Observations: Angolan adventures stuffed and on show
Zoe Pilger is an art critic for The Independent and winner of the 2011 Frieze International Writers Prize. Her first novel, Eat My Heart Out, will be published by Serpent's Tail in February 2014. She is also researching a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, on the subject of romantic love and sadomasochism in the work of contemporary female artists. She has appeared on BBC's The Review Show and Sky News
Saturday 26 May 2012
Percy Powell-Cotton ("The Major") was a 19th-century "hunter and collector"; the lion that nearly mauled him to death is displayed here, stuffed, along with a staggering array of other animals, frozen in naturalistic tableaux of attack and retreat. The Major's daughters, Antoinette and Diana, enjoyed a fittingly eccentric childhood, roaming the grounds of Quex House, which, like the museum, is crammed with extravagant objects, ranging from Hindu shrines to Napoleon's clock. But of course the question begs itself: at what price were these riches acquired?
TALA! (meaning "come and see") combines the Powell-Cotton sisters' immense collection of Angolan artefacts with contemporary Angolan artists' work. Among the 3,000 objects hauled back: dolls, butter pots, a "divinity container" filled with bird bones, horns, cocoons, claws, and a hoof.
TALA! Visions of Angola, Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, Kent (quexmuseum.org) to 2 November
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