Contemporary Makonde Wood Carving

Value (2013) | $1,000 Auction$1,500 Auction
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GUEST:
I was at an auction in the area around here locally, in Detroit. And I saw it, it caught my eye, I love the carving. I don't know anything about it. All they said was that it was an African carving, and I got the winning bid, so here it is.

APPRAISER:
So what was your bid?

GUEST:
$125.

APPRAISER:
Okay, were you a little apprehensive going that high?

GUEST:
Yes. Well, because I don't normally collect anything like this, don't know anything about it, so it seemed like a lot of money, but it was pretty.

APPRAISER:
All right, this carving is done by the Makonde of Tanzania.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

APPRAISER:
And this wood is ebony. Now, I want you to look all the way down here, and you see that light-colored wood down there?

GUEST:
Yes, I've always wondered about that.

APPRAISER:
Okay, what it is, is in ebony the center part is dark and the outside is light. So what we're seeing is the core of the tree.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Now I'm going to spin this. Hopefully, it won't turn over. And I want everyone to see that it's absolutely a carving in the round. And it has not fallen over.

GUEST:
Thank God.

APPRAISER:
It's heavy.

GUEST:
It's heavy, it's really heavy.

APPRAISER:
This is called a tree of life.

GUEST:
Tree of life.

APPRAISER:
A Makonde tree of life. In African art, you have really three things. You have contemporary art, you have traditional art that is made for ceremonial purposes, and then you have fakes, which are made to deceive.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
So three different. You're getting nervous, aren't you?

GUEST:
I am.

APPRAISER:
So which category do you think this is in?

GUEST:
I hope it's not a fake.

APPRAISER:
It's not a fake.

GUEST:
Oh, thank God, okay.

APPRAISER:
Okay, this is a contemporary piece of African art made by the Makonde. This carving was probably done sometime after 1950.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Now, what's really extraordinary about this is this is a virtuosity in carving because this is very, very hard wood. This is also in great condition. You have a few minor cracks, but that's it.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
At auction, a piece like this, based on a comparable I saw at another auction of $950 for one that was only 36 inches. This is probably more like 50. Are you ready?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
I think this piece is $1,000 to $1,500.

GUEST:
(chuckling): Wonderful!

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Dallas, TX
Appraised value (2013)
$1,000 Auction$1,500 Auction
Event
Detroit, MI (June 01, 2013)
Period
20th Century
Form
Carving
Material
Ebony, Wood

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