This page is a record of an exhibit that took place
in 1997. The individual links below will take you to
the CURRENT VERSION of the pages
that formed part of that exhibit.

APRIL 2 - MAY 31, 1997

DOGON, Horse & Rider, 51", Mali
Photograph © John Urban

"Horse and Rider" presents a wide range of traditional sculpture of a very prestigious theme in African art. Only the greatest leaders were depicted on horseback. Owning a horse was a luxury, only for the rich and.powerful or those of high rank. Being shown on horseback was a great honor buf so was ownership of a sculpture of a horseman, celebrating aesthetic expression and indicating wealth and status.

The tradition of horseman as icon has existed for 1000 years in Mali and we have an excellent and varied selection of Dogon works. Large wood pieces would have been the focus of important shrines, and commemorated respected deceased leaders, gods or mythological ancestors. Many would depict a hogon, the supreme officeholder, a semi-divine leader of great wisdom, or even an ancient emissary from a distant land. We have several large works, some covered bowls with horsemen, an unusual Tellem piece and smaller figures.

The Dogon also have bronze and iron horsemen that have a power and permanence belying their small size. Some Dogon doors and Bamana pieces complete the works from Mali.

The Yoruba of Nigeria contribute the second impressive grouping beginning with a large colonial-style shrine piece. Other equestrian figures, for Orisha shrines or altars, show the importance of the leader symbolically with disproportionate size and careful execution. The horse received more summary treatment. Large complex Epa headdresses, with the horseman surrounded by followers on foot, share this convention. Other Yoruba works and examples from the Benin, Tikar, Baule and Luba peoples complete the exhibition. Prestige, power and human intelligence fused with animal strength create an impressive show.