Spread the Roots

INITIATION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm

Certain initiation rituals were meant to transform youth into adults by awakening them to environment, agriculture, oral history of society and to provide them with marriage advise.  This was done via particular memory exercises with the aid of proverbs,  symbols, sacred objects, songs and dances. In Central Africa the procession of young girls to be initiated ends near a watering hole or a lake. The girls are bathed ritually before coming back to the village where a celebration is held in their honour. This is a truly  spiritual/religious process during which the connection between the visible and the invisible, between the actual world and its origins is enhanced. The ancestors play an important role as they function as intermediates between those different worlds. They are asked to intervene in favour of their descendents. 

CELEBRATION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm

 In ancient times ritual dances by Kirdi women were performed after harvest, in the beginning of the dry season. They were meant to honor the land, the ancestors, but also the women who had taken care of the land, from seed to harvest.  The symbolic meaning of those dances, named Matakam, bill hook in hand, were the ever renewed fertility and the harvests to come, as demonstrated also by the sizzling and crackling of the seeds in little baskets attached to their legs. This tradition stems from the mountainous regions of Cameroon. 

SALUTATION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm 

In the lower Zambesi river region (Mozambique) the traditional greeting ceremony consists of three distinct movements, symbolizing mutual respect, solidarity and attachment.

TRADITION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm 

 Since the creation of the Bamoun kingdom, around 1392, the Sultan and his subjects met for a secret ceremony called “Nguon”. The keepers of the Bamoun tradition walked by the Sultan/King and kneel before him in memory of the founding fathers. During the ceremony the Sultan would descend from his pearlcovered throne, would leave the seat empty, and would stand before his people. The people would then decide whether to destitute him or to reinstate him for  another term. Ibrahima Njoya XVII, then 19, started his reign which lasted until 1931, in the region that is now called Cameroon, but was then ruled by the Germans. He admired colonial architecture and had the palace built which is now called “The Sultan Palace”. As a man of dialogue and peace, and an astute diplomat, he managed to keep his country in peace until the arrival of the French colonialists who destituted him in 1931. He died in 1933.

PROCESSION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm 

In Cameroon, one of the most spectacular dances is undoubtedly Tso at Bamileke ethnic group. It expresses the prestige and vitality of the tribe’s leadership. It is performed on the occasion of seasonal celebrations, funerals or inaugurations.  This dance is executed by members of the Kuosi tribe, (of warrior tradition), The dancers wear hoods, which are richly decorated with pearls. The ears and the long frontal piece represent an elephant ; the dancers are dressed in indigo dyed cloths, with pearl-embroidered waistcoats. They also wear feather-ornated headdresses, leopard skins, showing their standing and grade in the tribal society.

 

 

 

PREMONITION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm 

 

 

REPRESENTATION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm 

PROTECTION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm

 King Houegbadja (who reigns from 1645 to 1685) is the 3rd king of Dahomey (Benin).  He was the creator of an army of women – “Amazones”, ‘ called Mino by the  regular male army of Dahomey. Mino means “our mothers” in Fon language. The Mino’s are well trained, wear uniforms and are equipped with Danish rifles (obtained through slave trade). At this time the Mino army counts  between 4 000 and 6 000 women and represents about a third of the total  Dahomey army. The Mino women are not allowed to have children or to get married. Many are virgin. The Mino regiment benefits from a semi sacred statue made possible by the then common religion which calls for protection the Fon tribe. But it is under the reign of king Behazin, the twelfth and last king of Dahomey, crowned on the 6 th of January 1890 that Europeans discover the strength and power of the Mino army. The invasion of West Africa by European forces accelerates in 1890 and king Behazin engages in a battle with French army forces. The battle comes to an end on the 15 th of January 1894 with Benhazin signing surrender. He is deported to the isle of Martinique by the French colonial authorities. He is allowed to leave Martinique in 1906 and dies from pneumonia on December the 10 th of the same year in Blida, Algeria. His remains are solemny buried in Djime his ancestral soil, on the 9th of March 1928.

 

 

ELEVATION / Oil on canvas / 81 x 130 cm 

 The drum is perhaps the most emblematic of all African symbols.  It is used for all ceremonies and events, be it for fun or for more solemn gatherings. The drum accompanies dances but is also used to communicate and to accompany and back up sacred rites.  This particular drum from Cameroon, was used to communicate with the spirit of ancestors.  The faces with the round eyes stand the living, and the diagonal ones for the spirits.