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Museum of International Folk Art
Collections: African
Ladder
Ladder
Dogon People, Mali
19th or early 20th century
Gift of Lloyd Cotsen
and Neutrogena Corp.
 
The African collections at the museum consist of household objects, toys, and textiles as well as masks and wood sculpture. An anonymous gift of over 40 pieces of pottery increased the geographic representation of the holdings. Alexander Girard» donated many small figures and toys of wood while toys made from wire and recycled materials were collected for the exhibit Recycled Re-Seen».

Another recent acquisition and ongoing collecting area is metalwork from Africa. Metal objects represent a rich area for interpretation because their manufacture and use encompasses the development of technology, trade, adornment, ritual and religion, and core cultural values. Metal objects have many functions and meanings in Africa where forging has been regarded as an almost magical, transformative process that is likened to the creation of life itself. Ceremonial pieces, often based on utilitarian forms such as the agricultural hoe like this iwenga from the Nkutshu people of southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, were used as special-purpose currency. Not everyday money, this currency was exchanged in the course of a significant social transaction such as marriage. Utilitarian, symbolic, and decorative; cultural significance is hammered into the products of the forge with every blow.

Pottery is made all over the continent of Africa for functional and ritual use. Pottery, along with basketry vessels, was essential to carry and store food and water. Collecting interests includes Zambian pottery with its beautifully proportioned clay bodies decorated with fine lines that form a decorative geometric pattern. Today in Zambia, most pottery has been replaced by sheet metal and plastic, materials that are more durable and less expensive but also less attractive than a handmade clay jar.
Hoe currency
Hoe Currency
Nkutshu People
Democratic Republic of Congo
19th century
International Folk Art
Foundation and gift of Tom Joyce
Pelican Puppet
Pelican Puppet
Bozo People, Mali
c. 1960
Gift of the Girard Foundation
Painted wood panel
Painted wood panel
Morocco
c. 1960
Gift of the Girard Foundation