African Collection

The African Collection celebrates extensive cultural traditions and artistic expression through a range of media such as woodcarving, metalwork, jewellery, pottery, weaving, basketry, textiles and fashion, paintings and works on paper, alongside domestic and religious objects. The collection also contains archival materials, with photographs providing rich research material and visual representations of the cultural heritage of the region.

Wooden relief carving, Lamidi Olonade Fakeye (1928 - 2009)

Wooden relief carving, Lamidi Olonade Fakeye (1928 - 2009)

Objects from the collection have diverse origins but the majority were acquired in what are now Nigeria and Ghana. The most prevalent communities associated with the collection are Yorùbá, Hausa and Asante and it includes work by artists such as Ben Enwonwu, Justus Akeredolu, Moshood Olusomo Bámigbóyè, Lamidi Fakeye and George Bandele Areogun among many others. Of significance is an important group of Nigerian modernist paintings and works on paper by artists associated with the Zaria Arts Society including Yusuf Grillo, Clara Etso Ugbodaga-Ngu and Uche Okeke. 

The core of the collection was acquired between 1943 and 1957 by artist John Danford, who served as the regional director of the British Council in Nigeria and later Sierra Leone. Initially, this material was loaned to the University of Birmingham's Centre for West African Studies in 1965 as a teaching resource. It was eventually acquired through purchase in 1975 and has been further developed by gifts, bequests and loans from various donors.

For further collection history, see our Collections Development Policy.

You can explore this collection online through various channels.