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Central Nigeria Unmasked
September 14, 2011—February 12, 2012

"Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley" will be on view at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art from Sept. 14, 2011 through February 12, 2012. This international exhibition presents a comprehensive view of the arts produced in the region and includes some of the most abstract, dramatic and inventive sculpture from sub-Saharan Africa.

Treasures 2008
April 17, 2008—August 24, 2008

Treasures 2008 showcases sculpture made of ivory-a material highly valued universally. These artworks, dating from between the 15th and 20th centuries, range from small personal objects (containers, jewelry) to large public objects (carved tusks, staffs).

Treasures 2008 highlights the extraordinary creativity of African artists and what the original owners or caretakers in Africa deemed worthwhile. The exhibition also reveals the "tastes" of collectors in the United States. Works from private collections compose nearly 75 percent of the exhibition (many works from the museum's collection are gifts from individuals).

Resonance from the Past: African Sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art
October 5, 2006—January 28, 2007

Resonance from the Past consists of a selection of the finest works of African sculpture from the New Orleans Museum of Art. During the last four decades since the collection was formed many scholars have conducted research in Africa to discover the uses and meanings of these works. Included in the exhibition are ancestor figures, symbols of authority, and objects of transformations. Sculpted artworks, including masks, pots, costumes, and musical instruments, represent elements of divination and initiation ceremonies, bestow power on their owners, and serve as altars to mediate between humans and the divine.


First Look: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection
May 17—December 3, 2006

Walt Disney World Co., a subsidary of the Walt Disney Company, donated one of the world's finest known collections of traditional African art--the Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection--to the National Museum of African Art in 2005. First Look offers a glimpse of this remarkable collection of 525 objects that encompasses most major styles of African art. An inaugural exhibition showcasing 80 masterpieces will open in early 2007.


African Gold: Selections from the Glassell Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
May 17—November 26, 2006

The dazzling works presented here were made primarily by Akan artists living in Ghana and the neighboring Côte d'Ivoire. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, the gold-rich forest region of what is now Ghana was once known as the Gold Coast. While these works of art date to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, their history is linked to that of the West African empires that rose to power more than 1000 years.


January 17—July 23, 2006

Contemporary and tradition—based works illustrate how artists use size and scale to convey—literally and metaphorically—status, power, community and privacy as well as size. Objects of varying size are juxtaposed to demonstrate concepts and challenge perceptions. Intended for middle school children, the exhibition is fun for everybody—young and old, big and small, groups and individuals.


November 17, 2004–August 15, 2005


The exhibition is the centerpiece of a yearlong celebration marking the museum's 25th anniversary since becoming part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1979. The presentation includes 73 traditional masks and wooden sculptures.

Masterpieces from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art's collection and special loans from private collections throughout the United States—many of which have never been exhibited publicly in this country.


Playful Performers
April 9–December 12, 2004


Playful Performers is especially for children, their friends and the playful at heart. We invite you to see how children in Africa learn through playful inventiveness and creativity.


The Fabric of Moroccan Life
June 6–November 2, 2003


The Fabric of Moroccan Life presents some of the finest and most important weavings in existence. The 67 objects on display include rugs, textiles and jewelry.

The Fabric of Moroccan Life is organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and is under the high patronage of His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco. The museum is grateful to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco. Support for this exhibition was generously provided by Sidney and Kathryn Taurel, Joseph's Oriental Rug Imports and Royal Air Maroc.

The Smithsonian is grateful to the Boeing Company, Coca-Cola Africa, Royal Air Maroc and the Moroccan National Tourists Office for their generous support of the presentation at the National Museum of African Art.


Ethiopian Icons: Faith and Science
January 3–October 5, 2003


This exhibition focuses on the icon, an art form associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Ethiopian Icons reflects two voices, those of the curator and the conservator, as they explore the unique imagery of icons from the museum's collection that have recently undergone technical analysis and conservation treatment.

In and Out of Focus: Images from Central Africa, 1885–1960
December 6, 2002–March 16, 2003


In and Out of Focus, examines how widely disseminated images by Euro-American photographers created and perpetuated ideas and sentiments about the peoples of Central Africa who lived under colonial rule. Among the featured photographers is Casimir Zagourski (1883–1944), one of the most successful practitioners whose evocative works are highlighted in the exhibition.

In addition, the exhibition explores the role Africans played in the photographic encounters. In some instances they were active participants, "performing" for the cameras and developing strategies to meet the photographers' demands. Africans also frequented photographic studios and took up photography to demonstrate their modernity.

The photographs on view are from the extensive holdings of the Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives at the National Museum of African Art.


A Personal Journey: Central African Art from the Lawrence Gussman Collection
June 9–August 14, 2002


These 75 highlights from the Gussman collection probably date from the late 19th to early 20th century and come from more than 30 different African cultures that span the present-day nations of Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and Zambia. Many of the objects exemplify the free exchange of ideas, beliefs and artistic practices that occurs across ethnic boundaries in Central Africa and has resulted in distinctive art forms. Viewed together, these works highlight the dynamic nature of cultural exchange while they present the personal expressions of African artists.


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The Art of the Personal Object
Closed March 18, 2007

This exhibition celebrates the creativity of African artists who have made utilitarian objects of great beauty. Made to fulfill a specific function, each object was also skillfully conceived to provoke visual and tactile delight. Collectively, these are objects that were meant to be both used and seen.


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