria, with a cavalry, and these are depicted in Benin and Yoruba artworks of undisputed origin, as well as in this group of Afro-Portuguese ivories, with great attention to the detail of costume, grooming, and personal features.

33 Under a grant from the Social Science Research Council, Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, 1988.

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Table des illustrations

URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 412k
Titre Figure 1 – Elephant Ivory carving in European and American collections
Légende - a. Oliphant. Elephant ivory tusk and metal (gold?), 8.9x52.7 cm Collection Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (USA); Inv. No. 2006.51.192 © Yale University Art Gallery - b. Saltcellar. Elephant ivory, 29 cm Collection Galleria Estense di Modena, Modena (Italy); Inv. No. 2433 © Su concessione del Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali e per il Turismo, Archivio fotografico delle Gallerie Estensi - c. Spoon with figures. Elephant Ivory, 24 cm. Finial of two birds alternately facing up and down. Collapsible stem Collection Museum Fünf Kontinente, Munich (Germany); Inv. No. 26.N.129 Photo: Mulzer; © Museum Fünf Kontinente - d. Pyx Illustrating the Betrayal and Crucifixion of Christ (missing lid and feet) Collection The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (USA); Inv. No. 71.108 © The Walters Art Museum
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 412k
Titre Figure 2 – Map of modern Sierra Leone and Guinea language groups
Crédits Drawing: Frederick J. Lamp
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 708k
Titre Figure 3 – Objects in terracotta and stone
Légende - a. Human Head. Terracotta, 13.6x9.5 cm. Coastal style Collection Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, Tervuren (Belgium); Inv. No. EO.1984.26.2 © Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale - b. Human Figure. Stone, 50 cm. Central style Collection The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial (USA) Coll., Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller; Inv. No. 1979.206.270 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection - c. Male Figure Holding a European Lidded Tankard. Stone, 12 cm. Coastal style Collection The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (USA); Inv. No. 1991.137 © The Baltimore Museum of Art
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 244k
Titre Figure 4 – Stone figures with gadrooned socles. Coastal style
Légende - a. Male Figure. Dark steatite; 14 cm Collection Museum der Kulturen, Basel (Switzerland); Inv. No. 2567 © Museum der Kulturen - b. Male Figure. Steatite; 13 cm Collection Museum der Kulturen, Basel (Switzerland); Inv. No. 1370 Photo: Frederick J. Lamp; © Museum der Kulturen - c. Human Figure. Stone Collection Edmondo Trombetta, Monza (Italy) © Edmondo Trombetta - d. Human Figure. Stone, 10.5 cm Collection Unknown Rights reserved - e. Male Figure. Stone, 13 cm Collection Lawrence S. Reed, Houston, Texas (USA) © Lawrence S. Reed
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 504k
Titre Figure 5 – Ropes and interlaces
Légende - a. Saltcellar. Elephant ivory, 16 cm Collection Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen (Denmark); Inv. No. EDc 67a Photo: Frederick J. Lamp; © Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen - b. Male Figure Reclining on a Board. Steatite, 36 cm. Coastal style Collection British Museum, London (G.-B). Inv. No. 1904.4-15.1 © The Trustees of the British Museum - c. A Mende Sande Dancer, with the title of “Sampa,” Dambarra village, August 1934, in a command performance for the photographer Photo: Paul Julien, PJU-2256; © Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam (Netherlands) - d. Postcard: Mende Sande Initiates, 1920s Collection Gary Schulze, New York Photo: Alphonso Lisk-Carew; © Gary Schulze - e. Saltcellar (detail). Elephant ivory, 30.5 cm Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. AF.35.1 © The Trustees of the British Museum - f. Female Temne Twin Figure. 20th century. Wood, 24 cm Private Collection Photo: Frederick J. Lamp
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 748k
Titre Figure 6 – Leaders with skulls, leaders on elephants
Légende - a. Saltcellar Surmounted by a Male Figure Surrounded by Decapitated Heads (detail) with modern restorations removed digitally by Frederick J. Lamp. Elephant ivory, 43 cm Collection Museo delle Civiltà/Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnografico, ‘Luigi Pigorini’, Rome (Italy); Inv. No. 104079 © Museo delle Civiltà - b. Male Figure Surrounded by Decapitated Heads (rear view). Steatite, 19 cm. Coastal style. Collection Franco Monti, Milan (Italy) © Franco Monti - c. Male Figure Seated on a Stool that Rests on Three Skulls, with a Crocodile on the Back of the Stool. Steatite, 24 cm Private Collection Zurich (Suisse) Photo: Galerie Alain Bovis, Paris (France) - d. Male Figure Riding on an Elephant. Steatite; 22.5 cm. Coastal style Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. 1953 Af.19.1 © The Trustees of the British Museum - e. Saltcellar with Male Figure Riding on an Elephant (detail). Elephant Ivory, 22.5 cm Collection Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna (Austria); Inv. No. 118.609 © The Weltmuseum Wien - f. Staff finial (missing shaft). Temne, Sierra Leone. 20th century. Wood, polychrome, 56 cm Collection Unknown Photo: Frederick J. Lamp; Rights Reserved
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 660k
Titre Figure 7 – Leaders on leopards (?); zoomorphs-anthropomorphs
Légende - a. Male Figure Riding on a Leopard? (top of head damaged). Stone. Coastal style Private Collection Photo: Leonard Kahan Gallery - b. Oliphant with Finial in the Form of a Male Figure Riding on a Leopard (detail of finial). Elephant Ivory, 74.6 cm Collection Musée Calvet, Avignon (France); Inv. No. U 166 © Musée Calvet - c. Anthropomorphic/Zoomorphic Figure (Finial for a Blade?). Elephant ivory, 17.6 cm Collection Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (USA); Inv. No. 62.28 © Seattle Art Museum - d. Anthropomorphic/Zoomorphic Figure. Stone, 13.3 cm. Coastal style. Collection Gary Schulze, New York (USA) © Gary Schulze - e. Saltcellar Lid (saltcellar missing). Elephant ivory, 11.6 cm Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. 7398 © The Trustees of the British Museum
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 468k
Titre Figure 8 – People and crocodiles
Légende - a. Male Figure with a Crocodile on his back. Stone, 20.5 cm. Coastal style Private Collection © Hughes Dubois, Brussels-Paris - b. Anthropomorphic/Zoomorphic Truncated Figure. Elephant ivory, 11.4 cm Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. 9037 © The Trustees of the British Museum - c. Saltcellar bowl and lid surmounted by a male figure seated on a tripod stool (missing its original substructure, with modern restorations removed digitally by Frederick J. Lamp). Elephant ivory, 15 cm. Center back leg of tripod stool is missing Collection Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (USA); Inv. No. 68.10.10 a, b © Seattle Art Museum - d. Saltcellar (missing lid). Elephant ivory, 13 cm Collection Museum der Kulturen, Basel (Switzerland); Inv. No. 111.21.474© Museum der Kulturen - e. Saltcellar with Eight Figures. Elephant Ivory, 23.5 cm Collection British Museum; Inv. No. Af1867,0325.1 © The Trustees of the British Museum
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 648k
Titre Figure 9 – Concentric circles, shields, chairs, and necklaces
Légende - a. Truncated Human Figure (detail). Stone, 16 cm. Central style. Collection Unknown Photo: Frederick J. Lamp; Rights reserved - b. Head of a King (Maha Yafa). Steatite Collection Museo delle Civiltà/Museo Nazionale Preistorico e Etnografico, ‘Luigi Pigorini’, Rome (Italy) © Museo delle Civiltà - c. Saltcellar (detail of finial). Elephant ivory, 30.4 cm Collection Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington (USA); Inv. No. 81.17.189 © Seattle Art Museum - d. Male Figure Holding a Shield. Green stone 18.5 cm. Coastal style. Central figure holds a shield on the left arm; right arm grasps a small female figure in front (head broken off) Collection Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern (Switzerland); Inv. No. Sie Leo 279 © Bernisches Historisches Museum - e. Human Figure Seated on a Forked Chair. Stone, 23 cm. Coastal style Collection Unknown Rights reserved - f. Alternate view and detail of Figure 1b, with a digital restoration of a possible figural type that may have occupied the seat originally, as well as the crossbar of the seat, by Frederick J. Lamp - g. Truncated Male Figure. Stone, 12.7 cm. Coastal style Collection Gary Schulze, New York (USA) © Gary Schulze
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 540k
Titre Figure 10 – Ears, beard, and braids
Légende - a. Human Figure. Steatite; H: 13.5 cm. Coastal style Collection British Museum, London (G.-B.); Inv. No. Af1920,0503.1 © The Trustees of the British Museum - b. Alternate View and Detail of Figure 8e - c. Kneeling Human Figure Holding a Smaller Kneeling Human Figure. Steatite, 15 cm. Coastal style Collection Estate of Boris Kegel-Konietzko, Hamburg (Germany) © Kegel-Konietzko Gallery - d. Male Figure Holding an Animal Head (detail). Stone, 22.9 cm. Coastal style Collection Gary Schulze, New York (USA) © Gary Schulze - e. Male Figure (detail). Steatite, 25 cm. Coastal style Collection Carlo Monzino, Lugano-Castagnola (Switzerland), till 2006 From Susan Mullin Vogel (1986): 32, fig. 24
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 568k
Titre Figure 11 – Scapulae, feet, legs
Légende - a. Male Figure (rear view). Steatite, 18 cm. Coastal style Collection Unknown Rights reserved - b. Male figure (rear view). Stone Private Collection © Bruno Claessens - c. Alternate view and detail of Figure 6a - d. Saltcellar. Elephant ivory, 18.5 cm Collection Weltmuseum Wien (Austria); Inv. No. 118.610 © Weltmuseum Wien - e. Human Figure. Dark steatite, 18 cm. Coastal style Collection Museum der Kulturen, Basel (Switzerland); Inv. No. 2561 © Museum der Kulturen - f. Saltcellar. Elephant ivory, 30.5 cm. The head of the finial figure is a modern restoration (removed digitally by Lamp) Collection Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin (Germany); Inv. No. III C 4886 Photo: Waldtraut Schütz-Schneider; © Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Ethnologisches Museum/Claudia Obrocki
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 652k
Titre Figure 12 – Sculpture of Vandi and Ansumana Sona
Légende - a. Female Figure. Mende, Sierra Leone. 20th century. Artist: Vandi Sona. Wood, 59.4 cm Collection The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore (USA); Inv. No. 1986.45 © The Baltimore Museum of Art - b. Female Ancestral Mask (Nɔwo), Sande Association, Mende, Sierra Leone. 20th century. Artist: Vandi Sona. Wood, 36 cm Private Collection © Photo: Thomas Lother & Volker Thomas, Nürnberg, courtesy of Zemanek-Münster - c. Chief’s Oliphant. Mende, Sierra Leone. 20th century. Artist: Vandi Sona’s son Ansumana Sona. Elephant ivory, wood, 68 cm Collection Minneapolis Institute of Arts, New York (USA); Inv. No. 2011.70.45 © Minneapolis Institute of Arts
URL http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/docannexe/image/2753/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 273k
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Frederick John Lamp, « Ivory and Stone: Direct Connections between Sculptural Media along the Coast of Sierra Leone, 15th–16th Centuries »Afrique : Archéologie & Arts, 16 | 2020, 11-42.

Référence électronique

Frederick John Lamp, « Ivory and Stone: Direct Connections between Sculptural Media along the Coast of Sierra Leone, 15th–16th Centuries »Afrique : Archéologie & Arts [En ligne], 16 | 2020, mis en ligne le 03 décembre 2020, consulté le 25 janvier 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/aaa/2753 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/aaa.2753

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Frederick John Lamp

ctbicycle1@gmail.com – Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520 (USA)

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CNRS - ArScAn. Cartographie d’après www.geoatlas.fr

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