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Bertil Söderberg

Bantu-speaking people, numbering c. 50,000, living mainly in the Mouyondzi and Sibiti districts of the Republic of the Congo. The Bembe have contacts with the Sundi, Teke and Ladi (whose figure sculpture is also discussed here), and their place of origin is considered to be the old kingdom of the Kongo. The Bembe are well known for their generally small statuettes (c. 100–200 mm) of various types, often with distinctive scarification patterns, which have also been widely illustrated in general works (e.g. Fagg, Segy). Examples of Bembe art are held by many museums with African collections (e.g. Geneva, Mus. Barbier–Mueller; Stockholm, Etnog. Mus.; Göteborg, Etnog. Mus.; Haverford Coll., PA; and Basle, Tribal A. Cent.).

The art objects for which the Bembe are best known are their religious figure sculptures. The Bembe priest (nganga) captures an ancestral spirit (nkuyu) and fixes it with magical medicine and resin in the anus of the sculpture, hence the name ‘crypto-fetishes’ (Fagg). The sculptures take various shapes, but most of them are figures, often in a standing position. They may represent a chief, a mighty hunter or an otherwise powerful man. The sculptures are not carved to resemble individuals, but to show the insignia of their rank, for instance a gun for a hunter and a staff, knife or elephant tusk for the chief. The statues are intended primarily to protect their owners, but some of them are used in healing ceremonies. A man who abandons a consecrated statuette runs a risk of illness, but, when a priest dies, his sculptures can be thrown away without fear....


Martha Schwendener

[Ben Youseph Nathan, Esther Zeghdda]

(b London, Nov 21, 1869; d Brooklyn, NY, Nov 27, 1933).

American photographer. Born Esther Zeghdda Ben Youseph Nathan to a German mother and an Algerian father, she immigrated to the United States in 1895. She worked as a milliner in New York before opening a photographic portrait studio in 1897. Her ‘gallery of illustrious Americans’ featured actresses, politicians, and fashionable socialites, including President Theodore Roosevelt, author Edith Wharton, artist William Merritt Chase, and actress Julia Marlowe. Ben-Yusuf also created Pictorialist-inspired artwork like The Odor of Pomegranates (1899; see fig.), an allegory informed by the myth of Persephone and the idea of the pomegranate as a tantalizing but odourless fruit. Ben-Yusuf was included in an exhibition organized by the Linked Ring, Brotherhood of the in London in 1896 and continued to exhibit in the group’s annual exhibitions until 1902. Her photographs were exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1898 and at the Camera Club of New York in ...


Donald B. Spanel

[Arab. Banì Ḥasan al-Shurrūq]

Site of a vast necropolis in Egypt, on a steep hillside on the east bank of the Nile, about 250 km south of Cairo. The tombs at Beni Hasan contain the most extensive and important group of wall-paintings in Middle Egypt, dating to a period from the late Old Kingdom to the Middle Kingdom. The site also includes Speos Artemidos, the Temple of Pakhet built by Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III (for chronological chart of Egyptian kings see Egypt, ancient, fig.).

The cemetery contains more than 900 tombs divided into an upper and lower range. In the lower section of the hill there are 888 modest, L-shaped pit- or shaft-tombs; many were found intact and have produced a wealth of information about ancient Egyptian burial customs. Most of these lower tombs were built between the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The two oldest tombs (Nos 481–2) belong to the late Old Kingdom or the years immediately following....


Codjovi Joseph Adande

[République du Bénin; formerly Dahomey, People’s Republic of Benin]

Country in West Africa bordered by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north and Nigeria to the east. To the south it has a short coastline (c. 125 km) on the Gulf of Guinea. The capital is Porto Novo. The population of 4,591,000 (UN estimate, 1989) comprises a number of ethnic groups including Fon and Yoruba. The official language is French.

This entry covers the art produced in the area since colonial times. For art of the region in earlier periods, see Africa §VII 4.. For more information on some of Benin’s continuing art traditions, see Fon. See also Yoruba.

The territory of Benin (c. 122,622 sq. km) consists of a narrow band of land stretching from the sea to the Sahel. The relatively fertile land near the coast soon gives way to poorer soil and then savannah. As Dahomey, Benin was part of French West Africa from ...


Paula Girshick Ben-Amos

Kingdom in Edo (formerly Bendel) State, southern Nigeria. Its capital is Benin City. Although the kingdom, the city and its art have become known to the world under the name Benin, the people of Benin call themselves, their kingdom, their city and their language Edo. The kingdom and city of Benin should not be confused with the geographically distinct country of Benin Republic. The art of Benin has probably received more attention than that of any other African tradition. It has been widely illustrated and exhibited (for a selection of publications see bibliography). There is also a large number of collections in museums in Europe and the USA, as well as in Nigeria (for a comprehensive catalogue, see Dark, 1982). For the art of the Edo-speaking peoples outside Benin, see Edo.

When 15th-century Portuguese explorers in search of a route to India arrived in the area that is now southern Nigeria, they found a highly developed state ruled by a powerful king whose armies were in the process of conquering much of the surrounding area. Little is known about the history of Benin before the period of European contact, as archaeological research in the area has been limited. Oral traditions, however, refer to an early dynasty of kings, Ogiso, which was supplanted in or before the 14th century by a new dynasty from the Yoruba kingdom of Ife, to the west of Benin. This new dynasty, which is said to have been founded by a Yoruba prince named Aranmiyan (Yoruba: Oranmiyan), has ruled Benin ever since. In the 1980s and the 1990s the king or ...



S. J. Vernoit

Linguistically and culturally related peoples living in scattered groups in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, as well as in some Saharan and Sub-Saharan regions. The Berbers are thought to be the indigenous peoples of North Africa. There is, however, no homogeneous Berber race. In general the density of Berber groups is greater in the west of North Africa than in the east. The criterion used to distinguish them is language, but the cultural diversity and lack of homogeneity hinders any attempt to identify and define a purely Berber art. At the end of the 20th century some Berbers were pastoral nomads, others sedentary farmers or inhabitants of towns and cities. Many Berbers are bilingual, and most are Muslims and have adopted Arab culture. The Berber languages themselves belong to the Hamito-Semitic group.

The Berbers have played an important part throughout the history of North Africa and have left their mark on the architecture of the region. This entry, however, focuses on those Berber art forms that have been maintained, in some areas at least, into the late 20th century and for which they are well known. These include wood-carving, weaving and, especially, jewellery. Berber art has been widely illustrated (see bibliography). There is also a number of important collections in both the Maghrib itself (e.g. Algiers, Le Bardo, and Mus. N. A. & Trad. Pop.; Tunis, Mus. N. Bardo; Rabat, Mus. A. Maroc; Fez, Mus. Dar Batha; Marrakesh, Mus. Dar Si Saïd; Meknes, Mus. Dar Jamai & Pal.) and in Europe (e.g. Paris, Mus. A. Afr. & Océan.; Madrid, Mus. N. Etnol.)....


Donald B. Spanel

[Arab. Dayr al-Barshā]

Site of a necropolis in the 15th nome of ancient Egypt, on both flanks of a wadi on the east bank of the Nile, about 300 km south of Cairo. The highest civil and religious leaders of the 15th (‘Hare’) nome were buried at Deir el-Bersha, and their tombs, dating from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2008–c. 1630 bc), are best known for the wall paintings and decorated coffins.

In the Old Kingdom (c. 2575–c. 2150 bc), tombs were built not far south of Deir el-Bersha, at el-Sheikh Said. Both Deir el-Bersha and el-Sheikh Said have been much ruined by earthquakes, quarrying and theft. As a result, the tomb paintings at Bersha are less famous than the nearly contemporary ones at Beni Hasan. The most important tombs are on the northern flank of the mouth of the wadi. The northern hill at Bersha, like that at Beni Hasan, has an upper terrace of large, rectangular chambers cut in the face of the cliffs and a lower section of smaller chambered tombs and L-shaped pit- or shaft-tombs sunk into the slope. The most famous ...


Simon Njami

(b Dire Dawa, Feb 15, 1951).

Ethiopian sculptor active in France. He attended the French-Ethiopian School, Addis Ababa, before moving to France in 1971. He first exhibited his papier mâché figures in France in 1985 and later in Brazil, South Africa and the USA. Although the motifs and themes that inspired him are not immediately recognizable, they have been described as totemic and based on Ethiopian sources, particularly Coptic paintings and the motif of the cross. His works have also been placed in the tradition of Jean Dubuffet and art brut, in part because of their simplified forms and highly expressive quality. His brightly coloured, non-naturalistic figures depict a variety of types – royalty, warriors, animals – and the saturated yellow, blue and fuchsia colours of the pieces seem at least as important as their playful forms. But it would be a mistake to classify Selassie's work as art brut. His intention is highly sophisticated, and the choice, for instance, of his medium, papier mâché is the result of a long quest and a decision to make a political statement about Africa in his use of rough materials that can found anywhere. In his view, European artistic canons, with their rules and habits, challenge Africans to find different ways to communicate their own souls. This view probably derived from his broad range of intellectual and spiritual interests, including chemistry and physics, anthropology, history, Zen and Yoga....


Susan Kart

(b Mbarara, 1963).

Ugandan photographer, film maker, and installation artist of Indian descent, active in the UK. Bhimji was born in Uganda to Indian parents. The family fled Uganda to England in 1972 due to President Idi Amin’s expulsion of all Asians and Asian-Ugandans from the country along with seizure of their property and businesses as part of his ‘economic war’ on Asia. Bhimji studied art at Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Art in London and her photographic work primarily consists of close-up, sometimes abstracted glimpses of seemingly abandoned spaces, objects, and landscapes. Bhimji’s work focuses on India and Uganda, which are treated as almost anthropomorphic subjects that appear restless, unfinished, abandoned, or frozen in her photographs, films, and film stills. Bhimji was one of four shortlisted finalists for the Turner Prize in 2007, and her work has been exhibited alongside such artists as El Anatsui, António Olé, Yinka Shonibare, and ...


Carol Magee

(b Bulawayo, 1959).

Zimbabwean sculptor. Bickle studied at Durban University and Rhodes University. She showed extensively in Zimbabwe in the 1980s and exhibited in India, Sweden and New Zealand in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Active in the arts in Bulawayo, she was a founding member of its Visual Artists’ Association. Her pieces are philosophical, both specifically in that she cites Foucault and Yourcenar, and generically in that they comment on the human condition: on hopes, dreams, conflicts and fantasies. Made of multiple manufactured and natural materials, her simple forms speak to complex situations, as seen in A Carta de Gaspar Veloso I, in which writings on parchment are used in conjunction with maps to evoke colonial histories. Her work is in both private and public collections in the US, Britain and Europe.

Art from the Frontline: Contemporary Art from Southern Africa (Glasgow, 1990), p. 125 H. Lieros: ‘Earth, Water, Fire: Recent Works by Berry Bickle’, ...


Simon Njami

(b Douala, 1962).

Cameroonian painter, sculptor and installation artist, active in France. He moved to Paris in 1974 and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; he began exhibiting in the late 1980s, showing in France, Switzerland, Spain and Greece, among other places. Unlike many African artists living in Europe, he never felt dislocated. His sculptures, canvases and installation pieces combine all manner of found objects and other material that he manufactures himself. With these he comments on issues of representation and artistic practice in the Western world, at the same time evoking the presence and/or absence of humans, and therefore memory. The objects he uses are symbolic as well: eggs signify renewal, for instance. His compositions are simple and striking, as is his use of colour. In one work, for example, a ‘mummified’ figure appears on each side panel in the same thick white paint as the ground, holding a red rose against a metal plate. Against the black centre panel is an orange dress, under which are white flowers....



Danielle Gallois Duquette

[Bidjogo; Bidyogo; Bidyugo; Bijago]

Semi-Bantu-speaking people living in the Arquipélago dos Bijagós off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. The Bijogo are especially famous for their zoomorphic masks and also have rich traditions of figure sculpture, painting and wood-carving. Their origins are unknown, although some observers (e.g. Rogado Quintino), having noted Nilotic traits in their culture, believe they came from East Africa. Despite 19th-century rivalry between European powers, as a result of which the Arquipélago dos Bijagós was colonized by the Portuguese in 1884, the island geography largely preserved the archipelago from outside influences until Guinea-Bissau’s independence in 1976. Some changes, however, occurred during the 20th century. The formerly dominant role of women declined, and the production of certain artefacts ceased, notably the long canoes hollowed out from the trunk of a mangrove tree and adorned at the prow with the figure of an ox or hippopotamus head. Examples of Bijogo art are held by many European museums (e.g. Lisbon, Mus. Ethnol. Ultramar and Mus. Zool. & Antropol.; Vienna, Mus. Vlkerknd.) and have been quite widely illustrated (see bibliography)....


James Smalls

The Black Arts Movement spans the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Inherently and overtly political in content, it was an artistic, cultural and literary movement in America promoted to advance African American “social engagement.” In a 1968 essay titled “The Black Arts Movement,” African American scholar Larry Neal (1937–81) proclaimed it as the “artistic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept.” The use of the term “Black Power” originated in 1966 with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) civil rights workers Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks. Quickly adopted in the North, Black Power was associated with a militant advocacy of armed self-defense, separation from “racist American domination” and pride in and assertion of the goodness and beauty of “Blackness.”

In addition to “Black Power,” the slogan “Black is Beautiful” also became part of the Black Arts Movement and the Black Cultural Movement (also known as Black Aesthetics). The aim of these maxims was to counter and dispel the widespread notion throughout Western cultures that black people’s natural features, such as skin color, facial characteristics and hair, were inherently ugly. The central purpose was to subvert decades of anti-black rhetoric and “to make African Americans totally and irreversibly proud of their racial and cultural heritage.” Black Arts Movement cultural theorists and artists reasoned that promotion of a black aesthetic was mandatory to help the African American community perceive itself as not only beautiful, but also as proud of the legacy of African American achievement, self-determinacy and self-identification with all black peoples throughout the African diaspora. The tone was militant and separatist, not conciliatory and assimilationist, and resulted in a call for a revolutionary art that spoke to a definable black aesthetic. In ...


Karel Schoeman

South African city in the Orange Free State. Established on the site of a former farm in 1848, it later became the state capital (1854) and seat of the South African judiciary (1910). Following modest development from the late 1860s, in the 1880s a number of churches and other public buildings were built, such as the Dutch Reformed Church (1880) by the local architect Richard Wocke (1831–90). The new Presidency (1885) and the fourth Raadzaal (1893), in Greek Revival style, were designed by F. Lennox Canning (?1856–95). Building in the 1890s was dominated by the Dutch architects J. E. Vixseboxse (1863–1943) and D. E. Wentink (fl 1891–1903), who worked in a Dutch and Flemish Revival style, and the English architects William Henry Stucke and John Edwin Harrison (1870–1945). In 1893...



Christopher D. Roy

Mande-speaking, agricultural people of Burkina Faso and neighbouring regions of Mali. Their self-ethnonym is Bobo, though they are often referred to in African art literature as ‘Bobo-Fing’. They are best known for their masks and masquerades (well illustrated in the various works of Le Moal). Examples of Bobo art are held in many private and public collections of African art.

The Bobo, numbering about 110,000, are an ancient amalgamation of several peoples who have assembled around a number of core clans that do not preserve any oral traditions of immigration into the area. The major Bobo community in the south is Bobo-Dioulasso, the second city of Burkina Faso and the sometime French colonial capital. Farther north are such large towns as Fo and Kouka, as well as Boura in the extreme north in Mali.

Bobo villages are compact, with large flat-roofed buildings of moulded mud or dried clay brick. Buildings were often two or even three storeys high, but the damage to many old Bobo villages by French artillery during the Bobo uprising in ...


Hasan-Uddin Khan

(b Sousse, Tunisia, Dec 21, 1940).

French architect, active in Morocco. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, concentrating his studies on urban development and craft traditions. In 1968 he received his diploma and became a registered architect. He left France in 1969 and travelled in several countries, working in Casablanca before settling in Marrakesh in 1971, where he established his own practice. This remained a small one, allowing him as designer to retain control of every detail of his work. In both layout and design, Boccara’s architecture is rooted in the traditions of Islamic architecture in Morocco (see Islamic art, §II, 7(v)), which is characterized by refined decoration. His built works are not numerous but have been influential in developing a vocabulary for Moroccan architecture. They vary from the small Abtan House (1984), located in a palm grove outside Marrakesh, to the large, incomplete Opera House there (begun 1984...


Paul Richards



Konjit Seyoum

[Eskender, Alexander]

(b Addis Ababa, July 22, 1937; d Washington, DC May 4, 2003).

Ethiopian painter of Armenian descent, active in the USA. Boghossian studied at St Martin’s School of Art and the Central School in London from 1955 to 1957. He then moved to Paris to study at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. During his Paris years, Boghossian embraced Pan-Africanist ideals and participated in the Negritude movement. Skunder returned to Ethiopia in 1966 and taught at the Fine Arts School in Addis Ababa, where he exerted considerable influence on young Ethiopian artists, until 1969. In 1967 he was awarded the Haile Selassie I Award for Fine Arts. He migrated to the United States in 1970 and became active in the Black Power movement. He joined Howard University in 1972 where he taught until 2001. During his tenure at Howard he inspired many Ethiopian diaspora and African American artists. Skunder drew on African mythology and Ethiopian Orthodox Church art to create mystical universes populated with masks, creatures, magical forms, and symbols. In works such as ...


Geoffrey Belknap

(b Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort, March 8, 1831; d Alès, April 9, 1885).

French photographer and photographic printer. Bonfils is best known for his photographs of the Mediterranean and Middle East, particularly his five-volume Souvenirs d’Orient: Egypte. Palestine. Syrie. Grèce (1878). Prior to opening a studio briefly in Alès in 1865, he was apprenticed to Abel Niépce de St Victor (180570). Having travelled to Lebanon in 1860 with the French Army to intervene in the conflict between the Druse and the Maronites, Bonfils decided to return to Beirut in 1867 with his wife Marie-Lydie Cabanis and son Adrian to establish a photographic studio under the name La Maison Bonfils. From there Bonfils began his photographic tour of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece, and sold his views back in his studio. These views included (he claimed) 15,000 albumen prints and 9000 stereoscopic cards. La Maison Bonfils became well known throughout Lebanon, the Middle East, and Europe as a première photographic studio and attracted many tourists seeking photographs of the surrounding area and peoples. Bonfils’s success was compounded when he presented his photographs to the Société Française de Photographie in ...


Elaine O’Brien

(b Mombasa, Kenya, Nov 2, 1962).

German multi-media installation and performance artist of Kenyan birth. Von Bonin is known for collaborative, richly associative and perplexing spaces full of artworks that suggest Alice-in-Wonderland narratives and evoke Claes Oldenburg’s playful relational strategies.

Von Bonin attained art world prominence soon after her first New York solo show in 1991. Her puckish neo-feminist conceptual art draws largely upon her experiences and friendships in the Cologne art world and neighborhood art scene. Von Bonin’s work challenges traditional stereotypes of the artist as male genius, creating art alone in his studio. The prestige of the artist’s signature is mocked in ‘solo’ shows such as her exhibition The Cousins (2000), held in Brunswick, which featured a large library installation by the artist Nils Norman (b 1966). Von Bonin arranged many installation events with fellow artists, musicians and writers, in which she played the role of curator-impresario as well as object maker. In her work different media and expressive idioms are re-mixed, the world of popular music in particular being integral to her ...