Sierra Leone Ivory S altcellar

Sierra Leone Ivory S altcellar
Sierra Leone Ivory S altcellar

Rarely is the art of Africa the object of attention (as it happens in so many other areas on this continent). However, throughout history there have also been artistic manifestations worthy of interest and with their own personality. And an example of this is this s alt shaker with a lid made between 1490 and 1530 in Sierra Leone, and which is currently part of the National Prehistoric and Ethnographic Museum of Rome, in Italy.


Ivory S altcellar

This is a small piece, 43 centimeters high, and made of ivory.

In this material and with this origin from Sierra Leone, around a hundred objects carved between the 15th and 16th centuries have survived to this day. Some decorative objects but that were also functional since they are glasses, s alt shakers or spoons.

In the decoration that appears, the western influence that by then had already reached these African lands is denoted. In fact, this piece is classified as belonging to the so-called Sapi-Portuguese Culture. If we add to this, that there really is no tradition today, nor in recent centuries of working with ivory following this style and these uses, it is thought that in reality, s alt shakers like this one would be made by direct order of the colonizers Portuguese, themselves giving their ideas to local artisans used to working the material.

Of all this set, the s alt shaker with a lid that we see here is one of the most outstanding and delicate pieces. A piece that draws attention not only for the quality of its carving, but above all for the sophistication when it comes to proposing the achievement of different shapes and volumes throughout the piece.

Its base has a cylindrical shape and is hollow, and on it appear, or rather sit, four round-shaped male and female figures, which in turn are framed by other elements of an architectural nature that serve as a support for the top. They are like vertical and curved pillars, but whose surface is also carved, since the bas-reliefs of crocodiles can be distinguished. It is as if the craftsman, rather an artist, had already known how to play with the idea of ​​the solid and the hollow, something that in Western sculpture would take several centuries to arrive.

And above it is the container of the s alt shaker itself and its lid that form a kind of sphere, all of it decorated on its surface. Although the most striking are the figures at the top, where a kind of execution is represented, seeing the heads of several men who would be virtually buried in s alt.

All in all, this piece from Sierra Leone is a great work of art.

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