Figures of Africa

Commission for Derby Museum’s Figures of Africa exhibition, 2010.


Protection is about the value we put on objects and the way we look after them in museums, protected in layers of tissue and stored away until their time comes to be seen.

Wool, cotton tape and stitched fabrics, covering found tourist souvenir objects.

Eyes of Africa

Eyes of Africa draws on the idea of the eyes in the objects looking at us as we look at them. Many people have looked at these objects: those who made them, bought them, sold them, revered them, traded them, studied them and admired them. Each felt ‘eye’ represents a person from the past or future looking at these Figures of Africa.

Recycled wool felt and hand stitching.

Headstrong and Neckrings

Headstrong is directly inspired by the extraordinary headdresses represented in a number of the figures and a desire to create something with the same sense of theatricality and drama. Like many of the original African objects, we don’t really know how this headdress might be used.

Cotton and buckram, machine stitched.

Neck Rings are inspired by the neck rings worn by some of the figures which is a very strong symbol of ancient African cultures for Westerners. I chose to wrap rings in threads, fabrics and colonial maps of Africa to represent protection of objects in museums and also of the original African figures where wire, beads, threads and other decorations have been added to them.

Plastic rings with cotton and paper wrapping.

Photos by Gillian Spraggs & Joanne Withers

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