Infant Skull II, a woven “tapestry” made out of very fine aluminum wire, only reveals its shape when seen from afar. Drawing inspiration from his country’s basketry traditions, the South African artist Walter Oltmann (b. 1960) alternates densely layered sections with open spaces, allowing the underlying surface of the work to show through. The skull that emerges is, in a South African context, evocative of the Cradle of Humankind—a series of caves outside Johannesburg, where some of the oldest hominin fossils in the world have been found.
The work complements UMMA’s renowned and growing collection of historical and contemporary African art and reminds us of the central role of Africa in the history of humankind. The purchase was made possible thanks to the generosity of UMMA Director's Acquisition Committee.