Tribal Art London is the UK’s premier collectors’ event in the field of ethnographic culture and indigenous tribal art. This year the Fair opens 4-7 September 2019 at Mall Galleries, London SW1 with a Preview on Tuesday 3 September. Now in its 12th year, TAL 2019 takes the theme Mother, Muse and Maker and brings together more than 20 international dealers; each a reputable specialist in fine, original purpose works of art drawn from all corners of the globe. Every item offered for sale is chosen for its quality and authenticity.
Tribal art, be it African, Oceanic or South American, centres on performance and ritual. Objects that go with these pursuits, however, are tied into the ritual of life: birth, puberty, marriage, and death. Tribal art at first glance seems male-dominated, but the contribution that women have played as muses and makers is undeniably important. This year, Tribal Art London sets out not only to explore the history of women within the tribal world, but also to discuss the role they now play in the tribal art market as dealers and collectors.
The ‘Mother’ figure is seen in almost every tribal African society and its meaning besides the maternal can also signify the protection and growth of a tribal society. A saying from the Luba people of Democratic Republic of Congo is that ‘kingship is a woman’, meaning that to be a good ruler you must look at the traits of women.
Whilst feminine beauty is depicted though some exhibits such as the Punu mask from Gabon, it is not exclusively focused on aesthetics but also harks back to important female founding ancestors.
In the creation of tribal art, gender roles are strict. Throughout primary societies around the world there is a tendency for men to create works out of hard objects such as wood or metal while women have focused their creative talents on softer materials such as hides, fibres, and clay. This year TAL will organise a series of tours around the fair including a focus on textiles by women and the role of adornment in tribal culture. The annual TAL Catalogue will contain articles covering the role of females in tribal societies including the importance of carved hairstyles in Sowei masks, and the roles of women in Zulu society.
With six female dealers exhibiting, TAL will also look at the women who have shaped and continue to influence the world of tribal art in the UK. Through a series of interviews, we delve into what it is like to be a female dealer and collector in an otherwise male-dominated industry.
A newly published book, Maternity: Mothers and Children in the Arts of Africa by Herbert M. Cole will be available from Charles Vernon Hunt. It explores the theme of motherhood across the continent and over time, with a focus mostly on sculptural representations, and on mother/child sculptures in particular.
Tribal Art London is an important focal point for international and UK collectors. It is renowned for offering an exciting diversity of works for sale with prices ranging from the low hundreds to over £20,000. Tribal Art London attracts dealers, art institutions and private buyers from across the world.
Entry to the Fair is free: for information visit www.tribalartlondon.com. An invitation-only Preview is held 3-9pm Tuesday 3 September; the Fair opens 10.30am daily from Wednesday 4 to Saturday 7 September.