Last Monday was my fist time in Paris, and I spent the day doing what I love most, exploring African art and discussing its cultural significance in art history.

Picasso Primitif is an exhibition being held at the Musée Du Auai Branly Jacques Chirac until the end of the summer. It traces a chronology of Picasso’s work, explaining the origin of many of his pieces.

The purpose of this exhibition is to hold the works of Picasso in direct conjunction with the works of African artefacts that predate that of his own. Perhaps conjunction is too harsh; this showcase seeks to establish something more positive, a parallel. While the relationship between Picasso and African sculptors was far from symbiotic, recognising that his works, and works within western art circles, are influenced by African pieces existing as far back as before Christ is a very big deal!

The Musée Du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac has other exhibitions on which showcase African artefacts in their own rights. Diligent efforts have been made to research each piece, to find the date it was created and, as far as possible, it’s purpose. In just a few hours I travelled around my continent, from Ghana to South Africa and from as far back as 200 AD to the 20th century.

It really was a moving experience. So much history and culture to explore in one space, to say there was so little time is more than an exaggeration!

This exhibition highlighted the need to know my (or rather, our) own heritage, and to know it well. The pieces on display are not just artic forms of expression, they are emblems of Akan, Igbo, Zulu, Fang culture. They are religious and spiritual embodiments of faith and worship. They are artefacts that attest to a civilisation before the ones documented for us (and at most times, inaccurately so).

They tell the stories of kings and their subjects, of chiefs and their people, of families and their everyday existence. They tell stories about my own people that I myself am completely ignorant of.

It is not enough to let tour guides and historians explain our cultures to us. We have a responsibility to explore it for ourselves. We need to use these spaces as segues; allow them to open up discussions and draw out questions about our own past and assess their significance on our present and future.

You can find more information on Picasso Primitif and Musée Du Quai on their website.

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