The collection in 16 works

An ambitious scientific and cultural project

Great attention has been paid to the presentation and contextualisation of the works in the collection. To illustrate this extensive documentation endeavour, 16 focus points have been selected with historic and documentary references on the works, their provenance, their history and their geography.

Male statue

With its imposing size, balanced geometric volumes and animated expression, this male statue raises many questions as to its geographic origin, its use and its arrival in Europe.

Female statue

Very few examples of this type of statue are known. This Bassa female statue from Liberia represents a young nubile girl whose transition from childhood to adulthood was overseen by a women's initiation society known as Sande .

Commemorative lefem king statue

Its impressive headpiece as well as the leopard-tooth necklace and anklets reflect the status of this statuette-portrait of a king. The king is shown standing, legs apart, right hand holding a long-necked calabash.

Nkishi protective statue

This large male nkishi statue protected the clan and its chief thanks to its magical and religious powers. Its power is shown in the vitality of its gaze, the protruding mouth and its features inlaid with metal. The neck is draped in necklaces covered in snakeskin. Fish hooks hang from them symbolising the rainbow that captures the souls of the deceased. A large copper plate covers the navel, an opening filled with magical ingredients.

Ndoma anthropomorphic portrait mask

Ndoma portraits masks are the last to appear in performances, at dusk. They are commissioned from a sculptor to pay tribute to a member of the village and honour their outstanding qualities. When performing, the wearer of the ndoma mask is usually accompanied by the person who they are celebrating (or a substitute of them). The plant-fibre beard with its three plaits, the long, thin nose bridge and the protruding mouth all indicate an elderly man.

N’tomo masks

N’tomo face masks are usually surmounted by three to eight horns forming a comb, and are associated with a stage in the compulsory education of uncircumcised boys in certain West African societies. The unobtrusiveness or even absence of the mask’s mouth, stresses the behaviour expected in their future adult life at the end of the training: controlling and weighing one’s words, knowing how to remain silent, safeguarding secrets and bearing pain in silence.

“Black monkey” zoomorphic mask

This “black monkey” mask is distinguished by its curved lines, the most pronounced and elongated of which runs from the high, domed forehead to the prognathous mouth, accentuated by a fixed grin.

Male singiti statue

With its majestic, poised stance, this imposing male statue is one of the Hemba people’s great ancestor figures. As a masterpiece from a limited body of works, this effigy is associated with the prestigious Niembo de la Luika workshops, a group based in the Luika river area in the heart of the Hemba region.

Seated nursing female figure

Seated on a stool, a woman nursing twins on each oblong breast; her arms with their long forearms are raised and hold a bowl over her head; her stomach is marked with a cross-shaped scarification around the navel. These works associated with divination were worn during meetings of the female members of Sâdo’o , an exclusively female soothsayers organisation.

Bow stands, prestigious insignia

A sign of prestige and power, this female figure is topped by a three-pronged bow stand. The attractive face with closed eyes is decorated with an elegant headdress crossed at the back. The figure brings to mind the dignitary entrusted to guard the invisible royal bows and arrows that slay malevolent spirits. Attributed to ‘The Warua Master’, this famous piece has been displayed in numerous exhibitions and publications.

Eyema byeri reliquary guardian

This solemn male ancestor statue, seated, arms folded at the chest holding a cup, protected a reliquary basket containing bones from the lineage or clan. These effigies were regularly consulted and anointed. This produced a seeping patina, giving the impression of living skin.

Anthropomorphic mask

This remarkable oval-shaped mask, with its striking resemblance to a human face, belongs to the group of naturalistic Dan face masks .

Anthropomorphic bwami mask

This mask was used within the Bwami initiation society. A semi-secret and very hierarchical association, it was responsible for the complex and codified transmission, throughout the lives of the initiated men and women, of knowledge conveying ethical and moral values that ensured the cohesion of the entire community.

Anthropomorphic mask

The tubular and oversized expression on this type of mask was a sign of their all-seeing power. They were used in various social situations, and made an impression on many modern artists, including Cubists in the early 20 th  century.

Malagan head

Magic rituals were performed and masks sculpted to prepare for a malagan funerary ceremony. These rare masks are part of the marada tradition, a set of objects, dances and songs belonging to a clan and associated with the rain-making rituals.

Bwanga bwa Cibola maternity figure

This female bwanga bwa Cibola figure bears symbolic scarifications and a beautiful hairpiece with a central braid. Serving protective and therapeutic purposes, these maternity figures played a role in the bwanga bwa Cibola cult which stimulated fertility and birth.


The new permanent exhibition space designed by architect Jean Nouvel creates an intimate and adept approach to the collection.

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Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière amassed a collection of works from Africa and Oceania of exceptional scope and quality.

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Elsewhere at the museum
Main Collections Level

The permanent exhibition at the musée du quai Branly houses some 3,500 works divided into geographic areas: Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas. The route follows a central walkway designed to resemble a river, illustrating both the uniqueness of each civilisation and their contacts.

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