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

African Art books I like | Genuine African Masks

"Are most of the African Art collectors "Dowayos" ?

with authorisation of Wolfgang Jaenicke at  a member of our discussion group

Once the english anthropologist Nigel Barley wrote a story about the 
Dowayo-people, Cameroon (Barley, Nigel. Ceremony An Anthropologist's 
Misadventures in the African Bush) that they were not able to identify a person from a photo.


back to African tribes > West Africa > Western-Soudan >= Nigeria

The cameroonian government once tryed to give the Dowayo-people passports. For making these personal documents it was important to make photos from each single person of the village. But the people from the Dowayo tribe misunderstood this order of the government, because there experieces with portait-photos was very special. 

They were able to a identify an african person on a photo, but 
they were unable to identify an individual person at different photos made in the same way. 
So only one person of village went to the city making a photo from himself for all fifty members of his village. At least he got fifty passports all with the same photo.
Sometimes I must think about this funny story, when I am looking at the Tribal-Art market. There are so many intelligent people, who are buying or dealing "African Art" or they having discussions about these "objects" in Newsgroups. But what they are collecting or speaking about has nothing to do with African Art. Nearly 100 percent of this stuff are copys or fakes. But this is not enough, the quality of these copys are so awful... and itīs unbelievable, that these high graduated people realy think, they are speaking about authentic African Art. There are books with old authetic pieces with sure provenances. But if you take a photo from a fake and a photo in a Tribal Art book, most of the people are not able to see the differences. And the reason of this incompetence is not only because they are impressed by the fact of "Oh, itīs in a book, itīs in a catlogue of a wellknown auction house...this must be genuine"! Our "eyes" are not able to verify these differences. 
Itīs exactly the same story like Nigel Barley is telling us about the Dowayo. We are the primitive, blind people - including me - who have these difficulties, when we become contact to a culture, which is different to our own. We are the "Dowayos" of the Western World: 
Primitive people, who canīt see the simplest differences, high 
decorated with academic degrees..but blind."

with authorisation of Wolfgang Jaenicke  



The Innocent Anthropologist : Notes from a Mud HutThe Innocent Anthropologist
Author: Nigel Barley; Buy New: $11.60

When British anthropologist Nigel Barley set up home among the Dowayo people in northern Cameroon, he knew how fieldwork should be conducted. Unfortunately, nobody had told the Dowayo. His compulsive, witty account of first fieldwork offers a wonderfully inspiring introduction to the real life of a cultural anthropologist doing research in a Third World area. Both touching and hilarious, Barley's unconventional story--in which he survived boredom, hostility, disaster, and illness--addresses many critical issues in anthropology and in fieldwork.

Amazonbombshell (Milwaukie, OR, USA) 

You've got to love this book. I'm an anthro type anyway, but if I wasn't this book would still be highly entertaining and a great experience.

It's about a self-deprecating British anthropologist who goes to Cameroon to do fieldwork among a little-known tribe called the Dowayo. While he's there, he encounters strange foods, a crazy old missionary, an impossible French-speaking Dowayo assistant, illness, personal injury, beer parties in the fields, paranoid Dowayo men, and a host of other things that will alternately make you wince and laugh out loud.

For anthropologists, this is an amusing look at what it's REALLY like in the field, with none of the "blood and guts" left out. For the lay reader, it's a look at what anthropologists actually do, and a highly educational one at that. If you think anthropology is all about dead white men condescending to attend a "native" ceremony now and then, this book's a kick in the head. I loved it.

The Innocent Anthropologist
Author: Nigel Barley; Buy New: $11.60

Well I hope you don't want to stay a "Dowayos" and will join the African Antiques discussion group to learn. From my point of view, you don't stay a Dowayo when you do your research work, when you educate yourself by visiting Museums, reading books and sharing your thoughts with other collectors, dealers and museum curators. David Norden

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David Norden

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In this section:
Timbuktu Manuscripts 

African art books

The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

more African Art books I like

read also : Start ] Nigeria ] Ijo ] Daima-Sao ] Nok ] Yoruba-Ife ] Edo-Benin ] Dogon ] Mali-Map ] Fon ] Urhobo ] Djenne-Mopti ] Dogon-Tellem ] Senufo ] [ Dowayos ] Bura ] Darfur ] Timbuktu Manuscripts ]

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