This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1996. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.
This is an exhibit that shows the respect and awe traditional peoples
of Africa held for birds since earliest mythologies. The birds have power,
often magic, and provided protection or support. The best known works, other
than those of ancient Egypt, are the majestic hornbill
figures of the Senufo (Ivory Coast). Known as Porpianong or Setien,
they honor the noble hornbill, in its protective stance, in a large group
of pieces representing many sizes and styles.
The Yoruba of Nigeria included birds in much of their ritual art. The iron Osanyin healing staffs honored elder women who could heal and transform themselves into birds, hence the symbolism. Gelede and Epa headdresses, serving bowls and beaded crowns depicting birds are included in the show.
Bold hawk masks of the Bwa (Burkina Faso), with strong geometric patterning and bird helmet masks of the Bamileke (Cameroon) show single birds, while the headdresses of the Yaka (Zaire) and masks of the Baule, Guro and Yaure (Ivory Coast) juxtapose bird images surmounting human heads.
Small Ashanti (Ghana) goldweights and gold dust boxes, Benin (Nigeria) bronze roosters and some Egyptian ibuses complete a show that is protective, nurturing and powerful. We have included for comparison casts of Egyptian falcon gods to tie together millennia of bird worship in Africa.