Hastings Museum & Art Gallery

Uncovering Ethnography in Kent and Sussex

Hastings Museum & Art Gallery has strong World Art collections, and they form part of its earliest holdings in the 1880/90s. Unlike many smaller museums, a large amount of these collections are on permanent display, mainly from Pacific, Asia and Native North America. Our review project focussed African, Balkan and ‘Unidentified Ethno’ kept in the stores, the real value of the review was the examination of the African material.

The review uncovered over fifty interesting objects from sub-Saharan Africa. Most date from the late 19th – early 20th centuries and were donated by local people with personal or family connections to Africa, often as missionaries or in the colonial service.

The most spectacular items are a man’s riga robe and Hausa trousers from Nigeria, which are good examples of their accomplished textile production. Interestingly they date from c1910 and although they were donated along with other ‘Arab style’ dress items, and presumably acquired at the same time in Nigeria, they are more likely to be from the Arab peninsula.

There is also a beautiful collection of 34 Xhosa beadwork items and stunning Karamajong head-dress from Uganda. The oldest objects examined were prehistoric microliths from the well-documented Fish Hoek site in South Africa; the most recent items obtained by a colonial officer in the 1960s.

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