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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid