(Orlando Sentinel) African art gallery Bronze Kingdom heads to new digs in the Orlando Fashion Square Mall.
If you’re like me, you may be bored of the artwork affronting the walls and spaces in your home or office. You may desire change but not know where to start. You may be too conservative for Feng Shui and too liberal for Mannerism? Right! I have a suggestion: Try African bronze art.
While I don’t consider myself an art aficionado, I am a student of it. After living and working in West Africa for decades I developed a familial connection to bronze art. African bronze art is not simply art; it is crafted and infused with life force that anchors the soul of its intended owner. You don’t pick bronze art, it picks you.
Almost all African art is rooted in religious, ceremonial and ritual tradition commemorating African royalty. The technique and process used to create African bronzes begins with royal tribute and ends in spiritual thankfulness. It truly is a village enterprise where artisans imbue spiritual sustenance or the souls of black folk into what literally becomes the life force of the art that attaches to the prospective owner.
So, I have been chosen. I was awestruck by a six-foot high bronze statue of an elegant King and Chief Justice holding a bible from Benin, Nigeria. Allow me to elucidate: I was treated to a VIP tour of the new Bronze Kingdom Gallery at Fashion Square Mall before its opening and returned for the soft opening.
Brilliance! Transcendence! Vivaciousness! These are the expressions that personify my toured experiences led by Rawlvan Bennet, president of the Bronze Kingdom Gallery. He is a genuine connoisseur of African art who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of its breathtaking bronze statuaries dating back to the great West African empires of Ghana (7th through 13th century) Mali (13th through 16th century) and Songhai (15th through 16th century) to the present.
A sage storyteller, Bennet provided me with an illuminating tour de force of Africa’s royal art history. Quite impressive.
For millennia, human history has been imagined, imparted and surmised through African history and African art has been its most profound storyteller beginning with Black Egypt’s Predynastic Period in 6000 BCE. Africa’s mastery of bronze art is vital to discovering ancient knowledge and history because it was the preferred archival device of its royal potentates. Africa’s history is recorded on and in its bronze tablets, figures, masks, staff heads, rattles, bells, figures and armlets with its most preeminent bronzes being birthed in dynastic West Africa in about 700 AD.
African art enthusiasts and collectors can acquire what Bennet calls “legacy” pieces — perhaps with the intent to bequeath to future generations, a legacy that must be embraced by African descendants not monopolized by the heirlooms of colonial conquest. Bronze art exponentially serves as a conduit to understanding the manifold contributions of African people to human civilization.
Bronze art is not cheap. I’ve had my eyes on a large Egyptian Bronze statuary of Isis and Horus from Egypt’s 25th Dynasty (747-656 BCE) for years. Unfortunately, the famed art dealer Christies recently sold it for nearly $1.5 million. Not!
I have lived and worked in every region of Africa for nearly 30 years and with every experience marveled at her rich and illustrious art history. I’ve canvassed the top museums in Africa, Europe, and the United States, yet, none of those experiences captivated me like my visit to the Bronze Kingdom. Why? Its exquisiteness largely rests in is accessibility to the average person, especially those seeking to more closely connect with their ancestry — something that can’t really be done at national and international museum. Bennet’s notion of “lineage art” can create transformative connections between African descendants and others with Africa through the prism of African bronze artwork that tells the collective stories of Africa and her people. He seeks to connect people with art that reflects their spiritual or cultural uniqueness. Part of the profits from Bronze Kingdom’s sales will support humanitarian projects in the towns and villages where the artwork originates. This includes the building of bridges and schools, digging water wells, funding orphanages and entrepreneur programs in, among other places, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso and Congo Kinshasa. Nice.