THE COLORS OF WESTERN AFRICA THROUGH THE LENS OF COURTNEY-CLARKE
For the famous photographer Margaret Courtney – Clarke the spirit of Africa is not a mystery, but has specific forms and colors. In her book „African Canvas”, Courtney-Clarke who is born in Namibia, documents the unique form of the folk art and architecture in Western Africa, which is not transportable and therefore can’t be seen in the museums around the world. The images captured in the book reveal the unique tradition of Africa, of the local rural culture in which women are the artists and the home is a canvas.
Margaret Courtney-Clarke manages to capture the spirit of the unseen Africa and to take a look at the homes of its proud inhabitants. The beautiful black models on the reddish-brown walls are painted by the women in the village, and the buildings are built by the men. This is the common tradition throughout Africa. Before the wall can be painted, it must be plastered up with a mixture of cow manure, clay and water. The red pigment is made of clay, the black one is made of pulverized stone, and the white – of white soft stone. Nowadays instead of the traditional black pigment, iron is used by some women. Initially the wall is painted in red-brown using a small broom of common osier. After being left to dry, it is polished with the help of a special stone.
In Africa not only the colors, but the very form and architecture of the home brings “information” and shows the family status of the person living in this house. The round small houses belong to the young bachelors, and the houses with rectangular terrace - "Mangolo" belong to the young couples. The houses "bilobees" or these with „8 form” shape belong to the older ladies and small children.
The Africans understand the following three colors – white, black and especially the red as the aspects of the Earth. Together with their ancestors, the Earth is crucial regulating force that maintains the balanced religious and social system. The symbols on the walls of the houses also have their meaning – for example, the snakes and crocodile drawings, both sacred animals in the African culture, provide protection.