Paris, Musée Dapper

Ornaments and clothing attract attention, but they are not without meaning or a message.

The Musée Dapper, that is dedicated to the arts and culture of Africa, the Caribbean and their diasporas currently assembles over 150 highly diverse ornamental expressions of masculinity from private and public collections.

The rites of passage in a man’s life, and the various roles he assumes along his path, find their physical manifestation in emblems of experience. The pieces express status that is newly established or confirmed relative to social, political or religious ties – worn both ceremonially and in daily adornment – and could also express links to ancestors, supernatural beings, or certain animals considered as totems. The focus here, however, is the uniquely tangential expression of the power of masculinity and the efforts to both hide and celebrate the male body.

A vast array of materials, found locally in sub-Saharan Africa or the Pacific islands, are used: porcupine quills, the skin or teeth of a leopard, a lion or an elephant, as well as stone, fibers, wood and shells.

The exhibition is put into contemporary relief with an accompanying show of photographs of extravagantly dressed modern Africans, part of a 25-year-old movement called SAPE (Société des ambianceurs et des personnes élégantes) or loosely translated “Society of Revelers and Elegant People”. Some things never change.

October 15th, 2009 through July 11th, 2010
35 bis, rue Paul Valéry
75116 Paris
T. +33 01 45 00 91 75