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AFRICA – MASKS AND FIGURINES EXHIBITION

1-15 February 2010, at the Chelsea Old Town Hall, Reference Library.

16-30 October 2010, at the Fulham and Hammersmith Libraries

November-December 2010, at Henry Compton Secondary Boys School, Fulham

This is a public exhibition about original traditional African art, masks, figurines and small objects, made by anonymous artists from various tribes across the continent and in different periods. They are arranged in group of objects presenting various aspects of tribal life, important in their daily routine and without commercial value. The topics are: ancestors, fertility, marriages, warriors, nature (animals and plants). The curator will give a talk about African art and tribal life with a discussion and story-telling for children and adults, and on presented topics; entrance free.

People often relate African art with the Black History Month, and they are more familiar with music and dance, literature and performing art, but not so much with visual and plastic art. There is also an ages old stigma about this art, a prejudice which is inherited from the past, that masks and fetishes present evil spirits and will do harm to those who posses them. We shall organise a talk and a discussion about the meaning of the masks and figurines which present always something in relation with everyday life. The inspiration is life itself and surrounding environment, which includes all natural habitats, animals and plants. These features are “magical” because they are used to intervene with “higher powers”, communicate with the world of spirits, help people to pray and ask for help, support healing, war and peace and they mean life and death.

Every bead, feather or other item used to create a mask or a figure is carefully chosen and it symbolises particular aspect in the life of tribe. The fact is that three quarters of the population of Black Africa are still fetishist and continue to practice this religion. Most of the ritual sculptures used are masks, which appear during the religious dances and public celebrations. There are also figurines and larger statues (totems) which, according to the region, represent ancestral portraits, or fetishes to protect the village and its inhabitants, to conjure against evil spirits, against drought and epidemics, to bring fertility to women or evil and harm to enemies, such as the nail fetishes from the Bas Congo areas and similar. Nature is embedded in many human forms as totemic presentation of the particular characteristic which the tribal artist believes that it belongs to that particular mask or figurine.

 

TRADITIONAL AFRICAN ART

At Hammersmith and Fulham Libraries – October 2010
Henry Compton Secondary Boys School, Fulham