Expat Joys – Beautiful Art in Your House

We had, or rather have, good friends in Singapore who’d been expats longer than us at the time we lived there. It was their second overseas assignment, and our first. I remember entering their house for the first time and being in awe. There was so much artwork, such beautiful mahogany furniture! Unique paintings, masks, and statues from all over the world. It made our house full of sensible Ikea-type desks and shelves we’d accumulated during and after our graduate school years seem completely boring and uninspired.

Since then we’ve acquired our own share of beautiful things, each and every one with a history if its own. The rice-bed-cum-coffee table (which Noisette went looking for in Indonesia, because we had taken too long to debate the one we had seen in Singapore and it had been sold from under our noses) is especially dear to our hearts. It is also especially cursed by each and every moving crew who had to pack and carry it since then.

African art
Mask from Burkina Faso
african art
Sometimes the art can be useful too, like this head pillow (!) we used for a stool while putting on shoes
african art from Zimbabwe
Stone sculpture from Zimbabwe
african art fertility doll
African fertility doll. I think from Ivory Coast, but can’t remember for sure.
asian art Indonesian rice bed
Indonesian rice bed. It comes with a lid you can open, and it was. used to store sacks of rice. People slept on it to protect the rice their most precious good.

Being an expat gives you so much more exposure to the different cultures of the world and you gain an appreciation and personal connection to their various expressions in art. Even if you find a beautiful piece while travelling, it’s usually impossible or at least very expensive to transport it back, whereas an expat assignment typically comes with a 40-foot container attached to it.

Africa in particular is full of beautiful and relatively inexpensive art. My African art favorites are the wood and stone carvings, but also the welded metal animals. Our only problem is that even with a 40-foot container we’re running out of space. We will have to cross that bridge when we get to it. But until then we will be busy browsing places like the Rosebank Rooftop Market here in Joburg and keep our eyes open on upcoming travels to Mozambique and Zanzibar!

african art metal figures
If you measure art by its market value, this isn’t a good investment. These metal birds or other figurines can be bought very cheaply at any South African roadside. But to me they make a very artful addition for your garden.
african art Ivory Coast
I find this door to ward off evil spirits exquisite. We have hung it in our hallway just like a painting. I believe it’s also from Ivory Coast.


african art stone art from Zimbabwe
We found a new home in our yard for our stone statue we commissioned from the street vendor.


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