Thursday, 29 May 2008

Mozambique in the making....

a biographical essay - Cedric Green

This essay was published in "LISBOSCOPIO" the catalogue of the official Portuguese representation at the 10th International Architecture Exhibition - 2006 Venice Biennale - where Pancho Guedes was chosen, together with Ricardo Jacinto to represent Portugal.. The Catalogue was produced and edited by the Portuguese Institute of Arts.

In September 1952, a young Portuguese architect from Mozambique stepped off a Lloyd Triestino passenger ship at Venice, to visit the Biennale at the start of a long and eventful journey through Europe. In his luggage he had designs and photographs of buildings he had already done in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). He was coming to Europe for the first time since he was 7 years old, when his family moved from Lisbon to Mozambique in 1932. This journey was a kind of pilgrimage to see the originals of the cities, buildings and art that he had read about and mostly seen up to then as black and white illustrations in books, and heard about from his teachers.

Pancho Guedes in 1953

His artistic and architectural education had began at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1945 under a number of exceptional teachers, among them Heather Martienssen, Donald Pilcher and John Fassler, who from very early on persuaded him that architecture was above all an art, integrating all the other plastic and design arts : sculpture, painting, interior design, landscape design and urban design. He showed quite exceptional talent as a designer and draughtsman from the beginning, and spent a lot of his time painting and drawing, and devouring every book he could get hold of on the subjects that really stimulated his imagination : Giorgio de Chirico, Joan Miró, Paul Klee, Picasso, Juan Gris, Latin American architecture and mural painting and any artists for whom the integration of the arts was important.

This was at a time when there was in America and Europe a growing interest in functionalism in architecture, industrialisation of building, and anonymity of expression, as a consequence of the war and the need to rebuild rapidly and economically. Cities in Germany and Britain had been devastated and those aspects of the Modern Movement that emphasised the social and managerial role of the architect were embraced, and town planning ideas like Le Corbusier’s Athens Charter were applied in cheapened form in mass housing projects of identical faceless multi-storey blocks. By contrast, the situation in Southern Africa and Mozambique that Pancho Guedes experienced was quite different. The war had hardly touched the sub-continent, and because Portugal had been neutral, its ports serving South and Central Africa had begun to boom economically. At the University in Johannesburg, the influence of Le Corbusier’s pre-war architecture was very strong, as a result of contact between him and the Transvaal Group led by Rex Martienssen. John Fassler, who was to become head of the architecture school, had been a partner of Martienssen’s, and there were a number of modern movement buildings in and around Johannesburg designed by the Transvaal Group by 1945.

Early painting - "dredger in dry dock" : 1947

20th Century cinema, Johannesburg, RSA - architect : Norman Hanson :1940

But the effect on Pancho of this influence was mixed - while he admired Le Corbusier’s commitment to painting and the forms of his buildings, he was not attracted to the machine aesthetic of the ‘International Style’, which was based on a fallacious analogy with the production methods and functions of cars, aeroplanes and ships. Buildings were, and for the most part still are, one-off products, rooted to the ground, built by hand and growing organically over time. His Latin temperament responded more to the freer sculptural expressive forms of Brazilian architects like Alfonso Reidy and Oscar Niemeyer, the Mexican Juan O’Gorman, the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the buildings of Antonio Gaudí, and his own growing response to African art that he encountered – the painted and sculpted houses of the Ndebele tribe, and wood carvings from Mozambique. There was no great demand for mass housing, or building industrialisation, and the colonial history of South Africa and Mozambique had created a white elite who could afford houses in sprawling low density suburbs, while in the cities, high land values produced the need for luxury apartment blocks and multi-storey offices. In the Portuguese colonies the most blatant social injustices of ‘apartheid’ were avoided by the lack of an official colour bar and the system of ‘assimilados’, although this did not in the end prevent the social unrest and political and economic instability that forced the Guedes family to leave Mozambique.

House - Ndebele tribe, Transvaal, Republic of South Africa - photographed in 1978

A few of the Guedes collection of African masks

So after his arrival in Venice in 1952, Pancho found the pavilions showing Surrealist art, but the one that had the most impact on him was the Venezuela pavilion designed by a then unknown architect, Carlo Scarpa, a small white cubic structure with a dark interior, a black floor and red boxes with concealed lights illuminating small drawings by the architect Eric Mendelsohn. These were sketches for projects, sent to his fiancée in letters from the trenches, including sketches that became the extraordinary sculptural Einstein Tower. These tiny sketches, the ideas they embodied, and their presence here, led to Pancho’s conviction, developed in the course of his career, that architecture exists in the imagination, and grows in its reality and influence through its drawings, photographs, models and reproduction. A building is often unsatisfactory, compromised, and even if, for a brief while, it exists as intended, is soon changed, often demolished. Very many ideas and projects are never built but the essence that makes them architecture can be preserved, and now they can be created as virtual models, and experienced dynamically on the screen of a computer.

Guedes - House for Morena Ferreira, Beira, Mozambique - plan : 1973 Guedes - Swazi

Zimbabwe,Goedgegun, Swaziland - perspective : 1964

What happened to the hundreds of houses, hotels, apartment blocks, offices, schools, colleges, churches, clinics, factories, banks, restaurants, squares, housing layouts, that Pancho designed in Mozambique between 1950 and 1974, after the economic collapse, was that they gradually deteriorated, and some projects were unfinished. Families abandoned their houses, squatters moved in and maintenance everywhere was neglected. But nearly all are well documented, their drawings saved, and the products of his prolific output of this period can be visualised and reconstructed. A few intrepid travellers have since gone to Mozambique, found some of his buildings and have been astonished at the originality and visual quality of his designs, despite their condition, and this has led to projects to photograph and film what remains. The Centre Pompideau in Paris is starting to create a permanent archive of all his architectural work.

Guedes - 'Smiling Lion' apartment building -roof detail, Lourenço Marques : 1956 - 1958

Guedes - Simões Ferreira house, Lourenço Marques - 1954 -1956

The journey continued from Venice to Milan where he found the Triennale was on, and where he saw evidence of the growing interest in prefabrication, and he was fascinated by a cardboard dome by Richard Buckminster Fuller. He went on to Turin to collect a small Fiat 600 ‘monospace’ he had ordered as a more suitable car for his growing family. He had married Dorothy Phillips (Dori) after his 3rd year at University and by 1952 they had three children : Pedro, Verónica and Godofredo. While waiting for his car in Turin, he was particularly struck by the arcaded streets typical of North Italian towns and a feature of many mediaeval ‘new’ towns in Europe like the bastides of France. Then he drove down to Marseilles to look at Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, but he was not impressed with the way that the building functioned, which contradicted the arguments that dominated its conception: the children did not play on the rooftop play area, but on the ground by the entrance; the internal ‘streets’ were grim and dark and attracted no shops or social activities. What remained was the grandeur of its rough concrete architectural presence, like an inhabited ruin.So when he reached Barcelona, he was not really prepared for what he found there. He had seen some photographs by Man Ray of the chimneys on the Casa Milá and some details of other buildings by Antonio Gaudí. He remembered his Spanish great-uncle talking about Gaudí’s amazing work. He bought the best book on him published at the time which was in Spanish and illustrated with old faded black and white photographs. The full impact of seeing the buildings was enormous, and all the more so because he was already designing buildings that were more sculptural and freely expressive than anything else being created at that time. This was probably the most decisive influence on his subsequent work, reinforcing the direction he had already taken, and encouraging him to experiment even more boldly.

Antonio Gaudí - chimneys of Casa Milá - Barcelona.

The many designs that followed his return from Europe were often too unusual for his clients and a lot of them remained on paper. But many other clients had faith in him and gave him a free hand. The Leite Martins House, the Saipal Bakery and the ‘Prometheus’ apartment block were early examples designed before the European journey. He later built an apartment block next to his house and office which became well-known as ‘The Smiling Lion’. These buildings, characterised by spiky forms, complex curved sections and spaces, shell roofs, sculptural chimneys, integrating murals and sculpture were his most characteristic expression, which he called ‘stiloguedes’, and it was with these that he attracted international attention during the early 60’s when they were published in British and French architectural magazines.

Guedes - Leite Martins house, Lourenço Marques - elevations : 1951 -1952

Guedes - Four houses, Sommerschield, Lourenço Marques : 1952

Guedes -'Smiling Lion' apartment building, Lourenço Marques : 1956 -1958

From Barcelona he drove to Madrid to see the city and the Prado Museum and then on to Portugal to visit his family and to sit the examination for the certificate to practise in Portugal. During this journey through southern Europe he was seeing for the first time, the densely populated cities that were a complete contrast to the sprawling towns of Mozambique and South Africa. At first the impression was of extreme poverty and overcrowding, especially in Spain and Portugal, but over a period, he began to appreciate the richness of the architectural heritage and the values, both visual and social, of building on the mediaeval street layouts, where they had been preserved, as in Venice, Lisbon (Alfama) and Paris (Marais). He saw the way that the Marquês de Pombal and his engineers had taken the opportunity of the destruction of Lisbon by the earthquake of 1755, to sweep away the mediaeval street pattern and start afresh with an unimaginative grid plan on the flattened areas. By contrast, because it was on a hill, Alfama was less damaged and was rebuilt on the old Moorish and mediaeval street plan. In 1953 he found a poor and overcrowded community, buzzing with life, with trams unimpeded by car traffic. It functioned like a series of villages and was like that up until the 60’s.Over the years though he saw the area gradually change, but liked it so much that Dori and he bought an apartment house there in 1982, as a base in Lisbon when he was appointed professor at the Escola Superior de Belas-Artes. When Portugal joined the European Community, development money gradually increased the prosperity of the middle classes and car ownership increased enormously with consequent increases in the noise and congestion everywhere in Lisbon, but it became quite unendurable for the inhabitants of Alfama, to the point when a decision was made to restrict access by car into the area by a simple electronic control method. But prosperity and increased tourism also began to drive out the poorer residents and the small shops, workshops, cafés and restaurants that served them. Apartment blocks were renovated and became very desirable residences as other areas of Lisbon were turned to offices and businesses, and urban growth around Lisbon increased the daily commuting trip.

dos Clérigos church, Porto, Portugal - 2006

His journey then took him up to the city of Porto, which, unlike Lisbon, had been able to preserve its mediaeval city plan and many old buildings intact. It was there that he had to sit the examination at the Escola Superior de Belas-Artes to receive his certificate to practise. The exam lasted ten days and he was required to design a large hospital. His fluency and maturity as a designer made the test easy.His subsequent success as an architect was largely due to an unerring ability to solve the functional puzzles of a building program to meet the basic needs of its users, and to visualise how it would integrate with the three dimensional structure of volumes and spaces he had imagined. His approach to design is organic in that he is sensitive to the nature of the site, climate, solar orientation, local materials and building traditions, but he is not a functionalist, and does not let the program determine a form. He draws on an eclectic vocabulary and range of options and variations, derived in part from his open-minded ability to understand and absorb the best features of other architects’ work. He openly acknowledges the influence of others, but it is always transmuted into his own idiom and fused with site and program into an individual design. In his most original and personal work, he owes nothing to any other person or style, but imagines and creates entirely new forms.

Guedes - Salm house - Lourenço Marques - plan - 1963 -1965

Alfama, Lisbon. Portugal - 2006

Guedes - Almiro do Vale house, Lourenço Marques : 1964 -1966

After the experiences in Europe, fortified by his reading and studies, he went back to Mozambique with an enlarged vocabulary of forms. When he was unable to justify a pure ‘stiloguedes’ design, he created highly ordered but complex geometric compositions of rectangular volumes and spaces, which he called ‘Euclidean Palaces’. Examples are the Salm House, the Almiro do Vale house, the ‘House of the broken pediment’, and the Boesch house.

Guedes - Row Houses for the Co-op, Maxaquene, Lourenço Marques : 1953 -1954

After he had received his certificate, he travelled for a while in Portugal, seeing with adult eyes his cultural heritage of mediaeval and baroque churches and monasteries, art nouveau designs, tiled murals, and old towns and villages. His family had a farm near Viseu in the North, a small town whose main square he featured in a study of 100 squares he made during the 1980’s on his first sabbatical from the University of the Witwatersrand.Driving through the Portuguese countryside and villages left him with memories and images which surfaced later in a series of designs which were "parts of villages remembering other villages far away in my mother country". These groups of houses with pitched tiled roofs were cleverly massed to give the impression of vernacular unplanned growth which concealed their modern plans and provision for cars. At the time they were built, in the late 1950s, this type of housing design was unknown in Mozambique or South Africa. This love of the Portuguese countryside would, in 1972, lead to their buying a property in Eugaria, a picturesque village near Sintra. This consisted of 2 houses - one off the narrow village street, which he converted in 1980 into the ‘Eye House’, subject of an article by Tim Ostler on the website - and the other, an old farmhouse further up the hill, on which he is still working and where he lives now.

Guedes - 'Casal dos Olhos', Eugaria, Sintra, Portugal :1972 - 1990

Guedes upper house, Eugaria : 1982 - 2006

He took to the road again in late 1952, back to Barcelona via Madrid, to see more of Gaudí’s work. The impact on him can be judged by his return and the time he spent there, when he became more aware of the cultural context in which Gaudí worked - the ‘Modernisme’, or Spanish earlier equivalent of Art Nouveau with architects like Joseph Jujols, Dominech i Montaner. The urban context of these buildings was the Eixample, the extension to the old walled city, designed in 1859 by Ildefons Cerda, who was the greatest theorist of urbanism in the 19th century. His enlightened plan consisted of large squares of buildings surrounding gardens with wide tree-lined boulevards between the blocks. In 1953 the streets were still free of motor traffic, and he was very impressed with the scale, variety and character of the buildings within a disciplined plan which cut the corners of the blocks off at 45 degrees, increasing the spaciousness of the layout at the intersections.He returned to Barcelona many times over the subsequent years, finding it an inspiring city in every respect. Before this first visit he had already been involved with urban design in Lourenço Marques, during a period he had worked with Fernando Mesquita, an architect/planner influenced by the ideas of CIAM (Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne). Later on he would develop his own ideas for the planning of towns and express them through an imagined utopian archipelago, "Eclectica", first in lectures given when he was Professor at the University of Witwatersrand, and in Lisbon, and subsequently in articles following interviews he gave.

Antonio Gaudí - Casa Milá, Barcelona, Spain : 1905

His next stop on this European journey was naturally Paris, about which he had learned an enormous amount, and where many of the modern art movements he had studied had originated. He had been taught that Paris was a shining example of enlightened urban renewal under Baron Haussman, but found that he preferred the complexity and scale of the Marais to the grandeur and uniformity of the façades lining the boulevards driven ruthlessly through the mediaeval plan. It was quite clearly better than the deadly grid imposed on the centre of Lisbon, but behind the façades along the boulevards and squares, the quality deteriorated and the planning of Barcelona seemed to offer a much more interesting model. But Paris, and especially the Louvre, was a stimulating experience and even at that depressed post-war period there were many small galleries and bookshops where he browsed and bought a few prints and many books to take back. In one of them he discovered the work of Victor Brauner, who remains one of his favourite artists.Le Corbusier, based in Paris, was at that time the moving spirit behind CIAM, but younger architects were later to rebel against the dogmas and worn out pre-war ideas of the ‘heroic’ phase of the Modern Movement. Eight years later Pancho was invited to come to the inaugural meeting of Team 10, which was formed by a group of dissidents from CIAM : Aldo van Eyck, Alison and Peter Smithson, James Stirling, Jacob Bakema, Shadrach Woods, Georges Candilis, Alexis Josic and others. This first meeting was at Royaumont, near Paris in 1962, and was the start of a long association with Team 10. At these quite informal meetings, architects presented their work, which was discussed by the others. Pancho did not have a great deal in common with them, apart from his dislike of what CIAM represented. But he was always very well received, because they recognised the originality of his work, especially his architecture, and appreciated the clarity of his criticism which was, as always, delivered without giving offence. He felt, all the same, that he belonged to a different world. Most of the architects who attended Team 10 worked in a milieu terribly constrained by regulations, conservative demands for preservation and conformity to the character of existing buildings. They were much concerned with issues of social progress, of equality, repetition and the uniformity that came with industrialisation, and a building industry that distanced the architect from the process on site. They envied him his freedom to be creative and ability to carry out his projects free from official bureaucratic constraints. Another difference was the simplicity of building construction in Mozambique, and predominance of craft techniques, in which he could be closely involved with the execution, sometimes working himself on site, setting out or painting murals. He maintained his contacts with Team 10 members and there were meetings in London, Berlin, Lisbon, Barcelona, Perugia and some of them even travelled to Mozambique to see his work. Despite their differences, he learned something from them and their special guests, like Louis Kahn, that began to have an effect on some of the buildings he designed during the sixties. He coined the term ‘American Egyptian Style’ to describe some of Kahn’s work, in an article he wrote for ‘World Architecture 1’ edited by John Donat, and then went on to use the term for some of his own buildings with pyramidal roofs and formal symmetrical plans. Examples are the ’Yes House’ and the pyramidal kindergarten.

Guedes - Painting based on 'Smiling Lion' apartment section - 1982

Guedes - Waterford School, Swaziland, Site Plan : 1963 - 1972

Guedes - Hotel at Reuben Point, Lourenço Marques : 1952

Guedes - Salm House, Lourenço Marques - 1963 -1965

Guedes - 'Yes House', Lhanguene, Lourenço Marques : 1961 - 1962

After a fortnight, he drove on down through France and near Lyon, he had a dramatic accident when a lorry bumped him off the road and he ended up in hospital, not seriously injured, but worried that he was going to miss his ship back to Mozambique, at Venice. He discharged himself from hospital and found a hotel. The car was seriously damaged, but the owners of the lorry took responsibility for fixing it and sending it and its contents on to Venice later to be shipped to Mozambique. His life was punctuated by dramas, the greatest of which ended his most creative period in Mozambique, which lasted from 1949 to 1974, when the colonial government collapsed after a period of very confused strife and bloodshed. For 25 years he had designed and built an enormous number of buildings, a veritable city, working with just 2 draughtsmen, with much of his time spent on site, supervising the artisans crafting forms and details that were beyond their normal experience of building. Over most of this period he was creating sculptures in wood, helped by one carpenter and a wood carver. Many of these were related to the ‘stiloguedes’ buildings, some were models for imaginary temples or monumental totems, others followed themes that he was pursuing in his painting – fantastic boats, plants, animals and figures. By this time he had built up an enormous collection of books, African art, his own paintings, woodcarvings and drawings which filled two houses and apartments in the ‘Smiling Lion’. In the 1960’s he and Dori started a shop called ‘Pandora’ to sell fittings, old maps and books, but they wanted to keep so much of what they ordered and bought that the shop was not a great success, but the collection grew. When the political situation deteriorated, Dori sent their 9 year old daughter Catarina off to relatives in South Africa, and soon after, as the state of chaos in Lourenço Marques deepened, they hastily loaded up two lorries with the most valuable things and headed for the border. After many adventures, they reached safety, but with many possessions and all their investments left behind. Then began a new phase of their life.

Guedes - Group of 'boat' sculptures in front of early painting on the theme : 1958 - 1975

Central Lourenço Marques with several Guedes buildings - photographed in about 1965

The last stage of the first European trip was a worrying few days spent in a dazed state recovering from the accident in Lyons. Then he caught a train and arrived in Venice in time for his ship. He was not to visit the city again until 1963, and then in 1975, soon after the departure from Lourenço Marques, he was invited with a number of other artists by the Laboratorio Internazionale in Venice to participate in an urban renewal project. He made three proposals: a ‘wall of faces’ glass fountain, a series of sculptures called ‘sixteen weddings’, and two monumental heads entitled ‘Two Representatives of the People in Confrontation over Each Other’s Legitimacy’. His painting at this time was concerned with themes of political conflict and racial tension because of the democratic changes in Portugal and the conflicts in Mozambique and Angola. His projects aroused controversy amongst the other invited artists, who from their specialised niches, thought that as an ‘architect’ he was trespassing on their domain, and they could not fit his ideas into their notion of the contemporary definition of art. This project illustrated the way that Pancho could not see any distinction between his painting, sculpture and architecture. He and his son Pedro painted the monumental heads onto huge wooden panels, but the other projects could not be realised.

Guedes - 'wall of faces' model in chamfuta wood for glass fountain, Venice : 1973

Guedes - Painting for monumental two heads for Venice - 1974

His ship arrived in Beira and Dori, very worried about him, met him there, and they travelled together back to Lourenço Marques. He resumed his practice, now being able to sign his own name to his buildings. His head was filled with images and ideas. which nourished the subsequent most creative phase of his life. The work he had done by 1961, and his discovery and support for African artists like Malangatana, was being recognised internationally, and he received invitations to lecture and exhibit in Nigeria by Ulli Beier, editor of "Black Orpheus", and in Salisbury (now Harari) at a congress on African Art by Frank MacEwan, director of the National Gallery. There he met Roland Penrose, who invited him to talk at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. From then on he flew to Europe regularly to exhibit, lecture, attend meetings, buy books and travel.The dramatic departure from Mozambique in 1974 left the family almost penniless. But thanks to the almost legendary reputation Pancho had earned, he had received an invitation to take the vacant chair of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. From then on his creative energies were mostly redirected to building on his already extensive knowledge of urban design and history, and giving regular lectures. He continued to design houses and some projects for the University, and a few of them were built – the Cohen and Coleman houses for example and Sutton Close. He was a controversial ‘academic’, never hesitating to criticise the administrators in support of his own school and interests of his staff and students, and he was a popular and stimulating teacher. Working in a University gave him more opportunities to travel and he regularly received invitations to exhibit and give lectures in Europe and in the USA. In addition he was able to take a sabbatical in 1981 during which he went as visiting professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, and visited Mexico. In 1988 he used another sabbatical period to lecture at the Haifa Technion in Israel and visit Jerusalem and Egypt. He had been studying Portuguese Colonial architecture in Africa and went on an extended visit to India in the same year to study their colonial settlements, with funding from the Wits University Institute of Portuguese Studies. During this period he did a number of urban design projects, the most important of which was the replanning of the main city central business district in Johannesburg.

Guedes - Nurses Training College, Lourenço Marques :1964 - 1965

Guedes - Sutton Close, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, RSA - 1979

Guedes - Cohen House, Johannesburg, RSA : 1985

Just before he left Lourenço Marques, he plotted all his buildings and unbuilt projects on the city plan, and realised that he had designed enough to make up a small city, and this led to the conception of "Eclectica", a utopian archipelago, which is the fruit of years of reflection and experience on his many journeys in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and India, and all the research carried out during the 15 years that he was Head of the School of Architecture at Witwatersrand University. It is an imaginative synthesis of all the places that, from his experience, would provide a satisfying urban habitat, visually, socially and environmentally. He is realistic about the need for variety and a degree of conflict of ideas. He situates ‘Eclectica’ on an imaginary archipelago off the African coast, remembering perhaps the happy years he had spent as a child on the island of São Tomé e Príncipe between 1928 and 1931.

Guedes - City centre square project, Johannesburg, RSA - 1981

He had learned that the most satisfactory urban environments are the ones that have grown organically over centuries rather than designed at one time, so he invents a history and a prehistory for his islands, with ancient ruins, later settlements, and successive waves of colonists. His archipelago is the modern world in microcosm. He imagines an island called ‘Petrolia’, where oil is discovered offshore. The airport and business district are located on another island with hotels and an American military base, proving all the military protection needed. ‘Eclectica’ is the city on an island which over the centuries has attracted artists for its beauty of landscape, flora and fauna, where some of his own houses and projects are located, alongside buildings by others, adapted to the existing fabric of a historic plan. It is not an ‘ideal city’ - there would be a mixture of good and bad architecture, and buildings inherited from the past by anonymous builders. ‘Ruinata’ is a place where artists had a free hand to build unfinished fantasies.

His vision of this utopia has been expressed in partial form through many lectures and a few articles, but remains to be comprehensively documented and illustrated and would be the complete expression of his integrated view of art, architecture and urban design.

Cedric Green June 2006

Cedric Green was born in Mozambique, and qualified as an architect in 1960 at Natal University, when he first encountered the work of Pancho Guedes. After a few years working in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he emigrated to Britain, where he worked mostly on housing, taking time off to make sculptures in copper and steel. From 1970 he taught at many Schools of Architecture, developing novel methods for teaching urban design using models and role-playing simulations. While at Sheffield University in the 1970's, having already built three passive solar houses, he began serious research into bioclimatic architecture. After receiving a couple of prizes in international housing competitions, his architectural practice flourished during the 1980's specialising in community architecture, ecological design, and development of CAD methods for building modelling. After a period as visiting Professor at the School of Architecture in Lausanne in Switzerland, he moved to France in the 1990's to live and work, making prints and sculptures, writing and creating websites. He is currently building an ecological bioclimatic house in the Dordogne.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Iba N'Diaye | Senegal/France

I do hope that the Dak'Art 2008 Festival makes a huge song and dance over Iba N'Diaye this year.

Personally, I wanted to write about the importance of this artist, now in his 80th year. Iba N'Diaye is a National hero in Senegal and a vital part of contemporary African art internationally.

I would like to present those interested in contemporary Africa art with the works of this wonderful artist, Iba N'Diaye - the theme of this work is Jazz and Blues....

Here is his biography for all to read.

Iba N'Diaye (b.1928)


Iba N'Diaye was born in 1928 in Saint Louis, Senegal, which, like all port towns, is a place where many races and cultures meet. At the age of fifteen, when he was a student at the Lycée Faidherbe, he painted film posters for the town's two cinemas. This early familiarity with cinematographic images would eventually influence his painting techniques.

By 1949 he was living in Paris, where he studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and frequented the city's jazz clubs. But it is the sculptor Zadkine to whom he owes his discovery of traditional African sculpture. Soon he began to travel around Europe, visiting art museums with his pencil and sketchbook in hand.

However, he did not forget his native country, and it was Senegal's independence that led him to return home in 1959. He enthusiastically accepted an invitation to participate in the creation of the Ecole des Arts du Senegal, where his first personal exhibition was held in 1962, and where he remained as a teacher until 1966.

With the goal of asserting a "black identity", the organizers of the Contemporary Art Exhibition at the first "Festival des Arts Negres" (Dakar, 1966) favored the Primitivist movement, which Iba N'Diaye had tried in vain to oppose. Once again, he realized that it was preferable for him to leave his native country. It was in Paris, at his studio in the "Atelier de la Ruche", as well as at his country home in the Dordogne in southwestern France, that Iba N'Diaye began his series of 10 oil paintings on the theme of "Tabaski" (the ritual sacrifice of a lamb). These paintings were exhibited in France in 1970 at the Sarlat Festival, and again in 1974 at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens.

In 1981, Iba N'Diaye showed his work in New York for the first time. The catalogue accompanying this exhibition, which concentrated on the theme of jazz, contains a preface written by Lowery Sims, then curator of the Modern Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 1987, the Museum für Völkerkunde in Munich organized the first major retrospective of Iba N'Diaye's works in Europe. This exhibit then traveled to the Africa Museum of Berg en Dal in Holland in 1989, and to the Tampere Museum of Modern Art in Finland in 1990.

Iba N'Diaye's temporary move to a studio in the Montmartre area of Paris, and his travels back and forth between the Dordogne region in southwestern France and the 15th arrondissement of Paris, could have distanced him from his native Africa, but instead led to a resurgence of memories of his childhood and adolescence.

In 1996, the Museum Paleis Lange Voorhout in The Hague hosted "Iba N'Diaye: Painter between Continents", an exhibition organized by Franz Kaiser, head curator at the Gemmentemuseum, also in The Hague. This show presented significant works illustrating N'Diaye's Thematic Series, which developed over the forty-year career of an artist who is a model of tenacity.

In January, 2000, Iba N'Diaye began the new millennium with an exhibition in Saint Louis, his birthplace, which he had left fifty years earlier. This show illustrated his objective: to succeed in constructing a personal and authentic style of painting that bridges the continents and draws on the rich reservoir of global culture.

"To paint, for me, was to discover what others did before learning, and to understand the language of the profession I was entering." - Iba N'Diaye, 2002.


by Franz Kaiser and Okwui Enwezor

- For full details contact the Publisher below -

A new book on Iba Ndiaye entitled Primitive? Says Who? - Iba Ndiaye, Painter Between Continents was brought out in January 2002 by renown french publisher, Adam Biro. This well illustrated monograph -- in French and English -- focuses on Iba`s new work, from 2000-2001. The books` authors are Okwui Enwezor, Curator of The Short Century and Director of Documenta XI, and Franz-W Kaiser, Director of Exhibitions at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.

The book`s dust jacket sums up the it`s orientation:
Contemporary art is in fashion, particularly if it comes from faraway lands like Africa. But who decides what is art? Who controls the quality of artists? According to which criteria? It is clear that, almost a half-century after decolonization, in order to be recognized, Africans must in one way or another produce art that is primitive, meaning naïve, picturesque, lacking in technique, colorful, tribal, exotic.
The European inventions of primitivism and the noble savage are difficult to overcome. Iba Ndiaye sees himself as neither noble nor savage. He sees himself simply as a painter. One can only be a painter through one`s relationship with the history of painting -- by borrowing, rejecting and innovating in order to build a personal style. Ndiaye knows this, and he rejects the dubious ideology of the clean slate. Like any true artist, he sees painting for what it is: the means of finding his own personal identity, which lies between Africa, where he was born, and Europe, where he lives.

- soft-cover
- 22 x 28 cm
- 40 images, 30 in colour
- 64 pages
- ISBN : 2-84660-332-2
- On Sale : January 2002
- price : 18 €.

Adam Biro publishers
28 rue de Sévigné, 75004 Paris
Contact :
Aleksandra Sokolov
Fax : 01 44 59 87 17
Mobile : 06 08 32 10 39

Aimé Césaire Poet and Politician Dies at 94

Photo by Chester Higgins Jr.


April 18, 2008

Aimé Césaire, Martinique Poet and Politician, Dies at 94

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (AP) — Aimé Césaire, an anticolonialist poet and politician who was honored throughout the French-speaking world and who was an early proponent of black pride, died here on Thursday. He was 94.

A government spokeswoman, Marie Michèle Darsières, said he died at a hospital where he was being treated for heart problems and other ailments.

Mr. Césaire was one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated cultural figures. He was especially revered in his native Martinique, which sent him to the French parliament for nearly half a century and where he was repeatedly elected mayor of Fort-de-France, the capital city.

In Paris in the 1930s he helped found the journal Black Student, which gave birth to the idea of “negritude,” a call to blacks to cultivate pride in their heritage. His 1950 book “Discourse on Colonialism” was considered a classic of French political literature.

Mr. Césaire’s ideas were honored and his death mourned in Africa and France as well as the Caribbean. The office of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said Mr. Sarkozy would attend Mr. Césaire’s funeral, scheduled for Sunday in Fort-de-France. Students at Lycée Scoelcher, a Martinique high school where Mr. Césaire once taught, honored him in a spontaneous ceremony Thursday.

Mr. Césaire’s best-known works included the essay “Negro I Am, Negro I Will Remain” and the poem “Notes From a Return to the Native Land.”

Born on June 26, 1913, in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, Mr. Césaire attended high school and college in France. In 1937 he married another student from Martinique, Suzanne Roussi, with whom he eventually had four sons and two daughters.

He returned to Martinique during World War II and was mayor of Fort-de-France from 1945 to 2001, except for a break from 1983 to 1984.

Mr. Césaire helped Martinique shed its colonial status in 1946 to become an overseas department of France.

He was affiliated with the French Communist Party early in his career but became disillusioned in the 1950s and founded the Martinique Progressive Party in 1958. He later allied with the Socialist Party in France’s National Assembly, where he served from 1946 to 1956 and from 1958 to 1993.

As the years passed, he remained firm in his views. In 2005 he refused to meet with Mr. Sarkozy, who was then minister of the interior, because of Mr. Sarkozy’s endorsement of a bill citing the “positive role” of colonialism.

“I remain faithful to my beliefs and remain inflexibly anticolonialist,” Mr. Césaire said at the time. The offending language was struck from the bill.

Despite the snub, Mr. Sarkozy last year successfully led a campaign to rename Martinique’s airport in honor of Mr. Césaire. Mr. Césaire eventually met with Mr. Sarkozy in March 2006 but endorsed his Socialist rival, Ségolène Royal, in the 2007 French elections.

George Hughes | Gatherings

George Hughes | Ghana/USA

Originally from Ghana, George is one of the leading Ghanaian artists in the world and lives in Buffalo with his wife and daughter and works as an art lecturer at New York State University. Recently he produced a book of his new works entitled Gatherings.

This is a short slide show of artwork by George Hughes | Ghana/USA

Here is a message I received this week by email from the artist:

Hello friends,

My new catalogue containing a selection of recent paintings is available at Blurb!

Entitled: Gatherings

Please preview and place your order if you're so inclined...

It's a book release, and you're invited -- come check out my new book at Blurb:



Monday, 19 May 2008

Lothar Bottcher | Glass Artist | South Africa

Lothar Böttcher | September 2006

Lothar Böttcher, Ignus Gerber & Justice Mokoena

“The lighter side”

In Lothar Böttcher’s sculptures glass becomes the focal point. Through glass the artist aims to manipulate and in a sense capture light. He attempts to make the viewer aware of the surroundings within the glass. Creating lenses, he offers a point of view (abstractly), changing perspective and observation of the contiguous space.

Böttcher asks whether we really observe or understand our role in the world around us due to filters like beliefs and personal experiences. Everybody has a unique point of view. The variables are infinite.

“Without light there is no subject. Without subject (particles and waves) there will be no light. Call it the “Ubuntu” of the Universe. There’s a funny side to existence if one thinks of everything as black and therefore invisible, until there’s light! Until it happens…” – Ignus Gerber

“Sound is capable to create various environments transporting the listener into a virtual world. Sound cannot only be heard, but can be felt and even seen, creating all kinds of possibilities. Just close your eyes and see the light within”- Justice Mokoena

Mokoena is strongly influenced by his ancestral background and native language, Lobedu. Since his youth he has been fascinated by various sounds from all walks of life. The artist attempts to use these sounds to communicate to others his perspective in life and a unique cultural background.

Source |

Antonio Tomas Ana | Etona | Angola

Artist Etona on Exhibit at the Altharetta Yeargin Museum

The work of Antonio Tomas Ana, better known as Etona, was featured in an exhibit held November 4 - 12 at the Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum in Houston, Texas in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Angola`s independence. The artist who was present at the opening is well known within his native Angola and has made a name for himself in the international world of art as well. His work has been exhibited in varied venues including the Park of the National Museum and Gallery in England, and the Museum of Africa in Cuba. He has been honored by having his work selected for the Best of African Painters Collection and was awarded The International Prize of Fine Arts by the Aznar Association in Spain in 2005.

The work on display at the Altharetta Yeargin Art Museum was made up of the two major media in which he chooses to work, sculpture and painting. His sculpture is primarily in wood with a few smaller pieces in stone while his choice of painting media is acrylic.

His paintings are of moderate size and show a consistency in style, color and composition from one canvas to another. The majority of canvases feature a thinly painted background made up of areas of flat color divided by narrow lines that allow the white of the canvas to show through. Using an asymmetrical composition a group of human figures may be painted into one of the lower corners of the painting. These will often be monochromatic and, in contrast to the flat background, are carefully modeled to show the depth and shape of the figures although facial features are often omitted. The subjects of these paintings are people from his country in traditional garb engaged in every day tasks such as transporting baskets of produce on their heads or a mother with her children. But these scenes of everyday life are small in relation to the background and are always placed in one corner or another as though they are not really the actual subject of the painting.

In viewing these paintings one feels an emptiness as though the artist has deliberately under painted the richness of his country through choosing to use flat unmodeled and undetailed backgrounds. To add to this impression of emptiness, content is moved to one corner or side with little color or definition provided. In speaking with the artist and reading his statements about his art, we know the pain and sadness he feels about the exploitation of his country and his people. These deep feelings of grief seem well illustrated in the choice of subject matter and composition of his paintings.

Etona`s sculpture, on the surface, presents a different story. In its elegance and beauty it seems a celebration and homage to the long and rich heritage of African sculpture. Most are made of hard woods and are worked to show a high polish and glow. On some of the pieces he has left areas of roughness created by nature or insects or accident and in the same piece may be a beautifully sculpted head with detailed hair and features.

He seems a virtuoso with wood. The pieces may twist and writhe in much the same way as branches grow on trees but at the same time they take on human forms that fit with the movement. Some pieces are completely naturalistic in detail while others are left deliberately unfinished or without detail as though the artist wishes the viewer to stop and ponder on the reason for this inconsistency. Some very interesting ones even reflect themes of African art of the past but these have been brought into the twentieth century with new subject matter and detailing. But, as in his paintings, the sculpture too expresses Etona`s concern for his people and his country. Perhaps none more so than the two small stone figures that seemed to represent strong figures trying to emerge into their own identity much as the country of Angola is trying to do as it gets past its years of being exploited by the strong world powers and becomes a nation with its own identity..

Dr. Phyllis Knerl Miller
Professor Emeritus
University of Houston

Eria Sane Nsubuga | Uganda

The Source: The Weekly Observer

A Piece of ‘Sane’ Art

For a young artist in Uganda, Eria Sane Nsubuga is doing well. Recently, the 28-year-old held his fourth solo exhibition sponsored by Alliance Française and held at their premises in Kamwokya.

Nsubuga does paintings, sculptures and illustration print-making in books or magazines. The exhibition attracted an enthusiastic crowd that included French Ambassador Jeremy Garrancher who bought himself a bicycle made of brass.

The jovial Nsubuga began commercial art in 1999 at the age of 20. Nsubuga's work isn't the abstract art that is hard to understand.

He says he's inspired by nature and human activity and most of his paintings and sculptures are of flora and fauna.

"People here want to buy art pieces that are overtly explainable. It's European customers that want the complicated art work. That's why my art is plain and simple."

Gospel music is also part of his inspiration as he reiterates his strong attachment to church work among the youth in Entebbe where he lives. Knowing this, it isn't surprising that he plans to release a gospel music album this year.

"I have been learning the guitar and I am mastering it now. It's for this reason that I want to sing too," he laughs.

Classical music, Bebe and Cece Winans keep him company late into the night in his workroom at home as he thinks up new ideas and draws.

Presently, Nsubuga has two European art collectors who buy his pieces and re-sell them. Also, he has made himself a website and on which his pieces can be seen and ordered for.

Author John Vianney Nsimbe

Pieter Hugo | South African Photographer

Pieter Hugo: Portraits
30 May - 5 July 08
Open Eye Gallery is proud to present the first substantial UK exhibition by South African artist Pieter Hugo.

Self-taught photographer and film-maker Hugo makes documentary projects in locations around the world but has a particular interest in developing countries. This exhibition focuses on three bodies of work, all of which use portraiture to call into question our understanding of who we are and how we see others.

Hugo's portraits of people with albinism were created between 2002 and 2005 as part of a wider project about people whose appearance is in some way unusual or unfamiliar. Albinism (from the Latin albus, "white") is an inherited condition characterized, usually, by a lack of melanin pigment in the eyes, skin and hair. Hugo's closely-framed, uncompromising portraits explore our responses to physical difference and the meanings we attach to the terms 'black' and 'white'.

Hugo's portraits of judges were made in 2005, during the final months of the longest-running court case in Botswana's history. A group of Bushmen had accused the government of illegally evicting them in order to exploit the diamond and mineral potential of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In a landmark judgement, the three-member High Court (which included Justice Unity Dow, shown here alongside two of her colleagues) ruled that the Bushmen were entitled to live and hunt on their ancestral lands.

'Gadawan Kura' - The Hyena Men is a study of an extended family of minstrels and healers from Abuja, Nigeria. The troupe stages performances in dusty streets with their hyenas, snakes and monkeys; they also sell fetishes and herbal medicines. Hugo writes that he was fascinated by "the hybridisation of the urban and the wild, and the paradoxical relationship that the handlers have with their animals - sometimes doting and affectionate, sometimes brutal and cruel."

Autograph ABP and Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool are proud to present

Pieter Hugo: Portraits
30 May - 5 July 08

Private View: Thursday 29 May 08

Open Eye Gallery and Autograph ABP are proud to present the first
substantial UK exhibition by South African artist Pieter Hugo. This
exhibition focuses on three bodies of work, all of which use
portraiture to call into question our understanding of how we view

Pieter Hugo: Portraits was produced with the support of Michael
Stevenson Gallery, Capetown.


Friday 30 May, 2pm In Conversation: Pieter Hugo and Indra Khanna, Open
Eye Gallery, Liverpool
Wednesday 11 June, 6.30pm: Still Cinema 4: free screening of 'Stander',
Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool
Saturday 21 June, 2pm: Perspectives on Pieter Hugo: Raimi Gbadamosi,
Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool

Special Advance Notice

Artist Talk

Wednesday 4 June, 6.30 - 8pm, Rivington Place, London
Entry is free, but space is limited and booking is essential. No block bookings please.

If you have Booked, collect your ticket on the day from Reception from 5.30pm - 6.15pm.

Tickets not collected by 6.15pm will be handed out to people on the

Waiting List.
Please see map on

Images :
Steven Mohapi, Johannesburg, 2003
Londiwe Wendy Mkhize, Pietermaritzburg, 2005

El Anatsui | Ghana/Nigeria

El Anatsui is an artist that has been championed by the October Gallery in London - for over a decade and also by the British Museum. His works are featured in Chris Spring's book "Aganza Afrika".

El Anatsui's work is about recycling, materialism, consumerism and in his most recent works looks at the versatility of metal, subverting our common held belief that metal is stiff and rigid and converting it into pliable, even a soft material.

Between Heaven and Earth sees El Anatsui mounting his work at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Here is a short piece about El Anatsui work:

Chris Ofili | The Art of Social Inclusion

Chris Ofili an artist that needs no introduction who became famous with his elephant dung featured at the Sensation Exhibition at the Royal Academy in the 1990's. The first English artist to source his material from London Zoo, Regents Park, London.
Chris Ofili is amongst the artists featured in Chris Spring's book "Aganza Afrika".

What is interesting about Chris' work is that it is not voyeuristic but more participatory; similar to the idea of Byzantine art of the 12th Century where the work was produced in order to include the audience Chris is making the transition away from the Renaissance view, which leads the audience to view works as if through a window and consequently becomes more dictatorial. In many ways Chris' work has a social inclusion about it and can be enjoyed by all.

Here is a short interview with Chris Ofili about his work entitled, The Upper Room.

Ingrid Mwangi Robert Hutter

Ingrid Mwangi and her husband Robert Hutter work together as video artists and performance artists. Based in Germany their work plays with strong visuals and intense sounds, which is a powerful mix.

Ingrid is originally from Kenya and moved to Germany when she was a teenager. Ingrid and Robert often travel to Kenya and try to encourage artists to take up the ideas of video art as a form of self-expression. Their works are featured in Chris Spring's new book "Aganza Afrika" and their contribution to contemporary Africa is yet to be truely recognised but the issues that they have tackled over the past decade have included race, sex and relationships and their work is extremely important to the development and understanding of contemporary Africa.

Here is a piece produced in March 2008 as part of the Khoj Studio Live.

Yinka Shonibare MBE

Here are a series of interviews with Yinka Shonibare MBE shot by the BBC. Yinka's work is featured in the new book, "Aganza Afrika" by Chris Spring and more of his work can be seen at the Stephen Freidman's Gallery.

Born in London in the early 1960's he and his family moved to Lagos, Nigeria where he spent his formative years. He has an interesting perspective on contemporary Africa and wonderful ideas of a West African aesthetic as woven through African material often produced in Asia and the Netherlands. His work is full of irony and questions the idea of what exactly is contemporary Africa. Although Yinka is regarded
as part of the British Art Movement his works are paramount to the greater understanding of contemporary Africa today.

Flower Time Interview 1

Flower Time Interview 2

Here is a short 10 minute film about Yinka's work produced by Alice Standish found on Youtube.

Marlene Dumas with Massive Attack

Marlene Dumas is probably the best known South African artist and her work is featured at the MoMA in NYC and the Tate Modern in London and also in many other important Museums around the world.

Here is an interesting video combining Massive Attack and Marlene's work, which works really well.

Many thanks to ART POPULUS from YouTube for producing this video. Wonderful work!!

Julie Mehretu | International Artist

Here is a short video showing the artist Julie Mehretu one of my favorite artists of all time. She won the genius prize in the States and once you see and understand her work it's not difficult to see why.

Originally from Ethiopia, Julie now lives and works in NYC and is a one of the leading artists in the art world. Her works are featured in Chris Spring's "Angaza Africa".

William Kentridge

Here are a series of animations by William Kentridge of South Africa entitled Felix in Exile and Journey to the Moon:

Journey to the Moon

Friday, 16 May 2008

Charly D'Almeida and Edgar Allan Poe

L'Oracle by Charly D'Almeida France/Benin

I feel this painting by Charly D'Almeida works excellently with the poem, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. Charly is originally from the Republic of Benin, the centre of African voodoo and this aspect of mysticism is central to Charly's early works.

If you would like this poem read to you then hear this poetry on YouTube: otherwise read below.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
[First published in 1845]

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

The October Gallery

What an amazing evening last night? I met Chris Spring from the British Museum, Elisabeth of the October Gallery and Yinka Shonibare MBE.

Yinka has such kind eyes and thick dreadlocks. I stood in front of him, nervous and not knowing what to say....beside him was a beautiful woman who cared for him so compassionately, they looked the best of friends. He wore a fashionable blue pinstriped suit and calmly walked around the gallery whispering to his partner. I wanted to say so much but ended up talking rubbish. There must have been about 1,000 people there last night. The actor from Holby City who plays the doctor opened the show with a speech about Ghana and his childhood.

Being in the crowd I was taken aback about how gentle, generous and attractive everybody looked. The room was filled with a mixed bag, some black some white, some old some young but we were all there to support the idea of contemporary Africa. This was a little gathering of those that wanted to see some form of change in society; a tiny pocket in London just around the corner from Holborn tube.
There I stood amongst them all uncomfortably umming and rrring. Wish you could have seen me. Over the coming weeks I would like to introduce the artists that Elisabeth and Chris have chosen to represent the continent of Africa but as for now just take a trip to the October Gallery and see for yourself.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Angaza Afrika

Artist Educator led creative workshops for Early Years to KS3
May 19th – June 30th

This exhibition brings together major works by 12 artists who best represent the innovative and dynamic artistic practices across the African continent and the African diaspora and launches Chris Spring’s book, Angaza Afrika ( translated from the Swahili to mean ‘Shed light on Africa’ or ‘Look around Africa’), published by Laurence King. Amongst others, the exhibition will include works by Romuald Hazoumé, El Anatsui, Rachid Koraïchi and Owusu-Ankomah.

Our creative artist-led workshops will be a unique opportunity for pupils to explore the diversity of Africa and challenge ideas of what ‘African art’ is. By discovering a variety of mediums and materials, which fuse traditional and contemporary artistic practices, pupils will create their own responses, whilst investigating issues of culture, identity and stereotypes.

Workshops take place at the gallery from 10.00am—12.00pm at a cost of £70 per group, or £180 for schools booking three classes.

FREE Seminar with Romuald Hazoumé and Chris Spring
Friday 16th May, 4pm – 6pm

Creative professional development for teachers: Art and Global Citizenship

This seminar is part of a three year collaboration with RISC that aims to create online teachers’ resources for key October Gallery artists. Each term, a free seminar for teachers held at the October Gallery will explore the background of one artist, with ideas for ways to lead classroom work linking the art with Global Citizenship.

Speakers include; Romuald Hazoumé, one of Africa 's leading visual artists and Chris Spring, author of Angaza Afrika and curator of the African Galleries at The British Museum.

This seminar is FREE but places must be booked.
It will take place at the October Gallery. There is a maximum of 25 spaces. Funded by LaSER/GD

For further information and booking your workshop or seminar

Please contact Elizabeth Fraser-Betts, Education Officer, for more details of workshops, to make a booking, or to discuss how the sessions can support and enrich learning through the National Curriculum.

Tel: 020 7242 7367 (Mondays - Thursdays)