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Ajouré  

Gordon Campbell

French term for openwork, used in the decorative arts principally with reference to metalwork, bookbinding and heraldry. In metalwork, it denotes the piercing or perforation of sheet metal, a practice found as early as the ancient Egyptian period. In bookbinding, the term ajouré binding refers to a style that emerged in late 15th-century Venice in which bindings were embellished with pierced or translucent patterns, typically open designs of foliage. In heraldry, an ...

Article

J. M. Rogers

[Muh‛ammad ibn al-Zayn; Ibn al-Zayn]

(fl early 14th century).

Arab metalworker. He is known from signatures on two undated inlaid wares, the Baptistère de St Louis (Paris, Louvre, LP 16, signed in six places) and the Vasselot Bowl (Paris, Louvre, MAO 331, signed once). His style is characterized by bold compositions of large figures encrusted with silver plaques on which details are elaborately chased. His repertory develops themes characteristic of later 13th-century metalwork from Mosul (see Islamic art, §IV, 3(ii) and (iii))—mounted or enthroned rulers, bands of running or prowling animals, an elaborate Nilotic composition, courtiers bearing insignia of office, and battle scenes on scroll grounds with strikingly naturalistic fauna. His work is marked by a realism of facial expression, in which Turco-Mongolian physiognomy, dress, headgear and even coiffure are prominent, and a vigour of movement, gesture or stance that enlivens and transforms even the running animals and rows of standing courtiers, some in Frankish costume. The technique and style of these pieces allow their attribution to the Bahri Mamluk period in Egypt and Syria (...

Article

Lisa M. Binder

(b Anyako, Ghana, June 13, 1944).

Ghanaian sculptor, active in Nigeria. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sculpture (1968) and a postgraduate diploma in art education from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana (1969). After graduation he taught at the Specialist Training College (now University of Winneba), Ghana, in a position vacated by the eminent sculptor Vincent Kofi. From 1975 he was Professor of Sculpture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Anatsui’s practice often makes use of found objects including bottle caps, milk-tins and cassava graters. However, he is not concerned with recycling or salvaging; instead he seeks meaning in the ways materials can be transformed to make statements about history, culture and memory.

His early work consists of ceramic sculptures manipulated to reconfigure pieces of memory. In 1978 he began his Broken Pots series, which was exhibited the following year at the British Council in Enugu, Nigeria. Several of the ceramic works were made of sherds that were fused together by a grog-like cement of broken pieces. Making art historical references to ...

Article

Togolese, 20th – 21st century, male.

Born 11 November 1968, in Lomé.

Painter (mixed media).

A self-taught artist, Tetevi Azankpo works with recycled materials such as rusting receptacles, lengths of metal wire and rubber to produce fantasy figurines.

He has exhibited at group exhibitions, among them ...

Article

Paula Girshick Ben-Amos

Kingdom in Edo (formerly Bendel) State, southern Nigeria. Its capital is Benin City. Although the kingdom, the city and its art have become known to the world under the name Benin, the people of Benin call themselves, their kingdom, their city and their language Edo. The kingdom and city of Benin should not be confused with the geographically distinct country of Benin Republic. The art of Benin has probably received more attention than that of any other African tradition. It has been widely illustrated and exhibited (for a selection of publications see bibliography). There is also a large number of collections in museums in Europe and the USA, as well as in Nigeria (for a comprehensive catalogue, see Dark, 1982). For the art of the Edo-speaking peoples outside Benin, see Edo.

When 15th-century Portuguese explorers in search of a route to India arrived in the area that is now southern Nigeria, they found a highly developed state ruled by a powerful king whose armies were in the process of conquering much of the surrounding area. Little is known about the history of Benin before the period of European contact, as archaeological research in the area has been limited. Oral traditions, however, refer to an early dynasty of kings, Ogiso, which was supplanted in or before the 14th century by a new dynasty from the Yoruba kingdom of Ife, to the west of Benin. This new dynasty, which is said to have been founded by a Yoruba prince named Aranmiyan (Yoruba: Oranmiyan), has ruled Benin ever since. In the 1980s and the 1990s the king or ...

Article

South African, 20th century, female.

Active in Canada from 1969.

Born 17 September 1936, in Piet Retief, South Africa.

Engraver (etching/aquatint), screen printer, watercolourist, photographer.

Jennifer Dickson studied at Goldsmiths in London and from 1961 to 1965 at the Atelier 17 engraving studio in Paris run by S.W. Hayter. She later spent time in Jamaica and the USA. In Canada she worked both as an artist and teacher. She was elected a member of the Royal Academy in London in ...

Article

Egyptian, 20th century, female.

Active from 1925 in France.

Born 24 April 1907, in Alexandria; died 1 March 1986.

Sculptor, medallist.

Daria Gamsaragan went to France to study sculpture, settling there in 1925. She entered the academy of La Grande Chaumière and became a pupil of Bourdelle. She also worked with Csaky and Constant. From ...

Article

Shannen Hill

(b Dulwich, June 27, 1920).

South African painter and printmaker of English birth. He earned an Arts and Crafts Certificate at Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 1951 and a National Diploma in Design in 1953, the same year in which he emigrated to South Africa. Considered one of the country’s greatest painters, his works are in many national collections and have been exhibited internationally. His best known work explores the the human condition sardonically, depicting people as self-concerned, lacking conscience and infinitely unaware of their own fallibility. Richly painted, his pieces consistently convey a paradox between beauty and grotesqueness. Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi inspired Hodgins’s treatment of historical tyrants and businessmen as composite brutal and absurd characters. The distorted figure in Ubu: The Official Portrait (1981; Johannesburg, A.G.) satirizes officials, their ceremonies and their pretense to rule justly. Hodgins’s bright, energetic palette conveys a certain clownishness, while his compositions and disfigured forms tell of an underlying evil. In an etched series called ...

Article

Thurstan Shaw

Town in Nigeria (pop. c. 15,000 in the 1990s), situated 40 km south-east of Onitsha, which is on the River Niger. The name means ‘Great Igbo’ in the Igbo language. It is also the name given to the ancient culture that produced the elaborate metalwork and ceramics, dated to the 10th century ad, that were found at three sites on the outskirts of the town.

The first site came to light some time before the outbreak of World War II in 1939 while a man, Isaiah Anozie, was digging a cistern. Not far below ground-level he unearthed a highly decorated bronze bowl, and further digging led to the discovery of other bronzes, some of which were given to his neighbours who thought they would make good ‘medicine’. The remaining objects were bought by John Field, the area’s Assistant District Officer, who published an account of the discovery and presented the collection to the Nigerian Federal Department of Antiquities. At the invitation of the Department, the archaeologist ...

Article

Stephan Welz

(b Augsburg, c. 1700; d Cape Town, Dec 25, 1751).

South African silversmith of German birth. Evidence suggests that he worked in the Netherlands for a period before moving to the Cape, in the service of the Dutch East India Company, arriving on 30 December 1733. He set up business on his own on 4 October 1735. Although only nine pieces of silverware by Lotter are known, seven of which are in the Groote Kerk, Cape Town, he is the earliest Cape silversmith with sufficient pieces extant to permit an impression of his work to be formed. All the pieces closely follow patterns popular in western Europe at the end of the 17th century and early in the 18th. Two of his six children born at the Cape, Johannes Casparus Lotter (b 1737) and Willem Godfried Lotter (1748–1810), became silversmiths, as did his grandson Gerhardus Lotter (1764–1824; see South Africa, Republic of, §X).

S. Welz...

Article

Stephan Welz

(b Strelitz, Prussia [now Germany], 1741; d Cape Town, Dec 29, 1811).

South African silversmith of German birth. In 1768 he arrived at Cape Town, where he worked as sword-cutler in the service of the Dutch East India Company until 1778. The following year he started his own business. He was the most accomplished of the Cape silversmiths and the first to introduce the Rococo style, although it was always used in a restrained Dutch manner. Towards the end of his career he also produced pieces in a Neo-classical style, probably inspired by silverware brought by English immigrants. His most exuberant designs are silver furniture mounts with a cast floral motif. He was one of the first Cape silversmiths to make such large domestic pieces as tea- and coffee-pots and covered sugar bowls, usually with cast floral finials and supports. The only recorded pair of Cape candlesticks (Cape Town, S. Afr. Cult. Hist. Mus.) is by Schmidt.

S. Welz: Cape Silver and Silversmiths...

Article

Stephen K. Scher

(b Tunisia, Nov 24, 1901; d Lisbon, Sept 15, 1979).

Italian medallist and sculptor. He was trained at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Palermo (1918–19), and in Rome, at the Accademia di Belle Arti (1920–25) and at the Scuola d’Arte della Medaglia (1920–23). He taught sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Palermo from 1938 and was often honoured for his accomplishments. For a long period he worked in the USA, where he had individual exhibitions in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Chicago. His work was always included in any important exhibition of medals both in Italy and abroad and is to be found in Italian museums and private collections. The designs of his medals were often based on V-shaped compositions. The modelling is broad, the relief fairly high, and the surfaces range from highly finished to rough. It is evident that Sgarlata often drew inspiration from his Quattrocento predecessors, although his pieces are generally of a very large size, sometimes exceeding 200 mm: for example a medal depicting a man attacking a boar (...

Article

Shona  

William J. Dewey

Bantu-speaking people numbering c. 9 million, living mainly in Zimbabwe with a smaller population living in Mozambique. Historically, the people known as Shona identified themselves by either dialect or political names: the five main dialect clusters, Korekore, Zezuru, Manyika, Ndau and Karanga are all mutually intelligible; it was not until the late 19th century that they became known as the Shona. Their neighbours to the north and north-east are the Tonga (Tonka), Chikunda, Sena and Barwe. To the south-east are the Hlengwe and Tsonga (Shangane), and to the south are the Venda. The Ndebele to the west incorporated most of another Shona dialect cluster, the Kalanga, into their kingdom when they moved into western Zimbabwe in the 1830s. The ancestors of the Shona are the builders of Great Zimbabwe and hundreds of other stone walled sites in present-day Zimbabwe. In the second half of the 20th century a new tradition of figurative stone-carving developed (...

Article

Andrew Cross

Reviser Mary Chou

(b London Aug 9, 1962).

British sculptor, painter and installation artist. Born to Nigerian parents, he grew up in Nigeria before returning to England to study Fine Art in London at Byam Shaw School of Art and Goldsmiths’ College where he completed his MFA. Shonibare’s West African heritage has been at the heart of his work since he started exhibiting in 1988, when he began using ‘Dutch-wax’ dyed fabrics, commonly found in Western Africa, both for wall-mounted works (as pseudo paintings) and for sculpted figures. Generally perceived as ‘authentic’African cloth, the tradition of Batik originated in Indonesia, and was appropriated by the Dutch who colonized the country. Manufactured in Holland and Britain, the cloth was then shipped to West Africa where it became the dress of the working class in nations such as Nigeria. Shonibare used the material as a way of deconstructing the more complex histories that determine these and other images of ethnicity. As such, he has been described as a ‘post-cultural hybrid’ or the ‘quintessential postcolonial artist’ by critics as well as the artist himself....

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

Stephan Welz

(b Liverpool, May 5, 1793; d London, June 8, 1852).

English silversmith, active in South Africa. After qualifying as a clock- and watchmaker, in 1818 he left for the Cape, where he became the most prolific and best-known 19th-century silversmith. Within three weeks of his arrival in Cape Town he opened a shop, and a year later he was advertising for craftsmen and apprentices in the silver and jewellery trade. Within four years Twentyman had established himself as the leading silversmith at the Cape, receiving commissions from the governor, churches and leading citizens. He made a number of presentation vases, all in the prevailing English style, and many small pieces such as snuff-boxes, christening cups, beakers and flatware of varying quality. An astute businessman, he imported large quantities of plated ware, which ultimately led to the death of the silversmith’s craft at the Cape. Twentyman returned to England in 1832, leaving what was by then an importing and retailing business in the hands of a manager....