Well documented

Iconic Mumuye Art rediscovered

Mumuye, Nigeria, El Hadj Yende Amadou

Auction in Wurzburg:
Saturday, 7 July 2018 starting at 2 pm

Preview in Wurzburg:
Wed 4 until Fri 6 July from 10 am until 7 pm
Sat 7 July from 9 am until 2 pm

Telephone bidding support in German, English and French !


Based on historical photographs from before 1969, we can, for the first time, reconstruct the journey  of these Mumuye figures from Africa into a German private collection. A perfect provenance chain!


For the African art collecting community, the discovery of the Mumuye sculptures in the late 1960s was a veritable earthquake. Mumuye artworks were something radical in their reduction, a form that had never been seen. The physicality of the sculptures, their movement, their gracefulness and their formal language were something new and at the same time similar to modern art. The release from the erect sculptural form through movement and the almost dance-like tension as well as the elongated shape fascinated the artistic soul of the collectors, who felt the perfect connection to modern art in the works of the Mumuye.

As one of the first, the artist Henry Moore recognized this as early as 1922/1924, when he saw one of the few examples exhibited in the British Museum (INV.NO. 1922.6-10.2). He sketched the dynamics, their physical movement and the  associated abstraction, and thus came to a new discourse in his own artistic work. It is also interesting from an art historical point of view that the sculptures created by Alberto Giacometti after 1935 show closeness to sculptures of the Mumuye (Rubin, 1984: 541, fig. 782).

Thus, until today, the art of Mumuye can continue to inspire various generations. Many artists subconsciously took on and adopted the language of form in their work, thereby developing a formal idiom that led to a social reassessment of sculpture.

As mentioned before, the objects of Mumuye culture were relatively unknown in the European and American art  markets until the 1960s. Due to the Biafra War (1967-1970) this changed as objects of the Mumuye culture arrived in Cameroon and were offered there by African dealers. One of the important protagonists of the time was the Cameroon dealer El Hadj Yende Amadou.

The fact that the Mumuye culture was discovered by Philippe Guimiot, Jacques Kerchache and other dealers for the art market is well known, but the African dealers, especially El Hadj Yende Amadou, who are true connoisseurs and discovered this culture, are often overlooked in the Western world.

El Hadj Yende Amadou, 1969
(Photo: Private Archive)

The group of works of Mumuye culture offered by us, as well as two works offered by Christie’s (Christie‘s, Paris, „Arts d‘Afrique, d‘Océanie et d‘Amérique“, April 10, 2018. Lots 62 and 63) come from a North German Collection and were acquired in 1969 in Cameroon by El Hadj Yende Amadou.

Photographs sent as advertising material in 1968/1969 from the Cameroon dealer El Hadj Yende Amadou, which he sent around the world to his customers. Six of this objects (four of whom are photographed) can still be found in a German private collection, and are part of our coming auction.
(Photos: El Hadj Yende Amadou, before 1969, today Private Archive)

Numerous photographs of the objects that he sent to his customers around the world are proof of his large network.

We can only assume that when El Hadj Yende Amadou acquired the works of various groups of the Mumuye in Nigeria he felt in particular their artistic expression and importance as an exclusive „commodity“.

In addition, an important helmet mask from the Kaka (Yamba/Mben) culture from Cameroon, which is now in the collection of Javier Peres [Berlin], was acquired by Dr. Karl Ferdinand Schädler in the early 1970s from El Hadj Yende Amadou. This work was shown in the ground-breaking exhibition „The Art of a Continent“ [1]. El Hadi Yende Amadou was also one of the first to recognize the importance of the Kaka artworks for the Western art market.

As Hermine Waterfield described, the demand for Mumuye figures was so great that from the mid-1970s there was a huge wave of counterfeiting[2]. But only the photographs sent by El Hadj Yende Amadou were taken well before  (1968/69), and can give a good overview of the existing range of old, authentic figures.

A few years earlier (1965-1966) the first exhibition of Mumuye art was organized by the Danish ethnologist Mette Bovin in Oslo, but it was the Mumuye Art exhibition held at the Majestic Gallery in Paris in 1968, which ignited the first hype about Mumuye figures in general.

Since the works offered remained in the North German collection since 1969, they could not find their way into the literature until now. These iconic works - especially with regard to their documentation - are thus a true discovery for the art market, because here we can, for the first time, reconstruct their origins.


[1] „Africa: The Art of a Continent“, Phillips (Tom), editor, Munich/ New York: Prestel, 1995:348, #5.5
[2] https://www.imodara.com/magazine/tits-and-pricks/