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Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa

The Indian Ocean is known as Ratnakara in the ancient Sanskrit literature. Ratnakara means “the maker (creator) of gems”

We at the National Museum of African Art wish to tell an exceptional story. It is a story that begins when trade flourished in and around the Indian Ocean, sweeping up the East African coast and across the Arabian Peninsula. It is a story of diasporic influence and connecting cultures. It is a story that culminates in the extraordinary beauty found today in the arts of Oman and its influence on the peoples and cultures of eastern Africa.


Our exploration of the arts of Oman began in July of 2011 when we partnered with the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center (SQCC) to host Al Najoom, a traditional Omani dance group. The program was engaging and well received by Museum visitors of all ages.

Please see performance here:

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Director of the Museum, and Ms. Nicole Shivers, Education Specialist, were then honored with an invitation from SQCC to visit Oman. During their travel in February of 2012, Dr. Cole and Ms. Shivers met with artistic and cultural leaders of Oman, including those at the Centre for Omani Traditional Music, the Opera House, the Muscat Festival, the Bait Al Zubair Museum, Bait Al Baranda Museum, and the Sultan Qaboos Centre of Islamic Culture in Oman. This trip deepened their appreciation of Omani culture.

Upon returning from their travels, Dr. Cole and Ms. Shivers expressed a commitment to producing a series of events and programs celebrating the extraordinary cultural arts of Oman and its ties East Africa.

Under Ms. Shiver’s leadership, the programs developed with SQCC support will provide Museum visitors a rare chance to experience the power and beauty of this historical and cultural relationship.

The National Museum of African Art is planning a series of public programs dedicated to the celebration of this historic connection. Through collaborative performing arts, a lecture series, cross-cultural exchange, hands-on art workshops, film screenings, mural painting and additional performances, the Museum wishes to tell the story of Oman’s connection with the East African coast.




Dhow Countries Music Academy
Omani Centre for Traditional Music