By Evan Brown
Ernie Wolfe ’68 donated a Nigerian chair to the Art Department on Friday, May 6th. The hand-beaded chair was found in the Yoruba village of Nigeria and was donated to the Harvard-Westlake Art Department because of its red, white, and black beads.
“When I saw it I bought it to give to the school,” Wolfe said.
The beads are African manufactured because of their differing, irregular sizes. The beads covering the wicker skeleton indicate a level of wealth in Africa, “ostentatious symbols of authority or status,” which became popular in the 1960s. This chair was also a first generation African chair that used padding, a mark of European influence.
“[The chair] is a wonderful cross-cultural moment,” Wolfe said.
Also, the geometric patterns indicated a contemporary influence, as opposed to the classic naturalistic patterns. Wolfe believed, based on the rounded back and open arms that the chair was “constructed maybe 10 years ago.”
Wolfe has an art gallery in West Los Angeles that houses utility based art objects and contemporary African paintings. He has gone to Africa roughly “four dozen times since 1973,” but has gone to Ghana primarily for the last 20 years.
The plaque on the back of the chair reads: The Art Department Chair Person’s Chair. A Gift from the Wolfe Family. Diane, Ernie III ’68, Ernest IV ’10, and Russell the only ’12.