The African collection of the Museum Rietberg, which owes its beginning to the patron Eduard von der Heydt, ranks among the most important in Europe. Von der Heydt was touched, as were the artists of the avantgarde, by the artistic expression of this so-called 'primitve art.' Since the early 1920s he purchased masterpieces from West and Central Africa from the Parisian art trade - with the advice of leading scientists.

Reflecting Eduard von der Heydt's taste, the sculptures in the Museum Rietberg represent the quiet, dignified, and introverted element of African art. Only a few pieces exhibit aggressive, grotesque, or frightening features. The most important groups of works include sculptures from the Dogon region in Mali, masks and figures from the Ivory Coast, particularly from the Senufo, Guro, Dan, and Baule regions, 17th century bronzes of the royal capital Benin in Nigeria, world-famous masks from the grasslands of Cameroon, sculptures from the Fang region of Gabon, and important figures and masks from the Luba, Songye, and Vili regions of the Congo.