The title of the exhibition Les forět natales [Native forests] was borrowed from the great French poet Guillaume Apollinaire as an allusion to the environment from which the pieces on display derived. The exhibition layout was worthy of this illustrious reference. And there is indeed no doubt that this show will constitute a landmark in French museography of African arts, as the presentation of such a vast and fine corpus of works from Atlantic Equatorial Africa had no precedent.

Nearly one-quarter of the 325 works exhibited came from the collections of the Musée du quai Branly–Jacques Chirac (MQBJC). There were also contributions from other public institutions, either in France or abroad, but not a single one from an African public collection, such as the Musée National des Arts et Traditions du Gabon in Libreville, which was known, years ago, for housing “masterpieces” (Perrois 1986).

A loan of seventy-five...

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