I am African and grew up there so first a disclaimer: I do not
claim by my background that I have any superior knowledge of African
all through my childhood, my father 'collected.' He travelled a lot and
picked up a lot of masks, carvings, figurines, etc which formed the
decorations in our house. Growing up under his wing, we learnt to stop
at villages that were the centres of such art to to look for interesting
pieces. Never for once over the first 25 years of my life was it a
consideration that any of these pieces was 'authentic' or 'antique' in the
sense that I subsequently found to my surprise were very important for
foreign/Western collectors and determined the pecuniary valuation attached to
I have become an adult and started collecting in my own right, I have
collected on the basis my father did - the technical proficiency and aesthetic
beauty of the pieces. I have collected them as decorations rather than
as antiques or things actually used for some ceremony or the other. I
have found it difficult to stifle a laugh when I see childish, childlike and
rudimentary pieces (produced by 'craftsmen' of clearly little skill or
training) collected and assigned relatively stupendous value by Westerners on
the basis that they were 'antique', 'authentic' or 'tribal.' Several
times, I have been in a crafts market where non-African tourists were asking
about authenticity and overheard the craftsmen in a vernacular I understand
ask one of their number to stop the craftsmen from bringing in another piece
like that while the transaction was being negotiated.
continue to collect on the basis of technical proficiency and aesthetic
beauty. I care nought for the basis of authenticity or antiquity that
seems to be so prized on this forum and elsewhere. I care not whether
the pieces were made for tourists or not. I always believed they all
were anyway and have been for a long time, probably going back to sub-Saharan
Africa's first contact with white people interested in 'collecting' the
pieces, over 200 years ago.
has a lot of what I call 'literate art' as well. This is art, whether in
the form of paintings, crafts, sculpture or carvings, produced by artists
trained in the various university art faculties and the other training centres
in higher institutions of learning. This usually gets short shrift as it
is not 'authentic' African art - it is not made in rural areas and remote
villages by semi-literate craftsmen. That is a real pity. Some
stunning work exists in the literate art spheres of Africa.
thanks for the film. I laughed through many portions of it.
From: Gi Mateusen
Sent: Saturday, 29 December
[African_Arts] An Exhibition and a Film of Interest
Yesterday I had contact by email with one of the Cameroon dealers in the
documentary and this is what he wrote to me: "The documentary was just a way to
express to the world what we Africans go through in this business and also to
make people know that these rich art dealers who claim not to do transactions
with us Africans do really do them"
I know him since
more than 10 years and a lot of pieces that he presented are for sale in the
galleries in Brussels and other places, sometimes with invented
Op 29-dec.-2012, om 17:07 heeft Bob & Karen het volgende
Thanks Lee!! Does make ya wonder just what we own…I'm happy I collect
pieces I like for just what they are….
A film of BIG interest. Thank You very much, Lee !
Looking at the movement of African art into Western view and
There is a current exhibition at the Met which may be of
interest to group members: African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde
runs through mid-April:
Also, I recently came across a film -- accessible on-line in its
entirety -- that considers various aspects of the creation, collection,
valuation and authenticity of African art. Filmed in Cameroon and
Belgium, "Je ne suis pa moi-meme" illustrates many of the topics we often
touch upon in our discussions regarding authenticity and value as well as
offering a view of the social milieu of African art trade on the African
continent and abroad.