By Nii B. Andrews.

The remote part of Western Scotland has long been rumored as a legendary repository for arcane secrets and a refuge for groups fleeing persecution, the most famous being the Templars.

Recently, a University of St. Andrews art history lecturer – Kate Cowcher, made a discovery of ten misattributed CAA paintings that had been deposited in rural Western Scotland.

They were acquired by the author Naomi Mitchison during her extensive travels in East Africa during the 1960s when she visited leading art schools and galleries in the region.

It was a far sighted pioneering effort and soon after, in collaboration with the Argyll County Council, set up the Argyll Collection for young people in Argyll and Bute – an area with little access to museums and galleries, to enable them experience fine art.

UNTITLED: Henry Tayali, 1971, Courtesy of the Argyll Collection and University of St Andrews.

From the 1980s, the Argyll Collection fell into abeyance and the identities of many of the African artists were also lost.

When Cowcher together with her assistants Elikem Logan and Meredith Loper, rediscovered the stash of 12 paintings, they used Mitchison’s archived personal letters as well as insurance claims—many of which stated the artists’ names in full to make correct attributions.

They also enlisted the help of experts at institutions such as London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, where several of the artists in question studied.

CHOPPING WOOD: Samuel J. Ntiro, circa 1967, Courtesy of the Argyll Collection and University of St Andrews

A few of the artists were even contacted directly; some of them had gained international prominence.

The paintings include work by South Africa’s Lucky Sibya; Henry Tayali, Zambia’s most famous painter; Tanzanian artist Sam Joseph Ntiro and Ugandan printmaker Catherine Nankya Katonoko Gombe.

Giles Peppiatt, Bonham’s African art specialist stated, “Discoveries of African Modern works of this nature are rare anywhere, but especially in somewhere like Scotland”; he affirmed that they were genuine pieces and not fakes.

The ten works (plus two others that are still being identified) are now due to go on show at the community art centre Dunoon Burgh Hall from 21 May in an exhibition titled Dar to Dunoon: Modern African Art from the Argyll Collection (until 13 June).

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