About This Artwork

Kalabari
Nigeria

Ancestral Altar Screen (Duein Fubara), Early 20th century

Wood, pigment, fiber, and replacement fabric
101.6 x 69.9 x 20.3 cm (40 x 27 1/2 x 8 in.)

Joanne M. and Clarence E. Spanjer Fund; restricted gift of Cynthia and Terry E. Perucca, Marshall Field V, and Lynn and Allen Turner funds; Mr. and Mrs. David B. Ross Endowment; Alsdorf Foundation, 2005.154

Kalabari Ijo ancestral screens originated in the 19th century as a way to honor and commune with the deceased leaders of trading houses, whose members were bound together by kinship and economic interests. The screens reflect the significance of European commerce along the Niger Delta’s waterways during that era, and their arrangement of figures suggests early photographic portraits. On this screen, the central figure, representing the deceased leader, wears a European-style top hat, and the two flanking men wear bowler hats. Ancestral screens, which continue to be made today, are installed inside a trading house’s principal meeting house.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Kathleen Bickford Berzock, "Ancestral Altar Screen (Duein Fubara), Notable Acquisitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Studies, vol. 32, no. 1 (2006), pp. 12-13 (ill.).

Ownership History

Unknown owner, Rivers State, Nigeria, about 1990; to unknown owner, Lomé, Togo, by 1994 (see letter in curatorial file); sold to Davis Gallery, New Orleans, La., 1994; sold to the Art Institute, 2005.




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