This is a post about trading. Specifically about a BUNZ swap I did this weekend. But first, a disclaimer. We are under lockdown still and the provincial government even ramped up restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel. But the trade was porch pick up and we combined the excursion with a trip to the pharmacy.
Here’s what I got: an incredible sculpture from Cameroon in the style of the Fang Ngil mask, two tiny Asante-style figurines from Tanzania and a vintage necklace. The trader also threw in a painting also from Tanzania. I traded a couple of bottles of surplus champagne that I was saving for the end of quarantine life, but I’m pretty sure that’s never going to happen (just joking, I get no kick from champagne and the bottles were taking up valuable counter space — space I need to display art).
I like swapping because the economics are straightforward: I have something you want and vice versa. Things aren’t commodities nor is their value measured only in dollars. Plus you occasionally get some interesting stories to go along with each trade (though not in this case, she got the art at an auction but she did remember which country each piece came from with the exception of the necklace).
A few facts about the Fang mask. This style of sculpture was highly influential on the Modern Art movement in the West. As the French colonized Africa, they often plundered the art and displayed them in Museums. The masks exhibited had a huge impact on artists such as Modigliani and Picasso. Back in Africa, missionaries were burning these masks because they weren’t Christian and they wanted to erase local cultures (you know, the usual horrors of colonialism). So authentic ceremonial Fang Ngil masks became very rare.
This example is clearly not an original ceremonial mask. Same with the Asante figures. My guess is that they date from the 1960s to 2000. Airport art, they call it. made by locals and sold to tourists. Still the Fang mask is quite striking. I still have to figure out the best placement for it, but I am happy that it is in our home.