Africa, Mother of Us All

Oscar Niemeyer Museum and The Ivani and Jorge Yunes Collection

By Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic record of the exhibition "Africa, Mother of Us All" (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Mother Africa, from which hundreds of thousands of our ancestors came, is also home to intriguing works of art that have changed art history forever. Masks, for example, are the African contributions to a very ancient lineage of persue for human identity: Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians,Greeks, Romans, Mayans, Aztecs, Incas,practically all the great civilizations of the past had in their masks a striking point of their culture. This importance comes fromthe representation of the human face, from what it is, what we would like it to be, from what we fear it to be. African masks present these thoughts to their fullest.The influence of African art in European modernism, particularly at the inaugural moment of Cubism (Picasso as its best known painter), and in its later developments, is well documented. It was also thanks to Braque, Alexander Archipenko, Brancussi, Modigliani, Vlaminck, German expressionists and so many other modernists that the so-called “African art” became known worldwide from the beginning of the twentieth century. Picasso referred specifically to African masks as having impressed him greatly, at an exhibition in 1907, in Paris.

Africa - Geopolitical Division (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Origin of the artworks (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Kore Mask | Bamana CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

Masks and sculptures

The African masks and sculptures thatattracted the attention of the world,including artists of the stature of a Picasso,for their aesthetic beauty, are much morethan that. In the African cultures maskswere part of an elaborate relationshipbetween the community of the living, themagical and spiritual powers of the deities,and the mysteries of nature. In the greateastern and classical civilizations, the masksthat intermediated the actions of the livingwith the world of the dead and that, in thetheatre performances, defined the actors, inAfrica they have more varied role.The African works selected for the firstmodule show different interconnections.There are masks elaborated by associationswho care for the initiation of adolescentsin male and female rites of passage, masksof agrarian and funerary use, propitiatorymasks of luck and fertility, and so on. Themain aspect that gives cohesion betweenthem would be the use of masks to honor theancestors, masks that would connect theworld of the living with the dead and menwith the gods.

Photographic record of the exhibition "Africa, Mother of Us All" (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Mask | Marka Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Mask | Baule Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Kore Mask | Bamana Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Kpelie mask | Senufo CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

Mask | Yaure Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Zamble Mask | Guro Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Mask | Yaure Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic record of the exhibition "Africa, Mother of Us All" (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Husband Figure | Blolo Bian | Baule CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

Wife Figure | Blolo Bla | Baule CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic record of the exhibition "Africa, Mother of Us All" (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Mask | Igbo Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Gelede Mask | Yoruba Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Okuyi Mask | Punu Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Okuyi Mask | Punu Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Ancestral Figure | Tadep | Mambila CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

Mask | Djimini Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Mask | Dan Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Sowei Mask | Mende Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic record of the exhibition "Africa, Mother of Us All" (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Commemorative Head | Bini CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

Power figures

Defined as “power figures,” how the piecesare published are a set of objects thatparticipate in the balance between socialforces. Be it a political or a spiritual force,both would reflect some level of capabilityand virtue. On the one hand, the conductionof the social organization, and the politicalleadership of a people are managed bypersons considerated exclusives as theydemonstrate through their “prestigeobjects”. On the other hand, spiritual consid-erated powers, such as the gift of fertilityand the ability to control natural forces andspirits, through techniques acquired fromgeneration to generation would be powersthat, intermediated by “community objects”,would be within reach even of children. Inthis module, therefore, busts and statu-ettes of notorious elements in the africanculture are counteracted and combined atthe same time with dolls of fertility, alsoused as children’s toys.

Commemorative Head | Bini Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Niger Delta Figure, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic record of the exhibition "Africa, Mother of Us All" (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Ibeji | Yoruba Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Ibeji | Yoruba Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic record of the exhibition "Africa, Mother of Us All" (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Warrior Figure | BiniOscar Niemeyer Museum

Queen Mother Figure | Bini Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Queen Mother Figure | Bini Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Commemorative Head | Ife-Yoruba Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Fertility Doll | Mambila, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Fertility Dolls | Turkana, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Fertility Dolls | Turkana, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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bedzan figures | Bamum CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

bedzan figures | Bamum Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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bedzan figures | Bamum Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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bedzan figures | Bamum CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

Royal Couple | Ashanti, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Royal Couple | Ashanti, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic record of the exhibition "Africa, Mother of Us All" (2019)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

DrumOscar Niemeyer Museum

The music and the sound

The music and sound of Africa are presentedhere by a selection of musical instrumentsthat some how reproduce the sound ofthe continent: waterfalls, thunders, rain,children playing, birds, roar of animals etc.make part of this enormous sound reality.Well-known instruments, such as theso-called “finger piano”, kalimba, differentdrums, and the xylophone called “balafon”are presented together with bells, clavesand harps. Arranged here, they try toimprove a small spectrum of the immenseAfrican musical sound that has influenced usso much. Rhythms, harmonies and melodieswere not aparted in Africa from the notionof feast. Feet, hands and voices at the feastare equally “instruments” of the participa-tion of all in this great spectacle that are atthe same time theatrical, visual and musical.There is no rigid separation between partic-ipants, be themselves musicians, dancers,spectators or listeners: the sonorousfestivity is what unites them.

Drum, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Drum | Western Africa, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Xylophone | Balafon | Mandinga Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Baga DrumOscar Niemeyer Museum

Harp | Kora or Cora | Mandinga Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Mbira | Sanza or Nelikembe | Mangbetu Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Mbira | Sanza or Nelikembe | Mangbetu Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Ogboni Handbell | Yoruba CultureOscar Niemeyer Museum

Drum, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Claves | or Bells | Bwende Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Claves | or Bells | Bwende Culture, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Credits: Story

Realization: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
Curatorship: Renato Araújo da Silva
Photographers: Marcello Kawase e Antonio More
Street View images: Tour Virtual 360

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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Black history in Brazil
Explore the history, arts, and culture of Afro-Brazilian experience
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