Under a dark sky

This selection of images of African animals is the result of a series of extensive safaris in Tanzania over a period of several years. Robby wanted to portray the African animals as mysterious creatures - magical and graceful - while capturing their wildness and savagery. Searching for penetrating portraits, he wished to present the African animal kingdom in an unusual and authentic manner. The animals were not to be viewed with a merely observant eye, but were to be examined with much more depth. Each image had to be a challenge, every single time.

All images were taken in Tanzania in natural conditions, mainly within the Serengeti-ecosystem, from a Landrover or on foot. When on foot, Robby was always accompanied by an armed ranger.

The limited edition prints are printed on 100% cotton rag natural white Hahnemühle “William Turner” paper. This genuine mould-made paper is naturally age resistant and complies with the highest lifespan requirements and has an extremely-high colour gamut and black density.

Each print has been personally signed and numbered by the artist and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity to guarantee that the high quality limited edition print is the only copy bearing this number.

 

Swahili Dawn

Whisper the name Zanzibar and immediately you conjure up visions of the billowing sails of trading dhows, full of spices and ivory, drifting gently in the evening breeze, sultans in palaces hewn from coral, and women clad in black wandering narrow lanes.

The Swahili civilization came into being along the east coast of Africa. Centuries long it was fed by the waters of the Indian Ocean, criss-crossed by merchant vessels bearing traders, adventurers or pirates from India, Arabia, Persia, China, Japan and even Russia. 

They arrived on the East-African coast with the Kaskazi, the north eastern monsoon; and left again laden with precious cargo of ivory, clove, copal, copra and the skins of wild animals, with the Kusi, the south western wind.

The African coastal people intermarried with their visitors and merged their traditions with Arabic customs until the Swahili became a race all of its own - derived from the Arabic word Sahil, meaning ‘coast’ -  with its own language, feudal rulers, artforms and decorative traditions.

Attractive Arabian-style stone houses are bare and unadorned, with the exception of their enormous hardwood doors that are intricately carved with the expertise and artistry for which Indian woodwork craftsmen are known. The carved doors were a sign of wealth and prosperity for the Oman Arabs. They had a large frame, a middle pillar and a lintel, all engraved in the geometric and floral motifs that typify Islamic decoration, sometimes with inscriptions from the Qur’an and the date they were made.

The iron studs formed a counterpoint for the Indian defence against war elephants. War elephants were perhaps unknown in Zanzibar, but the iron studs matched the Arabic ideal perfectly of a domestic residence that also serves as a means of defence.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the town of Zanzibar was the most famous in all East Africa and the centre for many expeditions into Africa’s dark interior.


The limited edition prints are printed on 100% cotton rag natural white Hahnemühle “William Turner” paper. This genuine mould-made paper is naturally age resistant and complies with the highest lifespan requirements and has an extremely-high colour gamut and black density.

Each print has been personally signed and numbered by the artist and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity to guarantee that the high quality limited edition print is the only copy bearing this number.


Quoi ma gueule?

“Quoi ma gueule?” or “What’s about my face?” is a series of in-depth studies of African masks.
Every one of these masks is an extremely rare collector’s item, owned by Jo De Buck.

Jo De Buck is a well-known Tribal Art gallery owner in Brussels and freelance expert at Sotheby’s, and is internationally renowned in the world of African tribal art. He has been working at the highest level of his field for more than 20 years.
Sensing Robby’s ability to go beyond the subject and reveal its mystical energy, Jo invited Robby to create a selection of images of these very rare art objects.

An African mask is much more than a simple portrait; it is an intermediary between the divine or other spiritual identities and the secular world of the living.
To really appreciate the true beauty of an African mask it is important to understand the reason for its existence, the ritual context it was made for and the mystical meaning it held for the artist who created it.

As a photographer of such art, Robby believes it is essential to find a balance between the ethnological and the artistic approach. By approaching the masks only from an artistic point of view, the images could never be complete and would partly neglect the original meaning of the masks.
Robby Bolleyn created his pictures honouring the spiritual identity, in order to go beyond the visual qualities of such mystical pieces of art.


The limited edition prints are printed on 100% cotton rag natural white Hahnemühle “William Turner” paper. This genuine mould-made paper is naturally age resistant and complies with the highest lifespan requirements and has an extremely-high colour gamut and black density.

Each print has been personally signed and numbered by the artist and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity to guarantee that the high quality limited edition print is the only copy bearing this number.


Vintage Collection

Safari already existed in East Africa long before the arrival of white settlers. 
From the earliest times, caravans of porters carried oil, hides and rhinoceros horn from the African interior to be traded with the seafaring people of the Swahili coast.
These journeys - in the Arabic 'safar' or 'to make a trip’ - became larger and more complex with the rise of the slaving empire Zanzibar. The scarlet flag of the Sultan of Zanzibar flew at the head of the vast caravans he sent out, proclaiming his rule over an area so immense that none but a few of his servants would ever see it.

Nineteenth-century Europeans that wanted to set out for the wide open space of the ‘Dark Continent’ first had to endure days, weeks or even months of sweating, struggling and grumbling in the stifling heat of Zanzibar’s Stone Town.

By the end of the nineteenth century the great slave caravans of the Sultan of Zanzibar were no more. Slavery had been abolished, the Sultan’s power had come to an end and the safari caravans that moved inland were mostly led by white explorers, sportsmen or missionaries.

After the First World War, when the safaris became more accessible, they also became more fashionable and the idea of adventure in the African wilderness was reinforced in the public consciousness by Hollywood films from the 1920s and 1930s. 
Money was no object in the pre-Depression days, and the wealthy visitor (be it an English gentleman, American film star or Indian Maharajah) would hire a safari outfitter to organise a tailor-made safari, complete with white hunter, servants, gunbearers, porters, provisions, guns, cars, trucks and tents. 

Robby's 'Vintage Collection' is a safari back in time to this era of ‘champagne’ safaris and pure extravagance.

All images were taken in Tanzania in natural conditions, mainly within the Serengeti-ecosystem, from a Landrover or on foot. When on foot, Robby was always accompanied by an armed ranger.

The limited edition prints are printed on 100% cotton rag natural white Hahnemühle “William Turner” paper. This genuine mould-made paper is naturally age resistant and complies with the highest lifespan requirements and has an extremely-high colour gamut and black density.

Each print has been personally signed and numbered by the artist and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity to guarantee that the high quality limited edition print is the only copy bearing this number.

 

Omo

Since the 1960s, the Lower Omo Valley of southwestern Ethiopia has been imagined by conservationists as a “wilderness”.

It is a lost world enclosed by Abyssinian mountains, by the Sudan’s impenetrable Nile swamps and by the desolate barrens of the Ethio-Kenya borderlands.
Forgotten by history the Lower Omo Valley forms the approximate centre of this remote zone, named after its geographical location and the famous Omo River.

The Lower Omo Valley is a place like no other. The variety and diversity of life - truly a melting pot of humanity. It is home to some of the most fascinating tribes on the continent of Africa and around the world. This land frozen in time is inhabited by different ethnic groups with ancient traditions that have remained untouched for centuries.

It’s believed to have been a crossroads for thousands of years as various cultures and ethnic groups migrated around the region. 
The many different tribes have learned to cope with the harsh climatic conditions in which they live.
Each tribe has their own cultural or religious customs and take pride in preserving their traditions against the onslaught of time and tourism. 

The region mostly lives on meagre resources and over the years has been victim to cattle-rustling, violence, ethnic struggles, drought and is often one of the last areas to receive support or infrastructure from a national level.

The big game are mostly gone, hunted out with weapons that flow in from wars across the borders in Sudan or Somalia.

As the government has taken over more and more tribal land, competition for scarce resources has intensified escalating clashes between groups. The introduction of firearms has made inter-ethnic fighting more dangerous. Despite recent peace deals between the Omo tribes, most remain well armed and proud of their fierceness.

It is not surprising that many of the inhabitants of this region display the stumps of severed limbs and the blemishes of old wounds. They do so with pride, for such injuries bear witness to the dastardly attacks that they have survived and the courageous raids in which they have participated. 
They are also decorated with self-inflicted scars, patterned according to a secret code and imbued with honour. Typical in this respect are the incisions that Mursi and Bodi warriors make on their upper arms whenever they succeed in murdering a member of another group and the scars running down the center of an Hamar man’s chest showing that he killed at least two enemies from other tribes.

Symbolisme is everything - scars, ostrich feathers, topknots, jewellery and even certain items of clothing all convey significant and unambiguous messages. Not all forms of decoration are symbolic but also have an aesthetic consideration like the body paintings of the Suri and Karo.

The Mursi and the Suri are part of that small remaining group of peoples whose woman still wear lip plates as symbols of beauty. From their mid-teens woman’s lower lip will be pierced and plugged with a piece of wood until it heals. It is then progressively stretched by the girl who repeatedly places larger wooden plugs in the hole until it is replaced by the clay plate. 
Traditionally, the downy payment or bride wealth, depended on the woman’s lip. If she wore a large plate, her downy payment would be more than 38 - 40 cattle plus guns. But if her bottom lip was small, then her family would get less than 30 head of cattle.

Ethiopia’s Omo Valley is still a place ruled by ritual and revenge, but the ‘new generation’ will grow up in a nation pushing hard to modernize and integrate its far flung tribes.

The limited edition prints are printed on 100% cotton rag natural white Hahnemühle “William Turner” paper. This genuine mould-made paper is naturally age resistant and complies with the highest lifespan requirements and has an extremely-high colour gamut and black density.

Each print has been personally signed and numbered by the artist and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity to guarantee that the high quality limited edition print is the only copy bearing this number.