Orlando Museum of Art

06/28/2012 - 06/30/2013

Living in Style: African Art of Everyday Life

Living in Style: African Art of Everyday Life from the Collection of William D. and Norma Canelas Roth

Living in Style presents beautifully crafted functional objects created by both men and women from traditional African societies throughout the continent. These objects are primarily personal and household items used in everyday life. Included are domestic implements, containers, furniture, weapons, jewelry and apparel. These objects were made to fulfill a useful purpose, but they were also created to be expressive works of art and treasured possessions. As works of art they communicate important cultural ideas within each society through their form, decoration and aesthetic quality. These ideas affirm shared values about social relationships, civic organization and spiritual beliefs. By enhancing these utilitarian objects with aesthetic and cultural meaning, they become more than luxuries or conveniences. In the hands of African artists these works became expressions of their way of life—their style of living.

The Orlando Museum of Art is grateful to William D. and Norma Canelas Roth for making this exhibition possible with gifts and loans from their collection and to Michael Roth for his curatorial guidance.


  • Installation View
  •  Zulu; South Africa, Large Basket, circa 1990, fibers, pigments, On long-term loan from William D. and Norma Canelas Roth.

Basket weaving is an important part of the Zulu culture. This kind of basket used to store dry goods, specifically grain, is known as an "isilulu." The basket is woven using both a tight and open weave which helps to circulate air through the grain to keep it fresh, while keeping pests away. These large baskets are extremely heavy and only the best master weavers can accomplish one (inexperienced weavers who attempt this basket often have them collapse under their own weight).

The dyes used in coloring this basket are all organic. The black dye is made from the roots of a tree; the red dye is from the bark of a Marula tree, or sometimes red berries; and the yellow dye is a paste made from a combination of ash and water. The zigzag pattern on this basket represents a masculine force and signifies the spear of Shaka (a great Zulu chieftain), or lightning.

  • Zulu, South Africa, Vessel, 2000, ceramic, Gift of William D. and Norma Canelas Roth; Zulu, South Africa, Lid with Yellow and Black Beads, 20th century, palm fiber, beads, mirror, On long-term loan from William D. and Norma Canelas Roth.

This vessel was made by one of the members of the Nala family of South Africa. The Nala family is one of the most famous and respected families of potters in the region. Each family took great care of the lids they owned as these were considered valuable possessions. They were also used to hold food and utensils during special events.


Event Pricing
  • Admission: $8.00

Intended For

  • Youth and Family
  • Teachers
  • Adults