--- SEARCH ---
Learning Chinese
Learn to Cook Chinese Dishes
Exchange Rates
Hotel Service
China Calendar

Hot Links
China Development Gateway
Chinese Embassies

Exhibition Offers Art with a Congo Beat

A large-scale show of African art is on at the National Museum of China.


Entitled "Congo Kingdom Art: From Ritual to Cutting Edge," the exhibition, which runs until October 9, includes more than 300 relics from the collections of 15 museums and collectors around the world.


In addition to relics, it also features Western works of art in different African styles by important artists, including Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) of France, as well as modern works by African artists from the Congo Basin.


The curators of the exhibition are Henry Lu, manager of the Ethnic Art and Culture Co Ltd of Hong Kong, who is of African origin, and Marc Leo Felix, art historian and curator with the Brussels-based Congo Basin Art History Research Center.


After very successful showings at the Guangdong Museum of Art ending in March and at the Shanghai Art Museum from April to June, the exhibition moved to Beijing, opening last Tuesday at the National Museum, to the east of Tian'anmen Square.


The exhibition, curated by researchers with high academic qualifications, seems more interesting than the large-scale exhibition on ancient Rome also on at the museum, which was organized by the museum itself.


The Congo show and its catalogue can serve as models for Chinese art curators to learn from.


Its curators have arranged things to clearly define the evolution of Congo art from its use in religious ritual to its entry into Western art markets.


A contemporary touch is added by the inclusion of Western and modern works of art.


It's the first time for an original piece of art by Paul Gauguin -- a painted wooden figure -- to be shown in China, said curator Felix.


Along side the relics, photographs of the African households and tribes from which the artifacts were collected, and of ritual ceremonies in which the artifacts were used are also on display.


The relics of the Congo Kingdom were collected from the Congo Basin in western central Africa, just below the equator, where the mighty Congo River empties into the Atlantic Ocean.


The kingdom, called "Congo," ruled from at least the 14th century to the mid-20th century.


It has only limited connections with the two modern countries known today as the Congo Republic, with Brazzaville as its capital, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with Kinshasa as its capital, as the Congo King had his capital in Mbanza Congo and the ancient kingdom's main provinces were located in the country today known as Angola, said Felix.


"Contrary to what is happening all over the world today, in the Congo Kingdom 'visual art' was not made 'for art's sake.' Congo art objects were, in fact, utilitarian objects or tools used for ritual purposes, hence the name 'ritual art'," he said.


The majority of the objects displayed are wooden sculptures, mostly of human figures.


They were used to convey visual messages to the people, as there was no written language in the kingdom. The art objects conveyed messages that were understood by all members of society, he added.


The non-literate cultures of the Congo Basin and of other parts of Africa contributed something new to Western modern art, as their artwork broke the constraints imposed by classical proportions and stressed solid form and inner rhythm, said Lu.


Many art movements, including Fauvism, Impressionism, Dadaism, Constructivism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism were all inspired by the tribal art of Africa, he said.


"My emotions have never been more deeply stirred than when I was suddenly confronted with the sublime beauty of sculptures executed by anonymous artists of Africa," Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), once said.


However primitive African art has been changing ever since the tribes first traded with the Portuguese, who later established colonies on the continent.


The exhibition includes two watercolors and a poster created by African artist Djilatendo in 1931. They are believed to be the first works of art done on paper in the Congo Basin.


Works by avant-garde African artists, which have been welcomed at modern Western art biennales, are also on show.


"It's interesting and shocking to see so clearly how globalization has impacted ancient art forms," said Hu Xin, a visitor to the exhibition.


Lu said they brought the exhibition to China as part of its world tour because they believe there is a similarity between the two ancient civilizations.


"I have lived in Hong Kong for a long time, and I know that when some Chinese hear mention of Africa, it conjures up images of cannibalism, black magic, human sacrifice and famine," said the curator.


"They don't realize the Africans and Chinese share certain fundamental beliefs and traditions, such as respect for their ancestors and a belief in spirits, and even certain elements of art," he added.


(China Daily July 12, 2004)


UNESCO to Raise US$10 Mln for Natural Sites in Congo
China to Enhance Cooperation with the Republic of Congo
Chinese Worshipped by Africans 600 Years Ago
Peacekeeping Mission Ready to Go
Print This Page
Email This Page
About Us SiteMap Feedback
Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68326688