Inscribing Meaning explores the relationships between African art and the communicative powers of language, graphic systems and the written word. For thousands of years, African artists have incorporated writing and graphic symbols into their art with great ingenuity and creativity.

Scripts communicate in many ways--through their appearance, their placement and the very act of writing. Objects dating from ancient times to the present illustrate how African artists have used diverse forms of letters, words and symbols as well as their meanings to create beautiful, empowered works of art. Inscribing Meaning recognizes that Africa's long engagement with written and graphic systems is part of the broader, global history of writing and literacy.

The works of art on view reveal the richness of Africa's artistic traditions and emphasize that objects are aesthetically powerful communicators of history, knowledge, identity and values.

Inscribing Meaning was developed by the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, in association with the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Clicking on the section titles below will take you to a sampling of the over 90 works of art featured in the exhibition.

The educational programs associated with Inscribing Meaning were supported by the Chevron Corporation.

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