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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Australia Tribal art's not all pig stickers and hornbill skull head-dresses. At least, that's what the enthusiasts will tell you. There are also intricate ebony lime spatulas, stone-cut woomeras with the wondrous patina of age and magic shaman staffs positively vibrating with healing powers.

Tribal hocus-pocus

found at Fairfax digital

Australia, with a long and close association with Papua New Guinea and a proximity to Indonesia and Melanesia - as well as a tribal population of its own to oppress - has always had a thing about tribal art.

Hence there are several reputable tribal art galleries, particularly in Sydney. But on the auction side it's been lean times recently. Now Lawson Menzies, which relegated tribal wares to its downmarket Annandale outlet following the takeover by Melbourne based art-fancier Rod Menzies, is on the comeback trail. It's hired a 20-year veteran of the tribal scene, collector/dealer Jim Elmslie, as curator and put together what sounds an impressive line-up for an auction on September 21.

Among the highlights: a Solomons Islands ceremonial shield inlaid with mother of pearl at $12,000 to $15,000, 19th century ceremonial boomerangs 1.3m long at $3000 to $6000; and rare artifacts and anthropological books from the Brisbane-based Abbott collection.

Catalogue online at .

Guy Earl-Smith 

Guy Earl Smith, a former Lawsons man himself, has largely been carrying the flag by staging regular tribal auctions.

He's having a sale today at White City Tennis Association of NSW, 30 Alma Street, Paddington, with viewings 9am-12.30pm.

Earl-Smith casts a wide net with offerings including ethnographic African sculpture and masks, Khmer stone sculpture, and Egyptian and Roman, Islamic and Indus Valley antiquities - as well as PNG and Pacific basin sculpture, weaponry and body ornaments. Catalogue online at .


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The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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