One of Africa’s greatest artifacts, the golden rhinoceros of mapungubwe, probably only next to King Tut of Egypt’s mask is set to leave the African continent for the first time since its creation.
The golden rhinoceros of Mapungubwe is an 800-year-old golden foil shaped in the form of the African rhino.
It will be displayed alongside more than 200 other exhibits at a show in a British Museum. The show which is sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan explores 100,00 years of South African art. It will take place from 27 October 2016 to 26 February 2017.
The ancient city of Mapungubwe was located in the Limpopo region, on the border of present-day Botswana and Zimbabwe. It’s also known to be the capital of the first kingdom of South Africa.
In addition to the golden rhinoceros of Mapungubwe, the British museum is also borrowing the golden figure of a cow, a wild cat, the golden bowl, the golden scepter, all figures of some significance to South African art.
Of all the figures to be displayed at the British museum, only the golden bowl has ever left South Africa. The country turned down the request of Paris to feature the Golden Rhinoceros in 2001.
Among the objects displayed would be a pearl necklace that dates as far back as 77,000 years ago.
The South African art display at the British museum seeks to tell the story of early South African civilization and culture.
“People used to think that real artistic practice began in Europe, 30,000 or 40,000 years ago; they typically cite the French cave paintings,” John Giblin, head of the British Museum’s Africa section said to The Guardian.
“These kinds of finds really push that back a lot earlier, and it is only really in the last couple of decades that the tradition has been identified, so it is a really nice time to be telling this story.”
The exhibition will also include resistance art from the apartheid period in south Africa, and also the influence of Asian and European settlers in the region.