Belgian Congo Kuba Carved Ivory Tusk, ca. 1945
Appraised Value: $5,000 - $7,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (3:13)
Antiques Appraiser and Consultant
GUEST: My grandparents were missionaries in what was then the Belgian Congo, from the early '20s to the early '60s. And this was made for my grandfather by the royal carvers in the Bakuba tribe. That is all I know.
APPRAISER: I want to say at the outset, we're sensitive about endangered species issues.
APPRAISER: And with elephant ivory, we have that. Now, from 1970 to 1985, we lost almost half of all the elephants in Africa.
APPRAISER: Now, they imposed a ban in 1990, and this began to reduce that problem a little bit. Unfortunately, now it's starting to swing back the other way, and they're trying to lessen the ban. Now, it's important to point out that this is a pre-ban ivory tusk.
APPRAISER: Now, you said that he acquired this in 1940?
GUEST: Yes, sometime between 1941 and 1946.
APPRAISER: This is really two things in Africa. You have ceremonial objects, and you have decorative objects. Every culture has their emblems of power. And Africa is no different. They had tusks, and they had ivory objects that were emblems of status and authority. And so as such, those things sold on the fine art market and they were highly regarded as traditional African objects. Now, on the other side of the coin, we have decorative objects. And what a lot of people don't understand is the tradition of commissioning ivory objects for sale for non-Africans really extends back to the 16th century. I think that since your grandfather commissioned this, I think it was made at the time he acquired it, which would be between 1940 and 1946. Now, as a decorative piece, this is a superb carving. And I do believe it was made by a Kuba. I want to point out the extraordinary carving here. These are all textile patterns. And we have a little bit of a condition issue there. Let's turn it slowly.
APPRAISER: Now you can see the condition issues. It is signed and it's signed Pongo Kwete and he undoubtedly was the carver. It's a great, great object. When you try to put a value on this it becomes a little bit complicated, and I must say we had sort of a heated debate on the ethnographic table. I am going to say conservatively, in a gallery, it's $5,000 to $7,000. But now my colleagues very correctly pointed out that in, say, a decorator's showroom, you could see this thing significantly more.
GUEST: Mm-hmm, okay.
APPRAISER: Now, I will say in the 37 years that I've been doing this, this is the most exquisitely carved ivory tusk I've seen. And believe me, you've made my day.
APPRAISER: So thank you.
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