The world has changed an unthinkable amount in the 250 years since Captain Cook embarked the first of his famous voyages to the Pacific. Cook’s world contained thousands of beautiful idiosyncratic arts and traditions, many of which have sadly been lost in the intervening years. The 21st century has seen an explosion in popularity in so-called Tribal Art, once the exclusive preserve of specialists and museum curators, but far more than other art, the authenticity of the piece is paramount. Tribal Art London, which is returning to London for the 11th time from September 5th-8th, was the UK’s first and remains the only specialist event for collectors of tribal art.
Bryan Reeves, the co-organiser of the fair, has been dealing tribal art and adornments he uncovered from across a vanishing world for over 25 years. Over the 11 years of it’s existence Tribal Art London has become one of the key nexuses for tribal art, with collectors from around the world travelling to participate. Rather than simply focusing exclusively on buying and selling, the show also contains talks and presentations that makes the art movement a living, breathing thing. In an interview with ARTKHADE in 2016, Reeves summarised the show as “a cultural fair. Our exhibitors cover all fields of tribal art around the globe, and we have a well-developed conference programme, offering debates in fields as wide as culture or ethnography, the aim being to increase understanding of tribal art without contenting ourselves with merely being a strictly commercial fair.”
This year’s fair will focus on both the 250th anniversary of Cook’s voyage by spotlighting oceanic art, supported by exhibitions at the British Library and the Royal Academy as well as African art tied in with the hosting the launch of the astonishing African Twilight, the latest volume in photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher’s visual recording of African culture. Beckwith and Fisher’s collaboration is the result of 15 years worth of work and the 846 page collection, is a searingly powerful vision of a world that is already disappearing into legend. Of the astounding rituals and ceremonies, religion, and culture that feature in the book, over 40% of the images represent cultural practices that have died out in the decade and a half of the making of the book. They aim for their exhibition at Tribal Art London to be both a source of learning and inspiration for young people. The exhibition includes 85 photos and 10 short films cherry picked from the source materials, taken from across 45 African countries.. Dr Donald Johnson Director and founder of Institute of Human Origins, says of their work “Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher are not only truly remarkable photographers, but their dedication to preserving for all time the dazzling diversity of African Ceremonies is unparalleled. Their celebration of African cultures will forever serve as the most compelling and passionate portrayal of the splendour of human creativity from the very continent that gave rise to all humanity.”
Among other fascinating items on display, Reeves will be exhibiting a notable £620 fine bronze equestrian figure ring made by the Dogon people of Mali, crafted first half of the 20th Century. He is also exhibiting a rare £2400 Luvale mask, made in the Zambia and Angola border region. Reeves partner in organising the fair, Adam Prout will be exhibiting a 19th century Kris board depicting a British redcoat equestrian figure, made in the 19th century, and a Jewellery Box made in Shri Lanka in the 18th/19th century. Other items include a ceremonial female figure from Bathurst Island, North Australia, exhibited by Finette Lemaire, a shrine figure with four heads from West Nepal supplied by Louis Nierijnck, and a female dinka corset from the 19th century made with glass beads, cowrie shell, and textile, included by KezhiaOrege.
There will also be tickets available to buy in advance for a series of lectures taking place at the fair, including Jonathan Hope on Indonesian Art and Link textile traditions, discussing the focus on the importance of these cloths to traditional islanders, as well as the process of their manufacturing. Also appearing will be Janie Lightfoot on the African Headwear, Conservation and Display, Roberto Grisci on Indigenous bronzes and alloys from the interior delta of the Niger River from the ninth to the fourteenth century.
New exhibitors at Tribal Art London this year are Clive Rogers, a London based source of antique textiles, carpets and artwork, and who will be exhibiting fine tribal textiles and works of art, and SisiTatu, a family run business specialising in ethnic material culture.
They join regulars such as London dealer Kenn MacKay, who has wide-ranging interests but with a special focus on American Indian art; Specialist in South African artifacts Jeremy Sabine; London based David Malik with tribal objects, focusing on the martial culture of Central and Western Africa.Rob Temple’s collection of African, Asian and Oceanian artifacts will also make an appearance, alongside Emmanuel Amelot of Belgium, Frans Faber from the Netherlands, Raccanello Tribal Art and Ian Stewart Shaw.
The fair is in support of EdUKAid, a small charity based in southern Tanzania that brings education to disadvantaged, rural children. 40% of children drop out of school before they turn 10 years old. Since 2003 EdUKAid has affected 14,000 children’s lives.
5th September: 10.30 am – 7 pm
6th: 10.30 am – 9 pm
7th: 10.30 am – 7 pm
8th: 10.30 am – 6 pm
Address: Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1
For more information visit: www.tribalartlondon.com