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The vast majority of African & Oceanic art was produced by now anonymous artists. We will never know the names of so many masters who produced some of the great works of the field. For me, this fact has always been a source of both frustration and inspiration. Recently though, I had the rare opportunity to finally put a name to a piece.
I had acquired a remarkable hardwood atata club originating from the small Pacific island of Ambrym. It was, by repute, carved in the village of Neuwa. To have a piece pinned down to a specific settlement is rare, so when I found myself on Ambrym a few months later I had to investigate the potential link further.
After an arduous journey, I finally arrived in Neuwa. I made my introductions and was introduced to the chief. Upon showing him pictures of the club imagine my surprise when he smiled and told me that the club was undoubtedly the work of his own grandfather! He explained to me that he had died decades ago, but that his name was Raymond and he had been a skilled and respected carver.
It was a poignant moment to be able to reunite a piece with the name of its creator, reminding me that the power these objects lies not only in their aesthetic, but also in their story.
Alexander Tweedy is the consultant specialist in African and Oceanic Art for Lyon & Turnbull. He also specialises in Antiquities.
Having lived and travelled widely in west & central Africa and the South Pacific for a number of years, Alex developed a passion for the traditional art of these regions. It was then that he began to handle, buy and sell objects from all over the globe.
Upon returning to the UK Alex graduated from the University of Nottingham with a first in Archaeology (BA). Prior to joining Lyon & Turnbull he worked with the internationally renowned dealers ArtAncient and Clive Loveless.