Christopher Spring

Curator: Northeast, East and South Africa

Department: Africa, Oceania and the Americas 


+44 (0)20 7323 8064

Chris is responsible for the Sainsbury African galleries, developing the collections of contemporary African art and the collections from eastern and southern Africa.

Chris has an MA from Oxford University and is a Helen Wilson scholar from Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, London. His current research explores the history, development and social significance of KANGA and other printed textiles of eastern and southern Africa, and the development of Makonde masquerade in Mozambique.

His interests build upon fieldwork in North Africa, then in Kenya, Tanzania, and southern and western Africa researching living textile traditions and working with contemporary artists such as Nja Mahdaoui, Robino Ntila, Rachid Koraichi, El Anatsui and Atta Kwami. The outcome of this work has been the acquisition of major textile collections as well as outstanding examples of work by these artists.

Chris Spring’s work on commissioning the Tree of Life from Mozambican artists working on the Swords into Ploughshares project in Mozambique was initiated when he purchased Kester’s Throne of Weapons for the British Museum in 2002. This sculpture has been on an extended tour of the UK as part of our Partnership UK scheme; a book documenting the tour has been published. This collaboration led in turn to working with colleagues in three different museums in Mozambique as part of the British Museum's Africa Programme. In recent years Chris has collaborated with the Triangle Arts Trust in the British Museum’s support for three Triangle workshops: Maputo, Mozambique (2008), Kumasi, Ghana (2009) and Lagos, Nigeria (2010).

Current projects

  • Fieldwork on the printed textile traditions of eastern Africa

  • South Africa Landscape, the third in the British Museum’s collaborations with Kew Gardens

  • Fieldwork and research into printed textile traditions of eastern and southern Africa

  • Refurbishment of the Sainsbury African Galleries (Room 25)

  • Work in Mozambique, Ghana and Nigeria as part of the Africa Programme

  • The book African Textiles Today to be published by The British Museum Press in 2012/3

Previous projects

  • Tour of the Throne of Weapons

  • Tour of La Bouche du Roi by Romuald Hazoumé - this remarkable artwork was displayed in Room 35, March – May 2007, as part of the BM’s response to the bicentenary of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It then toured to various venues including Hull, Liverpool, Bristol and Newcastle.

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

  • Governor and curatorial adviser, the Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington

  • Governor, the Small Mansion Arts Centre, London

  • Fellow, the Royal Anthropological Institute

Recent publications

C. Spring, ‘African Connections: Collecting the Contemporary at the British Museum’, in Y. Kawaguchi (ed.) A Fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anatsui (Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2010) pp. 182-201

C. Spring, African Art in Detail (London: The British Museum Press and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009)

C. Spring, Angaza Afrika: African Art Now (London: Laurence King, 2008)

C. Spring, ‘Africa ’05 at the British Museum’, Journal of Museum Ethnography 18 (2006) pp. 157-165

C. Spring, ‘Not Really African? Kanga and Swahili Culture’, in H. Arero & Z. Kingdon (eds.) East African Contours (London: Horniman Museum, 2005) pp. 73-84