Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Art Fair, Ann Arbor, 2014

Ibrahim's Booth
Last week was the Ann Arbor Art Fair, a madhouse of art and commercial selling of all sorts of merchandise, snacks, bottled water, tee-shirts, and more that extends throughout the downtown area and on campus. I spent a few hours walking around there by myself on Wednesday when it opened, and more on Thursday evening with friends. The "original" fair, which began 52 years ago, was formerly at the south side of campus. It's now on the campus near the Carl Milles fountain and the Michigan League. And it's always my favorite. This year I saw many appealing booths there, belonging to artists in glass, ceramics, clothing, photography, painting, hand-woven straw hats, jewelry, and more.

My only purchase was from Ibrahim, a dealer in african masks, who rents some space from the owner of a shop just outside the fair. He has no official designation, he just drives in and sets up where  he has a space. I have purchased masks from  him in previous years, and I admire his selection of high-quality wood carvings from many African tribes. I believe that he travels to Africa to obtain his wares.

Masks on my living room wall. The two small ones are this year's purchase.
Our new masks come from the same area as the existing mask above them. Ibrahim says they are "passport masks," that is, carried as identification of the person's membership in a particular tribe or group. Many tribes create small masks for various personal use. They can be amulets to protect hunters, they might be kept secret in one's home, or might be worn on one's arm to show affiliations.

All three masks have a central bird figure above the face. In the new mask to the right, the bird leans over, and its beak also forms the nose of the mask. This identifies them as coming from Ivory Coast, from the Guro division of the Senufo people. We suspect that our masks were used in a village because their interiors smell strongly but pleasantly of wood smoke, as if they have been near a campfire, but neither the interiors nor the beautifully finished exteriors show any signs of burning. Of course this is only a guess.

For more information on the mask we've owned for a while, see this blog post that I did when we bought that mask.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

I haven't been to the fair in awhile -- so many people! But I liked your purchases very much. The entire grouping is so impressive!