EXHIBIT : September 21, 2011 – January 29, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art features over one hundred masterpieces (pre-colonialism) on loan from Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Portugal, France, and the United States (influential and colonizing powers). According to promotion on the exhibit it considers eight landmark sculptural traditions from West and Central Africa created between the twelfth and early twentieth centuries in terms of the individual subjects who lie at the origins of the representations. Analysis of each of these considers the historical circumstances and cultural values that inform the artistic landmarks presented.
The works featured are among the only tangible links that survive, relating to generations of leaders that shaped Africa’s past before colonialism, among the Akan of Ghana, ancient Ife civilization and the Kingdom of Benin of Nigeria, Bangwa and Kom chiefdoms of the Cameroon Grassfields, the Chokwe of Angola and Zambia, and the Luluwa, Hemba, and Kuba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Harnessing materials ranging from humble clay, ubiquitous wood, precious ivory, and costly metal alloys, sculptors from these regions captured evocative, idealized, and enduring likenesses of their individual patrons whose identities were otherwise recorded in ephemeral oral traditions.