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Through his sketchbooks and photographs, guest speaker Desmond Bovey will talk about his collection of African statues and masks.
International History collections at Te Papa include rare and historic objects with global origins, collected during the era of Te Papa’s antecedent, the Dominion Museum. These items, displayed in the Foreign Ethnology galleries of the Buckle Street building, were shown as curios from distant lands and cultures.
Conservator Anne Peranteau will discuss some of these, focusing on African textiles encountered during an assessment of the collection.
(On her blog, she tells the story of how … “in 1936, the Dominion Museum was given a gift so rare and strange that it made the news. Described in the Auckland Star and in museum records as a ‘witch doctor’s outfit’, the garment was subsequently displayed for many years in the Buckle St building that opened that same year).
The development of DNA sequencing technology has enabled this technique to be used in the study of one garment in particular, revealing many animal species used in its construction and contributing to our understanding of artistic practice and cultural significance. The stories of how such items came to be in New Zealand, and the collaborative approach taken in researching them today, is revealing of New Zealand’s history and contemporary culture.
Following Anne’s talk, guest speaker Desmond Bovey will expand on the African connection illustrated by his significant collection of traditional African art. Desmond Bovey was born and educated in Whanganui. He moved to France in 1982 and lived there for 30 years. His interest in African masks began when he acquired a small collection of statues and masks that had been gathering dust in a Burgundy attic. He became very interested about what had shaped them, not only the aesthetic codes, but the beliefs. Desmond made repeated trips to West Africa with the intent to find out whether the belief system which resulted in the statues still existed. It is a fascinating tale of discovery and insight.
Feature image: Detail from Band, 20th century, Congo, Republic of the, maker unknown. Te Papa (FE004918)