I Found An Art: Colon Statue
Going to university in the 1980s (and being a Heinz 57 myself), I couldn’t help but have my worldview shaped by identity politics and post colonial theory. Especially when it comes to representation in art.
That’s how I fell into a research rabbit hole that led me to learn about Colon figures from the West Africa. Initially the sculptures started after the failed Baule rebellion in the Ivory Coast in 1911, The traditional wood carvers started making figures depicting Europeans colonizer a or Africans in Western garb.
There are so many different takes on how and why these colon figures came to be and what they represent, but at the end of the day they demonstrate that culture is in constant flux. At first the Baule made these figures for themselves, the costumes reflecting the influences of Western fashion and culture but also global technological changes like cameras, cars and and ultimately the end of the colonial era brought change in that the figures became more colourful and desirable amongst the expat community.
One of the greatest crimes of colonialism was the arbitrary drawing up of borders. As people found themselves migrating across Africa, they also brought the Colon figures with them to places as far afield as South Africa. By the 1960s, many were produced for the tourist market (in fact the first example I ever saw was a Tin Tin figure).
Yup, I’ve done a lot of reading on Colon statues and I still don’t know the whole story. but I do know enough to know one when I see one on a table at a yard sale. Unfortunately I don’t know how the previous owner came into it (their friend was holding the fort at the time). It could be a modern version of a mid century figure or it could be from the 1950s. Time to jump back into the research hole.