News / USA

Art of African Diaspora at Manhattan's Museum of Arts and Design

Lowery Stokes Sims, co-curator of 'The Global Africa Project', Jan 2011
Lowery Stokes Sims, co-curator of 'The Global Africa Project', Jan 2011

Multimedia

Carolyn Weaver

Works by more than 100 African, African-descended, or simply African-influenced artists from around the world are the focus of a new show at New York's Museum of Arts and Design.

 

"The Global Africa Project" is the first Africa-centered show at the museum, which specializes in the arts of craftsmanship and design. Among the African nations represented are Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Uganda, Ghana, Botswana, Mali, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Comoros and Algeria. Many of the pieces on display, though, were created outside of Africa.

That's because many African and African-descended - or simply African-influenced - artists and designers today are as likely to live and work at least part-time in Europe, the Americas, or even Asia.  As co-curator Lowery Stokes Sims noted, the show includes natives and residents of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Haiti, Barbados, Cuba and Trinidad - and even one or two from Japan.

Traditional mosaic-like quilts from Karnatka, India, on display are made by Indian women descended from early African immigrants and former slaves in Goa who formed the Siddi Women's Quilting Cooperative.

Quilts in another patchwork style are the work of American descendants of slaves, the Gee's Bend Quilters collective in the southern U.S. state of Alabama.

Besides textiles, the exhibit presents works in media ranging from architecture, basketry and photography, to furniture, ceramics, fashion, metalwork and jewelry. Some of the pieces touch explicitly on such topics as racial identities, environmental damage from the oil industry, AIDS and the end of apartheid. Others, like the baskets made by Gahaya, a  collective of Hutu and Tutsi women in Rwanda, are tangible symbols of their makers' hopes.

Most objects in the show, however, seem intended simply to be beautiful, or arresting. Sims said the show's variety demonstrates the impossibility of defining a particular "African" sensibility.

"We would be hard-put to say, is it a certain use of color, a certain use of form," Sims said, "because the creators come from such diverse experiences and backgrounds that you really couldn't. I think that if a person comes and thinks they know what this exhibition is about and then they go away, and realize they don't know what this exhibition is about, and they're confused - that's exactly where we want them to be."

The profusion of styles and interests spilling out over three floors of the Museum of Arts and Design is indeed head-spinning. Still, there are kindred works. A traditional New Orleans "Indian" carnival costume of white feathers is entirely at home with a shaman-like figure created by a Malian artists' collective. Either could dance with one of American artist Nick Cave's towering, colorful "sound suits."

Despite the variety of their work and backgrounds, Sims said, the show's artists did share one response in common.

"I've been struck time and time again," she said, "by how the artists said to me that this exhibition is so important for countering all the negative images we have of Africa: of war, genocide, struggle over resources, AIDS, et cetera."

Visitors on a recent day were enthusiastic. "I like the variety and just the richness of the experience they are conveying to us," said one woman. "It's incredible. It kind of just overpowers you - it's beautiful," said another.

The New York Times art critic Roberta Smith agreed, calling the show "astoundingly ambitious," though she said it suffered from too many "high-end luxury" pieces and a lack of life-changing design solutions.  

But Sims noted that the Museum of Arts and Design always focuses primarily on the aesthetics of craft and design. The show, co-curated by Leslie King-Hammond of the Maryland Institute College of Art, will be at the Museum of Arts and Design through May 15, 2011.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid