El Anatsui (Ewe), Rain Has No Father?, 2008. Found bottle tops and copper wire; 153 x 239 in. Denver Art Museum: Funds from Native Arts acquisition fund, U.S. Bank, Richard and Theresa Davis, Douglas Society, Denver Art Museum Volunteer Endowment, Alex Cranberg and Susan Morris, Geta and Janice Asfaw, Saron and Daniel Yohannes, Lee McIntire, Milroy and Sheryl Alexander, Dorothy and Richard Campbell, Wayne Carey and Olivia Thompson, Morris Clark, Rebecca H. Cordes, Kenneth and Rebecca Gart, Tim and Bobbi Hamill, Kalleen and Robert Malone, Meyer and Geri Saltzman, Ann and Gerry Saul, Mary Ellen and Thomas Williams, Nancy and James Williams, Forrest Cason, First Western Trust Bank, Howard and Sandy Gelt, Gene Osborne, Boettcher Foundation, John and Eve Glesne, The Schlegel White Foundation, Jeffrey and Nancy Balter, and Tamara Banks, 2008.891. © El Anatsui

El Anatsui (Ewe), Rain Has No Father?, 2008. Found bottle tops and copper wire; 153 x 239 in. Denver Art Museum: Funds from Native Arts acquisition fund, U.S. Bank, Richard and Theresa Davis, Douglas Society, Denver Art Museum Volunteer Endowment, Alex Cranberg and Susan Morris, Geta and Janice Asfaw, Saron and Daniel Yohannes, Lee McIntire, Milroy and Sheryl Alexander, Dorothy and Richard Campbell, Wayne Carey and Olivia Thompson, Morris Clark, Rebecca H. Cordes, Kenneth and Rebecca Gart, Tim and Bobbi Hamill, Kalleen and Robert Malone, Meyer and Geri Saltzman, Ann and Gerry Saul, Mary Ellen and Thomas Williams, Nancy and James Williams, Forrest Cason, First Western Trust Bank, Howard and Sandy Gelt, Gene Osborne, Boettcher Foundation, John and Eve Glesne, The Schlegel White Foundation, Jeffrey and Nancy Balter, and Tamara Banks, 2008.891. © El Anatsui

Collection Highlights

Bamun or Bamileke artist

Mask

Bamun or Bamileke artist, Mask, late 1800s. Cloth and glass beads; 28 1/8 x 27 in. Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition funds, 1949.4154

Mende artist

Sowei Mask

Mende artist, Sowei Mask, late 1800s. Wood; 17 x 7 ¾ x 8 ¾ in. Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition funds, 1949.4178

Benin artist

Plaque
The royal palace of the oba or king of Benin was adorned with hundreds of elaborately ornamented plaques, such as this one, telling the story of court life. Cast in the lost wax technique by a highly skilled artisan, this plaque has the figure of a court nobleman or possibly a chief showing details of his regalia, including his helmet, an elaborate coral necklace, embroidered skirt, belt, and anklets.

Benin artist, Plaque, 1550-1650. Bronze; 20 ¼ x 14 1/8 in. Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition funds, 1955.317

Master of Ikerre

Door Panel
In Yoruba culture, important artists such as the Master of Ikerre were commissioned by kings to create large and richly ornamented doors to adorn the entrance to a palace or an important shrine. The high relief carving depicts human and animal forms, from women carrying clay pots or musical instruments to men holding bows, arrows, guns, or flywhisks—and even some riding horseback. See also matching door panel 1980.58

Master of Ikerre (Yoruba, active about 1900-1914), Door Panel, late 1800s. Wood; 58 ¼ x 28 in. Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition funds, 1973.357

Olowe Ise

House Post
A virtuoso carver, Olowe Ise was known for his technically daring high-relief style and energetic compositions. Kings and wealthy patrons commissioned him to create veranda posts and doors to add beauty and prestige to their homes. The post seen here stands over five feet tall and depicts a warrior seated on a horse, supported by two women and two men.

Olowe Ise (Yoruba), House Post, late 1920s. Wood; 69 x 10 x 10 in. Denver Art Museum: Funds from 1996 Collectors' Choice and partial gift of Valerie Franklin, 1996.260

El Anatsui

Rain Has No Father?
El Anatsui creates dramatic metallic sculptures that resemble great cloths. Employing a workshop of assistants, small pieces of liquor bottle caps are repurposed through folding and binding to create a surface rich with texture and color. The piece takes on a new unique character each time it is hung as the different folds that are created alter the light and shadow that feature so heavily on its surface. Influences on the creation of this piece include the tradition of kente cloths, the history of international trade between Africa and Europe, and the Rocky Mountains to the west of Denver.

El Anatsui (Ewe), Rain Has No Father?, 2008. Found bottle tops and copper wire; 153 x 239 in. Denver Art Museum: Funds from Native Arts acquisition fund, U.S. Bank, Richard and Theresa Davis, Douglas Society, Denver Art Museum Volunteer Endowment, Alex Cranberg and Susan Morris, Geta and Janice Asfaw, Saron and Daniel Yohannes, Lee McIntire, Milroy and Sheryl Alexander, Dorothy and Richard Campbell, Wayne Carey and Olivia Thompson, Morris Clark, Rebecca H. Cordes, Kenneth and Rebecca Gart, Tim and Bobbi Hamill, Kalleen and Robert Malone, Meyer and Geri Saltzman, Ann and Gerry Saul, Mary Ellen and Thomas Williams, Nancy and James Williams, Forrest Cason, First Western Trust Bank, Howard and Sandy Gelt, Gene Osborne, Boettcher Foundation, John and Eve Glesne, The Schlegel White Foundation, Jeffrey and Nancy Balter, and Tamara Banks, 2008.891. © El Anatsui

Fang artist

Ngil mask
This type of mask was worn by the Ngil—a secret society banned by French colonial rulers in 1910—during initiations, ceremonies, and processions. The society’s name means “gorilla,” and the masks arched eyebrows and broad, rounded forehead may be meant to model the face of a gorilla. The mask was originally white—a color that the Fang associate with ancestral spirits, death, and male virility.

Fang artist, Ngil Mask, late 1800s. Wood, fiber, and paint; 22 x 8 ¾ x 12 ½ in. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Fred H. Riebling, 1942.443

Sirikye

Bedu mask
Once a year, dancers don giant masks representing Bedu, an animal spirit that lives in the wilderness. They perform acrobatic dances, model ideal conduct, and chide villagers who have misbehaved during the year. The artist Sirikye defined the look of these masks, which feature large round faces, triangular mouths, and geometric patterns.

Sirikye (Nafana, born 1930), Bedu mask, about 1960. Wood, paint, and metal; 96 ¾ x 29 ½ x 4 1/8 in. Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition funds, 1997.43

Yoruba artist

Yata (beaded panel)

Yoruba artist, Yata (beaded panel), 1900s. Cloth, glass beads, leather, and metal; 13 x 12½ x 2¼ in. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Mary and Robert Cumming, 2015.667

Yaka artist

Kholuka mask

Yaka artist, Kholuka Mask, late 1800s. Wood, plant fiber, and cloth; 20 x 23 x 21 in. Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition funds, 1957.207

Yoruba artist

Figure (ibeji)

Yoruba artist, Ibeji Figure, 1900s. Wood, paint, and beads; 12 x 3 x 2 ¾ in. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Daniel A. Nidess, 1995.32

See More African Art

Browse objects from the African art collection in our online collection.

Publications

African Renaissance: Old Forms, New Images in Yoruba Art. Moyo Okediji. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2002.

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