Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Makonde Tree of Life: Updates #1 and #2


Update #1: Who are the Makonde?

The Makonde people live in East Africa, in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. Although both produce art objects, the Makonde of Mozambique and the Makonde of Tanzania are culturally different, due to the division of their lands by the Rovuma River and the wood carving known as “Makonde” is produced by the Tanzanian Makonde. Able to resist colonization until the early 20th century, the Makonde’s traditional religion is based on ancestor worship and their art also centers around celebration and remembrance of ancestors. The “Tree of Life” type of carvings are highly collectible and depict men, women, children, and in our case birds, one on top of the other and connected. These types of carvings developed in the 1950s as well as the carving of shetani, or spirits in abstracted form. 


Fima Lifshitz, An African Journey Through Its Art (AuthorHouse: Bloomington, IN 2009) 126-128.


Update #2: Mystery Solved?

One day, quite by accident, a breakthrough came in the mystery of the Makonde Tree of Life’s origins. While touring the MPA building for a completely different reason Tony Beasley, a GW Facilities worker, saw the Tree of Life sitting in our study room and exclaimed “That used to be in my office!” It had been there when he got the office and he liked it so much he decided to keep it. He couldn’t remember the name of who had the office before him, “Paul something?” but told us to ask Susan Hyde, an Administrative Assistant at the Virginia Campus. 

A call back from Hyde revealed that the office used to belong to Dr. John S. Wilson, Jr., the Dean of the Virginia Campus. Now President of Morehouse College, via the White House Initiative on Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Wilson was at GW from 2001-2009 as the Executive Dean of the Virginia Campus and associate professor in higher education in the Graduate School of Education. Along with links to Dr. Wilson’s bio from Morehouse, Hyde sent the message “I hope you can get in contact with Mr. Wilson and solve this mystery!” 

We hope so too! I guess we’re calling Atlanta.

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Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

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Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Makonde Tree of Life: Updates #1 and #2


Update #1: Who are the Makonde?

The Makonde people live in East Africa, in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. Although both produce art objects, the Makonde of Mozambique and the Makonde of Tanzania are culturally different, due to the division of their lands by the Rovuma River and the wood carving known as “Makonde” is produced by the Tanzanian Makonde. Able to resist colonization until the early 20th century, the Makonde’s traditional religion is based on ancestor worship and their art also centers around celebration and remembrance of ancestors. The “Tree of Life” type of carvings are highly collectible and depict men, women, children, and in our case birds, one on top of the other and connected. These types of carvings developed in the 1950s as well as the carving of shetani, or spirits in abstracted form. 


Fima Lifshitz, An African Journey Through Its Art (AuthorHouse: Bloomington, IN 2009) 126-128.


Update #2: Mystery Solved?

One day, quite by accident, a breakthrough came in the mystery of the Makonde Tree of Life’s origins. While touring the MPA building for a completely different reason Tony Beasley, a GW Facilities worker, saw the Tree of Life sitting in our study room and exclaimed “That used to be in my office!” It had been there when he got the office and he liked it so much he decided to keep it. He couldn’t remember the name of who had the office before him, “Paul something?” but told us to ask Susan Hyde, an Administrative Assistant at the Virginia Campus. 

A call back from Hyde revealed that the office used to belong to Dr. John S. Wilson, Jr., the Dean of the Virginia Campus. Now President of Morehouse College, via the White House Initiative on Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Wilson was at GW from 2001-2009 as the Executive Dean of the Virginia Campus and associate professor in higher education in the Graduate School of Education. Along with links to Dr. Wilson’s bio from Morehouse, Hyde sent the message “I hope you can get in contact with Mr. Wilson and solve this mystery!” 

We hope so too! I guess we’re calling Atlanta.

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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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