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Hajar | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gabon tree view | thumbnails | slideshow


Traditional art in Gabon exhibits a spectacular diversity of styles, including the most abstract and the most naturalistic of the African continent.

I lived there from 1994 to 1999, travelling across much of the country on the laterite roads or by small aircraft, enjoying the people, the landscapes and the wildlife:

We witnessed a number of masquerade dances in the south (Balumbu and Bapunu), in the Lambarene area (Galoa) and east (Bateke). We brought back a few sculptures and masks to represent the various ethnies, several of these newly made (and some danced), others old and battered. 19th century pieces were added back in Europe.

I submitted a paper on a new typology of the Fang swords in April 2022, which involved an enjoyable deep dive into the earliest reports in English, French and German, a new typology and constraints on dating.
Old haunts in Gabon Forest elephant Yenzi, Gabon. I was much too close and had to duck down behind tussock grass to change film inside my shirt. Cocobeach, northern Gabon. Fang country. The land to the north is Equatorial Guinea. 11/10/94. Fang collar, akuré. 19th C, 15cm diameter, a beautiful object. See Perrois & Sierra Delage (1990), pg 164; Tessman (1913). Fang brass neck collar
Fernand Grébert, folio 280, showing an akuré collar being closed, intended to be for life - before European collectors arrived! Fernand Grébert, folio 301 illustration showing lady on left whose akuré  has recently been removed for sale Fernand Grébert illustration of brass and copper neck rings and bracelets DSC00844.jpg Tessmann's (1913) drawings of designs on the classic akure brass collars
Fang male figure Ratzel's illustration (in Volkerkunde) of Fang weapons after du Chaillu Ossyeba (Shiwa) axe and birdhead knives (Marche 1878) Fang onzil (or possibly one of the other ethnies of the Ogooue basin), 33 cm wide, Gabon Onzil, bird-headed knife, Westerdijk (1988) type XIV, 10A. Bennett (1899) shows a photograph of this type in situ.
Early Fang short sword, probably 1850s-60s, 64 cm Fang fa sword with scabbard covered in monitor lizard skin, north Gabon Fang fa sword, 55 mm long, northern Gabon Ornament on Fang fa sword, northern Gabon Anthropomorphic ornament on Fang fa sword (man with rifle, 4 cm), northern Gabon
Fang short sword with mammal skin covering Fang short sword with scabbard Fang broad knife, 19th C Fang axe with decorated blade, 42 cm Ornament on the blade of a Fang axe.
Tessmann (1913) illustration of decoration on Fang axes and fa swords Fang basketry sheath Fang decorative basketwork as expressed in a knife sheath Fang poison darts with poison container and quiver, late 19th C Kwele iron currency, North Gabon
Teke-Mbede or Fang (often erroneously referred to as Kota) pipe in wood, brass and iron Fernand Grébert, folio 199, drawing of Fang pipes, showing some of their diversity. Fang Ngil dance mask, northern Gabon Fang Ngontang dance mask, north of Libreville, northern Gabon. Classic helmet mask with four kaolin-painted faces. Height 38 cm. An early photograph of Fang objects by Bennett, published 1899
Cap Lopez Pirogue on the Nyanga River, South Gabon. 30/5/98. Galoa (Igalwa) knife and sheath A detail of the previous Galoa, Omyéné Group: Okukwé dance mask, 20th Century. Near Lambaréné, Moyen Ogooué.
Citharist at a small river-side village, Ogooué Delta. 29/9/96. Pirogues at Buda village (Baloumbu), by Lake Cachimba, South Gabon. 14/1/95. Palms on the South Gabon coast Punu okuyi dance mask with black pigment, 27 cm tall. Ngounié valley, South Gabon. Punu okuyi dance mask, 35 cm tall. Ngounié valley, South Gabon.
Road between Etéké and NDende, Massif du Chaillu. 16/8/1994 Vove (language B305 of the Tsogo group) Muhunzu mask. Height, 30 cm. Massif du Chaillu, South Central Gabon. Chimpanzee. La Lopé. 29/10/95. Obamba sword BaWumbu (Mbédé language group) carver. Small village near Moulongo, Haute Ogooué, Gabon 1995
The liana bridge at Pubara near Franceville. 5/10/96. Gabon Congo Teke collar BaTéké Plateau of SE Gabon. Rolling grasslands with termite mounds. 6/10/96. Téké, 20th Century (1960s). Mbédé Group.  dance mask, Bateke Plateau, southeastern Gabon Téké figure, Bateke Plateau, southeast Gabon
Balumbu baskets from Pitonga