Thursday, 30 April 2015

Remembering Frank McEwen


Frank McEwen

Born: April 19, 1907
Died: January 15, 1994
Written for the Catalog of the opening of the Rhodes National Gallery by Frank McEwen Salisbury, Rhodesia, July, 1957
“Triumph of First Congress on African Culture” London Times, 1962
“The Dark Gift” Time Magazine, Sept. 28, 1962
A trip to Africa: Frank McEwen, Rhodesia and Shona Art, 1968 by Adele Aldridge

Obituary: The London Times – January 17, 1994

“Frank McEwen,OBE, Artist ,teacher, administrator, and the founding Director of the National Gallery of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) died in Illfracombe, Devon, on January 15, aged 86. He was born on April 19th, 1907.”

Bernard Matemera | Sculptor at work, Rhodesia – August, 1968

photo by Adele Aldridge

If ever a book is compiled of the good deeds of the white man for the black in the twilight days of colonialism, Frank McEwen’s name should be inscribed there – though his is a story beyond race and skin color. His life was devoted to the belief that the highest spiritual values lie enshrined within every individual, and that creating art can draw them out-and especially from the untrained.

Francis Jack McEwen grew up with a collection of West African art, much of it high quality, which his father had picked up as curios in the course of business trips there. He went to Paris in 1926 to study art history at the Sorbonne and the Institut d’Art et d’Archaeologie under Henri Focillon, who was a pioneer in the study of so called “primitive” art. Focillon was much admired by living artists and this led McEwen to friendships with Brancusi, Braque, Matisse, Picasso and Leger. He also absorbed the great respect of these artists for the teachings of Gustave Moreau, who had died in 1898 , and who believed in drawing out of people an art which was individual to themselves.

Focillon advised McEwen, with these interests, to be a man of action in art, rather than a lecturer. McEwen decided to be a painter, quarreled with his family, was left with out a sou, and set out on his wander years, working his way around the museums of Europe by menial work at power stations. He spent most of 1928-1929 working in Flanders, and painting in his spare time – wild flowers were his specialty, since they sold quite well: he exhibited back in London at the Goupil Salon and the New English Art Club.
McEwenBirdReturning to Paris, McEwen, with Focillon’s help, apprenticed himself to an art restorer, working on Louvre pictures, and soon had a studio in Paris and his own restorer’s business. In 1939 he moved to Toulon and started an art workshop, strictly for the untrained, on Gustave Moreau’s lines. After the fall of France in 1940 McEwen sailed by fishing boat to Algiers, believing that the French colonies might hold out.

Photo: Mary and Frank McEwen
He was soon disillusioned but his contacts with the Resistance and the French government-in-exile enabled him as a fluent French speaker to join Allied Forces Headquarters after November 1942 as a civil assistant to General Innes Irons. In January 1945, while the war was still on, he joined the newly-created British Council. Among the first questions that arose for it was that of an appropriate exhibition of British art for France, something that the chauvinist French art world of that day would not laugh at. McEwen’s solution was a show of some of Herbert Read’s child art collection, largely gathered from Marion Richardson’s Moreau-type experiments in teaching – and ahead of French practice at the time. McEwen selected about 60 of Read’s thousand or so, with an eye to the school of Paris point of view – some like little Matisse, Bonnards, even Picasso and Lager’s: such non-national art was an enormous success, even tempting Brancusi out of his studio as well as Picasso and Bonnard.

After this good start for Anglo-French relations, London inflicted a show of modern British artists which was a dismal failure. Then McEwen’s introduction of Henry Moore, who had been over to Paris to stay with him three times, to Picasso, Braque, Brancusi, and the leading French critics and museum administrator, led to the show of Henry Moore in Paris at the end of 1945.

Shows of Turner (McEwen had helped put Turner watercolors between sheets of blotting paper at the Tate after the flooding of 1927) Blake, Sutherland and Chadwick followed. McEwen’s belief that the way to support British art in Paris was to show French art simultaneously in London, worked well: Picasso and Matisse were shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1945, Braque and Rouault in 1946 and Leger and Dufy in 1947. (The hundreds of letters of protest to The Times about the Picasso show caused much merriment to Picasso when McEwen translated them to him.)

Around 1952, McEwen felt that the School of Paris was getting trivial in its content. He had been taking more interest in African culture, and when the idea of founding the Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, Rhodesia, was formed, McEwen was consulted. He went out to Rhodesia for a month in 1954 for consultation. He found no art going on there, black or white, to impress him: and anyway, the intention of the museum’s board was to stock it with European old masters. African art was not to be considered.

McEwen’s past experience suggested to him that a gallery would only thrive on exchanges of art – that there had to be some sort of local art going on. When a director was subsequently sought – before the building of the gallery – McEwen applied, encouraged by Picasso and Herbert Read, and to his surprise was selected. He asked for a year’s grace, resigned from the British Council, and sailed his beloved boat from Paris down the Seine to Mozambique via Brazil and round the Cape.

Thomas Mukarobgwa – Sculpture, “Monkeys”
photo by Adele Aldridge – August, 1968

Sitting on the low foundations of the future National Gallery as it was being built, McEwen met Thomas Mukarobgwa, who talked to him about the Shona tribe, their religion, their dance, and their music. Since the authorities insisted that all the staff of the gallery be ex-policemen, McEwen got Mukarobgwa in as a cleaner, and gave him, and his friends who followed him, drawing and painting materials. Thus an unofficial workshop was formed in the basement. After about a year, the vigorous “Afro-expressionism” of the paintings was spontaneously superseded by carving in local stone – from soft soapstone to hard serpentine and verdite.

Joram Mariga was one of the first to attempt this and McEwen encouraged him and others to work from the Shona culture to find their themes and expression, discovering to his delight that the untrained carvers worked in the same way as Picasso, spending sometimes many days “dreaming” a sculpture complete in detail in three dimensions in the mind and then executing it at great speed.
There was no interest from the white community, though when the workshop began to sell abroad via Lord Delaware, David Stirling and others, it was officially accepted by the museum board. Picasso continued to ask for photographs of the best work: and a trickle of international art experts to the gallery began. The first show of Shona sculpture in London was in 1957.

The National Gallery workshop thrived. There were shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1968, at the Musee Rodin in Paris in 1971 and at the ICA in London in 1972, but political tensions in in Rhodesia were such that Frank McEwen resigned in 1973. Thereafter he lived on his boat in the Bahamas (with trips to Brazil, where he had become interested in possible ancient links between South American pre Colombian , and African art) for ten years. Finally he returned to Devon and settled in Illfracombe, not far from his childhood home.

Sculptures by Shona artist
photo by Adele Aldridge, August, 1968

During the 1970’s troubles the Shona sculptors found survival difficult, and the new nation of Zimbabwe, founded in 1980 , had other priorities first. But as fortunes revived a little, the art world began to be shown, and take more notice of, Shona carving (which became broader-based as carvers from other tribes joined the workshops). Worldwide exhibitions became more frequent: film crews began to beat a path to the cottage door of this almost forgotten figure in the late 1980’s; and when 35 tons of stone sculpture were placed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in a major exhibition of Zimbabwean stone sculpture in 1990, the exhibition had to be limited to the work of 36 major carvers working in Zimbabwe.

McEwen himself was content to put all this behind him and feed his beloved wild birds as they blew into the cliff-top window of his ex-coast-guard cottage. When pressed, his hope for the future was tinged with his fiery concerns about artistic “quality control” and the dangers of ideological suppression of the world of spirit which sustains African art.

McEwen was appointed OBE in 1963. He is survived by his wife Ann, and a son (Francis Wood McEwen Aldridge) from a previous marriage.
© copyright 2007 Adele Aldridge, all rights reserved.

Father of Zimbabwean Abstraction | Post Modernism

Brighton Sango

Portrait of Brighton Sango

Brighton Sango was born in 1958 in Guruve, Northern Zimbabwe. He remained here, in the beautiful rural surroundings of his home. Considered to be an important member of the Second Generation because he was the first to break from traditional sculpting within the Shona Community. Thus, his sculpture was a source of interesting debate as to the future of Zimbabwean sculpture.

Brighton’s career as a sculptor began at the art village of Tengenenge. An introspective individual, Brighton felt overwhelmed by the distraction created by the multitude of sculptors in the village. Therefore, his length of stay was cut short as he decided leaving would help him create his own style. His sojourn at Tengenenge was less than a year.

Once Brighton left the village his individual style began to emerge. While at Tengenenge he was learning under great sculptors like Bernard Matamera. Like the dawning of many great artists, Brighton was heavily influenced by his teacher and echoed his mentor’s approach to sculpting. The earliest of Brighton’s sculptures are proof and this solidifies his wise choice in branching out to further establish himself as an individual.

Brighton is quoted saying that "After my experience at Tengenenge I felt I had to change. My work was being too influenced by others. I now work with the idea that every day is new and that your work must reflect this."

Brighton Sango broke from the tradition through abstracting the subject in a way that is quite similar to Picasso’s cubism. Although, Brighton was in no way introduced to or influenced by anything in the Western World. The art critic Lionel Philips is quoted saying "... Sango, who is the only Zimbabwean whose work is mainly abstract, appears as a follower of 1930's cubism but he has had, in fact, no exposure to Western art".

Yet, the Western World is encroaching on the values and mindset of the traditional Shona Beliefs. This influence has caused a break from the traditional themes to a more ordinary theme of everyday life. The sense of humanity of which they speak through their sculpture is as valuable as those of the traditional Shona sculptor.

Many sculptors have broken from the traditional Shona Sculpture standards set by first generation sculptors such as Sylvester Mubayi, John Takawira, Nicholas Mukomberanwa and Bernard Matemera. These progressive artists have done so through various means. One of which is simply studying materials other than the stone to express their ideas. Artists doing this, other than Brighton, are Tapfuma Gutsa, Dominic Benhura and Arthur Fata. Another approach the artist’s have taken is by presenting portraits of life that are removed from traditional the Shona guide lines. Artists breaking from tradition through this approach are Agnes Nyanhongo, Norbert Shamuyarira and Eddie Masaya. Brighton was a leader in both approaches.

Tragically, in August 1995 Brighton Sango took his own life. His work will continue to speak with great eloquence to local and international audiences through group and specific exhibitions, as well as to herald possible new directions for the future of Zimbabwean stone sculpture.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Songy Kifwebe Mask | Democratic Republic of Congo

Songye Kifwebe Mask | Pollitt Collection

Tribe:               Songye
Origin:             D.R.Congo
Materials:       Wood, Pigment 
Size:                 45cm high x 22cm wide
Age:                 Mid - Later20th Century
Est:                  £200,000 to 350,000

Part of the POLLITT COLLECTION of African Art

Songye Kifwebe Male mask  from Democratic Republic of Congo formally Zaire.  A stunning styled example of a mid 20th Century Songye Kifwebe male mask with a large crest and protruding eyes and mouth. Kifwebe masks were made for the Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe association, a type of policing society that provided a means of controlling social behaviour and neutralizing disruptive elements within the group. These masks appeared at the installation and death of a chief, and at the initiation rites of young men as well as a whole range of occasions that included punishments, warfare and public works. There is great variety and symbolism within the various Kifwebe masks. More than thirty different mask names have been recorded. Several have animal names while other masks have names of illnesses like leprosy or names denoting natural phenomena. For the most part Kifwebe masks no longer function to maintain social control among the Songye except in the South Eastern regions bordering on Luba territory.

A male Kifwebe mask can be identified by its large comb or crest. The size and height of the crest, in comparison to other masks danced in the same performance, indicates seniority or higher rank and the relative spiritual power of the dancer.

During the 16th century, the Songye migrated from the Shaba area, which is now the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their history is closely linked to the Luba’s, to whom the Songye are related through common ancestors. Having waged war against one another for a long time, the Songye and Luba later formed an alliance to fight the Arabs. Songye origins are shared with the Luba through a common mythical Songye ancestor known as Kongolo, who can be traced through lineages to the 16th century. The linguistic traditions of these neighbouring peoples are intertwined as well. It is believed that the founders of the Songye emerged from the lake region in Shaba province to the south in the heart of the Luba homeland. Highly stylized masks called the Kifwebe are famous Songye tribal art. These masks have grooved pattern on the face and is a common characteristic. The white paint in the grooves symbolizes peace, light and the purity of the soul. Some mask adorned with brown, tan and blue symbolizes nature as positive force. The facial elements are associated with animals. Some mask appears to have the Black white stripes of a zebra. The nose in most instances seems to appear triangular and the mouth is always protruding and geometrically shaped – rectangular, square, half circle. The Songye tribe uses this type of masks during ceremonies, and at the funeral processions of important leaders. According to the Songye tribe, when certain individuals of the Kifwebe society wear the mask along with the costume and raffia beard they are believed to gain magical powers that can manipulate evil spirits. Despite its age and patina I believe this mask to be made for the collectors market.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


A Bakuba woman weaving a textile

Kuba Textiles

Kuba textiles are unique in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, for their elaboration and complexity of design and surface decoration. Most textiles are a variation on rectangular or square pieces of woven palm leaf fiber enhanced by geometric designs executed in linear embroidery and other stitches, which are cut to form pile surfaces resembling velvet. Women are responsible for transforming raffia cloth into various forms of textiles, including ceremonial skirts, ‘velvet’ tribute cloths, headdresses and basketry.

Raffia Cloth

In Kuba culture, men are responsible for raffia palm cultivation and the weaving of raffia cloth. Several types of raffia cloth are produced for different purposes, the most common form of which is a plain woven cloth that is used as the foundation for decorated textile production. Men produce the cloth on inclined, single-heddle looms and then use it to make their clothing and to supply foundation cloth to female members of their clan section. The cloth is coarse when it is first cut from the loom, so it is then pounded in a mortar, which softens it and renders it ready for the application of surface decoration, for which women are responsible. 


Many prestige weavings are dyed with twool, a deep red substance obtained from the heartwood of the tropical trees Pterocarpus sp. and Baphia pubescens. The Kuba believe that twool is imbued with magical and protective properties. When mixed with palm oil, it creates a pomade that is applied to the face, hair and body in a ritual context. According to oral tradition, the Pende were responsible for teaching the Kuba how to weave textiles; the Pende used twool to die their prestige clothes for death

"Bambala" Fabrics

Early 20th Century ethnographer Emil Torday acquired the oldest group of extant textiles from the Kuba tradition from the reigning king, Kot aPe. He called these textiles "Bambala" after the ruling clan. According to Joseph Cornet, these cloths were embroidered by Bushong women who were pregnant with the King's heirs for use in rituals surrounding the birth of the children.[5] They were also used as funerary regalia for noble women. The slight sculptural relief, elaborate geometric designs and technical cohesiveness of the textiles indicate that they were created by highly skilled elders. According to art historian Drake Moraga, "That Kuba embroiderers represented textile structures in their compositions underscores both the value of weaving to the culture and the prestige attached to women art." 

Women's Ceremonial Overskirts
Bushong woman's ceremonial
overskirt from the 20th century.

Kuba women traditionally wore overskirts during burial displays, but the overskirt was later adopted as part of many ceremonial ensembles worn during ritual dances, celebrations and masked performances. The wraparound skirt was secured with a belt and worn over a typically monochrome red or white embroidered skirt. These skirts exhibit a variety of design components; some skirts employ flat linear embroidery exclusively, while others employ this technique exclusive on the borders of the fabric, in which case the interior is executed with cut-pile embroidery, which lends the surface a "plush" appearance and feel. In the cut-pile embroidery technique, short raffia strands are individually inserted with a needle under one or more warps or wefts of a plain-woven raffia panel, then cut close to the surface at each end to produced the raised "pile." Textile weaving boasts a variety of motifs, such as guilloche interlace, which embroidery artists employed along with color, line and texture to yield varied compositions and visual effects. 

Pattern and Repetition: Kuba Textiles as they Relate to Mathematics and Music
Kuba cloth from early-mid 20th century, currently at the Honolulu
Kuba cloth from early-mid 20th century, currently at the Honolulu

Academy of Arts

Kuba textiles demonstrate a taste for interrupting the expected line; they compose through juxtapositions of sharply differing units and abrupt shifts of form.

Mathematician Donald Crowe has analyzed, in particular, the two-dimensional designs of Benin, Yoruba and Kuba arts and has shown the extent of the Africans' explorations into the formal possibilities of geometric variation. In their art, the Kuba have developed all the geometric possibilities of repetitive variations of border patterns, and of the seventeen ways that a design can be repetitively varied on a surface, the Kuba have exploited twelve. This exploration does not mean that they confine themselves to repetitive patterning in confronting a surface to be decorated.

The character of Kuba design accords with Robert Thompson's observation that some African music and art forms are enlivened by off-beat phrasing of accents, by breaking the expected continuum of surface, by staggering and suspending the pattern. In textile design, the Africans of the Kasai-Sankuru region do not project a composition as an integrated repetition of elements. Until recently, Euro-American attitudes on this point were so fixed that we called a textile design a "repeat," and expected to find a unit of identical imagery repeated over the surface. This kind of integration is not typical for African two-dimensional arts.

N.B. If we look at the Chief and what he is wearing and the designs he is seated on we would, if we were in the blazing sun, see him as floating above the earth. This is the power of the Kuba Designs.

Let Us Push These African Design Ideas To The MAX.

Here are some new works by Joe Pollitt from the UK, inspired by Kuba Designs from the Congo and Central Africa including Uglorious Ugandans. Here we see ideas that thread mathematics, knot theory, universal symbols that appear all over the world and the origins of African magic being introduced globally but what are all these powerful messages trying to teach us?

Kuba Shoowa Textile Kasai Velvet | POLLITT COLLECTION

Stage 1 | Uglorious Designs

Stage 2 & 3 | Uglorious Designs

Stage 4 & 5 | Uglorious Designs

Stage 6 | Uglorious Designs

The designs when layered take us into a different dimension. A two dimensional design when miss matched and crossed over send our minds into a sense of flying, uplifting movement so we see above and below. When lives are lived outside rather than inside the use of light or daylight can be harnessed to improve the mental state of all. These designs are key as the wearer twist and turn and do so next to similar designs so our eyes are tricked into a sense of three dimensional imagery that has never been seen before. Human movement coupled with complex designs is a source of visual alchemy. This is the true magic of Art and yet again coming out of Central Africa including Uganda.

Let us look at this from a Ron Eglash perspective of mathematics and the use of fractals at the heart of rural African village planning. 

Let us pick up on what Luke Dunn stated about the similarity of the Dogon people of Mali, they are well know to be the great mathematicians and astrologers with an in-depth knowledge of the cosmos. Their mapping of Sirius B is stuff of legends - Dogon People of Mali.

Dogon Designs

This lecture by Dr Van Sertima is enlightening and goes into areas of Africa that we are discussing with great depth and is a very useful resource for those interested in this area of intellectual debate about the importance of mathematics, design, primitive thought that is process even in today's standards and echoes much of what we have previously discussed.

*N.B. These are interesting articles sent to us by Joanne Muwanga.


The Ishango Bone: Evidence of the Congolese Invention of Mathematics

By Robin Walker

Mathematics was born in Central Africa at least 25,000 years ago.  The evidence comes from the Ishango bone, a prehistoric tool handle.

It was unearthed by archaeologists working in the Ishango region of Congo on the shore of Lake Edward. Jean de Heinzelin of Belgium's Royal Institute of the Natural Sciences discovered it in the late 1950s. Originally thought to have been over 8,000 years old, a more  sensitive re-dating by Alison Brooks of George Washington University has established that the bone tool is an astonishing 25,000 years old.

We would do well to ponder over this date. Civilisations as we know them did not exist. Africans had already developed fishing cultures by then and had already dug the world's first mines. They also began the observation of the heavens. Outside Africa, much less has happening. It must be remembered that the period of which we speak  was at least 22,000 years before the first Greek cities, the crowning achievement of the Europeans. This period was 20,000 years older than the first Middle Eastern kings. Even in Africa, where civilisation began, Ishango was an achievement. This artefact is at least 16,000 years older than the construction of the Great Sphinx  of the Giza desert, the crowning achievement of the African people of the Nile River.

So what is so special about this bone? On the tool are three rows of notches, two of which add up to sixty. The number patterns represented by the notches have been analysed by many scholars, most notably by Professor Claudia Zaslavsky, a European-American mathematician. She demonstrates that the number patterns show doubling, addition, subtraction, prime numbers and base ten. The patterns have also been analysed by brilliant and scholarly Charles Finch, one of Black America's best intellects.

The first row of patterns on the bone shows three notches carved next to six, four carved next to eight, ten carved next to two groups of five, and finally a seven. The numbers 3 and 6, 4 and 8, and 10 and 5, are believed to represent the process of multiplication by 2. Row 2 shows eleven notches carved next to twenty-one notches, and nineteen notches carved next to nine notches. This is thought to represent 10 + 1, 20 + 1, 20 – 1 and 10 – 1. Finally, row 3 shows eleven notches, thirteen notches,
seventeen notches and nineteen notches. 11, 13, 17 and 19 are the prime numbers between 10 and 20. A prime number can only be divided by itself and by 1 to produce a whole number.

The early mathematician(s?) responsible for the Ishango bone therefore understood multiplication, addition and prime numbers. Moreover, two of the rows add up to sixty. Row 2 consists of 11 + 21 + 19 + 9 = 60. Row 3 consists of 11 + 13 + 17 + 19 = 60. Our leading writer on ancient African science, Charles Finch of the Morehouse School of Medicine, believes that this represents an understanding  of base 60. This is, incidentally, the concept on which modern clocks and watches are based. For example, on a modern clock 60 seconds = 1 minute, and 60 minutes = 1 hour. Finally, the centrality of numbers ten and twenty for the calculations in row 2 and row 3, suggest an early understanding of base 10. This is the basis of the  decimal system of counting, the very one that we use today. For example, on a modern decimal ruler 10 millimetres = 1 centimetre, and 10 decimetres = 1 metre.

It is heartening to see that information about ancient African mathematics inspires people today. In England, for example, Elizabeth Rasekoala, a Manchester based chemical engineer, established the Ishango Science Clubs early in 1997. These clubs were part of an initiative by her charity The African-Caribbean Network for Science & Technology to promote mathematical and scientific excellence among Black school children in various  British cities. Their impact has already been felt.

We may never find out who the Congolese mathematician(s) was/were who carved the number patterns on the Ishango bone, but their list of distinctions are many. They presented the world's oldest known counting system. They were the first known people on the planet to present multiplication, addition, subtraction, prime numbers, base 10 and base 60 (if Charles Finch is correct). They did this sometime around 23,000 BC, that is 25,000 years ago! It is sometimes suggested that many Black school students are failures at mathematics and in the sciences. It is also suggested that teacher racism, broken families and the lack of role models are valid explanations for this shabby state of affairs. In all honesty, do these excuses stand up when Africans invented the subject 25,000 years ago?


Ancient African Mathematics

Source: Taneter |

Africa is home to the world's earliest known use of measuring and calculation, confirming the continent as the birthplace of both basic and advanced mathematics. Thousands of years ago, Africans were using numerals, algebra and geometry in daily life. This knowledge spread throughout the entire world after a series of migrations out of Africa, beginning around 30,000 BC, and later following a series of invasions of Africa by Europeans and Asians (1700 BC-present).

Measuring and Counting

Lebombo Bone (35,000 BC)

The world's oldest known measuring device, the "Lebombo bone
The oldest mathematical instrument is the Lebombo bone, a baboon fibula used as a measuring device and so named for its location of discovery in the Lebombo mountains of Swaziland. The device is at least 35,000 years old. Judging from its 29 distinct markings, it could have been used to either track menstrual or lunar cycles, or used merely as a measuring stick.

It is rather interesting to note the significance of the 29 markings (roughly the same number as lunar cycle, i.e., 29.531 days) on the baboon fibula because it is the oldest indication that the baboon, a primate indigenous to Africa, was symbolically linked to Khonsu, who was also associated with time. The Kemetic god, Djehuty ("Tehuti" or "Toth"), was later depicted as a baboon (also an ibis), and is usually associated with the moon, math, writing and science. Use of baboon bones as mathematical devices has been continuous throughout all of Africa, suggesting Africans always held the baboon as sacred and associated with the moon, math, and time.

Front and rear of Ishango Bone in the Museum of Natural Sciences, Brussels
Ishango Bone (20,000 BC)

The world's oldest evidence of advanced mathematics was also a baboon fibula that was discovered in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, and dates to at least 20,000 BC. The bone is now housed in the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels. The Ishango bone is not merely a measuring device or tally stick as some people erroneously suggest. The bone's inscriptions are clearly separated into clusters of markings that represent various quantities. When the markings are counted, they are all odd numbers with the left column containing all prime numbers between 10 and 20, and the right column containing added and subtracted numbers. When both columns are calculated, they add up to 60 (nearly double the length of the lunar or menstrual cycle).

A Gebet'a carving on the base of an Aksumite tekhen (stela), courtesty of Indech

Rwandans playing Omweso, a more advanced version of Gebet'a
Gebet'a or "Mancala" Game (700 BC-present)

Although the oldest known evidence of the ancient counting board game, Gebet'a or "Mancala" as it is more popularly known, comes from Yeha (700 BC) in Ethiopia, it was probably used in Central Africa many years prior. The game forces players to strategically capture a greater number of stones than one's opponent. The game usually consists of a wooden board with 2 rows of 6 holes each, and 2 larger holes at either end. However, in antiquity, the holes were more likely to be carved into stone, clay or mud like the example from Medieval Aksum, shown at right. More advanced versions found in Central and East Africa, such as the Omweso, Igisoro and Bao, usually involve 4 rows of 8 holes each.

Fractions, Algebra and Geometry

A copy of the so-called "Moscow" papyrus in "hieratic" text, with a clearer rendering below in "hieroglyphs".
"Moscow" Papyrus (2000 BC)

Housed in Moscow's Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the so-called "Moscow" papyrus, was purchased by Vladimir Golenishchev sometime in the 1890s. Written in hieratic from perhaps the 13th dynasty in Kemet, the papyrus is one of the world's oldest examples of use of geometry and algebra. The document contains approximately 25 mathematical problems, including how to calculate the length of a ship's rudder, the surface area of a basket, the volume of a frustum (a truncated pyramid), and various ways of solving for unknowns.

"Rhind" Mathematical Papyrus (1650 BC)

Purchased by Alexander Rhind in 1858 AD, the so-called "Rhind" Mathematical Papyrus (shown below) dates to approximately 1650 BC and is presently housed in the British Museum. Although some Egyptologists link this to the foreign Hyksos, this text was found during excavations at the Ramesseum in Waset (Thebes) in Southern Egypt, which never came under Hyksos' rule. Written by the scribe, Ahmose, in the "Hieratic" script, the text reads as follows:

"Accurate reckoning for inquiring into things, and the knowledge of all things, mysteries...all secrets... This book was copied in regnal year 33, month 4 of Akhet, under the majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Awserre, given life, from an ancient copy made in the time of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nimaatre. The scribe Ahmose writes this copy..."

The first page contains 20 arithmetic problems, including addition and multiplication of fractions, and 20 algebraic problems, including linear equations. The second page shows how to calculate the volume of rectangular and cylindrical granaries, with pi (Π) estimated at 3.1605. Tere are also calculations for the area of triangles (slopes of a pyramid) and an octagon. The third page continues with 24 problems, including the multiplication of algebraic fractions, among others.

A page from the so-called "Rhind" Mathematical Papyrus in "Hieratic" text.

Timbuktu Mathematical Manuscripts (1200s AD)

Timbuktu in Mali is home to one of the world's oldest universities, Sankore, which had libraries full of manuscripts mainly written in Ajami (African languages, such as Hausa in this case, written in a script similar to "Arabic") in the 1200s AD. When Europeans and Western Asians began visiting and colonizing Mali from 1300s-1800s AD, Malians began to hide the manuscripts in basements, attics and underground, fearing destruction or theft by foreigners. This was certainly a good idea, given Europeans' history of stealing and/or destroying texts in Kemet and other areas of the continent. Many of the scripts, such as the one shown below, were mathematical and astronomical in nature. In recent years, as many as 700,000 scripts have been rediscovered and attest to the continuous knowledge of advanced mathematics and science in Africa well before European colonization.

A famous example of a mathematical and astronomical manuscript from medieval Timbuktu

Friday, 10 April 2015

Forbidden Medicine by Ellen Brown

Source: Amazon

This is the true story of a man who cured himself of a near-fatal cancer after conventional medicine had mutilated and then abandoned him. He spent the next thirty years helping others with the disease. In the struggle to keep his clinic open, he faced raids and robberies, a near-fatal beating, a kidnapping, and a prison sentence many called justice gone wrong. The details of his therapies, and the history and vicissitudes of the non-traditional health care movement that his life personifies, are woven throughout his story. While politicians debate how to impose Modern Medicine on us all, this story needs to be retold.


Jimmy Keller has helped hundreds of people, a truly great and compassionate human being who has been persecuted, beaten near death and attacked for 20 some years because he healed cancer naturally. What an incredible irony. Millions of Americans have died from cancer in the last 20 years, yet here we have a man who can put about 90% of people (who have not been treated with chemotherapy/radiation) into lengthy remission using natural non-toxic therapies, but he is attacked and imprisoned for saving lives. Why? -- Gavin Phillips, Highly Recommended Books,

Keller's story highlights the sharp divide between orthodox and alternative/holistic approaches. Five stars. -- Cancer Monthly, Best Picks, 2005

The need for alternative viewpoints and a broader spectrum of analysis is widely needed, and is fulfilled in Forbidden Medicine. At a stage in the evolution of mankind in which we need to pool all efforts towards a better understanding of the healing process, Ellen Brown's writings prove to be a valuable contribution. -- Carlos Warter, M.D., Ph.D., author of "Recovery of the Sacred," "The Soul Remembers," "Who Do You Think You Are."

The story of Jimmy Keller, a purveyor of formulas said to cure cancer, and a purported "quack," is a story every American should know, and every cancer patient should take to heart. The cancer statistics speak for themselves -- "the war on cancer" is a travesty. -- Irene Alleger, Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, August 2001

About the Author

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as a litigating attorney in Los Angeles. She is the author of 11 books, including the bestselling "Nature's Pharmacy" co-authored with Dr. Lynne Walker. Her latest book is "Web of Debt" (2007, 2008), on the Federal Reserve and the money system.

Customer Review

It always struck me as odd that one of the so called "cures" or inhibitors of cancer was poison (chemotherapy). Why would you want to poison your body in order to get healthier? "Forbidden Medicine" confirmed my suspicions and put me on to a more logical path. Jimmy Keller, while not a medical doctor, appears to be gifted in not only detecting cancers, but in eliminating some and putting others into remission. His use of Tumorex to shrink tumors has been an effective natural medicine and is a non-toxic cancer treatment. After reading "Forbidden Medicine" and given the decision of traditional over non-traditional and non-toxic therapies, there is no doubt in my mind that I would choose the latter. Read the testimonials alone, at the end of the book, and you decide for yourself.

It is a travesty of justice that Jimmy Keller is in jail, while many could be benefiting from his knowledge and the positive results of his treatment. Ellen Hodgson Brown, lawyer and author, has brought to light the injustice of Keller's sentence and has revealed the more sordid side of the pharmaceutical companies and the American Medical Association's attempts to block alternative medicines to treat cancer.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Shona Sculpture

Joram Mariga | 1927 - 2000


The career of Joram Mariga is inextricably linked with the beginning of Zimbabwean stone sculpture movement.


Born of artistic parents in 1927, Mariga used to watch his father and brother carve wood, and his mother make open-fired ceramics. Experimenting with wood carving at first, he moved onto soft stones such as Steatite, but later discovered colourful, harder stones with which to work and became committed to this new material. Others, on seeing his work, asked to be taught the skill and his influence gradually spread.

It was essential to Mariga in the early days, to return to close contact with Shona customs and the significance of the natural world.

His knowledge of the early days ensures that he remains a powerful example to artists today, amongst whom he is regarded with affection and respect, being referred to as the Father of Zimbabwe Sculpture.
McEwan stated ‘The sculptural expansion developed in only 34 years.  To give a true example, among others arriving from different parts of the country came Joram Mariga. He was not the first to come to the workshop, but one of the best…He brought me a little milk jug carved in soft stone. I realised this was an English milk jug for an Englishman who loved his tea!  I asked if he could make a head.  The head came, made also for an Englishman, in the style of airport art as acquired by tourists.  “If you made a figure for your own family or your ancestors?” I asked.  “Oh, that would be different.”  The figure came, this time of pure African concept – the enlarged head, seat of the spirit, a frontal static pose, a visage staring into eternity with formally posed arms and clenched fists.  It was pre-Columbian in nature, as if a spirit image applied to stone could create similar results in spite of a difference of race, place and time.”
Joram died in December 2000 aged 73 years old after a car accident.

Untitled by Joram Mariga

Stone: Springstone

ZimSculpt are selling this sculpture on behalf of Maud Mariga, the late Joram Mariga’s wife. We can confirm this is an original Joram sculpture as it has been on display at Maud and Joram’s House for years. There are further pictures of this sculpture available, including pictures of Maud with it. ZimSculpt will not take any commission for this sculpture, in respect for the late Joram Mariga.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

From Egyptian Sexuality to Modern Women Pleasing Themselves. Female Nudes from Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.


After watching the Egyptians let us move into our present Modern with Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele

Contributions by Alessandra Comini, James T. Demetrion, Johannes Dobai, and Thomas M. Messer
Published in 1965
124 pages


This publication brings together the work of two Austrian artists—Gustav Klimt and his former student Egon Schiele. Although independent in their style and depiction of their subject, common threads are manifest in the oeuvre of both artists. The two share a certain anxiety and preoccupation with the erotic, yet stylistically Klimt's work is formally ordered and decorative while Schiele's work is unforgiving in its brutality. This exhibition focuses specifically on the output produced late within Klimt's career, while approaching Schiele's work from a retrospective standpoint. The catalogue discusses each artist separately and includes a chronology, essay, and an illustrated exhibition checklist, providing an engrossing insight into the work of two distinctive artists who can be credited with catalyzing the transition from Art Nouveau to Expressionism. When considered together the vibrancy and singularity of each body of work is made evident.

Where Klimt is ornamentally decorous, Schiele is often indecorously expressive. Klimt's meticulously structured mosaic compositions are opposite in concept and execution from Schiele's sure and daring linear scheme, as are Klimt's subtly balanced tonal effects when seen in juxtaposition with Schiele's fauve and eventually expressionist use of color. Klimt strives through formal means to attain an order that, not unlike Mondrian's, reduces spontaneous and individual components to a collective validity. Schiele, in contrast more like Klee, transcribes highly personal insights which then assume the power of evoking common experiences. Above all, Klimt, despite his current relevance to modern art, must be seen as a late exponent of an historic style, whereas Schiele raises to the most intense pitch the newly acquired awareness of 20th century man. Together, Klimt and Schiele signify an end and a beginning, and at one poignant moment their adjoining forms point simultaneously backward and forward to comprise the past and future in a fleeting present.

This is the documentary about the first for The Lady in Gold - An Austrian National Treasure - Stolen by the Nazis.