Abstract

This article is a combined effort of an author from Brazil and an author in South Africa to identify and comprehend the trajectories African wooden sculptures go through in their material cultural biographies. Wooden sculpting has always been part of African traditions. Africa’s many artisans and markets provided and still provide a great number of wooden sculptures, which are now in several parts of the world, especially among former colonizers and in the diaspora. During their “lives,” such wooden sculptures acquired different statuses, such as commodities like souvenirs or valued art works, but also as priceless historical documents, objets d’art, and religiously consecrated entities. The value and meaning of wooden sculptures are always set in resonance with historical periods and local cultural moralities. Therefore, the study of such cultural biographies reveals aspects not only about the pieces themselves but also about their environment.

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