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Minkisi - Major African exhibition in Masterton

Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, in Masterton, is offering a chance of a lifetime, bringing a rare collection of nearly 100 works of African art to the public, through to November 25th. Open daily. Free admission. (

Minkisi – Art and Belief in West and Central Africa is an exhibition about West and Central Africa, delivering a message about cultures, traditions, histories and beliefs. The exhibition offers an opportunity to learn, admire and think about the place of Africa in the world, and contrast it to the place of Aotearoa in the world.

The 100 masks, figures, statues and instruments are from 33 tribal groups in 10 countries. ‘Minkisi’ is a word that refers generically to statues, in human or animal form, that contain a spirit that works for the good of an individual or group – to bring good health, a good harvest, to increase fertility, to protect against theft, to act as a shield against witchcraft, or to prevent misfortune.

Minkisi are often adorned with feathers, padlocks, nails, rope, chains, bones, animal skin and skulls, or hair, each with a symbolic meaning. Colour also has specific relevance: red suggests violence and magic, white connotes death, and black is the colour of life.

The exhibition is created from a collection ‘owned’ by Whanganui-based illustrator and art collector Desmond Bovey, who moved to France in the 1980s and visited Africa often. Desmond Bovey sees himself as the guardian of the spiritual items, not the owner. “When I acquired these objects, they began to speak to me,” says Bovey. “I became obsessed about what had shaped them, not only the aesthetic codes, but the beliefs."

Bovey's sketchbooks of Africa are exhibited to the public for the first time.


African games and drumming sessions are offered, $5 for the family, on Sunday afternoons, from 2pm, October 7th and November 4th.

African-mask-making activity on Saturday 20th October from 10am - 2pm.

A free 90-minute educational programme is offered for schools and centres, offered free-of-charge, thanks to the sponsorship of Masterton Trust Lands Trust and the T G Macarthy Trust. For more information, visit the 'Education' page of

Special group tours can be arranged, led by Desmond Bovey. A small charge per person, 15 people minimum. Please contact Aratoi Director Susanna Shadbolt (

Floor talk by Desmond Bovey - Saturday 24th November 2pm.

Aratoi Museum, 12 Bruce St, Masterton, open daily 10am - 4pm, 06 370 0001.


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