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Dress cloak. Ghana, Ashanti.
Mask of the Bunde women’s secret society. Sierra Leone, Mende.


Helmet in the form of an antelope’s head. Chivara society of field work. Mali, Bamana.
Magic Nkisi figure. Congo.

Bronze head, depiction of the queen mother. Ancient Benin, Bini.
Helmet-mask for initiation rituals. Congo, Kuba.
Wicker vessel with lid. South Africa.
Dajach Kabada on a horse (Dajach was a title in imperial Ethiopia).

Most of the African collection of the Kunstkamera was gathered in the second half of the 19th-early 20th century, but it still continues to be added to. Especially richly represented is the culture of Christian Ethiopia, the savannahs of West Sudan, the peoples of the upper reaches of the Nile, and Central Africa. The pearl of the exhibition is the “Benin bronze”: sculptures of courtiers and rulers of Benin and their mothers, and animals.

The Africa hall shows the daily life of people (housework, agriculture, animal breeding, weaving, blacksmith’s work, hunting), occult practices (magic and sorcery, soothsaying, reincarnation), war and rest. However, the division into the everyday and the supernatural is not obvious here. People used the help of ancestors, spirits, fetishes and powerful masks not just in fateful moments in life– they could also be used in the most ordinary situations: when the harvest had to be gathered without losses or to be protected from thieves, at sporting competitions with neighbouring villages, in hunting or especially at war. So it is not always easy to determine the purpose of an object: it could have both a strictly practical and an additional meaning, only understood by the enlightened.


Encyclopedia Countries. Peoples. Cultures. -> Sub-Saharan Africa