One of the most popular and fascinating forms of Makonde art is sculpture – especially. These pieces have become extremely popular today with art collectors and homeowners alike. Considering they come in many shapes, sizes, and types of carvings, it’s not surprising they are popping up all over the world!
Like any other piece of art, the history and origins of the Family Tree Style sculpture only adds to its intrigue.
Origins of Family Tree Style Sculptures
The Family Tree Style sculptures, which are also referred to as “Tree of Life,” date back to the late 1950s and an artistic style called Dimoongo – one of the eight major Makonde styles.
Professor Elias Jengo explains:“A style called Dimoongo (power of strength), which a local political zealot later named Ujamaa, was introduced by the late Roberto Yakobo Sangwani who migrated into Tanzania from Mozambique in the late 1950s. The original style represented a winner in a wrestling match who was carried shoulder high by his colleagues represented in a cluster of figures. Some later versions were carved showing a female figure at the top of a cluster of figures. This was the beginning of a style known as the Makonde family tree.” With a history of name changes, tracking the Makonde Family Tree sculptures can be a little confusing for the average person. Dimoongo, Ujamaa, and Tree of Life all refer to the same style of art.
Significance of the Makonde “Family Tree”
Even though these carvings have been known by a number of different names, the significance and meaning of the carvings have remained the same over the years. Ujamaa means community and family. This meaning is also echoed in the “Tree of Life” pieces which speak to a common human ancestral heritage. This is why you often see symbols of support and generations of family. Overall, the piece brings out the community harmony the Makonde people strongly believe in.
Common Characteristics and DepictionsThe sculptures, while they can take on a variety of shapes, forms, and sizes, have a number of common characteristics representing the symbolism and significance of the carvings. The carvings typically include:
- A column of people, with one central figure surrounded by smaller figures.
- One large figure at the top of the pole – often a central figure such as a tribal chief. More modern carvings typically have a female figure at the top.
- They commonly depict members of extended family – often representing multiple generations.
- People are often depicted climbing or holding each other up (representing support).
- People are often shown performing traditional tasks and local work such as cooking or farming.
About the Artists and the CanvasFamily tree sculptures can be as tall as 6 feet, taking artisans up to 9 months to complete. However, they also come in many other sizes, ensuring you can find the perfect carving for your home or office decor.
- The sculptures have become popular because of their intricate design and decor.
- They are carved from African blackwood (also known as mpingo).
- High quality pieces are carved from a single large tree trunk.
What really communicates the beauty of these carvings is their unparalleled, intricately detailed and delicate shapes, making these sculptures highly desirable. Please take a few moments to explore our collection of Family Tree Style Sculptures. They are fascinating pieces, deeply rooted in history. Bring a piece of Africa home with you today. Add a Family Tree Sculpture to your home or office. A unique and fascinating accent, they are also great conversation starters!
Teapots were invented back in the Yuan Dynasty (in China). The design likely progressed gradually from ceramic kettles and wine pots made of metals. Prior to that, only cauldrons were used to boil tea which was then served in bowls.
By the Ming Dynasty, use of the teapot was widespread in China.
Early teapots were small in comparison to what we use today, as they were usually designed for a single tea drinker. Believe it or not, once the tea was brewed, they usually drank it straight from the teapot spout! If I'd done that as a child, my grandmother would have clipped my ear! Different strokes for different folks, indeed.
They might have actually been onto something, as single portions of tea are easier to control with regard to flavour and are easier to repeat consistently.
From the 17th century onward, tea was shipped from China to Europe, along with exotic spices and other luxuries. Porcelain teapots, often painted in the familiar blue and white we associate with many Chinese ceramics, were also shipped out.
Here's a fun fact! Because porcelain is completely vitrified, it can stand subjection to seawater without harm. Therefore, the teapots could be stowed below deck. The tea, however, had to be stowed above deck in order to remain dry.
At first, tea drinkers in Europe were of the upper class
At that time, porcelain couldn't be made in Europe. So tea and teapots were fairly expensive, limiting consumption to those who could readily afford it. It wasn't until 1708 that Ehrenfriend Walther von Tschirnaus figured out how to make porcelain and started the Meissen Factory (in Dresden) in 1710.
In the Americas, Boston was a centre for silver craftsmanship. We're sure you've heard of the Revere family, whose works of art included teapots.
Paul Revere's Famous Ride
Early English homes used tea cosies to keep their teapot hot after the tea had brewed. They work - as we still utilize them today! Knitters and crocheters in our family used to compete for the most intricate and whimsical tea cosy creations!
Many people enjoy collecting teapots
I know, because I'm one of them! In all my years of collecting (and I have quite a few teapots), I have never seen such intricate, whimsical teapots as produced by Ardmore Studio. These teapots would be quite suitable on the table at The Mad Hatter's Tea Party! In fact, we're proud to tell you that some of our lovely ceramics from The Ardmore Collection are on display at the shop at the prestigious Gardiner Museum in Toronto now through the end of March 2018.
At first glance, most people can't tell that this is a teapot! Look closely and you will see that it is. Can't you just see this lovely piece on the tea table in Alice in Wonderland? We sure can!
The Ardmore Collection
On Springvale Farm, located in the KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), a most astounding art studio is found. Ardmore Ceramics has been acknowledged by the acclaimed auction house - Christie's - as producers of "modern day collectibles". Styled in an exuberant, exotic (even, may we say, whimsical style), the ceramics produced by this remarkable atelier are superb examples of design and craftsmanship. Often inspired by wildlife, Ardmore Ceramics have been exhibited in leading galleries and collections around the world, including The Museum of Art & Design in New York and The Museum of Cultures in Basel (Switzerland). Ardmore's modern art style breaks ceramic conventions, using techniques resulting from years of experimentation with materials and processes. The vibrant colours and enormous attention to detail are simply superb.