The Star of Africa

Skulpturtriennalen 2021 
Oslo, 28.08-17.10

Åtte neonskulpturer / Eight neon sculptures

Photos: Tor Simen Ulstein

The Star of Africa consists of eight sculptural neon works with motifs reminiscent of old African tribal shields and ciphered symbols. When or if the eight works are aligned in a row, they reveal a pendeloque-cut diamond known as The Star of Africa. The Cullinan Diamond, from which this gem was cut, was found in South Africa in 1905 and caused an international sensation for being the then-largest diamond ever found in the world. The Star of Africa is the largest cut from the raw gem. In 1910 it was set in the Sovereign’s Sceptre and can be seen today in the British Crown Jewels collection in the Tower of London. In 2018 Nel investigated what remains of the diamond mining areas in South Africa – places that were once at the heart of industry and seen as an economic miracle, but which have now succumbed to decades of structural crisis and industrial diversification. Today, the mining region is characterised by both poverty and progress. Fascinated by the relationship which diamonds have to class, aristocracy and royalty, Nel questions the old colonial structures and forces that still exist but are hidden from view. The sculptures are installed at various angles and in differing combinations so viewers can experience the composite work as an illusion created as if by a magic spell.