Africa

African art curator Alisa LaGamma reflects upon her personal connection to Africa.

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I had a highly unconventional upbringing.

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  • Alisa LaGamma
    1280852
  • Alisa LaGamma and her mother   |  Lubumbashi, Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo)   |  1966
    7311024
  • Stool  |  19th century  |  The Buli Master  |  Luba peoples; Democratic Republic of Congo  |  Wood, metal studs  |  Purchase, Buckeye Trust and Charles B. Benenson Gifts, Rogers Fund and funds from various donors, 1979 (1979.290)
    7081024
  • Neckrest: Female Figure  |  probably 19th century  |  Democratic Republic of Congo; Luba or Shankadi  |  Wood, beads  |  Gift of Margaret Barton Plass, in Honor of William Fagg, C.M.G., 1981 (1981.399)
    8411024
  • Face Mask (Kpeliye'e)  |  19th–mid-20th century  |  Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo  |  Wood, horns, raffia fiber, cotton cloth, feather, metal, sacrificial material  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965 (1978.412.489)
    6031024
  • Alisa LaGamma and her mother   |  Korogho, Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire)   |  1970
    7321024
  • Alisa LaGamma, her mother, and her brother   |  Korogho, Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire)   |  1970
    1280936
  • Painter   |  Korogho, Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire)   |  1970
    1280925
  • Male Poro Figure (Pombia)  |  19th–mid-20th century  |  Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo, Tyebara  |  Wood  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965 (1978.412.315)
    5761024
  • Memorial Head  |  19th–20th century  |  Côte d'Ivoire; Akan, Anyi subgroup  |  Terracotta  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.394)
    10221024
  • Helmet Mask (Bo Nun Amuin)  |  19th–20th century  |  Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire  |  Wood, pigment, egg shell (?)  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Adrian Pascal LaGamma, 1973 (1978.412.664)
    8831024
  • Helmet Mask (Bo Nun Amuin)  |  19th–20th century  |  Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire  |  Wood, pigment, egg shell (?)  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Adrian Pascal LaGamma, 1973 (1978.412.664)
    1280587
  • The Journey of the Magi  |  ca. 1435  |  Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni) (Italian, Sienese)  |  Tempera and gold on wood  |  Maitland F. Griggs Collection, Bequest of Maitland F. Griggs, 1943 (43.98.1)
    1280961
  • Madonna and Child  |  probably late 1480s  |  Giovanni Bellini (Italian, Venetian)  |  Oil on wood  |  Rogers Fund, 1908 (08.183.1)
    8771024
  • Portrait of a Young Man  |  1530s  |  Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano) (Italian, Florentine)  |  Oil on wood  |  H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.16)
    8071024
  • Mukudj  |  19th–20th century  |  Punu peoples; Gabon  |  Wood, pigment, kaolin  |  Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund and The Fred and Rita Richman Foundation and James Ross Gifts, 2000 (2000.177)
    7121024
  • Headdress (Ci Wara): Female Antelope  |  19th–20th century  |  Bamana peoples; Mali  |  Wood, metal bands  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.436)
    5811024
  • Headdress  |  19th–20th century  |  Bamana peoples; Mali  |  Wood, metal bands  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.435)
    6331024
  • Twin Mask (Nda)  |  19th–20th century  |  Côte d'Ivoire, Bandama River region  |  Wood, metal, patina stain  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.294)
    8001024
  • Pair of Diviner's Figures  |  19th–mid-20th century  |  Baule peoples; Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire  |  Wood, pigment, beads, iron  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969 (1978.412.390–.391)
    7501024
  • Head of an Oba  |  16th century (ca. 1550)  |  Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin  |  Brass  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.86)
    8771024
  • Page from an Illuminated Gospel  |  late 14th century  |  Ethiopia, Highland region  |  Parchment (vellum), wood (acacia), tempera, ink  |  Rogers Fund, 1998 (1998.66)
    6901024
  • Reliquary Figure  |  19th–20th century  |  Fang peoples; Gabon  |  Wood, metal, oil patina  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965 (1978.412.441)
    5931024
  • Alisa LaGamma
    1280852
  • My name is Alisa LaGamma. I am curator in the department of the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. My topic today is Africa.

  • I had a highly unconventional upbringing. I was born in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the city of Lubumbashi in the years following Congolese independence.

  • It was historically a region renowned for some of the great sculptural traditions that are represented by masterpieces in the Metropolitan's collection; works by artists like the Buli Master,

  • the Master of the Cascade Headdress. The reason my family lived in sub-Saharan Africa was that my father worked

  • in the Foreign Service, and for that reason we lived in a number of different places.

  • In later years we moved to the Ivory Coast. That was a very formative period for me.

  • Among our family photos are images of us visiting a Senufo village and watching a painter

  • produce one of the tapestries, a celebrated form of expression from the town of Korogho.

  • When I was a small child we had lots of African art. My father used to joke with us that, you know, we had our dolls and these were his.

  • So this is something that was very much a part of my upbringing. Among the many great masterpieces in the Metropolitan's collection is

  • a Baule Helmet Mask my parents gave to the museum when I was a small child. It was something that the curator at that time thought would be a useful addition to rounding out the collection.

  • It was an unusual circumstance that many years later I wound up working with the collection. After living in the Ivory Coast, my family

  • moved to Italy for six years. Italy was flooded with visits to museums and churches and other contexts and environments

  • for viewing art that also fired my imagination and greatly influenced my interest in studying art history.

  • When I was an undergraduate I majored in art history. We didn't have courses in African art. At the period when I was about to graduate from college my parents were

  • living in Senegal. It seemed like that might be one of the last times

  • I had a family connection to this part of the world.

  • It was important to me in the long term to maintain

  • a connection with Africa.

  • The idea of developing an expertise in African art became

  • a permanent bridge with a region that has especially meaningful

  • influences on my life as an individual.

  • I love that cultural diversity and youthful vitality

  • of the field that I work in.

  • 1979.290
    Stool, 19th century, The Buli Master, Luba peoples; Democratic Republic of Congo, Wood, metal studs Purchase, Buckeye Trust and Charles B. Benenson Gifts, Rogers Fund and funds from various donors, 1979 (1979.290)
  • 1981.399
    Neckrest: Female Figure, probably 19th century, Democratic Republic of Congo; Luba or Shankadi, Wood, beads Gift of Margaret Barton Plass, in Honor of William Fagg, C.M.G., 1981 (1981.399)
  • 1978.412.489
    Face Mask (Kpeliye'e), 19th–mid-20th century, Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo, Wood, horns, raffia fiber, cotton cloth, feather, metal, sacrificial material The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965 (1978.412.489)
  • 1978.412.315
    Male Poro Figure (Pombia), 19th–mid-20th century, Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo, Tyebara, Wood The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965 (1978.412.315)
  • 1978.412.394
    Memorial Head, 19th–20th century, Côte d'Ivoire; Akan, Anyi subgroup, Terracotta The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.394)
  • 1978.412.664
    Helmet Mask (Bo Nun Amuin), 19th–20th century, Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire, Wood, pigment, egg shell (?) The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Adrian Pascal LaGamma, 1973 (1978.412.664)
  • 43.98.1
    The Journey of the Magi, ca. 1435, Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni) (Italian, Sienese), Tempera and gold on wood Maitland F. Griggs Collection, Bequest of Maitland F. Griggs, 1943 (43.98.1)
  • 08.183.1
    Madonna and Child, probably late 1480s, Giovanni Bellini (Italian, Venetian), Oil on wood Rogers Fund, 1908 (08.183.1)
  • 29.100.16
    Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s, Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano) (Italian, Florentine), Oil on wood H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.16)
  • 2000.177
    Mukudj, 19th–20th century, Punu peoples; Gabon, Wood, pigment, kaolin Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund and The Fred and Rita Richman Foundation and James Ross Gifts, 2000 (2000.177)
  • 1978.412.436
    Headdress (Ci Wara): Female Antelope, 19th–20th century, Bamana peoples; Mali, Wood, metal bands The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.436)
  • 1978.412.435
    Headdress, 19th–20th century, Bamana peoples; Mali, Wood, metal bands The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.435)
  • 1979.206.294
    Twin Mask (Nda), 19th–20th century, Côte d'Ivoire, Bandama River region, Wood, metal, patina stain The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.294)
  • 1978.412.390-.391
    Pair of Diviner's Figures, 19th–mid-20th century, Baule peoples; Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire, Wood, pigment, beads, iron The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969 (1978.412.390–.391)
  • 1979.206.86
    Head of an Oba, 16th century (ca. 1550), Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.86)
  • 1998.66_av1
    Page from an Illuminated Gospel, late 14th century, Ethiopia, Highland region, Parchment (vellum), wood (acacia), tempera, ink Rogers Fund, 1998 (1998.66)
  • 1978.412.441
    Reliquary Figure, 19th–20th century, Fang peoples; Gabon, Wood, metal, oil patina The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965 (1978.412.441)
  • Stool, 19th century, The Buli Master, Luba peoples; Democratic Republic of Congo, Wood, metal studs Purchase, Buckeye Trust and Charles B. Benenson Gifts, Rogers Fund and funds from various donors, 1979 (1979.290)
    Neckrest: Female Figure, probably 19th century, Democratic Republic of Congo; Luba or Shankadi, Wood, beads Gift of Margaret Barton Plass, in Honor of William Fagg, C.M.G., 1981 (1981.399)
    Face Mask (Kpeliye'e), 19th–mid-20th century, Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo, Wood, horns, raffia fiber, cotton cloth, feather, metal, sacrificial material The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965 (1978.412.489)
    Male Poro Figure (Pombia), 19th–mid-20th century, Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo, Tyebara, Wood The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965 (1978.412.315)
    Memorial Head, 19th–20th century, Côte d'Ivoire; Akan, Anyi subgroup, Terracotta The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.394)
    Helmet Mask (Bo Nun Amuin), 19th–20th century, Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire, Wood, pigment, egg shell (?) The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Adrian Pascal LaGamma, 1973 (1978.412.664)
    The Journey of the Magi, ca. 1435, Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni) (Italian, Sienese), Tempera and gold on wood Maitland F. Griggs Collection, Bequest of Maitland F. Griggs, 1943 (43.98.1)
    Madonna and Child, probably late 1480s, Giovanni Bellini (Italian, Venetian), Oil on wood Rogers Fund, 1908 (08.183.1)
    Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s, Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano) (Italian, Florentine), Oil on wood H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.16)
    Mukudj, 19th–20th century, Punu peoples; Gabon, Wood, pigment, kaolin Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund and The Fred and Rita Richman Foundation and James Ross Gifts, 2000 (2000.177)
    Headdress (Ci Wara): Female Antelope, 19th–20th century, Bamana peoples; Mali, Wood, metal bands The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.436)
    Headdress, 19th–20th century, Bamana peoples; Mali, Wood, metal bands The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.435)
    Twin Mask (Nda), 19th–20th century, Côte d'Ivoire, Bandama River region, Wood, metal, patina stain The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.294)
    Pair of Diviner's Figures, 19th–mid-20th century, Baule peoples; Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire, Wood, pigment, beads, iron The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969 (1978.412.390–.391)
    Head of an Oba, 16th century (ca. 1550), Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.86)
    Page from an Illuminated Gospel, late 14th century, Ethiopia, Highland region, Parchment (vellum), wood (acacia), tempera, ink Rogers Fund, 1998 (1998.66)
    Reliquary Figure, 19th–20th century, Fang peoples; Gabon, Wood, metal, oil patina The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965 (1978.412.441)
    8000–2000 B.C.
    2000–1000 B.C.
    1000 B.C.–1 A.D.
    1–500 A.D.
    500–1000 A.D.
    1000–1400 A.D.
    1400–1600 A.D.
    1600–1800 A.D.
    1800–1900 A.D.
    1900–Present

    Works of art in order of appearance

    Last Updated: August 19, 2013. Not all works of art in the Museum's collection may be on view on a particular day. For the most accurate location information, please check this page on the day of your visit.

    Stool
    19th century
    The Buli Master
    Luba peoples; Democratic Republic of Congo
    Wood, metal studs
    Purchase, Buckeye Trust and Charles B. Benenson Gifts, Rogers Fund and funds from various donors, 1979 (1979.290)
    On view: Gallery 352
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Neckrest: Female Figure
    probably 19th century
    Democratic Republic of Congo; Luba or Shankadi
    Wood, beads
    Gift of Margaret Barton Plass, in Honor of William Fagg, C.M.G., 1981 (1981.399)
    On view: Gallery 352
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Face Mask (Kpeliye'e)
    19th–mid-20th century
    Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo
    Wood, horns, raffia fiber, cotton cloth, feather, metal, sacrificial material
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965 (1978.412.489)
    On view: Gallery 350
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Male Poro Figure (Pombia)
    19th–mid-20th century
    Côte d'Ivoire; Senufo, Tyebara
    Wood
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965 (1978.412.315)
    On view: Gallery 350
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Memorial Head
    19th–20th century
    Côte d'Ivoire; Akan, Anyi subgroup
    Terracotta
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.394)
    On view: Gallery 352
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Helmet Mask (Bo Nun Amuin)
    19th–20th century
    Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire
    Wood, pigment, egg shell (?)
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Adrian Pascal LaGamma, 1973 (1978.412.664)
    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    The Journey of the Magi
    ca. 1435
    Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni) (Italian, Sienese)
    Tempera and gold on wood
    Maitland F. Griggs Collection, Bequest of Maitland F. Griggs, 1943 (43.98.1)
    On view: Gallery 625
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Madonna and Child
    probably late 1480s
    Giovanni Bellini (Italian, Venetian)
    Oil on wood
    Rogers Fund, 1908 (08.183.1)
    On view: Gallery 606
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Portrait of a Young Man
    1530s
    Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano) (Italian, Florentine)
    Oil on wood
    H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.16)
    On view: Gallery 609
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Mukudj
    19th–20th century
    Punu peoples; Gabon
    Wood, pigment, kaolin
    Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund and The Fred and Rita Richman Foundation and James Ross Gifts, 2000 (2000.177)
    On view: Gallery 352
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Headdress (Ci Wara): Female Antelope
    19th–20th century
    Bamana peoples; Mali
    Wood, metal bands
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.436)
    On view: Gallery 350
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Headdress
    19th–20th century
    Bamana peoples; Mali
    Wood, metal bands
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964 (1978.412.435)
    On view: Gallery 350
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Twin Mask (Nda)
    19th–20th century
    Côte d'Ivoire, Bandama River region
    Wood, metal, patina stain
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.294)
    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Pair of Diviner's Figures
    19th–mid-20th century
    Baule peoples; Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire
    Wood, pigment, beads, iron
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969 (1978.412.390–.391)
    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Head of an Oba
    16th century (ca. 1550)
    Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin
    Brass
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.86)
    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Page from an Illuminated Gospel
    late 14th century
    Ethiopia, Highland region
    Parchment (vellum), wood (acacia), tempera, ink
    Rogers Fund, 1998 (1998.66)
    On view: Gallery 351
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Reliquary Figure
    19th–20th century
    Fang peoples; Gabon
    Wood, metal, oil patina
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965 (1978.412.441)
    On view: Gallery 352
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor

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