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Photo of the Week- ‘Duvor’ by El Anatsui

As a new segment this summer, the IMA Blog will be featuring a Tuesday Photo of the Week, highlighting juicy tidbits of info including works of art, artists, news, events, or locations.

Duvor (communal cloth), El Anatsui, 2007

One of my favorite pieces in the IMA’s collection is a delicately textured work entitled Duvor, or ‘Communal Cloth,’ by Ghanian born artist El Anatsui. He lives and works in Nigeria as a sculptor and professor.

Duvor is a shimmery, undulating sculpture, made from thousands of collected bottle caps and copper wire, and reminiscent of fabric or chain mail. It hangs in the hallway of the second floor, between the African and Fashion Textile Galleries. Smart move, IMA. This work will stop you in your tracks.

Duvor is captivating, and it makes a strong statement about tradition, trash, beauty and modern Africa. Sustainability is a buzzword now popular in relation to global warming and going green, but not necessarily something I expected to find at IMA. He confronts the social problem of trash by transforming and repurposing it, sustainability at its most beautiful. The patterning is homage to the textiles of Western Africa, including Kente cloth, a woven textile which is known as nwentoma in Ghana.

Anatsui’s sculpture background is evident in the delicate forms created by the rippling and bunching of his ‘fabric,’ something I would guess is not easy to coax out of bits of metal. The installation process with the IMA team shows how he works with the metal until he gets it just right.

As I have thought about this work, fueled by recent readings, I have been thinking about how something like this is classified. Duvor is many things. It is inherently African. It was created in 2007, so it is contemporary. It is also technically a part of the Fashion and Textile collection here at the museum. I know that designating categories is how we find things; we sort by time, place, origin, material, color, size, etc. But I wonder if something like this can ever be all three, equally. Is it just our nature to want a primary category?

Ultimately, where does this object fit in? Who should decide where it goes? Ponder that, and discover some things you might not have already known.

  • Ghana and Nigeria are along the West coast of Africa.
  • It is 5765 Miles from Indianapolis to Accra, Ghana.
  • The word Kente comes from kenten, for basket.
  • Kente cloth patterns are associated with stories and proverbs, which give the specific patterns their names.
  • One recycled aluminum can saves enough energy to run a T.V. for 3 hours.

Filed under: Art

4 Responses to “Photo of the Week- ‘Duvor’ by El Anatsui”

  • avatar
    Jason Says:

    I’m sure I’m not the first to suggest this, but perhaps the difficulty in classifying a work like this hints at a need to reconsider how works are organized in a museum, not based on time period, artistic movement, culture or point of origin, since such scientific classifications seem inappropriate in an art museum; but, instead, based on the artist’s fundamental intent, or the emotive qualities of the work.

    Perhaps the success of museum collection shouldn’t be judged by the pieces individually, or how they’re arranged by category, but by how they function as a whole. How should a visitor feel when he walks out of an exhibit? and what pieces could be assembled to instill that feeling in the visitor?

    Certainly this approach is problematic too, since emotions are subjective and the artist’s intent can’t always be discerned. There are, however, threads that run through seemingly unrelated works, and to make those threads more evident by positioning them near one another might make for a more interesting trip to the museum.

  • avatar

    I think you have the idea of curating a whole concept; that is, thinking about how the works function as a whole and giving disparate works or themes a unified voice. I think most visitors aren’t aware how much the curator has shaped their experience through any individual gallery or exhibit or even the museum as a whole. Their voice is hugely influential, yet nearly invisible.

    Even so, I do find comfort in the most traditional forms of organization. Place of origin first, time period and artist second, subject third. I have a tendency to want everything in its place, organized by facts, regardless of any perceptions of theme, intent, contrast, or anything else. But, if we always ‘know where everything goes’, there would never be any interpretation, new insights, or altering analysis, which are what makes each museum different and interesting in the first place.

    I think there will always be a struggle about how to do it ‘the right way’, and that should be rejoiced. If a museum can be introspective, then no placement is ever final. An artwork will be reinterpreted continually. It’s a good thing!

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