A Lobi sculpture of the Some Binlare

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A Lobi sculpture of the Some Binlare workshop; heavy, hard wood, one foot is broken.

Other Sculptures of this workshop, which was founded by Some Binlare, Gongonbili, Agnes Pataux, Coeur blanc – Ventre blanc, 2010, S. 40, Jeschke/van Vliet, Berlin 28.1.2012, Nr. 3; Lobi, Greschik-Catalogue, S. 82.

“It has been often noted how Lobi sculptures from the same workshop and district appear on the western market, (and now on the internet) in waves from Africa and then disappear into storerooms and collections for years or decades. There may have been other examples to arrive in Europe before 2007, from Binlares workshop but the first “wave” appeared in Segovia, Spain, and Berlin, Germany, after that date. Since that time the largest number (around 80 sculptures) have been photographed and documented by Tribalartforum, this includes some research into this Family workshop and an interview with Lupite Pale (born 1938) about his father Some Binlare, who who died in 1981 and is said to be the originator of this sculpting dynasty.

Since that then Tribalartforum has posted an interesting chart of Sculpture profiles, which is of considerable interest, because it is unusual for such a high number of large sculptures to be collected together in one place long enough for anyone to make comparisons and analysis. There was a small amount of scepticism and suspicion on the arrival of such a large number of these sculptures within the Lobi collecting community habituated to the usual “Classic textbook styles”, but on the other hand ,enthusiasum and interest from people outside that circle. Recently the publication of a book of photos by Agnès Pataux, Coeur blanc – Ventr blanc, fétishes et féticheurs, 2010 including two showing Lobi shrines with Binlare workshop sculptures (page 40,41) in context and the Jeschke/van Vliet-auction of a large sculpture in Berlin has increased a little more attention for what some collectors might consider “Decadent” Lobi sculptures.

The sudden appearance of so many large sculptures around 2007-8 may have surprised some collectors, but it is also an example of how quick to respond Dealers and runners are in Africa to images first posted on the internet. Sure enough the influx into Europe came to an abrupt end soon after this time ,and apart from an occasional small figure around 20cm there has appeared very little since.

An advantage of having direct access to sculptures in a collection over a long period of time is that one can walk around them every day and maybe have moments of pleasurable insights and recognition ,about their origin and style ,that may seem obvious afterwards, but really have taken a long duration of time to mature. The first obvious thing to note about these sculptures is inspite of the great variation in height and apparent ageing between the different sculptures the “unit size” of the head remains fairly constant (about 16 to 18 cm) no matter whether the head is eight heads high or just four heads overall.

The dominant conception of the front elevation of sculptures from this workshop is enclosed and generally rectangular, wide and shallow at the shoulders bordered by vertical arms . The long torso thickeneds out to a swelling at the hips forming a pronounced low centre of gravity. It is important to note that nearly all the articulation of the form is given on the side elevation of these sculptures by a series of elegant decending convex arabesques usually contrasted on the same level, but at the opposite side of the sculpture by straight or convex surfaces. This is brought to an extreme in the carving of the arms that are almost two dimensional in their expression. The formal elements mentioned above including the low center of gravity and the delicate features give these sculptures a distinct feminine or child like expression something not usually associated with Lobi sculpture may be the result of outside influence and also the reason for the local popularity of this workshop which must have been considerable for such a high number of large sculptures to be produced. Some attempts have been made to ascribe to individual carvers certain stylistic traits in the sculptures, it is highly likely that the rhomboid form in the upper torso belongs to some of the earliest sculptures taking other things into consideration, but individual attribution in the face of so little other documentation would be difficult.

At this stage it may be more constructive to see the workshop stylistic tendencies as a whole rather than attribute them to a single personality. It may well be that the family and assistants progressed through several stylistic changes together in an organic way rather as the bottega and workshops in Medieval Europe. In the space of a blog posting it is perhaps more realistic to compare two or three sculptures that stand out from the platform of production of the workshop, that contrast in style and apparent age, observing general tendancies that fall into place rather than forcing a projected evolutionary development in the sculptures.

4.000 – 6.000,- Euro

Height: 115 cm
Weight: 9,5 kg

The first sculpture

was among five sculptures bought from Lupite Pale in Gongonbili village and was directly attributed to his Father Binlare by the son, this sounds reasonable considering the apparent aged surface and authority of the archaic forms, also the rhomboid upper torso refered to before . If we turn to the side elevation of the head we see that as from the front elevation the whole mass of the head is broader towards the base .

The pointed chin ,the jawline and the nape of the neck are all connected in a single horizontal line of the base ,that rises like a wave towards the neck , just above this line and very low on the head is positioned the ear. The Widest point of the frontal plane of the face is just below the level of the bottom lip giving the cheeks a slightly inflated quality that is not seen in more developed sculptures.

The second sculpture

recently exhibited in Berlin (Jeschke/van Vlieth, exhibition before the auction) as much more regular and tightly modeled head with the widest part of the front elevation at the temples , the ears are higher in their correct anatomical position in line with the eyes and the continuous base line of the jaw on the side elevation we saw in the other sculpture is now broken. The shape of the nose is modified to a trumpet form with a wide base -and contributes ,with the higher modeled cheeks, -the flat base line of the eyes -and the prominent rounded block shape of the mouth , to give a pleasing expression of a distant smile.

The head is very fine but when something is gained something is also lost of the complete overall harmony of expression that is found in the first sculpture , looking at the neck and shoulders there is a stiffness as if the sculptor identified with each individual geometric shape assembled and modeled without an awareness of the sum total effect that we see in the first sculpture ,infact here the excessive articulation of the legs is laboured and seems to fold up and collapse under the weight of the torso . An interesting aspect is the developed three dimensional curve of the mouth in these sculptures, that give the heads a kinetic expression that changes as ones veiwpoint moves from above to below or vice versa.

The third sculpture

has insect damage on the extremities of the legs and arms ,and a sacrificial patina of which there is evidence has been cleaned. Noticeable additions are the parallel lines arching over the head starting from the hairline in this and a group of female figures ,then arched incised eyebrows seem to make their appearance over the eyes. Despite these new incised lines to the surface ,the individual sculpted features of the head ,from those found on the most archaic of these sculptures onwards ,actually change very little , -the block shape rounded mouth, – heavy lidded.

eyes with the horizontal base line ,and the snub nose , can all be seen accentuated in different -ways ,but basically the structure is the same from the beginning onwards. In this third sculpture we see the same inherited features transformed into an African head of a rare proportional elegance ,that has nothing to do with an increasing superficial realism without synthesis or structure, that can be seen as a sign of a decline in some workshops .This sculpture is the most refined so far to to be posted from this particular group.


As the style’s origin passes from living memory ,it is unlikely that we will discover much about the initial circumstances of a workshop that created this very original consistant style which lasted across generations , that resulted in over eighty substantial figures about which we know in Europe. The production of these sculptures would have been impossible without an involved material and spiritual patronage from the local Lobi population over a long period of time, As they did not recieve much interest from the established art trade ” PH.

For photos s. wolfgang-jaenicke.blogspot.com Search “Some Binlare”.

Additional information

Weight 9.5 kg