South African, 19th century, male.
There is no biographical information to tell us who the ‘Baboon Master’ was. This is the case with the majority of black South African carvers working in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The appellation was given on the strength of a stylistic affinity shared by a number of carved staffs with finials containing baboons and other motifs. It is most likely that the carver was a man living in the Pietermaritzburg or Durban regions in the 1880s and 1890s. A family or workshop of carvers could also have produced the staffs. A variance in the quality of the works may also indicate copies made by less skilled competitors or by learners in the workshop....