OBJECT OF THE MONTH
A Tuareg Carpet - mid 20th Century
The mid 20th century carpet provides an understated backdrop to the stylish arrangement of a ‘sled chair’, side table with lacquered raffia panels and contemporary clay ceramic by the South African potter Clive Sithole. Its versatile patterning creates formal echoes in the nearby objects, enhancing their overall impression. The tiger print pillow convulses with lines that are loose and liberated, and these find a response in the gentle zigzagged wriggle of leather strips as they rove across the rug. Yet those same diamond-shaped webs also mirror the subtly stuccoed projections of the ceramic pot, though these are far more rigid and restrained. Removed from its original context, the weaving slides smoothly into the world of contemporary design.
A softly delineated network of interwoven leather strips painted with a fading maroon spans the muted expanse of a buff reed mat. Typical of a Tuareg rug, simple geometric forms have been organised into orderly units and repeated to create a larger lattice structure. Surveyed from above, the result is a neat architecture that holds a few scattered elements. The design is knowingly naive and although it is unadorned, it is intricate enough to capture the gaze with an effect that is mildly mesmeric. As nomads native to the Sahara, the Tuaregs needed rugs that could be easily rolled up and hauled long distances across the crumbling surface of a dense and unforgiving terrain. The carpets were multipurpose and frequently used in tents as floor covers or screens. The palette was limited in comparison to the almost psychedelic use of dyes throughout North Africa, but it was only stronger colours that the leather would take. It is these practical needs which lent themselves to such unfussy, abstract designs. Beyond them, we understand little of the motivations behind the carpet production. Whether it was a devotional art or dismissed as craft work, the great weavers have been lost to art history as the rugs were never signed. Weaving their own trails through the hot, sandy sprawl of surrounding desert, we can only guess at what inspired these sparse, small-scale landscapes
CHAIR British design, ‘Sled chair’
TABLE American black walnut with lacquered raffia panels and cracked Macassar Ebony top
CERAMIC Large burnished clay ‘uphiso’ necked vessel by Clive Sithole born Soweto 1971, with traditional beaded geometric sgraffito. Natal c 2010
CARPET Tuareg Carpet - mid 20th century. Reed and leather.
The Gallery is specifically designed to let objects speak for themselves, creating an intriguing dialogue between different art forms, united by quality of design and mastery of execution.
Afridi 76 Royal Hospital Road London SW3 4HN www.shahbazafridi.com
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