Friday, November 18, 2005
The above giant Baobab tree sculpture - loaned from the Eden Project in Cornwall - featured prominently in the Africa garden. By the time I visited several weeks after the opening, one of its magnificent 'branches' had become detached. Many of the priceless artworks on display in the open air, like El Anatsui's 'gateway' through which guests entered, were already looking just that teeny bit off-their-best look, perhaps from exposure to the elements. The design of the garden itself seemed not to have been well thought out. The fanfare of the opening ceremony had shielded one from the fact that the flora and fauna on display - representing the 'climatic zones' of Africa - were actually not up to scratch. Douglas-Camp's splendid sculpture was meant to be in the forested area of the garden, since the artist comes from among the Kalabari of the troubled Niger Delta. But the 'forest' as conceived by the Ground Force team, consisted mainly of a banana grove!
In the beginning at least, whatever shortcomings could be masked by the fact that everything was green and lush. Not for long. One week after the garden opened, things were already looking wilted. The pipes supplying Douglas-Camp's water sculpture - was faulty from day one, so that water could not pour down the ladies' brows as intended by the artist. The individual sculptures of 5 women in aso ebi could therefore not really 'sweat'.
Someone emailed me sometime later to express disappointment at the garden. She felt that the artworks on display deserved a better setting that the 'shabby' garden. So what did I think? she asked. I told her I'd written about the opening of the garden in my weekly Arts column, but that I also came to the belated conclusion that the garden was not as glorious as it perhaps should have been. None of these were reflected in my initial article I explained, because frankly, "I've never 'reviewed' a Garden before."