Why claiming art of Equatorial Guinea?

What do you know about the art in Equatorial Guinea?

In this post, we wanted to talk about art in Equatorial Guinea. From our point of view it is wonderful and worth admiring it, but unfortunately it is not our specialty. For this reason, we have asked for help to a great initiative that is being formed called Ceiba Project, and its museum of culture CEIBA. They have been kind enough to share their wisdom with all of us. So thank you very much.

The value of african art

 

One of the most suitable spaces to study the art trade is at art auction houses. It catalogues trends dominate the art market, where expensive masterpieces are sold to interested buyers. At present, it is still surprising how African art continues to quote high amounts in auctions, in some cases millionaires. African art continues to prompt interest and passion among European, Asian and North American collectors.

Arte en Guinea Ecuatorial

But beyond simple economic appreciation, we have to understand that financial results do not measure art. Art is a fundamental part of our sophisticated culture; we cannot reduce it to a mere question of price and sale figures. For instance, we cannot understand the meaning of a 17th-century European painting, the author and commissioner for the art painting without considering the peculiarity of the religious period the continent was experiencing. The same is true of African art pieces, highly prized yet the meaning still unknown to Europeans, North Americans, Asians even some Africans.

New african art museums

The current African creative landscape is beyond its borders. Today’s African artists have finally gained recognition and begun to take their deserved place in contemporary art museums. Little by little, anthropologic museums dedicate spaces to foreign cultures and in some cases without understanding the meaning and value of the art paintings. We find African art in colonial mansions, anthropology museums, ethnography.

At this point, it is necessary to claim the role that many museums in our continent are performing like the national museum of  Kenia or the national art galery in Zimbawe. Not only claiming the good aesthetic and symbolic appreciation of African art but recovering and putting value to our artist’s creators who full of ingenuity and modernity. They are capable artists, creators, innovators without forgetting the importance ​​of representing tradition being the reason that has helped create African art today.

African art, like all other arts without regard to a geographical classification (European, Asian, Oceanic and American art), is symbolic, functional, aesthetic and practical technique. But above all, it is full of diversity and vibration. To be known and appreciated. We make a point of calling it Classical African art to avoid derogatory terms as “primitive art”, “tribal art”, “aboriginal art” etcetera.

Escultura Guinea Ecuatorial

Define the classic art of Equatorial Guinea

The “classic art” of Equatorial Guinea is varied and vast, yet not appreciated. The current artistic situation is full of young artists looking for space to showcase their creative capacity.

Art in Equatorial Guinea

Art has such power that it involuntarily revolutionised the very foundations of Western art, subsequently creating new aesthetics. We can and should reclaim ownership of the artistic technique developed in Equatorial Guinea long ago and use it to create contemporary art pieces.

We cannot forget the 20th-century art revolution, with a genius like Picasso at the forefront, he was inspired by African art to create a whole new aesthetic, called cubism. Located chronologically at the beginning of the 20th century, it marked a before and an after for western art. Africa was the protagonist of this change, for its individually, technique which developed in Equatorial Guinea even if not recognise.

It is necessary to recognise the value of African art and its ability to revive western aesthetics. African art has unique benefits ​​in itself that make it deserving of the highest recognition. Some examples that help understand the complexity and richness of the technique developed in Equatorial Guinea are from the Bubi and fang people;

Some examples of the art in Equatorial Guinea

The current Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a small country in an area of strategic importance on the African continent, the Gulf of Guinea (information on Equatorial Guinea). This situation aroused the interest of the European powers from the beginning. But before its arrival, the territory currently occupied by Equatorial Guinea had a long history.

Archaeological research has shown the antiquity in the occupation of these territories. In a complex game of migratory movements, the current cultural composition of the country is drawn, with up to five cultural groups: the Fang, traditionally associated with the interior of the continental region; the Bubi, on the island of Bioko; the Ndowés, Bissios in the areas of the continental coast; and the Annoboneses in the island of Annobón.

arte en Guinea Ecuatorial
Colección etnográfica de José de Guimarães. Fotografía de Ji – Elle

It is necessary to recognise the value of African art and its ability to revive western aesthetics. African art has unique benefits ​​in itself that make it deserving of the highest recognition. Some examples that help understand the complexity and richness of the technique developed in Equatorial Guinea are from the Bubi and fang people;

El arte Bubi

One example is the Bubi bells built out of a block of wood, trapezoidal with an oval section. They had different handles; some were quadrangular some circular with incisions decorating the surface, the bells are related to astral themes, such as the sun or the moon. Inside it, they used fibre forming a rope, hanging the cylindrical wooden clappers that generated the noise when hitting the walls of the bell.

Arte Bubi Guinea Ecuatorial
Figura de relicario eyima byeri. Musée Rietberg, Zurich; Fondation Camille-et-Emmy-Graeser. Fotografía de Andreas Praefcke

For a long time, Europeans saw in these bells a simple musical instrument. Colonists failed to realise the wealth contained within these objects. It was not only about the world view of the bubis and their belief system but also about the way they understood society or aspects as important as illness and health. Bubi bells were waved over their bodies with other rituals to heal people in the community. Today, the bell is a symbol that identifies this group. And some initiatives are trying to recover their artisan techniques to manufacture the bells again on the island as a way to generate alternative economic resources to hunting or fishing.

Fang art

Fang people were skilled sculptors; they achieved worldly fame. In particular, the guardians of the reliquaries. The biery (fang reliquaries) defined a whole new way of understanding African aesthetics. The biery were carvings related to ancestors cults; they had a fundamental role in understanding the organisation of the Fang society.

The biery are anthropomorphic figures male or female, with their legs folded in a sitting position and their arms flexed, crossed across their chest, at times with an offering.

Other notable features are the presence of a prominent navel (symbol of the union with life) with a rear stem inserted into the locket. One of the most remarkable aspects of these figures is their faces, hairstyles, pronounced mouths, large eyes characterising fang people. They are figures with such defined shapes that they are easily recognisable

Arte Fang Guinea Ecuatorial
Fuelle de herrero. Fotografía de Ann Porteus

These authentic masterpieces impressed European artists during the early 20th century. It is another way of seeing and understanding the world, far from the ideals and values ​​of the European society of the moment such as bourgeois, industrial, urban and capitalist. For Africans artist, these figures represented: a union with their traditions through the ancestors and fundamental aspects of their society based on the fang cosmos.

Art Equatorial Guinea
Guardián de relicario conservado en el Museu Nacional/UFRJ - Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Fotografía de Dornicke

Conclusion

Equatorial Guinean art, in its many cultural manifestations, is and has been one of the wealthiest art forms in the world. Its importance has been able to cross all its borders. However, now we have a complex mission ahead: to recover our art masterpieces for our people. It is for us to become your interpreters. It is for us to give it the value it deserves. Values ​​are universal and should always exhort respect: respect for each other, regardless of the distance between us, and respect for the environment it was created.

Equatorial Guinea can offer these values ​​to the rest of the world because they created the context in which they exist.

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