A Trip to Africa

A Trip to Africa:

Frank McEwen, Rhodesia and Shona Art, 1968

by Adele Aldridge, May 1999
Written for the Catalog of the opening of the Rhodes National Gallery by Frank McEwen
Salisbury, Rhodesia, July, 1957
“Triumph of First Congress on African Culture” London Times, 1962
“The Dark Gift” Time Magazine, Sept. 28, 1962

My husband and I, Frank Aldridge, son of Frances Wood and Frank McEwen**, were invited to visit his father, Frank McEwen, at The Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, Rhodesia in August of 1968. We stayed in Frank McEwen’s apartment located on the top floor of the Museum.

During our stay there we were sent off on a 3 day excursion to the Wankie Game park where we also toured the awesome Victoria Falls. For another part of the trip we went to the Mozambique Game park, driving with McEwen, staying for several nights getting up at 5am every morning to take the tour of the animal water holes, peering for sights of lions and giraffes and whatever wild life we could spot.

Adele Aldridge and Thomas Mukarobgw

Adele Aldridge & Thomas Mukarobgw
in The Rhodes National Gallery.
photo by Frank Aldridge August, 1968

While our excursions to see the wild animals of Africa were thrilling, it didn’t compare with the thrill of the experience of being McEwen’s guests in his natural habitat and experiencing a taste of his social life and listening to all his stories of the people he had known such as Brancusi, Braque, Matisse, Picasso and many others. My way of looking at art changed during this trip to Africa.

We met many of the local artists who were working on their stone sculptures. The trip was over thirty years ago. I did not take notes and so all that remains is my memory and a few photographs taken with a primitive camera.

Sculpture garden

Adele Aldridge in sculpture yard,
Salisbury, Rhodeshia, August, 1968
photo by Frank Aldridge


Frank Aldridge in sculpture yard,
Salisbury, Rhodeshia, August, 1968
photo by Adele Aldridge


Adele Aldridge,
Salisbury, Rhodesia, August, 1968
Shona art


Adele & Frank Aldridge
Salisbury Rhodesia, August, 1968


Frank Aldridge,
Salisbury, Rhodesia, August, 1968
Shona art

** foot note to the names: Frank’s mother used her professional
name of Frances Wood as a painter. She left France in 1937 and married W. Freeland
Aldridge in 1944. Frank was adopted by Freeland Aldridge and adopted his name
as well. They had no idea of McEwen’s whereabouts during war time and Frank
lost all contact with his father until 1959 when Frank McEwen was traveling
through the United States lecturing about African art in Universities. The meeting
was a momentous one and the eventual trip to African resulted in 1968.