Tribal Chic

  A wooden Chokwe mask (far left) from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 24cm high. This was for sale last September in the Woolley and Wallis Tribal Art & Antiquities sale, estimated at £200 – 300. An Abelan Yam mask from Papua, New Guinea (centre) and this 13th to 17th century Nomoli Stone gure from Sherbro, Sierra Leone (right) were both at the Tribal Art London fair   in 2014. Priced £325 and £5,800 repectively

A wooden Chokwe mask (far left) from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 24cm high. This was for sale last September in the Woolley and Wallis Tribal Art & Antiquities sale, estimated at £200 – 300. An Abelan Yam mask from Papua, New Guinea (centre) and this 13th to 17th century Nomoli Stone gure from Sherbro, Sierra Leone (right) were both at the Tribal Art London fair in 2014. Priced £325 and £5,800 repectively

The arrival of tribal art in the first half of the 20th century awoke something in the Western world. The cultural diversity of these beautifully shaped objects captured the eye of the collector and art lover and has been one of the most interesting sectors of the trade to evolve over recent years.

Its influence on modern art is also undeniable; just look at the work of artists such as Matisse and Picasso, both inspired by the abstract forms of the human faces depicted in African masks and sculptures, which they translated into portraits.

I first remember being aware of African art at my grandparent’s house. They had a cone shaped bongo drum, which was made of animal skin, possibly goat or cowhide, which I loved to play with as a child – it gave off such a great sound. Sadly I never took the time to find out why, or where they got it from, but I always imagined someone in my family was likely to have explored some far flung places. They obviously had an interest in different cultures, as there were several Tretchikoff’s dotted about the house, I particularly remember the ‘Zulu Girl’ who I thought very exotic at the time!

Read more in Issue 36...

Woo Gilchrist