Jacques Kerchache: Vaudou

Fondation Cartier's Exhibition of the Late Explorer’s Primitive Art Collection

From a chariot-of-death to carved talismans spangled with cowrie shells and hair, more than 100 African voodoo sculptures collected by late explorer and primitive art expert Jacques Kerchache (pictured above) will make their public debut in Vaudou, an exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. In place of pin-cushion dolls, a favorite Hollywood trope, these early pieces date back to the religion's true origins as an ancient cult, estimated at more than 10,000 years old. Kerchache began to amass his collection in the late 1960s, in what is now the Republic of Benin in west Africa. It was there that he unearthed his first “noble assemblages”: works of wood, bone, metal, clay, locks, keys, shells, feathers, and hair—some, coated with a mix of earth, palm oil and blood thought to serve as a sacrificial patina. The psycho-spiritual objects, known as Bocio, are intended either to protect or harm a person. “One whispers prayers, desires or fears into a hole in the Bocio, plugs the hole and [then] it contains the problem,” explains curator Leanne Sacramone.“Jacques was interested in works that very few people had actually looked at.” With scenography by Italian industrial design master Enzo Mari, the show is fittingly cloaked in superstition: “The first photographer we asked [to shoot the objects] said, 'I just can't do it. They are too charged,’" says Sacramone.


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