So you wanted to know more about why I love Zanzibar (part 1)
I grew up with a house full of African Art. I never quite realised the influence it had over me fully...well, until the last few weeks really, and even over the last few days. I have been reading an article, a thesis actually, by Chris Spring, who was the curator for the Sainsbury African Galleries at the British Museum. He was talking about African Art, and the global influence of Africa that is often...unnoticed. I mean he didn't say it in so many words, but that was my take away on at least the first part of the thesis (i'm on page 21 of 90 something pages).
Anyway, lots of digression, let me get back on track. With that in mind I started thinking about my introduction to art. Fundamentally it came very early in the piece through African art, as our house growing up was full of it. African sculptures, paintings and photography, even lamps, dominated my family home. I spent my early childhood in PNG and latterly in Castlemaine, so the broader influences beyond our home were still strong from an art perspective. Initially tribal art and post colonial art, but then of a town which was well know for it's State Festival of arts (incidentally is on at the moment i think) and for it's artistic community. Without realising it I was surrounded by all these influences, artists, ceramists, and an amazing collection of work in a family that wasn't particularly 'arty'.
Now, Zanzibar. Well, we had three paintings on the wall of Africa, always in our living room, by an artist I know now as one of the 'fathers' of the Tanzanian art movement. And one of them particularly fascinated me. My parents devastated me when they gave it to my brother for a wedding present, for he neither knows the provenance of the piece, nor has the same obsession as I do for the piece but what can you do?
It is a painting of a large seafaring Dhou boat, propped up on a beach in Zanzibar. The beach is covered in cows. As a child, you can imagine that completely challenged all my experiences of what a beach was about. Cows on the beach? Good grief. And not the cows I knew, these were bony, angular with a big hump on their back. I now know them as Zebu cattle, which have an ancient ancestry. So, ever since I was a child, looking at this paitning I have wanted to go to Zanzibar to see for myself.
So - my love of Zanzibar started with Cows on the beach.
It continued when I lived in Oman. In Oman, I visited the town of Sur. This is a town halfway down the coast, toward the southern end of Oman. It is known for it's connection to Zanzibar, and for it's fort architecture and trading history. While there, I discovered, much to my suprise, a Wedding Chest Maker. My parents have a 'Zanzibari' wedding chest in their living room. This was the same style of chest, with the same ornamentation and the same secret compartments. Such was the connection with Oman, that the traditions were shared across the Indian Ocean.
So, the plot for Zanzibar thickened, and my interest grew as I came to know more about it, and more about it's richness and it's history.
*Hang around for more, including more photos as I further explore Zanzibar and it's influence on me.