The Metal Artistry of West Africa: From the Kole Collection April 2-May 30

Intricate metalwork from West Africa will be exhibited at Armstrong April 2 through May 30 at the Fine Arts Gallery, located on the Armstrong campus at 11935 Abercorn St. in Savannah.

“The Metal Artistry of West Africa: From the Kole Collection” offers the opportunity to view a portion of the vast private African art collection of Don and Kaye Kole of Savannah. The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, includes works from sub-Saharan Africa, including metalworks handcrafted in Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Benin. Curated by African art expert Darrell Moseley, the exhibit offers insight into the rich tradition of African metal sculpture.

“Most people don't associate Africa with hand-crafted metal work, even if they have a passing familiarity with African art,” says Moseley. “Even fewer realize that Africa had powerful kingdoms that supported royal workshops where artists created exquisite objects to adorn palaces and courtly altars. The Kole Collection represents an unusually broad range of metal artifacts that illustrate the diversity, power and sophistication of these art forms.”

Drawn from an extensive private collection, this exhibition includes sacred and ceremonial objects created by people in sub-Saharan Africa. Highlights include intricate Nigerian altar pieces, a detailed Dogon ritual harvest bowl, an animal-inspired Edo ritual dance helmet and an elaborate Toma costume used in healing rituals.

Collector Don Kole, a Savannah businessman who has made four trips to Africa over the years, first started collecting African art 30 years ago. Captivated by the imaginative designs as well as the symbolic meaning of African art, Kole became a serious collector, traveling the world and working closely with art brokers.

“I like to discover the stories behind the work,” says Kole. “Each piece of African art has a different purpose. It could bring prosperity to the village, give fertility to women or protect someone from evil spirits. They don't make a piece of art to hang on the wall.”

Kole enjoys sharing his collection with the public. The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia featured a portion of the Kole Collection in 2013.

Armstrong professor Tom L. Cato, head of the university's Department of Art, Music and Theatre, helped organize “The Metal Artistry of West Africa: From the Kole Collection.”

“This exhibit offers an important opportunity for people of all ages to view a wonderful collection of African metal sculpture that has not previously been seen in Savannah,” he explains. “This work has little in common with ‘tribal art.' I'm amazed at the attention to detail.”

The exhibit at Armstrong showcases metal sculpture created using the “lost wax” method, which starts with a clay core covered with beeswax. When the object is heated, the wax melts, and molten metal is poured into the cavity. Once the object has cooled, the outer shell is chipped off and final finishing and polishing can be completed.

“The Metal Artistry of West Africa: From the Kole Collection” will be open to the public Wednesdays through Fridays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, please call 912.344.2556.