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African Mosaic: 50th Anniversary room

Face mask (pwo)

Chokwe artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola
Face mask (pwo)
Early 20th century
Wood, plant fiber, pigment, copper alloy
39.1 x 21.3 x 23.5 cm (15 3/8 x 8 3/8 x 9 1/4 in.)
Museum purchase, 85-15-20

In 1963, during the height of the civil rights movement, retired U.S. Foreign Service officer Warren M. Robbins (1923–2008) established the Center for Cross Cultural Understanding to “show the rich creative heritage of Africa, and to underscore the implications of this heritage in America’s quest for interracial understanding.” The following year, Robbins expanded his vision and opened the Museum of African Art. Originally housed in a Capitol Hill town house once owned by the great intellectual, abolitionist, former slave, and statesman, Frederick Douglass, the museum became part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1979 by an act of Congress and was renamed the National Museum of African. Over the course of its five decades, the museum has become home to more than 12,000 works of art that speak to both the talent and skill of diverse African artists and communities, and the unique history of this institution and the individuals who have helped to shape it.

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Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole Receives “BET Honors” 2015 Education Award

The 2015 “BET Honors” (Black Entertainment Television) ceremony took place on Saturday, Jan. 23 at Washington DC’s Warner Theater. Museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole was awarded BET’s 2015 education award for her lifelong work. It was a very special evening for Dr. Cole. It was exceptional for the National Museum of African Art with a number of media clips from the evening referencing the museum.

BET’s video tribute to Dr. Cole, which aired during the ceremony, focused largely on the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Dr. Cole’s life and her achievements as a lifelong educator. All of the honorees referenced Dr. Cole in their acceptance speeches when talking about education.

Other honorees included: Singer songwriter Usher Raymond; John W. Thompson (first black chairman of Microsoft, former CEO of virtual instruments); Actress Phylicia Rashad and Rapper Kanye West.

  • "The BET Honors" 2015 - Show

  • "The BET Honors" 2015 - Show

The “BET Honors 2015” will air on BET TV Tuesday, February 23 at 9pm EST

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Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Ambassador Robin Sanders discuss The Legendary Uli Women of Nigeria

The Legendary Uli Women of Nigeria

Join us to celebrate Black History Month and the official launch of The Legendary Uli Women of Nigeria. Following the lives of eight Igbo women from southeastern Nigeria, Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders pays homage to the endangered African sign and symbol system of uli (oo-lee) and the women who are keeping it alive. Sanders, the former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Nigeria and the Republic of the Congo, examines the intricacies of uli as an important African information system.

A short video and conversation with Ambassador Sanders follows museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole’s opening remarks.

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Ambassador Sanders biography

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Giving Tuesday

To inspire conversations about the beauty, power and diversity of African arts and cultures worldwide

Africa is the homeland for all of humanity. The museum provides an opportunity to learn about the culture of our shared ancestry. One of our focus points is educating adults and children about the beauty of Africa beyond the animals.

The museum brings in artists and professionals from local African immigrant communities to provide interactive and hands-on experiences at our workshops. These workshops are free to our visiting public. We also take these workshops on the road into schools and community groups.

Your donation during Giving Tuesday will go directly to our public workshops

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National Museum of African Art Statement Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue

The National Museum of African Art’s mission is to inspire conversations about the beauty, power and diversity of African arts and cultures. We began planning for the Conversations exhibition two years ago to help showcase the history of American art created by persons of African descent. It brings the public’s attention to artists whose works have long been omitted from the study of American art history. We are aware of the controversy surrounding Bill Cosby, who, along with his wife Camille, owns many of the works in the Conversations exhibition. Exhibiting this important collection does not imply any position on the serious allegations that have been made against Mr. Cosby. The exhibition is centrally about the artworks and the artists who created them.

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