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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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African Art, African Voices:
Long Steps Never Broke a Back

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 26th Street 
Philadelphia, PA 19130 

(215) 763-8100 | TTY: (215) 684-7600
Museum Hours:
Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday evenings until 8:45 p.m. Closed Mondays and legal holidays

keywords :

Retainer Figure
19th century
Laikom, Kom, Cameroon
Wood, nails, fiber fragments
H. 30 1/2 inches
Seattle Art Museum: Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company


Ga Wree Wree Mask
Early 20th century
Dan, Liberia, Guinea, and Côte d'Ivoire
Wood, cloth, bells, leopard teeth, hairpins, cowry shells, and twine
H. 19 3/4 inches
Seattle Art Museum: Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company


Lion Stool
After 1957
Asante, Ghana
Wood and paint
16 9/16 x 20 13/16 x 11 7/8 inches
Seattle Art Museum: Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company

October 2, 2004 - January 2, 2005

African art, when exhibited in the museum setting, often appears frozen in an alien frame. The music, movement, and debate that once surrounded the mask, sculpture, ring, or stool are noticeably missing. Also absent is the immediate context for these objects, the traditional cultures in which they functioned. This innovative exhibition takes an "insider's" approach to African art. Reframing the objects, African Art, African Voices proposes looking at what was once done with them while also listening carefully to what was once said in their presence.

Drawn primarily from the excellent collections of the Seattle Art Museum, the exhibition will be organized into thematic categories described by representatives from various African cultures and backgrounds. Personal narrative, interactive media, and contextual information will breathe life into the many diverse and beautiful art objects on display.

The show will include approximately 130 objects, including sculpture, masks, textiles, jewelry, photographs, film, and contemporary art. The exhibition will be supplemented by video projections, computer interviews, and an audio tour.

This exhibition was organized by the Seattle Art Museum with generous funding provided by Washington Mutual.

It was also supported by generous grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Jessie Ball duPont Fund, and by the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Additional funding was provided by The Neubauer Family Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts/Pennsylvania Humanities Council. Promotional and media support was provided by The Philadelphia Tribune and NBC 10 WCAU. The audio tour will be made available to visitors without charge through the generosity of Target Corporation.

Commemorative Twin Figures (awon ere ibeji)
19th-20th century
Yoruba, Nigeria
Wood, beads, nails
Each: 9 5/8 inches
Seattle Art Museum: Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company

The exhibition was organized by Pamela McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art at the Seattle Art Museum. The exhibition is coordinated in Philadelphia by John Zarobell, Assistant Curator of European Painting and Sculpture before 1900, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor

A book accompanying this exhibition was published by the Seattle Art Museum in conjunction with Princeton University Press. Titled Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back, it includes essays by Robert Farris Thompson, Professor of African and African American Art History at Yale University, and Pamela McClusky, Seattle’s founding curator of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Known for his scintillating analyses of African art, Thompson devotes his opening essay to introducing the missing dimension of motion, exploring the meaning of postures and gestures in various African cultures. McClusky explores subjects ranging from royal art of the Kom and Asante kingdoms, masquerades from the Yoruba, Dan, and Mende cultures, sculpture from the Kongo region, a Mercedes-Benz coffin from the streets of Ghana, photographs from Mali, and Maasai body ornaments.

Philadelphia Museum of Art • October 2, 2004 - January 2, 2005
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford • February 12 - June 19, 2005

Read also Philadelphia Museum   &  African Vibes & Twins Seven Seven

Buy the exhibition catalog:
Art from Africa : Long Steps Never Broke a Back
Pamela McClusky; Paperback; Buy New: $26.56