Souvenir: A 19th Century Carved Ivory Tusk from the Loango Coast of Africa

Begin Date2012-05-05
End Date2012-10-29
CuratorsRoslyn A. Walker
Last Harvested At2022-10-29
Credit LineThe exhibition was organized by the Dallas Museum of Art. Air transportation provided by American Airlines.
OrganizerDallas Museum of Art
DescriptionFor the first time since entering the DMA's collection in 1969, a carved ivory tusk from the Clark and Frances Stillman Collection of Congo Sculpture is now on viw in the Concourse. In Souvenir: A 19th-Century Carved Tusk from the Loango Coast of Africa, the tusk is the centerpiece of an exhibition that presents African souvenir art made from the mid-19th to mid-20th century. The Kingdom of Loango was a pre-colonial African state from approximately the 15th to the 19th century in what is now the Republic of Congo. Elaborately carved ivory tusks were made as souvenirs of life on the continent's Atlantic Coast. The earliest examples of African art made for export are the ivories that were commissioned by the Portuguese during the 15th to 16th century and sold only in Europe. The patrons who commissioned Loango souvenir tusks came from Portugal, Holland, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, India, and America. Current scholarship reveals that despite being colonial hybrids, souvenir ivory tusks are authentic works of African art that exhibit indigenous aesthetics, values, and religious beliefs along with foreign qualities. It is estimated that there are six hundred to one thousand of them, with the majority housed in private collections and European museums. Ranging in size from eight inches to three feet, no two tusks of the hundreds that have been studied are alike, but all have three qualities in common: they are naturalistically rendered; they exhibit standardized subject matter, including a caravan of porters and a man riding in hammock; and they correspond to European mythical or real ideas about Africa. The exhibition also includes examples of African headwear, sculpted figurines, and vessels from the Museum's acclaimed African art collection and important private loans to tell the fascinating story of early souvenir art.