MGM 2003 - Out Of Africa Into The Booth Museum

By Matt Havercroft | 16 May 2003
Shows Lover Birds by Eckelo Nyamhondoro.

Left: Lover Birds by Eckelo Nyamhondoro.

Eyes fixed upon the horizon, feet plantly firmly on the back of an open top landrover, Matt Havercroft made his way to a fascinating exhibition.

Tucked neatly between the birds, bears, butterflies and snakes at Brighton's Booth Museum of Natural History is Out Of Africa, an exhibition showcasing contemporary African artwork.

As part of the Brighton arts festival and running until June 1, the exhibition combines paintings, prints, textiles and metalwork from the artists of Yoruba in South Western Nigeria along with spring, serpentine and opal stone carvings depicting the culture and wildlife that has inspired the sculptors of Zimbabwe.

Having never been exposed to European artistic conventions, the artists have developed unique but distinctive styles.

With dramatic portrayals of the countries' people, animals, myths and legends, the collection is described by Jeremy Adams at the museum as: "An exhibition which illustrates the wealth of Africa's wildlife as well as the cultural emphasis with which the African artists view their surroundings."

Shows Father of Oshogbo, 1989 by Twins 77.

Right: Father of Oshogbo, 1989 by Twins 77.

The combination of media on show is testament to the talent and invention of the artists with colourful batiks hung alongside aluminium and copper panels that have been skilfully shaped into scenes.

Highlights at the exhibition include Joram Mariga's sculpture, 'Praying Mantis'. Mariga is described as the father figure of Zimbabwe's sculptors and his slightly sinister interpretation of the multi-limbed insect stands guard over the other exhibits, including Watson Chirume's contemplative 'Sitting Elephant' - a large green serpentine stone carving and the exhibition's centrepiece.

Alternatively, Yekini Folorunso's aluminium panel, 'Running for Survival', is an amusing depiction of a human hiding in the branches of a tree from an irate elephant, while Nike Olanyi Davies's batik, 'Playful Squirrel', pays tribute to the animal's cheeky personality.

With their characterisations of Africa's wildlife, the artwork compliments the museums other exhibits, providing an interesting distraction from the animals, bones and fossils.

To accompany the exhibition there is an opportunity to take a closer look at African creatures on Wednesday May 28 at 10.30 am and an African drumming workshop on May 30 at 10.30am and 2pm.

Reviewer Matt Havercroft is participating in the 24 Hour Museum / Museum and Galleries Month Arts Writing Prize.

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