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Overlooked African art found in Scottish rural schools

Dr Kate Cowcher (centre) and St Andrews alumni and project research assistants, Meredith Loper and Elikem Logan, with modern African artworks at Lochgilphead High School, March 2019.
Dr Kate Cowcher (centre) and St Andrews alumni and project research assistants, Meredith Loper and Elikem Logan, with modern African artworks at Lochgilphead High School, March 2019.

A collection of modern African art in Argyll and Bute schools has been rediscovered by academics.

Academics from the University of St Andrews have revealed the artworks are by some of Africa’s most notable modernist artists.

According to research they provide insight into the interests and concerns that pervaded the era of independence.

It is believed the paintings, prints and drawings were purchased from Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa.

The Argyll Collection

They were acquired for the Argyll Collection, a public art initiative founded in the early 1960s. However, the historical significance of the works have been overlooked in the years since they were purchased.

The collection belongs to Argyll and Bute Council and will go on public display.

Lead researcher, Dr Kate Cowcher, said: “The Argyll Collection is a rich public collection of mostly Scottish art, but it has these important African additions about which little was known.

“It has been remarkable to uncover their histories. To have the opportunity to bring these artworks together and share their stories with those living in the area, as well as further afield is a privilege.”

As a result of the research project, ten out of twelve works can now confidently be attributed to major modernist artists, including Tanzania’s Samuel Ntiro, Uganda’s Jak Katarikawe, Zambia’s Henry Tayali and South Africa’s Lucky Sibya.

‘Dar to Dunoon: Modern African Art from the Argyll Collection’

The pieces will be exhibited in ‘Dar to Dunoon’ alongside biographies of the artists and related contextual material.

Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Education, Yvonne McNeilly, said: “We are very lucky to have such a wide and varied art collection in our schools, and our partnership with St Andrews has enabled us to rediscover the rich histories of the Modern African Art collection.

“This has been central to new creative education projects that pupils have been working on with artists to explore the collection.”

The exhibit will be held at Dunoon Burgh Hall from May 21.

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