Lot: 26

Anthropomorphic head sculpture "maha yafa", 15th / 16th century

Sierra Leone, Coastal Area

Provenance Size Hammer price
Mario Meneghini, Monrovia, Liberia (1957)
Giovanni Testori (1923-1993), Milan, Italy
Sold by his heirs in 1999
Dalton - Somaré, Milan, Italy
Guy van Rijn, Brussels, Belgium
Marcel Nies, Antwerp, Belgium (2018)
H: 8.1 inch;
L: 11.2 inch
This object is not available anymore.

heavy greyish-brown stone, base

These large stone heads are known generally by the Mende term, "mahei yafeisia" (sing. "maha yafa") - signifying "chief's spirits" (Lamp, 2018, p. 35 f.).

Their exact use is unknown. It is speculated that they might have been used as effigy heads or portraits set on the ground or on low altars in commemoration of deceased Sapi chiefs.

In general, the works in stone are considered the oldest works of art from this region. The sculptures show stylistic similarities with Afro-Portuguese ivory works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which were discovered in European collections and attributed to the coastal area of Sierra Leone by scholars in the late twentieth century. It is generally assumed that both the stone and ivory works originate from the Sapi people who inhabited the region before the Mani (Mande) invasions in the 16th century (Schmalenbach, 1988, p. 108).

Lamp, John Frederick, Stone Effigies of the Ancient Sapi, New York 2018, p. 35 f. Schmalenbach, Werner (Hg.), Afrikanische Kunst aus der Sammlung Barbier-Mueller, Genf, München 1988, p. 109, ill. 43

ADHRC: 0115024