African Art and Artifacts

By Stanley A Stalla | Aug 29, 2014
Photo by: Our Man Stan in Africa Stan and a couple of women in rural Africa.

Bujumbura, Burundi, East Africa — Greetings,

Some of you may remember me as "Stan our Man in...."  I used to regularly submit articles to the Village Soup, and before that to the Republican Journal, describing aspects of my overseas existence.  Though based in Belfast, in fact most of my adult life has been spent working as a development specialist and humanitarian in several countries in Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and South America.  Over the years, I've enjoyed sharing my perspectives on a range of topics--sometimes personal, sometimes professional, often simply anecdotes of what I did or saw on any particular day.

These past years have found me in the small, east African country of Burundi.  Before coming here, I had no idea where Burundi was located, so many of you may be in the same boat.  However, if I mention Rwanda, that often causes a glimmer of recognition.  Burundi is bordered by Rwanda to its north, Tanzania on the eastern border, and Lake Tanganyika to the west.  People have described its shape as an arrowhead, for those who might want to look for it on a map of The Dark Continent.

Besides writing articles for my hometown newspaper, another pleasure for me over the past years has been the few occasions when I've had the chance to address people back home (Belfast, broader Maine, and broader yet New England) about the work I do.  I've had the privilege of doing some talks at the Belfast library, chats with high schoolers and middle schoolers at BAHS and Troy Howard, and even a lunch session at the Rotary Club.  Once, I did an exhibition of photographs taken in Darfur (western Sudan) and eastern Chad. 

The other day, the thought occurred to me that it would be fun to have another public session, if there is interest, to talk a bit about some of my humanitarian experiences in Africa and Asia.  Also, I'd love a chance to share some of the African art and artifacts that I've collected since arriving in Burundi in 2012.  Though Lake Tanganyika forms Burundi's western border, right across the lake -- and visible on a normal, clear day -- are the mountains of Congo (formerly known as Zaire).  Congo, for me, is a country steeped in mystery.  I've done a bit of reading about explorers of the Congo, and I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to travel by boat through some of the most impenetrable parts of the world.  Not yet having done that, however, still, I'm able to get a glimpse of Congolese culture through the masks, fetishes, statuettes, hair combs, and other items that I've acquired from a couple of Congolese traders who go back and forth between these two neighboring countries.

Recently, I sent an email to an old acquaintance at the Belfast library, which I'm paraphrasing for you here --

"I've now lived and worked in several African countries these past years, including here in Burundi.  In the process, I've collected (what I think are) some pretty interesting African art.  I was thinking of a couple ideas: 1) to do an exhibit in the Belfast library, and 2) to make a loan (or donation) of some of my pieces to a worthy institution/organization that would like to display them.  I'll have all the pieces identified and labeled, so as to make their viewing more interesting."

To you Republican Journal online readers: I'd welcome your comments and reactions.  If you think it would be fun to have an exhibit of Congolese "stuff" at the library, let me know.  If you have an idea of a local institution in the mid-coast region that would be interested in a loan--or maybe eventually a donation--to support an African art or African studies program, please also let me know.  I hope to see your feedback in the "comments" section.

In the meantime, greetings (Amahoro!!) from Burundi!  (Your Man Stan in east Africa)

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