Rare Mbembe art from Africa at the Metropolitan Museum, New York

ft | Ariella Budick:


For 500 years the people of southeastern Nigeria created startling and mysterious wooden carvings

What’s left of a man, scarred by time and etched by erosion, stands watch over a dark gallery. Footless legs brace a massive, pitted torso. 

Seated man with rifle (late 19th/early 20th century)

His cranium radiates majesty and his fiercely clenched teeth caution those who would defy him that they could wind up like the severed head he grips in his left hand. Several centuries after he was created, he looks tougher than the wood he’s carved from.

This paragon of masculinity has been tentatively identified as Appia, a 16th-century chief of the African village that carries his name, Appia Koum. The statue dominates Warriors and Mothers: Epic Mbembe Art, a tiny exhibition of masterpieces from southeastern Nigeria at New York’s Metropolitan Museum…


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