Honoring the Ancestors: African Art and Artifacts

  • Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    African Art ExhibitPRINCESS ANNE, MD - "Honoring the Ancestors: African Art and Artifacts," an exhibition of over 170 art objects from a collection founded and curated by Christopher Harrington, associate professor, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, opens on Thursday, October 15, with a reception from 4-6 p.m. and an introduction to the collection from 4-4:30 p.m. in the Mosely Gallery at the university.  The exhibit remains on display through Friday, December 4.

    For the past 15 years, Harrington has researched and collected works from West and Central Africa, the areas from which most African-Americans can trace their ancestry. The exhibition includes objects ranging from a 4-inch ivory figure by the Chokwe to a massive 8-foot-tall wood mask from Burkina Faso. The variety of media as well as artistic creativity and craftsmanship on display represent cultures that in some cases date back thousands of years.

    To organize the myriad of objects, Harrington has opted to categorize items not by ethnic group or location but by their function in their original society. This approach allows viewers to see side-by-side how several different cultures approach the same theme. Even this approach is not perfect because there is a great deal of overlap. Some masks, for example, are used for multiple purposes such as those made by the Songye and others have had their usage change over time like those made by the Salampasuma. The show will be organized into seven categories: honoring the ancestors, celebrating, maintaining order, protecting, initiating and demonstrating wealth and authority, and finally, functional objects.

    The exhibition, drawn from Harrington's Virtual Museum of African Diaspora (www.V-MAD.org), offers an unprecedented opportunity to explore the rich cultures of West and Central Africa by viewing the actual objects. Harrington hopes to one day donate the items in the collection, in part or as a whole, to UMES. He has been assisted in his efforts to create this exhibition by David Price, assistant curator; Angel Timmons, collections assistant; Kason Washington, collections assistant; Chris Clark; Darius Corry; and Jeanaye Wright, all students at the university. 

    This show was made possible with the support of the Maryland State Arts Council and the Somerset County Arts Council. 

    The Mosely Gallery, located in the Arts and Technology Center on the UMES campus, is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Class tours are by appointment.  For more information, call 410-651-7770, e-mail gallery@umes.edu or visit www.umes.edu/mosely/

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    Dr. Anke Van Wagenberg, instructor of art history and director of the Mosely Gallery, UMES, 410-651-7770, gallery@umes.edu. 

    Gail Stephens, assistant director, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-651-7580, gcstephens@umes.edu.