Dance Staff with Snuffs - South Africa

The composition of a staff provided ample opportunity for South African woodworkers to express their particular genius – simple and elegant in silhouette, yet allowing for a certain understated flair of imagination. The finial of this beautiful staff binds two circular snuff containers within a curving band that may represent two arms, hands clasped around the upper container. An alternative reading might possibly suggest an abstraction of the female reproductive organs. With its soft and rounded forms, this work exemplifies the delicate, unique sensitivity of South African artisans.

Dance staffs are still used throughout southern Africa on special occasions such as weddings. In some communities, such staffs are paired with shields or drums to provide rhythmic accompaniment to the dance.

Late 19th century
31 1/4” l 3 1/8” w
Wood
Provenance: Kevin Conru, Brussels
Published in The Art of Southeast Africa, Kevin Conru, plate 52b
#489
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