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David Norden cabinet of curiosities

David Norden heeft een enorme collectie Afrikaans antiek en zijn gezellige winkel staat dan ook volledig vol. — © Jeroen Hanselaer GVA

Entering David Norden's business feels like entering another world, populated with strange creatures and ancient, bizarre objects. His many years of collecting African antiques have resulted in an enormous knowledge of his field. And he likes to share that with others.

David Norden, driving force behind the African Art Shop: “Welcome to my cabinet of curiosities”

By Ilse Prinsen 17/04/2024
First published in the Gazet Van Antwerpen

Every possible corner of the African Art Shop is littered with wooden statues, masks, utensils and other curiosities, the shelves are packed with books. “Welcome to my cabinet of curiosities,” says David Norden (60). “I mainly collect antiques from Africa, but I also like to make side trips to other continents or to Western visual arts. It is often inspired by African images.”

David grew up in an artistic family, with a love for antiques. “My mother was a sculptor and collected African art. As a child I accompanied her to the big auction houses in London. And as an antiques dealer, my father also had a room with African art.” So it is no coincidence that David has been running a shop selling antiques from the African continent for over thirty years.

Elke stam maakte andere maskers, en David herkent ze allemaal. — © Jeroen Hanselaer
Each tribe made different masks, and David recognizes them all. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

Hundreds of African tribes

The African Art Shop is not a place for fast-quick shopping. David is a barrel full of knowledge that he likes to share while we browse through his gigantic collection. “There are hundreds of tribes, but I can identify the origin of each piece by sight. My oldest statue is two thousand years old, it is of the Nok culture from Nigeria. And these are musical instruments from the Fang from Gabon, a drum from the Mangbetu people from Congo, a door lock from the Dogon tribe from Mali, a mask from the Makonde from Tanzania – with human hair – and a monkey figue from the Baule from Ivory Coast, used for ritual offerings.”

“There is a lot of counterfeiting on the market, but in the meantime I can call myself an expert with a keen eye for quality and authenticity”

David Norden
Owner of the African Art Shop

We see frightening voodoo statues with nails and locks, next to a cheerful sculpture covered with colorful beads. “That is a children's doll from the Frafra from Ghana.” A large mask attracts attention. “From the Lele from Congo. It is painted and covered with copper, feathers of the cassowary bird and shells. These are cowris, a form of money.” Noteworthy is a tribe where only women were allowed to sculpt. “The Mende from Sierra Leone.” David laughs: “My ‘Chanel mask' from the Ibibio from southern Nigeria.” A mark on the forehead does indeed resemble the CC logo. “The face is somewhat deformed, perhaps that of someone with an illness.”

 

“Mijn ‘Chanel-masker’”, lacht David Norden. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

“My ‘Chanel mask',” laughs David Norden. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

Authenticity

David shows a large fossilized animal tooth or horn. “It must be a million years old. Specialists could not determine which animal it belonged to, perhaps Mr. Huts' tyrannosaurus,” he winks.

And then he reveals a surprise: “I've never been to Africa. I buy everything at online auctions and in private collections. There is a lot of counterfeiting on the market, but in the meantime I can call myself an expert with a keen eye for quality and authenticity. I cannot change the history of Africa, but I can take care of its age-old cultural treasures.”

“I've never been to Africa. I buy everything at online auctions and from private collections. There is a lot of counterfeiting on the market, but in the meantime I can call myself an expert”

David Norden
Owner of the African Art Shop

A wooden woman is a psychologist

Je moet dagelijks praten tegen de ‘tweede vrouw’ en haar liefdevol behandelen. — © Jeroen Hanselaer GVA

You must talk to the ‘second wife' every day and treat her lovingly. — © Jeroen Hanselaer  GVA

“This statue was attached to a lampshade by the previous owner, I have restored it to its former glory. Among the Baule of Ivory Coast, each man has a spiritual woman, called blolo bla, and the woman has a spiritual man, a blolo bian. The second woman or man is shaped into a wooden statue. You must speak to it every day, treat it with love and nourish it. Such a figure functions as a psychologist, people talk to it when there are problems in a couple. This specimen is about 100 to 150 years old.”

African Art Shop, Sint Katelijnevest 27, 2000 Antwerp, buyafricanantiques.com

Een aap van de Baule uit Ivoorkust, gebruikt voor rituele offerandes. — © Jeroen Hanselaer GVA

A Baule monkey from Ivory Coast, used for ritual offerings. — © Jeroen Hanselaer GVA

 

A mask and statue combined, a child's doll with beads, a deformed mask, a drum and much more antique African art can be found in the store. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

 

Een groot masker Van de Lele uit Congo. Het is volledig beschilderd en bekleed met koper, pluimen van een kasoa-vogel en schelpjes. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

A large mask from the Lele tribe in Congo. It is completely painted and covered with copper, feathers of the cassowary bird and shells. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

 

Een tweeduizend jaar oud Nok-beeld uit Nigeria. — © Jeroen Hanselaer                     A two thousand year old Nok statue from Nigeria. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

 

Een trommel van de Mangbetu-stam. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

A drum from the Mangbetu tribe. — © Jeroen Hanselaer

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