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African sculpture art on show in Shanghai
Updated: 2018-02-23 08:10:37
( China Daily )

The sculptures are among the pieces on show at an ongoing exhibition in Shanghai that features artworks from 20 African countries. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Art lovers can see sculptures from 20 African countries - most of which have never been displayed in China - at an ongoing exhibition at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center.

The exhibition, 2018 Exhibition of Sculpture Art from Twenty African Countries, which runs through April 15, features 150 traditional and modern sculptures, such as wood, stone and bronze carvings.

Photos of African scenery by Xiao Ge, a world-class wildlife photographer, are also being shown along with the sculptures.

[Photo provided to China Daily]

"It is the most comprehensive exhibition to show African sculpture in China," says Hang Yan, curator of the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a drum from 1942 produced by a Zulu artist from African black walnut, according to Zhao Baopei, the owner of all the exhibits.

"It (the drum from South Africa) is one of just four in the world," says Zhao.

"Unlike normal African drums shaped like slender cylindrical containers, this one is relatively short and thick.

"Drums, hailed as the king of African musical instruments, can help visitors understand the soul of music in Africa," he says.

[Photo provided to China Daily]

The other three drums are at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the London Royal Museum Greenwich and at the South African Museum, respectively, according to a certificate issued by the South African Museum.

The Sangoma mace used by Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, is another highlight of the exhibition.

The mace was presented to Mandela by the Zulu king in 1961, to show that the Zulu people hoped that Mandela would one day liberate the country.

"The mace is one of the two such items in existence. The other one is in the South African Museum," says Zhao.

[Photo provided to China Daily]

Zhao lived in Africa from 1990 to 2015 and has collected more than 2,000 pieces of African art, which are stored in his warehouse in Shanghai.

"During my time in Africa, I was impressed by the African devotion to sculpture. They carve their works in the open, in temperatures of nearly 40 C wearing just a piece of cloth at the waist," says Zhao.

"They have no art schools or local teachers. All sculptures are based on their talent."

"Take the stone sculpture, The Thinker by Moder Zimbabwe. When compared with the famous bronze sculpture, The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin, this one demonstrates the rich imagination of African artists," he says.

"However, Chinese people know little about African art.

"I see my collection of African art as a chance to offer the Chinese an opportunity to learn about the art of Africa," says Zhao.

[Photo provided to China Daily]

The artworks are classified into 20 groups based on their origins and there are introductions for each country along with its location on the map.

Abdulkadir M. Abbas, from the Nigerian consulate in Shanghai, says: "They are great works by brilliant artists, although most are not famous."

Biruktawit Kassahun Gaim, the consul for Ethiopia in Shanghai, says: "I hope every visitor also travels to Africa to see more sculptures."

Jing Ying, vice-president of the Shanghai People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, says: "The exhibition was opened (on Feb 8) before the recent Spring Festival holiday so that more people in Shanghai could learn about African culture."

[Photo provided to China Daily]

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