Monday, January 22, 2018

Art Review: African masterpieces with the grace of Kings

By Jason Farago
Crests are more than artistic accomplishments; they are avatars of kingship, embodying law and order. Credit Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
NEW YORK---One extraordinary example opened recently in the museum’s African wing. It contains just four works, by artists whose identity cannot be established (plus one bonus item), but they pack enough stunning technique and transcendent authority for a blockbuster of their own. In “The Face of Dynasty: Royal Crests From Western Cameroon,” you’ll find a quartet of massive wooden crowns, known as tsesah crests, that served as avatars of kingship among the dozens of small monarchies of the Bamileke people in the grasslands of northwest Cameroon, near the contemporary border with Nigeria. [More]

"The Face of Dynasty: Royal Crests From Western Cameroon" Through Sept. 3 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; 212-535-7710, 
Viewing the royal display cloth (ndop) at the Met. Credit Vincent Tullo for The New York Times
Reenactment of a tsesah performance in Bandjoun, western Cameroon, in 1993, organized by the carver and high-ranking official Paul Tahbou. A performer holds the crest atop his head. His body is covered by an indigo resist-dyed ndop cloth. This photograph is the only existing document demonstrating how a tsesah might have been worn. Credit Alain Nicolas