For more than two millennia, ironworking has shaped African cultures in the most fundamental ways. Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths reveals the history of invention and technical sophistication that led African blacksmiths to transform one of Earth’s most basic natural resources into objects of life-changing utility, empowerment, prestige, spiritual potency, and astonishing artistry. Striking Iron is an international travelling exhibition organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA that combines scholarship with objects of great aesthetic beauty to create the most comprehensive treatment of the blacksmith’s art in Africa to date. The exhibition includes over 225 artworks from across the African continent focusing on the region south of the Sahara and covering a time period spanning early archaeological evidence to the present day. Striking Iron features artworks from the Fowler collection as well as American and European public and private collections.
The Snite Museum of Art African art collection will reopen this fall within a larger, more prestigious space on the main floor of the Museum. The reinstallation will explore themes of power. In the past, African art was often tied into the way African leaders promoted their agendas. Royalty and rulers used art to project their authority; religious groups promoted their faiths; while the wealthy desired to display their riches. Ordinary Africans also used art to enable them to wield their own forms of power. Since supernatural forces were thought to play a large role in determining events, it was important to own objects that could withstand or shape events that lay beyond ordinary control. Fifty-nine outstanding works from the Snite Museum collection will illustrate these ideas through themes of economic, political, social, and spiritual power in Africa. Most of these works have never been on public view before. Nearly a third belong to the Owen D. Mort Jr. Collection, with art primarily from Democratic Republic of Congo, where Mort worked for many years. As he said, “My hope is to educate people on Africa. It’s been a great love of mine… Ideally Notre Dame would use the collection for education, to get interest going in Africa.”
Journey along the Sahara Desert’s trade routes during a time when West African gold directly impacted and connected peoples and cultures, arts and beliefs across continents. Experience the first major exhibition to reveal the shared history of West Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe from the 8th to 16th centuries and see more than 250 artworks, many shown in North America for the first time.
Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa is the first major exhibition addressing the scope of Saharan trade and the shared history of West Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe from the eighth to sixteenth centuries. Weaving stories about interconnected histories, the exhibition showcases the objects and ideas that connected at the crossroads of the medieval Sahara and celebrates West Africa’s historic and under-recognised global significance. Presenting more than 250 artworks spanning five centuries and a vast geographic expanse, the exhibition features unprecedented loans from partner institutions in Mali, Morocco, and Nigeria, many of which will be seen in North America for the first time.
This exhibition highlights artistic innovation and creativity in Africa as seen primarily through the traditions of ceramic arts from across the continent and over its long history. Countering the assumption that African arts and societies are largely unchanging and bound to traditions and customs, the remarkable diversity of objects and styles on display here tells a different story. A selection of more than 50 works on loan from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, including those by newly discovered Nigerian artist Alice Osayewe, are shown alongside works from the Harvard Art Museums permanent collections, such as a recently acquired contemporary photograph by Afro-futurist artist Alexis Peskine.