Saturday, November 6, 2010

African beads

Earlier this week, after completing an errand, I got to spend a couple of hours at the Speed Museum in Louisville, where a new exhibit singled out five recent acquisitions in different varieties of art.  One was a ceremonial tunic and cap that were made for a Yoruba king in Nigeria in the first part of the 20th century, and subsequently worn by his grandson at his coronation in 1961.

I often walk past old textiles, on my way to something that might be more intellectually exciting, but I paused in front of this one because of the magnificent beadwork.  The sleeves of the garment are commercial striped velvet, but the body is totally covered in seed beads, as is the cap, which features a little 3-D horse.  I was pleased both because the garments are so beautiful and because they are presented as art masterpieces, not fiber art masterpieces.

The next day I visited my friend Marti who had just returned from a safari in the Serengeti, and saw one of her souvenirs, a warthog executed entirely in beads and wire -- the wire was taken from poachers' traps and the animals were sold to benefit wildlife conservation efforts.

Seeing the three pieces so closely on one another's heels brought a smile to my face.  Both of the artists made totally believable little creatures out of the simplest and humblest of materials, both 2-D and 3-D.  And I was reminded that you can arrive at the same place, at the same time, from very different directions.

1 comment: