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    Description

    Bamana (Mali, Western Africa)
    Human head puppet
    Wood
    Height: 32 inches

    Among the Bamana, youth associations known as kamalen-ton allow young members of the community to engage in volunteer public projects such as communal farming and repairing of infrastructure. They are also responsible for putting on elaborate public performances that include music, dancing, and puppetry for the entertainment of the community. These performances impart moral lessons as well as act out Bamana myths and legends. While most of the religious masking performances perpetuate tradition, kamalen-ton encourages innovation both with the costuming as well as the subject matter.

    This puppet head would have been part of an assemblage including a costumed body and moveable wooden arms, all brightly decorated with pigment and cloth, and operated by a performer positioned under the stage. The features are very elongated and he has a cap on his head. All the original pigment has been lost and there are signs of distress to the surface.

    Most puppet heads of this type display few indications of age. But even a cursory examination of the style and patination of the present example suggests that it predates the more familiar type by at least a generation.

    It is accompanied by a 1987 letter from Merton Simpson in which he states that he has known the piece for more than twenty years, and that "without question a 100% authentic work of African art... an object of fine quality and is very rare." Also included is a 1997 Bernard de Grunne letter in which he describes it as a 19th century example. The puppet's large size, elongated features, and rich patina combine for a commanding display presence.

    PROVENANCE:
    Collected in Africa by noted diplomat and philanthropist, John Hays Hammond (1855-1936), circa 1893;
    Natalie Hammond (1904-1985), North Salem, New York, daughter of the above, acquired by descent;
    Hammond Museum, North Salem, New York, loaned by the above.


    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2014
    16th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 438

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