Across central Africa’s matrilineal belt, the most important artworks were those that depicted the female body. In these 19th and early 20th century communities, group identity and familial responsibility flowed through the maternal line. Artists responded to this reality by sculpting visual markers of motherhood onto a range of objects associated with status and authority. In these societies, mothers not only created life and nurtured families but also stood at the centre of the moral order, ensuring the continuity of entire communities. From monumental headdresses of elderly mothers to sculptures that represent mythic female ancestors, this exhibition brings together nearly 40 objects from public and private collections to demonstrate how artists have represented the power of African mothers and used maternal imagery to signal moral, cultural, and spiritual authority.
The first-ever UK exhibition by Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, this epic cycle of new work will explore an imagined ancient myth, with an immersive soundscape by artist Peter Adjaye. Toyin Ojih Odutola, recognising the pen as a ‘writing tool first’, plays with the idea that drawing can be a form of storytelling. Working exclusively with drawing materials including pastel and charcoal, she approaches her process of drawing as an investigative practice. Ojih Odutola proposes speculative fictions, inviting the viewer to enter her vision of an uncannily familiar yet fantastical world. Drawing on an eclectic range of references, from ancient history to popular culture to contemporary politics, Ojih Odutola encourages the viewer to piece together the fragments of the stories that she presents.
The Akan peoples, Ashanti in particular, used gold as a means of payment until colonial currencies were imposed at the beginning of the 20th century. Kept in powder in small boxes, this gold was weighed with scales and weights. Over 2,000 of these weights are kept in the collection of Monnaie de Paris, thanks to various legacies and donations, the last of which occurred in 2018. Through a selection, the 11 Conti Museum explains the origins and unexpected originalities of these small bronze figures that immerse us in the daily life of this region of Africa. The visitor will discover that beyond the gold weighed to trade, the weights say much more than a simple price! This universe - far removed from Western metrology - is recontextualised within the rich Akan culture and the relations which linked Africa - and in particular the Gold Coast - with the West.
Tate Modern presents the first major mid-career survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi in the UK. Born in South Africa, Muholi came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that sought to envision black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives beyond deviance or victimhood. Muholi’s work challenges hetero-patriarchal ideologies and representations, presenting the participants in their photographs as confident and beautiful individuals bravely existing in the face of prejudice, intolerance and, frequently, violence. While Muholi’s intimate photographs of others launched their international career, their intense self-portraits solidified it. This exhibition will present the full breadth of Muholi’s photographic and activist practice.
Second Careers explores the connections between historical African art and contemporary practices through a selection of exemplary highlights from the museum’s African collection and loaned works. CMA objects from nine cultures in Central and West Africa—male and female figures and masks, masquerade costume, a hunter’s tunic, and a prestige throne—are juxtaposed with large-scale installations, sculptures, and photographs by six leading contemporary African artists. The exhibition considers the status of canonical African art objects when they begin their “second careers” upon entering museum collections.
The DMA’s Conservation and Arts of Africa departments, in an exciting and cutting-edge collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical Center, will present CT scans of a Senufo helmet mask from the Museum’s African art collection. This kind of mask is worn like a helmet by a medium at initiations, funerals, harvest celebrations and secret events conducted by the powerful male-only Komo society, which has traditionally maintained social and spiritual harmony in Senufo villages in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Visible attachments on the mask include a female figure, cowrie shells, and imported glassware. The CT-scans reveal unexpected materials beneath the surface and objects contained in the attached animal horns that empower the mask.