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Alan Donovan – African Heritage

BY Lisa Lindblad

August 28, 2012

On the eve of my departure for Kenya, my heart place, I offer you a glimpse of what makes this country and this continent so unique.

I first met Alan Donovan 41 years ago in Nigeria.  I was on an 8 month drive from London to Kenya and had stopped for Christmas in the town of Oshogbo in Nigeria’s Yoruba land ; Alan was looking at art in this remarkably prolific town.  I bought a  painting from one of Oshogbo’s best known artists, Twins Seven Seven, which I carried onwards to Kenya only to sell it, upon arrival, to Allan for a desperately needed $100.  One of my few life regrets!

When I arrived in Nairobi, Alan had recently opened a pan African gallery called African Heritage in the city center.  It was the first of its kind, a collection of textiles, jewelry, daily utensils, and  art from all over the continent that celebrated the indigenous beauty and ingenuity of its people.  With a cafe in the back, changing art exhibitions and fashion shows, it was the quintessential African lifestyle shop that launched countless African artists and inspired writers and academics to look at African culture in a new, intelligent and respectful way.

The shop has long since moved to new quarters and Alan has continued as a luminary in the field of African arts and craft, curating shows, writing books, consulting.  He has built himself an extraordinary house on the outskirts of the city which is filled with  many of the beautiful objects he celebrated all those years ago.

The photo above was taken just days ago at a show for Standard Chartered Bank Group from India.
It is a stunning picture of Heritage models from the African Heritage Textile Tour with, from left, a
  Yoruba masquerade costume, Kuba King and Queen from the
  Congo, and three stunning garments from Nigeria: Achiko in silver cape of
Ase Oke cloth woven by Yoruba men, Dorothy in golden cloth woven by Okene
women, and Amber wears the famous indigo dyed “Adire” cloth from Yoruba
women.

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Art & Design Flourishing in Cape Town