By IRIS CONLAY NATIVE Christian art has often been reproduced in these pages. For the Feast of the Epiphany we had an African boy's idea of that scene as it might have taken place had Christ been born in a village of Southern Rhodesia. The original of that painting hangs now among a remarkable collection of a school of African boys' art in the R.W.S. Gallery in London but it is closing this week.
Livingstone Sango, the artist of the Epiphany, paints as he sees a scene in his imagination. He is not afraid of labels, " Literary " means nothing to him. When he wants his "Wise and Foolish Virgins " against a night sky he plasters thick stars all over a black blackground. And, incidentally, his wise virgins are distinguished from the foolish, not so obviously by their lamps as by the wonderful clothes they have acquired, whereas the foolish ones are naked to the waist. A very charming literal quality of I.ivingstone Sango's schoolmates is evident throughout their work which in style is intricate and subtle like the great early periods of tapestry. St. Christopher, a popular hero, is never shown paddling about a stream, but always up to his shoulders in water; the prodigal son leaves home in a college blazer; the good Samaritan resembles a modern commercial traveller, and the backgrounds are always the home landscapes observed with loving care and set down with absolute (but not realistic) accuracy.
Younger boys show decorative powers beyond average, too. I shall long remember Smiler's " Giraffe" and the short-sighted little boy's idea of fishing beside a tree-hung pond-snake and pig in foreground.
All this work, collected and exhibited by the S.P.G., has come from an Anglican missionary college called Cyrene, near Bulawayo, whose principal is Canon Edward Paterson, I met at the exhibition. He is surely a bit of a genius. Nine yea's ago he began to build his school which was Ii, give an all-round education to native Bantu boys (10-20 years).