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

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Best of Mehta collection comes to Montgomery

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park
One Museum Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
Phone: 334.240.4333
Fax: 334.240.4384
TTY: 334.244.5752
mailto:info*mmfa.org 

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By ROBYN BRADLEY LITCHFIELD found at Tuscaloosa Montgomery Advertiser

Traveling the African continent for many years, Dileep and Martha Mehta of Atlanta have acquired more than memories. They have purchased wood sculptures from the Asante peoples of Ghana, wood and raffia masks from the Gola people of Liberia and Sierra Leone, a colorful cotton and silk Kente wrapper from the Ewe peoples of Ghana and Togo and more.And they have agreed to share some of the highlights of their vast collection with Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts visitors. The exhibition "Africa Celebrates the Art of Living: From the Collection of Dileep and Martha Mehta" opened Thursday and runs through July 2006.

"The Mehtas have helmet masks, sculptures, ceramics, textiles and more.

It's a wonderful collection," said museum director Mark M. Johnson, who met the Mehtas several years ago and approached them about lending some of their African art objects to the museum.

Currently traveling, the Mehtas were not available for comment, but they did share their feelings in a statement about the exhibition:

"Rarely does a collector begin to assemble a group of art objects single-mindedly or with a single goal - certainly not initially. A constellation of motives gradually takes shape and propels the collector forward. The initial acquisition might stem from an accidental encounter with an object that 'clicks,' catching the collector's fancy and curiosity."

Their collection also "clicked" with Johnson, who approached the Mehtas about making at least a few of their pieces available to Alabamians.

Dr. Bill Dewey, an art historian on faculty at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville who specializes in African art, said the Mehtas' vast collection impressed him.

"He (Dileep Mehta) has a preference for sculptures and masks, so the majority of the collection is from West and Central Africa," said Dewey, whom Johnson asked to curate the exhibition. "But he does have a few textiles and other things."

For the Montgomery show, Dewey said he tried to gather as diverse a show as possible.

But before taking on the project, Dewey visited the couple in Atlanta.

"They have hundreds of pieces, but not all are on display. What is (on display) is scattered throughout their home," Dewey said. "So the quandary was how to present a show that shows the range of what they have while making a relatively small selection."

Dewey finally narrowed the Montgomery show down to about 40 objects.

One of the highlights for Dewey, who grew up in what is now Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), is a Betu or Bowu mask of wood and raffia.

Used by a men's association for entertainment, the mask is very old and very beautiful, he said.

"I like it in particular because it honors a beautiful woman," he said.

But this mask, topped with a carving of a woman with a very long neck and surrounded by a raffia costume along the bottom, was worn on top of the head like a crest.

"It (entertainment) was performed very energetically with the dancer jumping up and down and twirling around," he said. "At some point in the performances, small masqueraders (children) would come out from beneath the skirt, run around and then go back underneath."

Because the raffia portion can be messy, collectors don't always send back the costume portion of this type of object, he said, so it's nice to see the complete ensemble.

Dewey said other highlights include a grouping of small figures, often called dolls.

"But in Africa, these are not used as dolls by little kids," he said. "They are for women's initiation and for encouraging fertility."

There also are other figures, twin figures from the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

The Yorubas, who have one of the highest percentages of twin births, believe that twins share a soul, he said.

"So if one twin dies, the brother or sister will want to follow the twin into death. Parents don't want that to happen, so they have a small twin figure carved and care for it just as they do the living twin," Dewey said.

Johnson said these figures and other objects are not the first pieces of African art the Montgomery museum has exhibited, but they are part of something different.

Unlike previous exhibitions - impressive traveling exhibitions of African art - this exhibition will remain on view for a full academic year.

With school tours scattered throughout the year, some schoolchildren miss exhibitions, either coming before a show opens or after it has moved on to the next venue, he said.

The Mehtas have agreed to leave their objects on view at the museum for a longer than usual period, making it available to all school groups as well as other visitors.

"That's asking a lot of a lender, but the Mehtas are very open to suggestions and ideas on how museums might use their collection," Johnson said.

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Start
Omhoog
Frederick-Scott-Boston
Charles Benenson
Arman African Art
Baselitz
Barnes foundation
Gary Schulze
Paolo Morigi
Bareiss
Owen Mort
Tomkins collection
lavuun
Goldet auction
Tishman
Metha-Montgomey
William Rubin
Bregger
Guido Poppe African Weapons
Picasso back to Africa
Private collection
Felix Feneon
Jean-Pierre Hallet
Leo Frobenius
Olbrechts
Frank Willett
Kerchache
Brill collection
Vicente Huidobro
Hans Witte
Collins Diboll
Richard Faletti
Lester Saffier
Genevieve McMillan
Stanoff
Marc Ginzberg
Horstmann Collection
Warren Robbins 

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The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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read also : Start ] Frederick-Scott-Boston ] Charles Benenson ] Arman African Art ] Baselitz ] Barnes foundation ] Gary Schulze ] Paolo Morigi ] Bareiss ] Owen Mort ] Tomkins collection ] lavuun ] Goldet auction ] Tishman ] [ Metha-Montgomey ] William Rubin ] Bregger ] Guido Poppe African Weapons ] Picasso back to Africa ] Private collection ] Felix Feneon ] Jean-Pierre Hallet ] Leo Frobenius ] Olbrechts ] Frank Willett ] Kerchache ] Brill collection ] Vicente Huidobro ] Hans Witte ] Collins Diboll ] Richard Faletti ] Lester Saffier ] Genevieve McMillan ] Stanoff ] Marc Ginzberg ] Horstmann Collection ] Warren Robbins ]

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