Ndungu, Isca is the solo work of British artist and writer Cedar Lewisohn. His exhibition is held at the Phoenix Arts Centre in Exeter and includes examples of printmaking, drawing, video and bookworks. Cedar likes to explore cultural narratives from various historic positions, trawling through art history for works that resonate with him.

Exhibition aims

He views history as a collapsible archive to be scrutinised and explored, not necessarily in a strict linear form, unifying disparate fragments through renderings in his own visual language. He aims to draw out new personal narratives from both artworks and objects; narratives that conventional interpretation might not allow.


Often inspired by museum collections, his appropriation of objects and images can be seen to mirror the ways in which they were, in turn, appropriated from their original sources by (or for) museums. Here, Lewisohn presents new works responding to artefacts from the African collections on display at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM).

These works include his drawing of a Central African Ndungu mask – a Janus-faced, judge or executioner who looks both forwards and backwards at once – which, grafted together with the word Isca (the Roman name for the city of Exeter), forms the title of the exhibition.

Photograph of Ndungu spirit costume from RAMM's collection

Ndungu spirit costume from RAMM’s collection

The exhibition forms part of Art Week Exeter (13-20 May) – a citywide festival of visual art and has been made possible due to generous research support from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM).

Take a look at the exhibition walkthrough video.

RAMM’s ndungu costume was originally collected by rubber/ivory trader Richard E. Dennett in the 1870s whilst working in the region of the Lower Congo River. Cedar’s selection of objects from the museum’s collection also involved a couple of conversations with  the Curator of Ethnography.