High Spotlights African Artist Yacouba Bonde
ATLANTA, July 16, 2008 — In July the High will feature a special installation, "Yacouba Bondé: Bwa Masks of Burkina Faso," showcasing four masks from the permanent collection and two masks on loan from collector Emmet Bondurant. The installation spotlights masks carved by artist Yacouba Bondé, including one presented in full costume. The masks—carved of wood and painted with black, white and red geometric patterns—include a hyena, a chameleon, a bush cow, a snake (nearly fifteen feet high) and a butterfly (nearly nine feet wide). Several of the High's large ceramic vessels from Burkina Faso will complement the installation; video of Bwa masquerade performances and three additional masks by Yacouba Bondé will be on view in the Fred and Rita Richman Gallery.
"Bwa masquerades are among the most spectacular of all African masquerade forms and remain vital in Bwa communities of Burkina Faso today," said Carol Thompson, Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art. "Among other occasions, masquerades are held during annual festivals and renewal celebrations. Yacouba Bondé, Artistic Director of Boni, Burkina Faso, has also staged masquerade performances in France, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium."
About Bwa Masks and Burkina Faso
Known as Upper Volta until 1984, Burkina Faso is located at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. Its national boundaries were drawn by the French during the colonial era, and the country declared independence in 1960. More than sixty different ethnic groups live in Burkina Faso, and while it is often described as one of the most economically impoverished countries in the world, in terms of cultural traditions it is one of the richest places on earth. Bwa plank masks have become an important symbol of national identity and are pictured Burkina Faso's currency, the CFA.
About Yacouba Bondé
Artistic Director of the small town of Boni, Burkina Faso, Yacouba Bondé is a master sculptor adept at carving Bwa masks. He has a deep understanding of their cultural significance, including knowledge of the songs, music and dance steps that animate these works. With other Bwa men, women and elders, Yacouba Bondé choreographs annual masquerade festivals and oversees the initiation of younger generations into masquerade traditions.
African Art at the High
The High's collection of African art is one of the most significant in the nation, with nearly 700 objects from Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and other nations. Begun with the gift of a Baga sculpture from Helena Rubenstein in 1953, the collection has grown significantly with generous donations of more than 400 works of art from Fred and Rita Richman, patrons of African art at the High since 1972. Highlights of the collection include a thirteenth- to fifteenth-century terracotta from the Djenne region; a nineteenth-century Yombe scepter; nineteenth-century male and female reliquary guardian figures by a Fang artist; a ceramic vessel by a Mangbetu artist, circa 1910; a gold-leaf covered royal scepter finial by Asante artist Osei Bonsu, circa 1930; and the recent acquisition of "Taago," created in 2006 by contemporary artist El Anatsui.
High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art, founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association, is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States. With more than 11,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists and is distinguished as the only major museum in North America to have a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field of folk and self-taught art. The High's Media Arts department produces acclaimed annual film series and festivals of foreign, independent and classic cinema. In November 2005, the High opened three new buildings by architect Renzo Piano that more than doubled the Museum's size, creating a vibrant "village for the arts" at the Woodruff Arts Center in midtown Atlanta. For more information about the High, please visit www.High.org.
The Woodruff Arts Center
The Woodruff Arts Center is the largest arts center in the Southeast as well as one of the four largest in the nation. The Woodruff is unique in that it combines five visual and performing-arts divisions on one campus as one not-for-profit organization. Opened in 1968, the Woodruff Arts Center is home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, Young Audiences and the 14th Street Playhouse.
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