The African Art Museum Arellano Alonso (Spanish: Museo de Arte Africano Arellano Alonso) of the University of Valladolid, is a non-profit institution created in 2004. It has an exceptional collection of art from sub-Saharan Africa donated by the Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso Foundation, part of which is exhibited in three rooms located in the Palace of Santa Cruz, and periodically organizes informative and formative activities aimed at bringing African culture and art to all those interested in the unknown African continent.
The Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso Foundation was established on May 3, 2004 within the University of Valladolid, thanks to the agreement established with the Jimenez-Arellano Alonso marriage. The work of collecting since the 50s developed the marriage gave rise to this generous and selfless donation, which was the birth of the Arellano Alonso Foundation. The foundation houses an extensive collection of art, both contemporary painting and sculpture, as well as African art, among others.The collection dedicated to African art is divided into three exhibition halls – the Renaissance Room, the Rectors Room and the San Ambrosio Room. with an important section of sculpture made in terracotta.
Since its opening in 2004 the two types of art were shown but the great prestige of the African art collection led to the remodeling of the rooms and from April 21, 2010 the three rooms show much of the funds of the Foundation. The exhibition includes the most important African cultures in the work of clay throughout history.In 2012 the third room (Sala de San Ambrosio) was inaugurated under the name of “Kingdom of Oku”.
The African art collection:
The collection gathers about 130 sculptures made with terracotta, a millenarian and fragile material, of complex conservation and difficult to find. Some of the cultures represented are: Nok culture, Ifé, Kingdom of Benin, Sokoto, Jukun, Komaland, Ashanti, Katsina, Dori, Mangbetu, Paré, Djenné, Ségou, Igno, Cham, Longuda, Bankoni, Yoruba, Agni, Mambila or Bura, among others and that are exhibited in the Renaissance Room and in the Hall of Rectors.
The specimens date from the 5th century BC. until the XX of our era and some are exceptional pieces as the only couple known worldwide Jukun culture (of which there are barely a dozen pieces in the world), one of the few known heads of the culture of the ancient kingdom of Benin made in terracotta (dated in the sixteenth century) or significant sets, as is formed by fourteen pieces of the Nok culture, first example of figurative sculpture in terracotta of black Africa, next to the Egyptian.
The main iconographic element of this collection is human culture: figures that give shelter to spirits, represent ancestors or constitute images of power. Small human complete or incomplete are also the forty pieces of a culture that, in 1985, was exposed by excavations carried out by the University of Ghana in the north of the country and which was renamed as Komaland.
The other important part of this collection of African art is composed of sculptures made of bronze or other metals with a collection of traditional African coins and ethnographic objects. Part of these funds, those of an ethnological nature, are exhibited in the gallery of San Ambrosio where the most recent collection of the Foundation that recreates the Kingdom of Oku, located in the west of Cameroon is also on display. It is composed of objects linked to the king that he uses during royal receptions, parties or ritual ceremonies.
African Art: Terracotta
The Renaissance Room, located on the ground floor of the Palace, houses part of the collection of African terracotta whose common motif is the human figure. The exhibition takes a chronological look through the pieces of the different cultures settled around the basins of the rivers Niger and Congo, places where it was easy to find the raw material: mud. In addition, the funds are complemented by some works from the eastern part of the continent, specifically Tanzania and Ethiopia.
The collection of terracotta sculpture by the Arellano Alonso Foundation is one of the most exceptional in Europe, both in terms of the number and relevance of the cultures it includes. The peoples present in it are located in the basins of the Niger River, Congo and its tributaries, in addition to Tanzania and Ethiopia, places where it was easy to find the fundamental raw material, mud.
Most of the villages kept in the Renacimiento room are located in the valley of the Niger River. Of course, all of them have different styles and cultures. In this way, the most ancient culture of West Africa is found in Nigeria, the Nok culture, which, according to the last investigations, can be dated from the seventh century BC to the ninth century AD. The villages of Sokoto and Katsina, which belong between the fifth c. BC and the eighth c. AD are their followers –but without so much artifice.
In the twelfth century (European Middle Ages) and also in Nigeria we will be witnesses of the refined “court art” of the Kingdom of Ife and the ancient Kingdom of Benin, with the idealization of the images as a sample of the monarchical exaltation. The importance of the material that has been used to make them cannot be omitted, since most of the works belonging to both cultures are preserved in bronze, not in terracotta.
In Mali, four important cultures are developed between the tenth and the seventeenth century, such as Segou, Bankoni, Tennenkou and, especially, Djenne, due to its iconographic variety and the great expressionism that its images show.
The knowledge of these cultures is recent, being the first vestiges at the beginning of the 20th century, usually by chance, while the archaeological excavations with scientific criteria are later and scarce. To this must be added the predominance of oral tradition that has caused a great loss of information that would have helped to contextualize the manufacture of the works and their creators. The result, therefore, is the ignorance of the origin and social structure of most of the peoples.
Among the cultures that make up this exhibition are: Nok, Sokoto, Katsina, Ifé, Ancient Kingdom of Benin, Djenné, Bura, Jukun, Mambila or Mangbetu and Paré.
African Art: Kingdom of Oku
The San Ambrosio Room, located on the mezzanine of the building, is dedicated to the kingdom of Oku, a territory located in the northwest of the current republic of Cameroon, in the Grassland region whose capital is Elak. It has an approximate population of 120,000 inhabitants grouped in 36 towns. The peculiar orography, characterized by high volcanic mountains, has led to a certain isolation that allows the persistence of an almost feudal structure.
Fon Sintieh II is the monarch of Oku. In 2006, he began to negotiate with Ramón Sanz for the signing of an agreement in which the Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso Foundation is named “(…) its ambassador for the promotion of cultural and artistic values in Europe”. In addition to this agreement, there has been the arrival of more than one hundred objects of different materials to Valladolid and constitutes the most recent incorporation to the African art collections of the Arellano Alonso Foundation. These objects reflect the traditions, beliefs and social organization of this kingdom. These objects can be visited in the permanent exhibition “The Kingdom of Oku”, in the Sala de San Ambrosio of the Palace of Santa Cruz de Valladolid.
Within the sample, regalia stand out, that is, objects whose use is reserved exclusively for the sovereign. They are pieces, mostly carved in wood, that highlight the great development of this art that has reached, in general, throughout Cameroon. Among these royalties include the beds of leadership, ritual thrones or traditional dresses that only the Fon (the King) can wear in certain ceremonies.
The most relevant objects are the beds of leadership that are used in the enthronement ceremonies and the ritual thrones in these events or in the worship of the ancestors. But perhaps the most striking of them all are the columns of the porches of the houses (like the one of the War) and the palaces (like the one of the own monarch), being based on an iconography of identification with the monarch with emblems and symbols of authority like leopards, bells …
Also striking are the masks11 of some of the traditional Secret Societies that still have great relevance in the society of Oku and whose activities and objects must remain in the strictest mistero. The Societies are in charge of stopping antisocial behaviors that threaten the general welfare or attempt against traditional customs, maintaining harmony and social peace. The punishments are applied by their “masks”, which have a magical charge, synonymous with “medicine”, which is what gives them their power and gives them life. That is why they “dance” in traditional ceremonies and rituals of all kinds (judicial, funerary, enthronements …). The more aggressive your dance is and the more repulsive its appearance, the greater will be its power.
This exhibition constitutes the most recent incorporation to the Arellano Alonso African Art Museum collections by the Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso Foundation. It was the Arellano Alonso couple who donated the collection and paid for the assembly.
In the upper part of this room is the Gallery of San Ambrosio, which collects various ethnographic objects.
African Art: The riders
The Hall of Rectors addresses the collection of African Art: The Horsemen, located on the ground floor, serves as an introduction to the entire collection. It allows you to discover which are the main materials commonly used in African art, which go beyond the wood associated with the famous masks.
Speaking of the Rectors Hall is talking about Africa in contact with Mother Earth, where we can see what kind of materials are used in artistic creations, being terracotta our special case, as well as the impressive collection of African riders, without letting the knowledge pass artistic of a large part of the animals that exist in Africa. — Talking about the Rectors room is talking about Africa in contact with Mother Earth, where we can observe the type of materials used in artistic creations, being the terracotta the most special case, as well as the impressive recompilation of African riders, taking into account the artistic knowledge about animals living in Africa.
The set of six riders exhibited in this room is exceptional both for its rarity and its high number in relation to those that can be seen in other European collections. The representations of horse riders are exceptional in African art due to the difficult survival of horses in the sub-Saharan zone (insufficient water, malaria or bite of the tse-tse fly). These sculptures were modeled to be deposited in the funeral altars and, in addition, the similarity of features between the animal and the rider draws attention.
The use of a large number of different materials has been constant within the African artistic realization. We can say in a generalized way that wood is the most frequent material, but objects with other materials will be made, such as stone that, despite being unusual, is still of great interest. Brass or brass are materials also used in these creations, using the technique of lost wax. Weapons, tools and household objects were manufactured with iron.
The use of textiles is highly interesting, because depending on their use, social or ritual prestige was granted within a culture. The most interesting textiles are those made by the Kuba of the current Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Ashanti of Ghana. The fabrics are normally made by men, using vegetable fibers (linen, jute or raffia), cotton, silk and wool. It is women, however, who are responsible for decoration by embroidery or applications.
We can not miss making necklaces or other decorative elements such as glass beads, cowries, shells, feathers, mollusks, seeds … All of them were used not only as a symbol of ornamental beauty, but of social distinction.
But perhaps, the material on which we must focus on its antiquity is clay, since it was already known in the ninth century BC. A material that is collected directly from the banks of the rivers and with which pellets are formed. The modeling was done by hand, without the use of a lathe, the most common technique being called “churros”, in which clay cylinders are superimposed to give rise to a figure.
The decoration of the clay is done through incisions, patterns in relief or application of color with vegetable and mineral pigments. After a few days of drying, the objects are cooked in outdoor pits.
Finally, in this room some pieces are exhibited temporarily, which are located in a permanent section called Miradas sobre África, with the aim of making known that part of the collection that would otherwise remain hidden in the Foundation’s warehouses.
The contemporary artistic representations cover a great temporal and stylistic amplitude, where they appear a great variety of important representatives that conform the art of century XX.
Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Chillida, Antonio Saura, Manuel Millares, Chirino, Anthony Caro, Esteban Vicente, Daniel Vázquez Díaz, Pablo Palazuelo, Luis Gordillo, Rafael Canogar, Adolfo Schlosser, Luis Feito or Gerardo Rueda are the great representatives of this collection that will give way to the most current creators who are between the 90s of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. These representatives are Xavier Grau, Ángel Bofarull, Ricardo Cárdenas, Isidro Blasco, David Israel, Gonzalo Sicre … among many of the great names.
A subgroup that could be highlighted among all of them is that of the Spanish creators, such as Carmen Calvo, Marina Nuñez, Esther Pizarro, Blanca Muñoz or Teresa Moro, all of them included in the funds and who represent the great protagonism and importance of the creative women in the current artistic panorama.
A collection, in short, that includes works by authors with their own space in the history of art, as well as the names of outstanding contemporary artists consolidated in the national and international art scene.
Collection of painting and sculpture:
The Jiménez-Arellano Alonso family bequeathed to the Foundation a collection composed of pictorial and sculptural works that belong mainly to contemporary Spanish art of the second half of the 20th century, although it also has examples of European Baroque and other movements and styles. They are not exposed, but they are assigned to institutions such as the City Council of Valladolid, the Reina Sofia Museum or the University of Valladolid.
The Museum has 3,000 volumes related to contemporary art and African art.
Also part of the legacy are various sets of ancient Asian art, pre-Columbian art, decorative arts and religious art.
Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso Foundation:
The Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso Foundation was created on May 3rd 2004 within the University of Valladolid, thanks to the agreement settled with the couple Jiménez-Arellano Alonso. The Foundation carries the name of their first-born son. The art collecting process, developed by the family since the 50’s, is what gave rise to this generous and altruist donation that supposed the origin of the Foundation.
The Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso Foundation is located in Valladolid, the ideal place to exhibit a collection where sculpture acquires a relevant meaning. Displayed in different rooms of the Santa Cruz Place, the pieces that conform the collection found shelter in a city and environment intimately bound to the sculptural tradition as well as the conservation and preservation of sculptural pieces of art.
The Alberto Jiménez-Arellano Alonso Foundation (UVA) is a non-profit organization, enrolled in the framework of the University of Valladolid, whose essential aim is to promote arts.
Furthermore, it searches the plastic expression of those superior values of freedom and tolerance through the proliferation of artistic activities.
The Foundation focuses on the promotion of knowledge and investigation of contemporary and African art, as well as African culture and all those artistic and cultural manifestations related to those collections stored within the Foundation.
Moreover, the expansion of the collection through donations, transfers and legacies becomes essential in order to facilitate a wider knowledge and popularization of those collections.