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Sue Hubbard

Born, 1948

The catalogue for Sokari Douglas Camp’s 1995 exhibition, Play and Display: Steel Masquerades from Top to Toe, held at the Museum of Mankind contained two texts. The first by Robin Horton, (Sokari Douglas Camp: Ekine Woman in London?”) of the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, dated July 1995, and the second text, (The Sculpture of Sokari Douglas Camp) by Sue Hubbard, similarly dated.

Hubbard’s text began with, “The effect of African art on 20th Century European art cannot be underestimated. It is one of the great acts of colonial appropriation. artists such as the Fauves - Vlaminck, Derain and Matisse - were all seduced by the discovery of the Paris Trocadero, where the Museum of Ethnography and Anthropology Gallery displayed masks and artifacts from the virtually unknown African continent. Artists as divergent as Brancusi, Kirchner in Germany, and the photographer Alfred Steiglitz in New York became fascinated by these dramatic objects, seeing in them a potency, a mystery, an emotional directness lacking in Western academic art. The distorted bodies, the faces flattened into simple planes, revealed a naturalistic expressionism and a direct response to the subject, by the carver, via the material. Perhaps the most celebrated appropriator of all was Picasso. In his chthonic painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon he borrowed African masks, placing them virtually unaltered on the body of his female nudes. This plundering eclecticism and his subsequent development of the simplified planes were to point the way to Cubism. The result has been, therefore, a tendency by western artists and academics to overvalue the mask in relation to other African artifacts. There has been little attempt to understand its full significance within African culture, to read it as part of the whole, along with the costume, as one of the elements that makes up the Masquerade. For in Nigeria, the home of Sokari Douglas Camp, masks generally come with a costume, a festival and set of spiritual and religious values.”

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