African Beat, 2000

African Beat I, 2000
Watercolor, chalk, and charcoal on cardboard, 101,8 x 73,6 cm


The large-format watercolours African Beat I and African Beat II have to be experienced on-site, as their reproductions only give a slight hint at the exceptional atmosphere of these two works.

We see African people dancing. All of them are dancing on their own, yet they are closely intertwined. Arms and legs cross, bodies merge, so that it becomes impossible to determine the number of people participating in the dance. When sensitively observing the scene, however, the rhythm of the dance can be understood, maybe even felt.

In Africa, music, dancing, and singing are inseparably intertwined. They are deeply rooted in the people’s consciousness as well as many areas of life. They are also performed at touristic events yet torn from their cultural contexts on these occasions.

From a Eurocentric perspective, African dances might appear as being ‘wild’ or ‘boisterous’. However, these dances developed from everyday movements of traditional cultures that were in close touch with nature and are significant cultural creations.

The motion sequences of African dance are based on fundamentally different components than Western styles of dancing: isolation, coordination, and polycentric (where the body is separated into different movement centres, which move independently from one another – spatially as well as rhythmically). A further characteristic is the change from tension to relaxation, which finds expression in harmonic movements that set and release in the joints.

These aspects are picked up by Ruth Baumgarte after her intensive observations, in a way that allows her to create an authentic and captivating impression of African dance.

African Beat II, 2000
Watercolor, chalk, and charcoal on cardboard, 101,3 x 72,8 cm