Marjorie and Jeffrey A. Rosen

Aesthetes and collectors, Marjorie and Jeffrey A. Rosen are the first American donors of the musée du quai Branly.

donation of a fertility stick

This stick was offered to the musée du quai Branly in 2004 by a generous American couple as a tribute to Martine Aublet, Director, president’s advisor on patronage and Bruno Roger.

Director of the musée du quai Branly’s museology project, Germain Viatte veered the choice of the donation to favor this exceptional piece unbeknownst to Martine and Bruno Roger. The discretion of the donation accentuates its generosity.

stick. Tanzania - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
stick. Tanzania © musée du quai Branly, photo Patrick Gries

This elegant 119 cm stick from the Zaramo tribe (Tanzania) likely dates back to 1925. The statuette was probably made in the Maneromango School, founded by the German Lutheran mission at the end of the 19th century.

It could have had several purposes. The most figurative sticks and pieces were used during ceremonies that could assert the authority of a chief or seer. In this case, they were called “healing trees”. The stick could also be dug in the ground, rendering the land sacred.

description of the fertility stick by Manuel Valentin in Musée du quai Branly - La Collection (Skira Flammarion, 2009):

« Formally, it combines two distinct elements: the stick with pommel model and a rounded sculpture that occupies more than one third of the pieces total length. It would have been held under right under the figure, which suggests a ceremonial or display use rather than a proper stick purpose. […]

The volumes of the female figure is marked by the continuous geometrization of a long trunk and neck, simply cylindrical on which sits an oval head. Shoulders, elbows, knees and wrists are more or less bent giving the statuette its angular aspect. The face is characterized by a smooth and rounded forehead and a face fashioned in a softly curved area. Eyes are made with two white incrusted pearls, the nose is straight and narrow while the mouth, very small, is highlighted by its prominent positioning. The hair is styled by fine parallel engraving suggesting flattened braids, pulled and gathered at the back and falling bluntly at the nape of the neck. Undoubtedly, it makes a rather cold and mechanical impression that would dominate the stick had the sculptor not included a slight asymmetry on the chest. The left breast is slightly higher than the right, as to repeat the unevenness of the hands resting on the stomach. This detail, along with the forward mouth movement, somehow dilutes the general stiffness of the statuette and gives it some expressivity. […]

The hair, protruding navel and small chest point to an initiated pubescent young girl. The hands on the stomach, hopeful gesture or sign of an expecting mother, finish this representation. After her initiation, the girl is brought to be married and fulfill her reproductive duty. The Zaramos and neighboring peoples favor feminine descendence and share the same ritual approach and symbolism of femininity. »