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Robin W. G. Horton

Born, 1932

Whilst working at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, in the mid 1990s, Robin Horton provided a text on the sculptor Sokari Douglas Camp for the catalogue accompanying her exhibition Play and Display: Steel Masquerades from Top to Toe. The exhibition took place at the Museum of Mankind, then a branch of the British Museum, located in Mayfair. Decidedly ethnographic and anthropological in its remit, it mounted exhibitions and delivered a programme accordingly. Its senior personnel were anthropologists and archaeologists, and the museum’s emphasis was very much on objects from Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Asia.

The exhibition consisted of Douglas Camp’s characteristic sculptures of figures, made of welded steel, and evocative of her own cultural history and her identity as a Londoner. Play and Display: Steel Masquerades from Top to Toe came with an important extensively illustrated colour catalogue which contained two texts. The first by Robin Horton, (Sokari Douglas Camp: Ekine Woman in London?”) of the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, dated July 1995, and the second text, (The Sculpture of Sokari Douglas Camp) by Sue Hubbard, similarly dated.

From Horton’s text: “Sokari Douglas Camp was born and spent her earliest years in Buguma, the principal settlement of the Kalabari people of the Eastern Niger Delta. Here she lived in a household typical of the time - a household whose mother and younger members made regular expeditions to the mangrove swamp to cut firewood, gather shell-fish and set fish traps. Though cut off from this home environment by the Nigerian Civil War, she was back again in it for school holidays throughout her teens, and especially at Christmas time joined other enthralled  young spectators at ritual festivals, masquerades, and performances by dance groups.”

Elsewhere in his text, Horton asserted, “Social anthopologists and art-historians, between them, have long since made the point that traditional African African sculpture can only be fully appreciated in its total context of use. In the case of sculpted maserade headpieces, this means taking into acccount the total context of masquerade construction and performance. Yet Western connoisseurs of African art have continued to hang disembodied “masks” on their drawing-room walls.”

Horton was well placed to write on Douglas Camp, having published important research and authored a number of similarly important texts, such as ‘Kalabari Sculpture’, published by Department of Antiquities, Federal Republic of Nigeria, (1965), and ‘The Gods as Guests: An Aspect of Kalabari Religious Life’. This was the third in a series of special Nigeria Magazine publications, published in Lagos, Nigeria, 1960, 71pp., numerous plates of photographs, by the author. 

Related items

click to show details of Sokari Douglas Camp: Play and Display

»  Sokari Douglas Camp: Play and Display

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1995