Ethnographica & Tribal Art

This category comprises artefacts and works of art made by indigenous peoples.

It began as a collecting area when anthropologists began acquiring and studying these items in the 19th century. Nowadays works are valued for their craftsmanship and decorative quality as well as for their historical and social interest.

The geographical spread in this sector ranges from Oceanic (Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand), African, Native American and South American art. Pre-Columbian works represent a sought-after sector – art from the Americas dating from before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.


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Join the Oceanic collecting club

29 August 2022

A selection of Oceanic hardwood clubs and shields has come for sale at Sworders in Essex on November 9-10 as part of the auction of objects from the collection of dealer Jan Ellen Finch (1952-2021) of Finch & Co.

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Tribal art: Worlds of opportunity in Paris

29 August 2022

International array of visitors will be strolling the streets during the Parcours des Mondes to peruse and buy tribal art

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Shield buyer parries rival bidders

29 August 2022

Aboriginal shields come in two basic types: broad shields used for deflecting projectiles and the narrow, compact parrying shields used in close contact fighting.

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Fresh wave of demand on the cards

08 August 2022

Overseas interest in tribal art and Doulton Lambeth wares fuelled the higher prices at Cuttlestones’ (20% buyer’s premium) Penkridge sale but it was a new outbreak of cardomania which raised temperatures of collectors across England.

Fijian whale ivory hook carving

Pick of the week: Buyer hooked by Fijian whale ivory rarity

16 May 2022

Sperm whale teeth, acquired from mammals that had beached on local reefs, had a deep significance to Fijian society.

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Museums target Cook discoveries at Sloane Street Auctions

18 April 2022

A previously unrecorded family archive relating to Richard Grindall (1751-1820), an able seaman aboard Cook’s Second Voyage, surfaced for sale in London last week with spectacular results.

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The man behind the tribal mask

04 April 2022

Fang secret society relic comes with long provenance to French colonial governor

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Fang mask helps if you want to keep a secret

07 February 2022

A striking and well-provenanced example of an African mask from the Fang peoples of Gabon is to appear at an auction in the south of France on March 26.

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Tribal clubs worth £40,000 amused teenagers as playthings

10 January 2022

“The owner had no idea what they were or what they might be worth. Not a Scooby.”

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Join the tribe

27 October 2021

Non-European ethnographic art is a one of the new categories at Fine Arts Paris, represented by Patrick and Ondine Mesdagh from Brussels who will be showing a selection of pieces from four continents.

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Maori pendant boosted by fine notable provenance

18 October 2021

A Maori hei-tiki pendant offered in Cheltenham on September 16 had an old paper label verso stating that it originally belonged to Makoare Te Taonui.

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Standing figure makes bidders sit up and take note

27 September 2021

A rare standing figure from the Yuat River area of Papua New Guinea was the star of the show at a Brussels auction.

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5 Questions: Ethnographic art dealer Kenn Mackay

13 September 2021

Dealer and collector Kenn Mackay developed an interest in ethnographic art during his travels in the early 1980s.

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Sensational Tannoy speaker emerges in a sleeper trio in Dorset

30 August 2021

Only a handful of companies have created products with sufficient impact that their brand names become generic descriptions for objects of their type.

Fang head

Paris auction sets record for a tribal art collection result

12 July 2021

The sale of Michel Périnet’s collection of tribal art at Christie’s in Paris on June 23 real ised a remarkable €66m/£57m (including buyer’s premium) and every one of the 61 lots were sold.

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Tribal highlights: mask and figure at Woolley & Wallis

28 June 2021

The best-performing lots in the tribal art sale at Woolley & Wallis (25% buyer’s premium) in Salisbury on June 8 were these two pieces: an Ibibio mask (idiok ekpo) sold at £30,000 and a Nicobar standing male figure (kareau) that brought £34,000.

Ibibio mask (idiok ekpo)

Top-selling Nigerian mask stars in our pick of five auction highlights sold this week

11 June 2021

ATG’s weekly selection of items that caught bidders’ eyes includes a rare Ibibio mask from the Niger Delta that made over 35-times estimate in Salisbury.

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The head masters from Africa

17 May 2021

Exhibition at firm’s new premises focuses on headdress and headwear

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Ritual figure from Rapa Nui and sells in Germany

12 April 2021

Tribal art specialist Zemanek-Münster will be holding a spring auction on April 24 in Würzburg.

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Tribal show gets into the spirit

07 December 2020

Offered by Bryan Reeves of Tribal Gathering for £4200, this Luba baboon mask is one of more than 100 objects on offer at Tribal Art London’s third online event, Spirit Animals.

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