Lot: 209

93rd Tribal Art Auction

Rare ancestor figure "ekpu"

Nigeria, Lower Cross River, Calabar Province, Oron

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Merton Simpson, New York, USA H: 28.7 inch 4000 EUR
plus 23 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance

wood, encrustations with clay, strong traces of weathering, base Ancestral figures created by Oron carvers from southeastern Nigeria's Cross River estuary are considered to be among the oldest surviving wood sculptures from sub-Saharan Africa. The tradition to carve those figures probably lasted only until the turn of the 20th century. When Kenneth C. Murray discovered them in 1938, the cult has become already obsolete, the shrines were on decay. Although 600 statues were still counted in 1959, when a museum has been installed for the then still existing sculptures, only about a hundred were left, after the raging of the Biafra war. The rest has been destroyed or looted by the conquerors.

Nicklin, Keith, Ekpu, London 1999, p. 95 ff.