the power of African statues


THE POWER OF AFRICAN STATUES                                    in 11 pictures   (nov 2016)


mask. d’mba


.African statues were a deep inspiration for modern artists like Picasso, further paving the way to styles like kubism and constructivism. When you have not seen old African work, you fail to see the connection with later complete abstract art by Mondriaan and recent work by Newman and Rothko. The power of African influence may nowadays be hidden, but is still there.




Traditional African work was never meant as art. Just like Medieval (800-1200) fresco’s, statues and crucifixes, their functions were ancesterial, spiritual or religious.

Like African tradition, Medieval work is called “primitive art”. Primitive? The bodyshapes of the later Baroque (1600-1800) statues and paintings certainly have more realistic human proportions. But Baroque is equally known for its sugar-sweet unrealistic expression: St. Sebastian’s body full with arrows, posing as an attractive pin-up model; tortured and crucified Jesus, not showing any suffering and pain. tearjerking figures in oversentimental bodypositions. Progression in form, but degradation in expression. What Medieval and African work share is powerfull honest emotion.


afr-3-dscf8499dance staff


“Form should follow content”. But in many museums content seems to be an oversight. Old African statues are exposed in glass vitrines, against flat monochrome walls, even and brightly lit. The same is done in catalogue photography. All done to help us see every detail. But with this method removing the original context, thereby destroying their magic and emotional power. To be fair, I know some museums succeeding in creating respectful contextual settings.


afr-4-dscf8530ancesterial figures


Instead of straight aways photography of African objects, I would like to pay tribute by removing the clean museum atmosphere. Caring not for the outside details, but uncovering the spiritual content, trying to do more justice to their original meaning. And thereby an exercise in training my way of photographical obervation. Focus on meaning and emotion instead of pure form alone.



I used the Fuji XE2 body with 35/1.4, 60/2.4 and 18-55/2.8-4.0 lenses. No filters and tripod (no flash of course). Some technical aspects: ISO 3200-6400 in RAW and JPG; deliberately choosing focus-unsharpness or camera-motionblurr; cropping parts of he objects. And lots of post-processing in Lightroom: like darkening; adding contrast and grain; no noisereduction; lowering color and saturation; splittoning, vignetting, in fact allowing every possible adjustment. I completely removed the original museum setting, and am satisfied with the result.





kanaga. dogon










for portfolio and more press   HOMEPAGE


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

Recent Posts

swiss alps in B&W

During the years I have made a lot of mountain trekkings in the “Valley”, the district in south-west of Switzerland. The high mountain scenery with its green pastures, white glaciers and clouds against deep-blue skys were always asking for color. Having done this so many times, I now chose for black&white.  READ MORE…

  1. chaos exposition Comments Off on chaos exposition
  2. virgen on the pillar pilgrimage Comments Off on virgen on the pillar pilgrimage
  3. south-east alps mountainscapes Comments Off on south-east alps mountainscapes
  4. the power of african statues Comments Off on the power of african statues
  5. new windows, an experiment Comments Off on new windows, an experiment
  6. staged portraits in black&white Comments Off on staged portraits in black&white
  7. choosing raw or jpg is not about quality Comments Off on choosing raw or jpg is not about quality
  8. autumn pyrenees in B&W with fuji xe2 Comments Off on autumn pyrenees in B&W with fuji xe2
  9. fuji xe2 in the dark Comments Off on fuji xe2 in the dark