Tribal Art London 2016

West Africa Takes Centre Stage

September 10, 2016 By: Adenike Cosgrove

Kicking off the autumn fair season was the only tribal art fair in the UK, Tribal Art London (August 31, 2016 — September 04, 2016). Now in its ninth year, it was a great event, packed with beautiful African, Asian and Oceanic pieces. As our first time at the fair, we spent quite a bit of time visiting the various exhibitor stands (over 20 of them, 12 of which are based in the UK), analysing the pieces on show and speaking to collectors at the fair. Here are three key highlights we wanted to share with you.

Unlike at other fairs, exhibitors at Tribal Art London were fairly open about pricing, including the asking price on item labels. Prices ranged from £100 to over £20,000, making the fair accessible to new collectors as well as those more established in the field.

1. Interest Growing in the UK, with Reasonable Prices

There was a nice buzz to the event, almost an air of the new. Even though we attended on the last two days of the event there was still a hive of activity and visitors at the fair. David Attenborough made an appearance too!

2. West Africa Takes Centre Stage

We started by visiting Adam Prout’s stand by the entrance of the fair. Akan akua’ma figures from Ghana, We masks from Ivory Coast and Yoruba ere ibeji figures from Nigeria were among the African art pieces on show at his stand. This West African theme continued throughout the fair — Bryan Reeves exhibited a Dogon figure from Mali, Joss Graham had an ashetu crown from Cameroon, and David Malik had Bundu and Mende sowei masks from Sierra Leone. This to us speaks to the UK’s colonial history in West Africa and the pieces now available in the market from past collections.

Renaud Riley
Kanaga (Celestial Mask), Mali
David Malik
Ndoli Jowei (Sande Sowei Helmet Masks), Sierra Leone

However, there were of course a huge number of pieces from other African regions and ethnic groups, our favourite being a Mbala figure at Renaud Riley.

Renaud Riley
Mbala figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo

3. Ere Ibejis - A Collector Favourite

Always popular with collectors, Yoruba ere ibeji twin figures featured prominently at the fair with almost every exhibitor with African art showing an ere ibeji!

Amongst the Yoruba, twins are regarded as extraordinary beings protected by the god, Sango. It is believed that twins are spiritually one inseparable being and as such, should a twin die, a statuette is made to be used as a container for the soul of the deceased twin. You can read more about ere ibeji figures HERE.

Sam Handbury Madin
Yoruba Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure), Nigeria
David Malik
Yoruba Ere Ibeji (Twin Figure), Nigeria

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