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Parent Record
No. 6
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Publication: 1901. Alldridge, Thomas J. The Sherbro and Its Hinterland.

Original language: English

Caption: Minsereh Fetish Images used in connection with the Yassi medicine

Text: Spots are the outward distinguishing sign of this remarkable Yassi order: - everything must be spotted, the house, the Kambehs, the sword, the drum, everything must be spotted, excepting the wooden Minsereh figures, which are entirely black...The Minsereh images (Figure 51) are always female figures, and perform a very important part in the working of the fetish; as it is through them that the information is to be supplied in respect to any matter which may be brought forward. The Yassi medicine house is always located within a town or fakai, and is known to all by coloured spots daubed over it, whereas the Bundu location is a secret place in the bush. (p145)
Illustration technique: b/w studio photograph

Publication page: facing 150 (though illustration has the following notation: "To face page 148"

Publication plate/figure: plate (fig. 51)

Related images: Image first published by Alldridge in 1901, then by Hutchinson in 1913: see #s 6, 2404. See the same style of Southern Bullom (Sherbro) figure in #s 6, 862.2/1, 912.54, 912.55, 1029, 1710/2, 2175/1, 2404. #s 6 & 2404 are the same figure as are 862.2/1 & 1710/2 and 912.54 & 912.55.

Keywords:
• Sierra Leone (Country, region, place)
• carved wood (Materials and techniques)
• female (Notable features)
• healing (Notable features)
• fertility (Notable features)
• hairstyle (Notable features)
• ringed neck (Notable features)
• Yassi Society (Notable features)
• divination object (Object name, type)
• standing figure (Object name, type)
• statue (Object name, type)
• minsereh (Object name, type)
• sculpture (Object name, type)
• Southern Bullom (Style, culture group)
• Sherbro (Style, culture group)

Collections:
• British Museum, London; registration nos. Af1901,0722.4 (on left) Af1901,0722.6 (on right). (Current collection)
• T.J. Alldridge; purchased by British Museum, London from Mrs. Alldridge in 1901. (Collection at time of publication)

Comments:
Henrietta Cosentino, (5/6/2004):

Per JJR: Interesting to compare two other 19th c. minsereh which appear in Gisels Volger's 1999 publication Kunst der Welt im Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Koln (p 13), a 1906 gift from J.N. Heidemann, Kon (formerly: W.O. Oldman, London; T.J. Allridge collection, London.) [Zwei Figuren minsereh, Mende, Sierra Leone, 19. jh.. Holz, Hohe 102 cm & 93 cm. Schenkung 1906; J.N. Heidemann, Koln (vormals: W.O. Oldman, London; Sammlung T.J. Allridge, London)]



Fred Lamp, (5/18/2006):

These are both currently in the British Museum. The smaller figure on the left is 65 cm high, and bears the accession number 1901.7-22-4. The larger figure on the right is 71.5 cm high, and bears the accession number 1901.7-22-6. Neither one shows any sign of use. Figures probably by the same hand are found in the Bern History Museum, the Brighton Museum (see plates 18a & 18b in African Carvings by George Bankes, 1975), the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne (see #s 912.54 & 912.55), and the Rudnyanszky Museum in Budapest.



Fred Lamp, (5/19/2006): I believe these figures are Southern Bullom (Sherbro culture) rather than Mende, as all the terminology in Alldridge referring to the figures is in the Bullom language: Yassi (the society), Minsereh (the figure), and Yamama (the female ritual practitioner).

Jim Ross, (1/17/2009):

See interesting essay on these two figures & T.J. Alldridge's treatment of them under "Research Notes" by W.A. Hart entitled So-called Minsereh Figures From Sierra Leone on pp84-6 of the November 1984 issue (Vol. XVIII, No. 1) of African Arts.



Jim Ross, (9/27/2010):

The British Museum website provides the following additional information on the objects: 
On right: Height: 75 centimetres
                 Width: 15.5 centimetres
                 Depth: 12.5 centimetres
                 Registration no. Af1901,0772.6
On left: Height: 64 centimetres
              Width: 14 centimetres
              Depth: 12 centimetres
              Registration no. Af1901,0772.4
Both:    Purchased from the wife of Thomas Joshua Alldridge in 1901.



Jim Ross, (1/16/2011):

See W.A. Hart's article Sculptures of the Njajei Society among the Mende in the July 1993 issue (Vol. XXVI, No. 3) of African Arts. On p49, The author draws parallels between the Njayei and Yase and criticizes Alldridge because his book "has led people to believe that all female sculptures from southern Sierra Leone are 'Yassi' images used in divination by female leaders of the society However since Yase or Njayei is comparatiely thinly spread--there are seldom more than one or two groups in a chiefdom, sometimes not even that-- it is highly unlikely that any but a small minority of the figure sculptures from southern Sierra Leone were carved for the society (Hart 1984)."



Jim Ross, (6/30/2011):

These two figures appear on the Yale van Rijn website, 0028163~01 (fig on right) & 0028164~01 (fig on left).



Jim Ross, (9/1/2011):

In Fred Lamp's 04/18/06 comment regarding "figures probably by the same hand," he refers to the figures in Brighton. On p97 of William Fagaly's  Ancestors of Congo Square. African Art in the New Orleans Museum of Art (2011), William Siegmann writes of those figures (without illustrating them) as follows: "Among the earliest figures collected in Sierra Leone are a group now in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, acquired before 1900 by the British Colonial officer T.J. Alldridge and described in his book The Sherbro and Its Hinterland (1901). Siegmann goes on to discuss the Yassi association, minsereh figures, the Sherbro & Mende peoples, etc.



Jim Ross, (8/7/2014):

See three similar figures in the collection of the Art Gallery and Museum, Brighton, England in a discussion of that collection in African Assortment - African Art in Museums in England and Scotland by Michael Pennie (1991) 58, ill. viii with the following caption: "Three figures carved in wood and stained dark grey. Mende."



Jim Ross, (10/22/2014):

  See general discussion rejecting Alldridge's attribution to minsereh figures from the Yase society in the Sotheby's catalog In Pursuit of Beauty - The Myron Kunin Collection of African Art for its New York City auction of 11 November 2014 (sale NO9225 "Curtis"), 78, lot 31.



Jim Ross, (1/19/2015):

 This image appears in the Studienreihe »afrika incognita« series entitled Bundu. Busch-teufel im Land der Mende by Burkhard Gottschalk (1990) 47 with the following caption on p46: "Abbildung auf gegenu



Jim Ross, (1/19/2015):

 This image appears in the Studienreihe »afrika incognita« series entitled Bundu. Buschteufel im Land der Mende by Burkhard Gottschalk (1990) 46 with the following caption: "....Statuen der Mende sind weiblich - männliche Statuen sind so gut wie unbekannt."