Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Nineteenth Century in Africa

Yoruba figure carvings
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

Instead of the usual landscape illustration, this painting is a diorama of typical 19th century Yoruba carvings.

The Yoruba, a large ethnic group found in parts of what are now Nigeria and Benin, created iconic art works in many mediums including wood carving.

The carvers generally used omo, iroko or mahogany.  The work was influenced by religious ritual, myths, regional perspectives, local history and, of course, the specifications of wealthy Nigerian patrons.  By the mid nineteenth century, the practice of slavery had created an African Diaspora through which Yoruba concepts and style were exported to the Western world.

Also, during the Colonial period, a new genre of carving developed in Africa, targeted to appeal to ex-patriates and visitors. For example, depictions of Queen Victoria, as in this diorama, sold well to Europeans as well as British ex-pats especially at the time of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.