"THE CONGO has always been for me the symbol of Africa, the very heart of Africa," artist Irma Stern once said. Her passion for painting is rivalled only by her passion for collecting.
Stern made two pilgrimages to the Congo between 1942 and 1955. Her Congo journal of 1942 (published by Van Schaik in 1943) vividly documents her search for artistic inspiration and fine pieces of Congolese craftsmanship to add to her collection. Her aesthetic judgement has resulted in an exceptional collection of Congolese art. The jewel of this collection is the Luba Chief's stool, carved in distinctive Buli Master's style.
The Buli stool is one of a limited number of works believed to have been carved in the Master's studio in Buli, a village in south-eastern Zaire. According to Christopher Peter, Director and Curator of the Irma Stern Museum, these rare works are exceptional in their breach of prevalent stylistic and expressive trends. "Stern's acquisition of this piece is shrouded in mystery and it is believed she acquired it in Zanzibar in 1939, prior to her first Congo trip."
In conjunction with Nedcor, the Irma Stern Museum will be hosting an exhibition of Stern's collection of Congolese art from September 4 to October 5. Works will include the Buli stool as well as her won Congo-inspired works. These works were either done on site in the Congo or completed at home in her studio from visual notes that she made on her travels. These will be sources from private and university collections and include portraits of Watussi royalty and the Mangbetu people, landscapes, figures and colourful market scenes.