21 years old, Art Student, Illustrator, Photographer, Writer, Thinker, Existentialist.

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Monday, 14 March 2011

Africa Exhibition @ British Museum

We arrived in London at about 4 O'clock and decided to first visit the British Museum, it was a leisurely jaunt around the corner about 5 minutes from the Royal National Hotel where we were staying. My arse was just waking up after being in the same stationary position for 4 hours, it hardly seemed fair to drag it halfway across London to the Tate or White Cube. The British Museum itself is huge in scale, both on the outside and the inside, to visit all of the exhibitions in one day is impossible.

From what I saw the room that impressed me the most was Africa. The combination of exotic treasures, precious artifacts and recent acquisitions made for a striking, powerful and inspiring exhibition. I could have gladly spent a whole day devouring each and every item on display.

In total there were two pieces that managed to peak my curiosity and fool me on first inspection. The first was the 'Tree of Life', from a distance it looks like a tree made from scrap metal, which in a way is true, but looking closer you are able to see that the tree is made from more than 600,000 guns left over from Africa's 16-year-long civil war. The sculpture manages to send a shiver down your spine together with a mixed feeling of awe and amazement, if your knowledge of Africa is limited to Oxfam advertisements of images of children's faces covered with flies then this piece will make you aware of the true reality of modern-day Africa. Around the base of the tree are animals each made from guns, they too possess a natural realism which is deceptive at first. The 'Tree of Life' is beautiful for what it is portraying and it represents the step towards freedom that Africa has achieved and the hope that it's people will one day live a life free from violence and a corrupt dictatorship.

The second piece I saw was 'Throne of Weapons', like the 'Tree of Life' it is made from decommissioned weapons. It alters and changes the horrors of war into an object of 'beauty', from a distance it looks like any ordinary chair, but viewed up close it tells the story of Africa's struggle and it's determination to rid itself of warfare. Stools and chairs are a symbol of power within African culture and this makes for a astute juxtaposition which is effectively emotive.

The 'Throne of Weapons' was created by the Mozambique artist Kester, he is involved with the scheme Transformacao de Armas em Enxadas (Transformation Arms into Tools, otherwise known as TAE) many of whom were child soldiers, the scheme helps Africans to lead a productive and beneficial life by making art using the waste products of weapons. The scheme has most recently worked with Christian Aid to produce the 'Tree of Life'.

Africa is not just a poverty stricken third-world Continent, this exhibition makes you realise the beauty of a distant land and gives you a glimpse into what TV, the Internet or the BBC World Service cannot - a chance to observe the lives, stories and history that help to make Africa what it is today.

Image Copyright - Christian Aid/Paul Hackett
Kester on the Throne

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