Vue de l'exposition "Nigeria, arts de la vallée de la Bénoué"
13 Nov 2012 27 Jan 2013


Arts of the Benue Valley

This exhibition is the first to present a comprehensive overview of art produced by the many tribes inhabiting the region of Nigeria defined by the great Benue River, the most important tributary of the Niger. The exhibition aims to offer an accurate perception of the dynamic arts of this region, which is the cradle of some of the most spectacular art forms produced in sub-Saharan Africa.

About the exhibition

Presenting more than 150 objects – sculptures and masks in wood, pottery and metal drawn from public institutions and private collections from the United States and Europe – the selection invites the visitor to discover the artworks of this fairly unexhibited or unstudied region. Following the course of the Benue River in the footsteps of the first explorers, the exhibition places the objects in their geographical context and explores their history and the connections between the works of the different regions of the Benue valley.

The exhibition follows the course of the Benue and focusses on three large sub-regions of that river. Six major pieces introduce the theme of the exhibition and illustrate the main artistic genres which define the 3 sub-regions of the Benue valley.

  • commissariat

    • Marla C. Berns, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director, Fowler Museum, University of California, Los Angeles, Chief Curator
    • Richard Fardon, Professor of West African Anthropology and Head of the Doctoral School, SOAS, University of London
    • Hélène Joubert, Curator of African Heritage, musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
    • Sidney Kasfir, Professor Emerita of Art History at Emory University, Atlanta
  • Place:   Mezzanine est
  • TimeSlots:  
    From Tuesday 13 November 2012 at Sunday 27 January 2013
  • Closed on monday
    Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday:  10:30 am-07:00 pm
    Thursday:  10:30 am-10:00 pm
  • Public:   All publics
  • Categorie : Exhibitions
Vue de l'exposition "Nigeria, arts de la vallée de la Bénoué"
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Nigeria, Arts de la vallée de la Bénoué - Bande-annonce de l'exposition
Bande-annonce de l'exposition "Nigeria, Arts de la vallée de la Bénoué", présentée au musée du quai Branly du mardi 13 novembre 2012 au dimanche 27 janvier 2013. Pour en savoir plus, rendez-vous sur :
2:4 min

Exhibition synopsis

Fluidity of artistic identities in Lower Benue

The region of the Niger-Benue confluence has for centuries attracted many populations, especially north of the Benue, who generally brought with them their ritual objects. The Igala, the Ebira, the Idoma, the Afo and the Tiv are a few examples of such populations.

These have gradually merged to form new communities, thus enabling an exchange of artistic styles and ideas with their neighbours. For example, the Tiv have spread from the south, creating a cultural link with peoples with whom they share the same history. Maternal images which protect human and agricultural fertility are a common cultural trait between the peoples of this region.

The Middle Benue : visual similarities and a common historical heritage

The Middle Benue is the largest region of the whole of Benue and the most complex in terms of ethnic identity. The exhibition presents the works of around ten of the different cultural groups in this region: the Jukun, the Mumuye, the Chamba, the Wurkun/Bikwin, the Goemai, the Montol, and the Kantana/Kulere. The establishment of the Muslim Fulani States in the first half of the 19th century and the increase in slave trafficking had a dramatic impact on the various local populations. These events were followed by new external upheavals provoked by British colonisation and the arrival of the Christian missionaries at the beginning of the 20th century.

The works are representative of artistic styles indigenous to Middle Benue and are characterised by horizontal masks in hybrid form (half-man, half-animal), as well as anthropomorphic vertical masks. Much statuary evokes ancestors, the dead and spirits of nature, associated with medicinal properties. The astonishing similarities between these different works of art reflect the sharing of a common history and ritual alliances established between neighbouring peoples.

The Upper Benue: the capacity of clay for expression and ritual

The relative isolation of the Upper Benue distinguishes this region from the others as its undulating, hilly terrain provides the local populations with protection from raids by rival populations, particularly Fulani horsemen. The fact that this region is so distant also explains why certain local ritual practices are still continued. Here examples of the artistic production of the eight different groups of this sub-region are presented (Cham-Mwana, Longuda, Jen, Ga’anda, Bena, Yungur…). The predominance of ceramic vessels at the centre of the religious practices of the Upper Benue marks a clear break with the figures in wood and masks which are typical of the two other sub-regions.

Just like the sculptures in wood, the earthenware vessels served various ritual purposes such as curing the sick, protecting huntsmen and warriors and also activating the presence of various ancestral and protective spirits. Here, as elsewhere, we may note astonishing convergences in the styles and functions of the ceramic sculptures identified in several neighbouring groups, which reveals the extent of their communication and historical exchanges.