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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs