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Old 9th September 2017, 12:08 PM   #31
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
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Default West Africa; Ivory carving expertise.


As an example of superb carving skill I point to a salt cellar pictured below with the provenance from Reference A above as;

Quote" This saltcellar is both an extraordinary example of skilled workmanship and an artifact that epitomizes a singularly important convergence of cultures. In the second half of the fifteenth century, Portuguese explorers and traders were impressed by the considerable talent of ivory carvers along the coast of West Africa. As a result, they were inspired to commission works of this kind for their patrons, which ingeniously combine both European and African aesthetics and forms. During this period, salt and pepper were costly commodities and elaborate receptacles were appropriate for their storage in princely homes.

This work contains imagery relating to indigenous Sapi belief systems. The four snakes, associated with mystical wealth, appear to confront four growling dogs. According to regional traditions, dogs are considered spiritually astute animals able to see spirits and ghosts that are invisible to humans. This depiction of the dogs, with teeth bared, hair bristling, and ears laid back, may relate to that ability. However, the level of animation in this scene could also derive from chivalric hunting scenes in European woodcuts, which were furnished to local African artists by their European patrons."Unquote.

I show another salt cellar base of similar provenance and add that Ivory carvings whether animal or other figures were the domain of in country artisans of which in the region there were about 40 workshops... and that clearly the expertise was to hand rather than sending off to the Indian Ocean regions to have hilts made...gifted or otherwise as has been tentatively suggested ...

I conclude that in the case of big cats and it seems clear that their were two;... Leopard and Lion ...which by nature needed to be the West African form not Sri Lankan; The style was local... Big cats lived there in the wild and when weapons were adorned; hilted or on the blades they had to be of the proper form. With such excellent craftsmen to hand locally it follows that they would be commissioned to carve the Ivory hilts for the Kings.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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