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National Museum of African Art Marks Its 50th Anniversary in 2014 with Year of Exhibitions and Programs

Honorary Campaign Chair Maya Angelou’s Video Launches Celebrations

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014–2015, presenting a series of public programs and exhibits to commemorate the opening of the original Capitol Hill museum founded by Warren Robbins June 3, 1964, in a townhouse that was originally the home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass from 1871–1877. The anniversary year will honor Robbins’ vision of “cross-cultural communication through education in the arts of Africa.”

Maya Angelou, the honorary chair of the museum’s national campaign, is featured in a three-minute video about the importance of the museum and what it has to offer the American public.

“It gives me great pleasure to be the honorary chair of the National Museum of African Art’s national campaign as the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary,” said Angelou. “To celebrate African art is to celebrate our shared humanity. I want everyone to visit the museum to enjoy the wonderful exhibitions, performances, workshops and lectures.”

Visitors will experience special performances and events this year intended to inspire and encourage them to learn more about the people and cultures of Africa and its diaspora through the museum’s longstanding collection of traditional and contemporary African art, as well as music, dance, film, lecture, celebrity tours and art workshops. Additional information can be found on the museum’s website. Friends of the museum are encouraged to follow updates on Facebook and Twitter; the hashtag for the 50th anniversary is #Africanartat50.

50th Anniversary Highlights

Exhibitions

  • “Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone” will be open at the museum April 9 through Aug. 17. The exhibition features 70 artworks from the collection of William Siegmann (1943–2011) that survey the traditional arts of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
  • “Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin” Nigeria opens Sept 17. This major exhibition showcases the photographs of Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge (1911–1994), one of Nigeria’s premier photographers and the first official photographer to the Royal Court of Benin. Alonge’s historic photographs document the rituals, pageantry and regalia of the court for more than a half-century and provide rare insight into the early history and practice of studio photography in West Africa.

Performances

An opera commissioned by the National Museum of African Art and created by Tony Small will celebrate the cross-cultural influences of Oman and East Africa. Mezzo soprano Denyce Graves will perform in and direct part of it; it will be choreographed by Ray Mercer of the Lion King. The opera will be performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in September.

More information about exhibits, programs and performances throughout the 50th anniversary will be available on the museum’s website.

Membership

Throughout 2014 the museum will offer special discounts and early bird specials to members on its signature programs, including the Director’s Discussion Series, Africa Underground and more.

About the National Museum of African Art

The National Museum of African Art is America’s only museum dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Ave. S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about this exhibition, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the museum’s website. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

Note: For more information, contact Eddie Burke at (202) 633-4660 or burkee@si.edu.

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