The “Bangwa Queen,” a visually-arresting statue taken by German explorer more than 100 years from a religious shrine in the Grassfields region of Cameroon, is a centerpiece of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new “Heroic Africans” exhibition. The “Bangwa Queen” normally resides in Paris, in Musee Dapper, which holds perhaps the world’s finest single collection of African art. The return of the statue to American soil is a cause for celebration. The statue, once owned by the cosmetic tycoon Helena Rubenstein, was purchased by a Los Angeles businessman and then, after his death, sold at auction. Only later did the piece turn up in Paris as part of the Dapper. The “Bangwa Queen” is believed to be the single most valuable work of traditional African art and has long been an object of fascination among avante-garde artists as well as enthusiasts of tribal art.
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