No, it’s not just craft, it’s art, and here is the best Africa ...

Lifestyle

No, it’s not just craft, it’s art, and here is the best Africa has to offer

Be amazed by the beauty on display in Standard Bank’s latest exhibition from its African Art Collection

Dave Mann

Back in South Africa’s late 70s, concerns about the preservation of a cultural heritage of enormous diversity and creativity thought to be in decline prompted the start of a growing collection of art. Forty years later, that collection has become one of the largest classical African art collections in the southern hemisphere, and it’s currently being showcased at Johannesburg’s Standard Bank Gallery.

Titled 40 Years of Collecting: Celebrating the Standard Bank African Art Collection, the exhibition is curated by Standard Bank Gallery director Dr Same Mdluli and features a selection of works from the four-decade-old Standard Bank African Art Collection (SBAAC), founded in 1979 and jointly owned by Standard Bank and the Wits Art Museum (WAM). The works on show showcase a wide range of media, techniques and geographic locations. Wood figurines, drums, masks and clothing, as well as specialist items such as beadwork, textiles and valuable ceramic pieces, are all exhibited.

A quick walk through the gallery reveals works from across the continent. Songye masks from the Democratic Republic of Congo, beaded Yoruba crowns and Igbo masks from Nigeria, and Tjokwe staffs from Angola are just a few of the items on show. According to the exhibition statement, a substantial amount of the objects on show come from West and Central Africa, while a number of works from East Africa have been acquired more recently. But how were these works acquired, exactly, and why do so many of them bear the phrase “Artist Unrecorded” in place of an individual artist credit?..

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