22nd June to 3rd October 2010, Musée du quai Branly, Paris
|©Musée du quai Branly
A real trip of initiation that will take the visitor from the forests in the north to the savannahs in the south, the exhibition brings out the links existing between the works produced in the areas lying on the banks of the majestic Congo River by various communities which speak the Bantu language.
Behind the variety of masks and Fang, Hemba, Kwele or Kota sculptures, the exhibition highlights the major works emanating from Central Africa, in their conception, their structures and the artistic links that bring them closer.
The three themes of the exhibition, fundamental in the life of these image-loving peoples, are complementary:
·the "heart shaped face" masks and statues ensuring the unity and identity of the respective groups;
·the importance of the founding ancestor and the eminent members of his lineage;
·the representation of women in the kingdoms of the savannah, balancing the authority of men, linked to the mystery of regeneration of the earth, agriculture and human life.
The relationships between the cultures of the forested areas andthose of the savannahs are expressed in the material culture. Beyond the institutional and cultural transformations, the cultural unity of Central Africa is undeniable. It is an entire heritage of humanity, so often cut up into cultural groups separated by colonial borders, which comes to the fore. Beyond the differences between various communities, there are in fact common styles and usages which make it possible to get a better understanding of the masterpieces that have been showcased here. (François Neyt)