A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
World Cultures Galleries
These galleries concentrate on the finest objects covering a 200 year period
as well as a gallery for the display of ancient Mediterranean and Egyptian
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Henry Townsend (1820 - 1885)
Born in Exeter in 1820, Henry Townsend showed an early desire to be a missionary. Sent as a teacher to Sierra Leone in 1836, aged 21, he became sympathetic towards the situation of the freed Yoruba slaves, many of whom wished to return to their homeland in what is now Nigeria. Townsend volunteered to work for the Church Missionary Society, in Abeokuta from 1843.
He returned to Exeter in 1876. During a period of leave in 1868, he gave a selection of the items he had collected to the new museum in his home town. They now form an invaluable picture of aspects of mid-19th century Yoruba life.
Collected By: Townsend
Region: Abeokuta, Nigeria, West Africa
Description: Figure of Esu, who wears an elaborate female hair-style consistent with his desire to confuse. The style of the carving is associated with North-east Oyo. This figure and another stood either side of the entrance to chief Ogunbona’s Palace in Abeokuta. Both were given to Townsend by the chief, who died in 1861.
Collected By: Dennett
Region: Kongo Kingdoms, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa
Description: Mask made of painted wood. Costume made of netted vegetable fibre and feathers, mostly of a species of hornbill. It was probably worn by a priest (nganga) for protection when he was in contact with potentially dangerous spirits. Red is associated with blood and danger, black with the land of the living, white with ancestors. The museum’s Accessions Register for October 1889 merely reads: “Collection of ethnological objects from Cacongo, S. Africa from Mr R.E. Dennett. Ashton near Exeter.”
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