logo

Africa Galleries Tour

The Africa Gallery offers over 300 objects on display from the continent of Africa as well as artwork created by contemporary artists in the African Diaspora. Each object serves as a glimpse into various African histories and brings into conversation the role of context when examining the objects. This tour reminds guests of the thriving African Diaspora as well as the ever evolving multiplicity of African societies.

9 Tour Stops

Introduction

The Africa Gallery offers over 300 objects on display from the continent of Africa as well as artwork created by contemporary artists in the African Diaspora. Each object serves as a glimpse into various African histories and brings into conversation the role of context when examining the objects. This tour reminds guests of the thriving African Diaspora as well as the ever evolving multiplicity of African societies.

Sowei Helmet Mask

The Sowei helmet mask is used by the Mende women of Sherbro Island in Sierra Leone. Upon completion of theirinitiation education, the Sowei mask is adorned by senior members of the Sande Society during the final ceremony that marks the transition into adulthood.

Ifá Divination

Ifá is an all-encompassing process of making known what is unknown. It is a repository of Yorùbá traditional body of knowledge in medicine, folklore, and history. Ifá is practiced in at least five countries in Africa as well as the diaspora.

Reliquary Guardian Figures

Reliquary figures were used to pay respect to the ancestors. This practice was common among a few groups in Gabon namely the Kota, Hongwe and the Fang. The striking nature of these figures caught the attention of the west creating a huge market for them in the west. These figures were instrumental in the propulsion of cubism art in the west that can be seen in Picasso’s famous Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Christianity in Aksum

Christian Iconography in Ethiopian depicting scenes from the bible as well as various saints has a long history. In this tour, we look at how Christianity made its way to the Horn of Africa as well as some of the symbols found in this ancient tradition.

Ashanti Gold Weights

Ashanti Gold weights are brass weights that were used by traders in the Ashanti Kingdom located in modern day Ghana. They came in two forms both geometric and figurines that depicted humans and animals. The Geometric weights were used as weights while the figurines were passed down as family heirlooms. Each figurine was associated with a proverb that served to remind its owner the various morals that governed Ashanti life.

Benin Bronzes

The Benin Kingdom, established in 1100BC was in Edo state in modern-day Nigeria. It was led by the divine leader the Oba-King. The King had 68 guilds including a brass guild that created masterful pieces that served to document the Benin Kingdoms history in the form of including the Benin bronzes made from the lost wax method.

Lukumbi Drum

The Lukumbi or Nkumbi drum is a slit drum from the Batetela people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is made from a hollowed piece of wood with a narrow opening for sound and struck with a stick along with the narrow opening. The Lukumbi was unique as it was used to both communicate messages as well as in a musical capacity.

Presence of a Fundamental Absence

After making a trip to the Penn in Early 2019 Ali and Kane Sy found inspiration for their piece Presence of a Fundamental Absence from a peeling sticker used to identify an ivory task. Their takeaway from this experience was that the objects in the African Gallery were never intended to be in the museum. This piece is a representation of this, taking objects out of their original context and reidentifying them, therefore giving them new meaning.