CLARK HERITAGE COLLECTION
Claude Lockhart Clark
"MACHO" by Claude Lockhart Clark
After seeing countless books on African wood carving, were you ever curious about the people who did the work and what kind of tools they may have used to do African woodcarving? This question has gone unanswered for over 200 years, since the first books were published on African art. If you have had such questions go unanswered; this chapter is an attempt to answer these questions for you.
For those who are new and who are unfamiliar with African Art, we want to make sure you are not confronted with the same problems other readers have been confronted with for centuries. We shall address the following questions:
Wood sculpture in Africa is made from a single piece of timber. There may be many standalone parts in a single sculpture, but all of the parts are created from a single timber. Nothing is glued on. The word monolith is a Latin word, which means one stone. The reduction process in sculpture is a subtraction of material rather than an adding on process, which takes place in clay modeling. When you take wood away you can not put it back. This method of work causes the carver to think a certain way. African hand tools are well adapted to getting the most out of monolith reduction.
A SHORT HANDLE HOE IN Africa is used to till soil, plant seeds and create images. Over the centuries, development of the field hoe and sculpture hoe has made the short handle hoe specialized in two given areas. In Egypt the field hoe became a plow causing it to lose its hoe appearance all together. In Ghana and Nigeria the sculpture hoe is smaller than the field hoe and its design is different but it still looks like a hoe. Today the sculpture hoe is so sophisticated, it cannot only be used to rough out a woodcarving, it can be used to finish it as well.
The field and sculpture hoes are used for the same purpose; they serve as tools used to generate life. A field is first cleared of all living plants before it is seeded; and the life of a tree must be taken before its wood can be carved. The two end products resulting from the use of the field and sculpture hoe are a harvesting of crops for human physical consumption and an evolution of ideas and images for human mental and spiritual development.
One act involves the poking of holes in the earth to place seeds and the other act involves the removal of wood in shaping sculpture. Both activities involve material transformation and an evolution in culture. Next Page
Farmers transform wild plants into domesticated plants and people using these plants to prepare meals, develop dishes stimulating to the human pallet.
Woodcarvers transform trees into timber, timber into wood carvings and carvings into different styles of imagery and art work. The carvings reflect ideas and feelings shared in a culture. Prepared food reflects public taste of that culture.
In most areas of the African continent woodcarving was developed by people who acquired a major portion of their living from farming. In many African societies farmers were the first to produce carvings. As a result Woodcarving in Africa has always had a strong connection between regeneration of human cultural spirituality and regeneration of domestic plant life.
Some farmers specialized as blacksmiths, the yearround; thus making their profession one of the first professions separate from agriculture. Even the chief was a farmer, if the community did not produce enough food to allow him the luxury of full time sovereignty. Metal smiths worked as blacksmiths during the season when farmers needed iron hoes fashioned or repaired so they could continue to do the work needed in the fields.
During the off season the same blacksmiths fashioned a smaller iron hoe for the sole purpose of "laying iron against wood"; the art of carving wooden images. Many of the "earliest expert wood carvers were blacksmiths," Wood carving as a separate profession came much later. Agricultural societies first became large enough and productive enough to support specializing endeavors such as woodcarving, spinning, dying, weaving, tailoring, metal casting, glass bead making, et cetera.
Before specialization became supportive, farmers did all of the work related to the arts known at that time. Farmers did creative work during their off seasons. Next Page