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Contemporary African Art from the Harmon Foundation


The contemporary art of Africa eludes generalized description. Artists have utilized various mediums, from oils to silk screening, and methods varying from brass casting by the ancient lost wax process to welding tin cans and other metals into sculpture. Traditionalists like Lamidi Fakeye produce sculpture and wood carvings based on classical African designs. A larger group works in the more modern styles of cubism, expressionism, and surrealism, while others seek a purely personal style. Many African artists were trained at European and American schools; others feel that they can achieve truly African expression only in their native surroundings. In Nigeria, for example, the national artistic tradition is strong and pervasive, even though obscured by the effects of European colonialism and Christian and Moslem religious zeal. In many other countries, traditional art very nearly succumbed under these forces. Thus a contemporary artwork is classified as African purely on the basis of the artist's nationality, rather than according to a peculiar style, subject, purpose, or medium.

The Harmon Foundation, a nonprofit, private foundation active from 1922 to 1967, helped foster an awareness of African art. Although its initial projects were funding parks and playgrounds and providing student loans, the foundation's flexible structure lent itself to support for a wide range of activities, including art. The foundation's interest in contemporary African art grew rather spontaneously. Its initial contact with Africa came through three series of motion pictures commissioned by the foundation in the 1930's on native life and tribal customs and the work of Christian missions in Africa. Although art was not selected as a focal point, the films depicted a culture built around folkcrafts; houses, furnishings, cooking utensils, and clothing were all handcrafted from local materials. Art, in a broad sense, had always been an integral part of African life. By the mid-1940s a few artists, aware of the films and the foundation's work with black American artists and anxious to create a market for their artworks in the United States, began sending their work to the New York offices. General interest was slow to develop. Connoisseurs of art seemed to see the African work not as serious, creative effort, but as sociological commentary on modern Africa. This view became particularly apparent in 1950, when the foundation had difficulty finding an established gallery for an exhibit by Ben Enwonwu, a leading Nigerian artist whose work had been successfully shown in England.

As a result of these early experiences, a strong relationship developed between the African artists, the foundation, and the American art community. More and more artists became aware of the foundation as a contact point and more frequently shipped artworks to the United States for exhibit and sale. The foundation became conscious of the substantial lack of appreciation for contemporary African art and of its own potential role in promoting intercultural understanding. By 1967 it was well established as a liaison between the artists and interested groups. With the cooperation of the Merton Simpson Gallery in New York and a few university galleries, it arranged several one-man shows and numerous general exhibits. After 6 years of research, it published "Africa's Contemporary Art and Artists", a descriptive compilation of artists in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the staff collected black and white prints and color slides of nearly 2,500 artworks. The Harmon Foundation's role had mushroomed from a latent, remote interest to leadership in the field of contemporary African art.

When the foundation ended its activities in 1967, it donated to the National Archives its entire collection of motion pictures, filmstrips, color slides, and black and white prints and negatives on a variety of subjects. The following selection, arranged alphabetically by name of artist, from the "Artworks by African Artists" series, is a representative sample of the work of some of the artists in the collection. An inclusive list of artists in this series is available upon request.

Many photographs from the Harmon Foundation are not listed in this leaflet. Separate inquiries about other photographs should be as specific as possible listing names, dates, places, events, and other details.

List of Works

* Asterisks following artwork titles indicate those which are available in color as well as black and white.

Abossolo, Martin (Cameroon)
  1. Dancer No. 1,* oil (1965).
  2. Pensive,* oil.
  3. Tom-Tom Player No.1,* oil (1965).
Abubakar, Fatma Abdullah (Tanzania)
  1. Egrets, oil.
  2. Feeding Monkeys,* oil.
Addo-Osafo, Emmanuel (Ghana)
  1. The Coming of the Ashanti Golden Stool, linocut?
  2. The Great Whip, print.
  3. The Orange Seller, linocut or woodcut.
Afolabi, Jacob (Nigeria)
  1. The Flash-Eyed Mother, linocut.
  2. Igbo and His People, linocut.
  3. Latanga with His Guard, linocut.
Ahmed, Taj S.M. (Sudan)
  1. Interior with Sarcophagus,* lithograph (1962).
  2. Ottoman Khedive,* oil.
  3. Suzannah and the Elders,* oil.
Akeredolu, Justus, D. (Nigeria)
  1. Boy balancing on one hand,* thorn carving (sculpture carved from the thorn of the wild cotton tree).
  2. Bust of Nigerian girl,* thorn carving.
  3. Farmer cutting bush,* thorn carving.
  4. Hands holding six carvings, showing relative size,* thorn carving.
  5. Woman grinding pepper with baby on back,* thorn carving.
Akolo, Jimo B. (Nigeria)
  1. Dancing Figure,* color print with etching.
  2. Mural, Northern House of Assembly, Kano (?), Nigeria (1964).
  3. Pilate Washing Hands and Feet,* color print (1964).
Antubam, Kofi (Ghana)
  1. An Akan Mother and Child,* watercolor (1947).
  2. Woman Grinding Corn,* watercolor
Ballaa, Yousif Ahmed El (Sudan)
  1. Landscape at Khor Taqqat, oil (1958).
  2. Mabrouka Boardinghouse, oil (1955).
  3. Self-Portrait, oil (1959).
Bedawi, Hassan (Sudan)
  1. Eggz,* watercolor (1965).
  2. New York Landscape,* oil on board (1965).
  3. Tension,* watercolor (1962).
  4. Village,* watercolor.
Boghossian, Alexander (Skunder) (Ethiopia)
  1. Bird No. 1, welded metal sculpture.
  2. Cave-Bird and the Lantern,* watercolor (1964).
  3. Hanging Figure, welded metal sculpture.
  4. Heavenly Enlightenment,* gouache (1964).
  5. Illumination No. 1,* pen and ink (1964).
  6. Jeune Fille Assise* (young girl seated), oil (1961).
  7. Le Marche* (the market), oil (1960).
  8. Primogenetive Fissure,* watercolor (1964).
  9. Self-Portrait,* watercolor (1961)
  10. The Musician, watercolor (1961).
  11. The Umbrella,* gouache? (1961).
  12. Twilight Braves,* watercolor (1964).
Bokoko, Rene (Congo)
  1. Return from Fishing,* gouache?
  2. The Crocodile Hunt,* watercolor.
  3. The Forest, II,* gouache?
Bucknor, Arthur J. E. (Ghana)
  1. Chief from the North,* pastel (1966).
  2. Chieftaincy,* gouache (1959).
  3. Ghanaian Seascape,* gouache (1958).
Bulu, John Barbor (Liberia)
  1. Street of Thatched Huts,* oil.
Buluma, Mordecai (Uganda)
  1. Man with Bulldog in the Evening,* serigraph.
  2. The Abandoned Hut,* oil.
  3. The Market Place,* serigraph (1960).
Burney-Nichol, Miranda (Sierra Leone)
  1. Child Reading, oil.
  2. Child with food,* section of mural in Children's Hospital (1961).
  3. Steadfast, oil.
Chingono, Francis (Zimbabwe)
  1. From the River, carved wood panel.
  2. Madonna of the Divine, wood sculpture.
  3. Man Collecting Gold Dust, wood sculpture.
Chinouya, R. (Zimbabwe)
  1. Goats,* watercolor,
Clarke, Peter (South Africa)
  1. African Figure,* stencil print (1958).
  2. In the Wind, linocut (1961).
  3. Man with White Cock, linocut (1959).
  4. Workers in the Sun,* gouache (1960).
  5. That Evening Sun Goes Down,* gouache (1960).
Dartey E. Owusu (Ghana)
  1. A Cottage,* watercolor.
  2. A Game in Ghana,* oil.
  3. Compound Interest,* watercolor and pen and ink.
  4. I Am Tired,* oil.
  5. Mamudu* (the laborer), watercolor (1964).
  6. Snow,* watercolor (1964).
  7. The Queen,* watercolor.
  8. The Truant,* watercolor.
  9. Unity,* watercolor.
Desta, Gebra Kristos (Ethiopia)
  1. Hausfrau, oil (1961).
  2. Homecoming, oil (1961).
Enwaku, Washington (Uganda)
  1. Crested Cranes, lithograph.
Enwonwu, Ben (Nigeria)
  1. Dancing Figure, ebony sculpture.
  2. Dogari,* oil (1949).
  3. Father and Son,* fruitwood sculpture.
  4. Fulani Girl of Rupp,* oil(1949).
  5. Head of Hausa,* gouache(1958).
  6. Head of Yoruba Girl,* Indian wood sculpture.
  7. Man with Banana Leaf,* oakwood sculpture.
  8. Nkatamuo,* elmwood sculpture.
  9. Waterside Scene,* gouache (1950).
Fakeye, Lamidi (Nigeria)
  1. A Priest of Oro,* carved wood panel.
  2. Annunciation of the Angel to Mary, carved wood panel.
  3. God of Thunder,* wood sculpture.
Grillo, Yusuf Adebayo (Nigeria)
  1. Yoruba Bride,* oil on board.
Hadi, Hassan El (Sudan)
  1. Endeavor, ink and wash.
  2. Forms,* gouache.
Idah (Nigeria)
  1. Hunter with Animal on His Head,* wood sculpture.
  2. Medicine Man, carved wood panel.
  3. Woman As Warrior, carved wood panel.
Idehen, Festus Omo (Nigeria)
  1. Musician,* ebony sculpture.
Kalanzi, Yonansani (Uganda)
  1. The Artist, oil.
  2. The Beer Seller, oil.
Keita (Sierra Leone)
  1. Portrait or Mask,* oil on canvas board.
Khalil, Mohammed Omer (Sudan)
  1. Nude,* oil.
  2. Movimiento Verde,* oil.
  3. Reflections from the World's Fair, etching (1965).
  4. The Chalk Garden, etching (1965).
  5. Waiting on the Pier,* ink and watercolor.
Khumalo, Lazarus (Zimbabwe)
  1. Witch Doctor, soapstone sculpture.
Kofi, Vincent (Ghana)
  1. Awakening Africa, bronze sculpture.
  2. Crucifix, wood sculpture.
  3. Mother and Child, wood sculpture.
  4. Unknown Slave, cast metal sculpture.
Kotei, Amon (Ghana)
  1. Adei with Red Scarf,* oil (1960).
  2. Moments in Hell,* oil(1960).
Kyemwa, Anthony (Brother Anthony) (Uganda)
  1. Cormorant and Fish, wood sculpture.
  2. The Frog, soapstone sculpture.
Kyeyune, Eli (Uganda)
  1. Death,* oil on paper.
  2. Rhoda Kayanja,* oil (1963).
  3. The Conversation,* oil (1963).
  4. The Owl, oil.
Langdown, Amos (South Africa)
  1. Death and the Horsemen, lithograph.
  2. Fighting Cocks; engraving (1962).
  3. Hoola Hoop, woodcut (1962).
  4. Man with Beef, lithograph (1963).
Lumu, Henry Michael (Uganda)
  1. Wandegeya Suburb,* tempera on paper (1960).
Luvwezo, Jean (Zaire)
  1. Dance Masks,* oil.
  2. L'Avenir,* oil.
Malangatana, Valente G. (Mozambique)
  1. Nude with Crucifix, oil (1960).
  2. Rape, oil (1961).
  3. The Voyage, oil (1960).
Manyolo, Betty (Uganda)
  1. African Fable, linocut.
  2. Cattle People,* oil.
  3. Death in the Forest, linocut.
Mitchell, James (South Africa)
  1. Excitement, linocut (1962).
  2. Friday Night, linocut (1961).
  3. "Socker's" Alley, linocut (1962).
Mlahlwa, Mercy (South Africa)
  1. Sisters, soapstone sculpture.
Mulongoya, Pili Pili (Zaire)
  1. Crocodile and Snake Fighting,* oil.
  2. Snake Amid Flowers,* oil.
Musango, Francis (Brother Francis) (Uganda)
  1. Christ in the Manger,* oil.
  2. Kikuyu Women,* watercolor?
  3. The Flower,* watercolor?
Mvusi, Selby (South Africa)
  1. Retreat, charcoal.
  2. The Funeral, charcoal (1961).
  3. The Patriots, pencil or charcoal drawing.
Ngu, Clara Ugbodaga (Nigeria)
  1. Beggars,* oil (1963).
  2. Man and Bird,* oil (1963).
  3. Market Women,* oil.(1961).
Njau, Elimo P. (Tanzania)
  1. Head of Christ,* oil. Murals at Fort Hall Memorial Chapel, Kenya.
  2. The Birth of Christ.
  3. The Last Supper
  4. The Load and the Hoe, lithograph.
Nour, Amir lbrahim Mohed (Sudan)
  1. Building in Black and White, lithograph.
  2. Chaos, lithograph (1961).
  3. Lines and Shapes,* lithograph (1961).
Ntiro, Sam J. (Tanzania)
  1. Chagga Beermaking,* oil.
  2. Conversion of Saint Paul, cartoon for a mural, oil.
  3. In the Banana Grove,* oil.
  4. Kakindo Crucifixion,* oil.
  5. Making Chagga Hut,* oil.
  6. Mango Tree,* oil.
  7. Round Huts,* oil.
Nwoko, Demas N. (Nigeria)
  1. Beggar Boy, watercolor.
  2. Children on Cycles, oil on panel.
Odita, Emmanuel Okechukwu (Nigeria)
  1. Sheep Grazing, oil.
  2. The Market Stall,* oil.
  3. Yam Festival Dancers,* oil (1963).
Ogundele, Rufus (Nigeria)
  1. Bird, linocut.
  2. Figures, linocut.
  3. Scene from "Oba Moro," linocut.
Okeke, C. Uche (Nigeria)
  1. Christ on the Cross, ink and brush on paper.
  2. Frog, Ibo Legendary Figure, pen and ink (1959).
  3. Odede F. Omarudo, pen and ink (1959).
Okeke, Simon Obiekezie (Nigeria)
  1. Composition with Torsos,* oil on paper (1961).
  2. Crouched Figure,* print (1960).9
  3. Head No. 3, sculpture,
  4. Heads with Drum,* oil on paper (1960).
Okiki, Godfrey A. (Nigeria)
  1. African Mother and Child,* woodcut (1963).
  2. Casting the Net,* oil (1964).
  3. Dance to the Talking Drum,* linocut (1963).
  4. Scene: Northern Nigeria,* oil (1964).
  5. The Call,* oil on board (1964).
  6. The Worshippers,* oil (1964).
  7. Women off to Market, woodcut (1963).
Onobrakpeya, Bruce P. 0. (Nigeria)
  1. Ahwaire and the Dog, linocut illustrating an Urhobo folktale that tells how the dog got his black nose.
  2. Ahwaire (the tortoise), linocut illustrating Urhobo legendary figure trapped on the top of the palm tree and being rescued by the fishes.
  3. Eketete and Erbeybuye, linocut illustrating a fight between the two laziest creatures in Benin legend.
  4. Fulani Milk Woman,* linocut.
  5. Okpogho, linocut illustrating Urhobo legendary figure who buried his mother inside his head.
  6. Portrait of Oseni,* linocut.
Osadebe, Oseloka 0. (Nigeria)
  1. He Liveth, linocut (1960).
  2. Ibo Life* (festivals), left half of oil mural at Mbari Centre, Enugu, Nigeria (1963).
  3. Ibo Life,* right half of mural at Mbari Centre (1963).
  4. Ima Ogodo,* linocut.
Osifo, Osagie (Nigeria)
  1. Benin Wrestlers, ebony sculpture.
  2. Girl Carrying a Gourd, traditional whitewood carving.
  3. 15th or 16th century Benin king, carved wood panel.
Richards, R. Vahnjah (Liberia)
  1. The Conversation, mahogany sculpture (1964).
  2. Tribal mask of the Vai Tribe sculpture (1961).
Salahi, lbrahim El (Sudan)
  1. Al Ansari,* oil.
  2. Ammi El Kinani,* oil (1960).
  3. Boats at Angoiai, I, * watercolor (1953).
  4. Boats in the Rain,* watercolor (1954).
  5. Dry Month of the Fast,* oil
  6. Head No.1,* oil.
  7. Head of a Mahdiya Warrior, ink drawing,
  8. Ruins of Suakin,* watercolor (1954).
  9. The Arising,* oil.
  10. The Donkey in my Dreams,* oil.
  11. Untitled drawing, pen and ink (1963).
Sambo, Kingsley (Zimbabwe)
  1. At the Mine, oil.
  2. City Night Life, oil.
Sedibane, Solomon Kgwadi (South Africa)
  1. Foster Mother,* wood sculpture.
  2. Mary and Baby Jesus, wild olivewood sculpture (1960).
  3. Shangaan Mother and Child, wild olivewood sculpture (1958).
  4. The Wrestlers, red ivorywood sculpture (1961).
Sekoto, Gerard (South Africa)
  1. Mother and Child,* oil (1959).
  2. The Dream of Two Worlds,* oil (1961).
  3. The Notre Dame Church, oil (1960).
  4. Woman Ironing by Candlelight,* oil.
Shibrain, Ahmed Mohammed (Sudan)
  1. Mosque Impressions,* watercolor.
  2. Motives,* watercolor.
  3. Shapes,* ink and wash.
  4. The Flower,* watercolor.
Suliman, Sayed (Sudan)
  1. Grazing,* watercolor.
  2. Night in the Forest, wood engraving.
  3. Small Goats at Midday, pen and ink.
Talabi, George 0. (Nigeria)
  1. A Baltimore Lady,* oil.
  2. African Madonna,* oil.
  3. Broken Wares, print (1963).
  4. Design for "adire" cloth, print.
  5. The Image of African Personality, oil.
  6. Transport in the Sahara, etching.
Tall, Papa Ibra (Senegal)
  1. Harlem,* oil (1962).
  2. La Foret aux Souvenirs, oil (1962).
Tayali, Henry Nikole (Zimbabwe)
  1. Shipwrecked,* watercolor.
  2. Sunset Road,* watercolor.
  3. The Omen,* watercolor.
Tessema, Mamo (Ethiopia)
  1. Porcelain bowl, teapot, and vase,* ceramic.
  2. The Capture,* woodcut.
  3. Vulture, ceramic and steel sculpture.
  4. Warrior,* welded steel sculpture.
  5. Welded Bird,* welded steel sculpture.
Wangboje, Solomon (Nigeria)
  1. At the Wharf,* oil (1960).
  2. Earth, Moon and Sky, 1,* aquatint? (1966).
  3. Male Ego, III.* lithograph (1966).
  4. The Musicmaker: Mood IV,* color etching.
  5. Where Is Ali?* linocut (1961).

Index of Artists By Country


Congo, People's Republic of

Ethiopia Ghana Liberia Mozambique Nigeria Senegal Sierra Leone South Africa Sudan Tanzania Uganda Zaire Zimbabwe

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Individual Photographs

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Complete Slide Sets

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Unless otherwise noted, the slide set consists only of black and white images

Pictures of Contemporary African Art from the Harmon Foundation

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245 Slides

(includes 120 images in color)

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