African art is on sale at Fairmont The Norfolk in Nairobi.
The hotel has held art-related events in the past, but they were mostly around fashion.
The art pieces at the African Inspirations exhibition are from a private collection that has recently come up for sale. The collection has been curated by Lisa Christoffersen, a Tanzanian-born Danish interior designer and enthusiast of tribal art.
There is the usual selection of wooden masks, carvings, figurines and Bakuba cloth chiefly from the Congo. And there are also some rare items from around East Africa.
There were burial posts from the coastal Giriama community and ceremonial wooden shields from the Kikuyu of central Kenya.
From the Makonde people of southern Tanzania or northern Zimbabwe is a carving of a pregnant woman with scarification on her stomach.
A beaded bridal corset from the Dinka tribe of South Sudan is on show; it indicated that a woman was ready for marriage.
Worn over the shoulders it falls over the torso elegantly and could easily be a modern day fashion accessory.
Most of the objects are functional items and were used in domestic settings, ceremonial events, war, for divination, as tools, musical instruments, and personal adornments.
For decades, African art has been viewed as crafts and not true “art.” But there is a growing appreciation of the subtleties of pre-modern creativity, and an acknowledgement of Africa’s influence on European artists of the 20th century such as Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani.
General manager Axel Hauser says, “The importance of art in preserving the culture of a society cannot be overlooked.”
The exhibition at the Fairmont Norfolk is open to the public, and the items cost between Ksh30,000 ($300) and Ksh550,000 ($5,500).
An interesting piece is a collection of smoking pipes, shaped from gourds and sculpted on the top into female figures.
Complexity and stylisation often pointed to the status of the article’s owner.
Other pieces are imbued with the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the community.
Maternity figures infer fertility and future generations.