Il morso del serpente

In questo articolo, ci occuperemo di una particolare produzione scultorea del popolo dei Chamba o Tschamba, una variegata popolazione stanziata in Nigeria lungo il fiume Bénoué, e precisamente delle figure denominate Tau-Wandoa o Tau-Kendoa.

“Les Chamba ont été mentionnés pour la première fois par Frobenius (1987 [1924] : 8-10, [1925] : 48-83) qui a surtout tiré du sous-groupe daka (orthographié aussi dakka) ses informations se rapportant à la coïncidence entre la mort du roi et la circoncision.

Étudiés par R. Fardon (1988, 1990), les Chamba comptent une multitude de petites chefferies présentant un intéressant exemple de systèmes de descendance variés, allant des chefferies matrilinéaires aux chefferies patri-linéaires en passant par des chefferies à double descendance unilinéaire et résidence patrivirilocale.

Ces nombreuses chefferies, Fardon (1988) parle même de myriads, s’étendent à l’ouest des monts Alantika au Cameroun, le long de la Bénoué nigériane à l’est et au sud jusqu’en pays tikar, bamoum et bamiléké. Les différentes branches de ce peuple composite parlent quantité de dialectes issus de langues différentes.”  (Muller Jean-Claude. Circoncision et régicide. Thème et variations chez les Dìì, les Chamba et les Moundang des confins de la Bénoué et du Tchad. In: L’Homme, 1997, tome 37 n°141. pp. 7-24; doi : 10.3406/hom.1997.370200)

 

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Courtesy Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac , Paris

Tipiche sculture dei Chamba sono le loro figure in legno, longilinee e dall’altezza media di circa 30/35 cm,   con un puntale in ferro alla base  così da poter essere infisse nel terreno dei campi.

Their typical, mostly small sculptures made of hard wood (male: ‘tau-wandoa’, female: ‘tau-kendoa’) are carved in a form similar to a staff and highly abstract. With slightly bent arms close to the body and usually a ‘hat’ on their large head. Planted with iron tips in the ground of the fields, these figures are supposed to secure a rich harvest and protect people against snake bites. (Le loro figure, per lo più piccole sculture in legno duro (maschio: ‘tau-wandoa’, femmina: ‘tau-kendoa’) sono scolpite in una forma simile ad una staffa altamente astratta con  le braccia leggermente piegate vicino al corpo e di solito indossano un ‘cappello’ sulla loro grande testa. Piantate con punte di ferro nel terreno dei campi, queste figure dovevano garantire un ricco raccolto e proteggere le persone contro i morsi dei serpenti ).

Già Leo Frobenius ebbe a descriverle in un suo testo del 1913 in cui è anche pubblicata un’illustrazione raffigurante queste figure.

 

1913-frobenius-leo-series-und-afrika-sprach-vol-band-3-illustrator-carl-arriens

 Courtesy Ross Archive, 1913. Frobenius, Leo. series: “Und Afrika sprach”, Vol. band 3.

Frobenius così ci parla di queste figure, nella traduzione inglese publicata nel Ross Archive:

“When one enters through the gatehouse (tara) to the courtyard of the Tschamba, one sees a small house, called “wula” in the left corner. Because of its contents, it is also called “Tauwula”, “the wula of the Tauwa”. In it, both wooden figures “tau” or “tauwa”(plural) are kept. There are always two figures, a female “tau-kendoa” and a male “tau-wandoa”. There is always a pair, and it is always a pair of old wooden figures because if they are proper figures, if they should be at the height of their powers, then they must be inherited for a long, long time, since the time of the first families- this is what the people believe. The pair of Tauwa are seen as ancient, married people, a married couple. But they are simply called Tauwa and never have individual names. The figures are also not kept so secret that women and children cannot see them. These are definitely not ancentral spirit figures, nor those of the Tim, the Muntschi, or the Tombo of the Homburri mountains. Every question of this is met with a confused mumble. The Tauwa have never had anything to do with the dead. They are something essentially different but the same everywhere. The Tschamba explain with all certainty that they once received these Tauwa from the blacksmiths. I encountered the same explanation with the Dakka. But the blacksmiths only produced the figures (woodcarving belongs to the profession of blacksmithing); somehow the blacksmiths are not involved with the Tauwa ritual, but they provide the origin of the Tauwa with a very narrative. […]“ (pp. 285-286) [For explanation of the legend see pp. 286f.] “The fact that every Ganja plant that is planted in the courtyard is seen as property of the Tauwa is also connected to this legend. If a family member is bitten by a snake, both Tauwa are taken from their shrine and set before the sick. Further, a Ganja bulb is taken and an extract is prepared. A bulb is then given to the Tauwa and the ill-stricken is give the holy drink. If one of the Tauwa falls over in the process of this offering, it is assumed that the bitten will die. –up to this point we can easily identify the Tauwa legend as a backwards explanation of an old custom. Now, the Tauwa are also brought other sacrifices.”

 

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Chamba people. Photo Jacqueline Fry, 1965, Courtesy Yale University Art Gallery

Di queste sculture, nella letteratura e negli archivi se ne conoscono poco più di sessanta, anche se presumibilmente sono molte di più.

Grazie al preziosi contributi della  Yale University Art Gallery, di Christie’s,  della Galleria Kanem/ Afrique, del Colum to Volume di R. Fardon e dell’Arts du Nigeria dans les collections privées françaises a cura di Alain Lebas, è possibile qui visionare  l’intero  corpus  di queste figure:

 

20-cm-121304238-cm-133496239-cm-128147251-cm-12814828-cm-galeries-kenem-ed-afrique285-cm-129291

295-cm-13213430-cm-12815135-cm-10356633-cm-10447435-cm-131855355-cm-97844

36-cm-1160636-cm-128143368-cm-7743037-cm-87172375-cm-11068375-cm-87173375-cm-87174

375-cm-12814637cm-9168538-cm-6589338-cm-128140382-cm-97842382-cm-128150

385-cm-121303385-cm-13349740-cm-2113540-cm-coll-francese40-cm-johannes-rothe-190741-cm-52118

403-38-43-cm41-cm-52118413-cm-12815242-cm-93132

42-cm-128145428-cm-12814242cm-coll-francese-265-cm-coll-e-y-develon43-cm-87170

435-cm-5305148-cm-13185449-cm-13213550-cm-87167504-cm-12814952-cm-105448

52-cm-132137-hans-glauning-190355-cm-720331160739811845598717190970333-cm-12814134-cm-9313134-cm-103567375-cm-87173375-cm-87174

102275ca32cm-10544959-cm-54150495-cm-97843

Ultima la piccola Chamba tau-wandoa della mia personale collezione. Una figura arcaica di 27 cm di altezza in cui i tagli  puliti e la composta armonia dei volumi  conferiscono un’innegabile immagine di espressiva e dinamica eleganza all’intera figura.

 

chamba-tau-wandoa-cm-27-tre-quartichamba-tau-wandoa-cm-27-frontalechamba-tau-wandoa-cm-27-retro-1

Elio Revera

 

 

 

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