African Studies by Anton van Wouw
When Anton van Wouw arrived in South Africa from the Netherlands, he was 28 years old. Here he met the indigenous people of the country for the first time. His rendering of Africans shows a perceptual awareness. Not only does Van Wouw show the anatomical characteristics of the African, but he created these studies of the indigenous people with dignity and understanding. Spirit and culture come to the fore in these works.
Van Wouw modelled from life and his subjects are shown in different moods and situations. A serene and pensive mood is evident in his bronze sculpture entitled The Thinker (1935). With his chin resting on his hand, the subject seems unaware of the world around him, lost in his own thoughts.
A happy and joyful mood is created in the bronze work Laughing Basutu (1936). With his arms folded over his chest and head turned to the right, the subject seems happy and lively. The play of light on the features adds to the liveliness of the work.
In the bronze work Shangaan (1907) we see a reserved person. He looks slightly down, the brow is furrowed and arms tightly crossed over his chest as if he is cutting himself off from the onlooker.
In Sleeping African of 1907, the subject is totally relaxed, fast asleep with mouth open and head slightly tilted to the right. The arms are lightly folded. In contrast to this work, Shangaan seems tense and worried.
Calmness, serenity and almost a regal element are present in Zulu (1907). A striking contrast is evident in the texture of hair and beard, as well as the smooth skin. The man seems undisturbed by trivialities. He looks ahead with eyes cast slightly down, proud to be a Zulu.
Van Wouw created the African in his everyday activities as seen in The Hammer Worker (1911). The worker is busy hammering at a rock and is almost encircled by rock. The figure seems to ‘grow’ out of the rock. Skapu Player (1907) shows the African in a seated position relaxing while he plays his music. Mieliepap Eater (1907) shows the African preparing his food in a typical pose. He sits stirring his food in the three-legged pot. The Hunter Drinking (1907) shows the lithe body as nature’s child. The same horizontal composition is present in Dagga Smoker (1907). With dignity and respect, Van Wouw sculptured King Khama, head of the Bamangwatu. The wise old man stares ahead with tired eyes. Old age and experience are evident in this work of Van Wouw. The model for Bushman Hunter was well known to Van Wouw. He actually worked for Van Wouw who studied his build and movements. Van Wouw often played bow and arrow games with him. His understanding of the small Bushman is quite evident in this work.
The studies of indigenous people by Van Wouw include:
· Bushman Hunter (bronze) 1902
· Sleeping African (bronze) 1907
· Hunter drinking (bronze) 1907
· Coffee Drinker (Sidwane Tokozile) (bronze) 1907
· Zulu (bronze) 1907
· Basutu Witness (bronze) 1907
· Mieliepap Eater (bronze) 1907
· Shangaan (bronze) 1907
· Skapu Player (bronze) 1907
· Dagga Smoker (bronze) 1907
· The Hammer Worker (bronze) 1911
· King Khama (bronze) 1925
· Laughing Basutu (bronze) 1936
· The Thinker (bronze) 1937