After reading the extraordinary book “the Ragged Edged of the World’ by Eugene Linden, which portrays the wonderment of the still unspoiled yet endangered area of the Ndoki jungle teeming with wildlife in the Congo basin, I am inspired to post this about one of my earlier collections of furniture relating to the art of Africa.
In 1992, when I read about the Perls collection of African art, immortalized in the book “The Royal Art of Benin” and now at the New York Metropolitan Museum, I was astonished at the intricacy, the gorgeous dignity and power of the artwork that was recovered from the devastation wrought by the British upon the ancient city of Benin in 1897. Before that time , the people of Benin had built the giant city in the jungle stronghold over several centuries, beginning in 800 c.e . Although Benin perpetrated slavery, they were remarkably civilized with a police force, fire brigade, and a royal court fashioned of exquisite timber, tipped with intricate bronze finials and ornament. Their city was larger in size than Venice at the time, and their people were greatly renowned for metallurgy and casting in bronze. After the British set fire to the great city, tore down the walls, and scattered the people far and wide, they brought the surviving bronze and other artifacts back to Britain. This vast treasure filtered into private collections around the world. The raw and bold abstract impressionism that is the art of Africa in general became an important inspiration for the Picasso generation. For me, it became the inspiration to make a unique collection of furniture and fixtures. I tried to capture the essence of that dignity and power that I saw in African art in a subtle way. Perhaps to honor the artists of that ancient tribe and produce a level of luxury and intrigue fit for a king today. Here you can see the reference to actual pieces from the Met, a few of my own sketches inspired by them and my collection of handcrafted furniture called the Oba collection.
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