(left: Ibibio mask [F. Willet collection; Willett, 197; right: Ibo Queen Victoria; collection Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford University]
According to Frank Willet's introduction to African art, tutu, serenity, coolness, or composure is a desirable quality in both art and life: "In sculpture it is shown by the absence of violence in the facial expression or gesture; in the dance by the withdrawn expressionless face of the dancer; the chief should always behave calmly and unemotionally" . Susan Mullin Vogel similarly notes this particular meeting of social, political, and aesthetic values:
The state of being composed, often noted in the field studies, is an ethical/aesthetic quality nearly al- ways portrayed in figural sculpture. The person who is composed behaves in a measured and rational way; he or she is controlled, proud, dignified, and cool. An essential quality in a ruler, composure is particularly evident in images of kings. [Aesthetics of African Art: The Carlo Monzino Collection, N.Y.: Center for African Art, 1986, 21]
Willet notes the parallel here between tutu in art and "behavior"
In sculpture it is shown by the absence of violence in the facial expression or gesture; in the dance by the withdrawn expressionless face of the dancer; the chief should always benave calmly and unemotionally. This last criterion has been reported also by Warren d'Azevedo among the Gola of Liberia: 'The pinnacle of success . . . comes with the ability to be nonchalant at the right moment . . . to reveal no emotion in situations where excitement and sentimentality are acceptable -- in other words to act as though one's mind were in another world. It is particularly admirable to do difficult tasks with an air of ease and silent disdain. Women are admired for a surly detached expression, and sonamlbulistic movement and attitude during the dance or other performance is considered very attractive.' [213, 215; last passage quoted from d'Azevedo's then unpublished Traditional Artist in African Society, n. p.]
Last Modified: 14 March, 2002