Unknown artist, circa 1870–1880. Wood and metal, 226 x 150 x 18 cm. Tanzania
Portia Twalo, Custodian and Guide at the Irma Stern Museum:
Irma Stern visited Zanzibar in 1939 and again in 1945.
This Zanzibar door is one of the items that she collected during these visits. The door, which became the imposing front door of her house The Firs, is an odd object to find in a suburban Rosebank property. The inner frame is carved with Lotus flowers and leaves.
To me, the Zanzibar door represents the many stories of the Oman Arabic, Indian and Swahili cultures that she engaged with whilst living in Zanzibar, and which still continue to exist in the region.
Along with the door, she brought back a heavy carved chest and two high-backed velvet chairs, which you can also see in the museum. Carved Zanzibari items like the door were placed under cultural protection to a large extent in reaction to Irma Stern exporting so many carved Zanzibari artefacts.
9 June 2020