A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Chambers UCO Art exhibit highlights ancient African culture
Bena Lulua mbulenga figure, Chambers UCO
Dr. William Hommel
Phone: (405) 974-5789
The University of Central Oklahoma
is located in Edmond
by Trisha Evans April 06, 2006 found at http://www.thevistaonline.com
Encased behind glass walls on the fourth floor of the Max Chambers Library (Edmond, Oklahoma) stands an African art exhibit that even the Smithsonian covets.
Hundreds of ancient relics hover near tables and bookcases; ritualistic masks, fertility statues and grave markings are displayed, but this is only one-third of the collection.
“We have the most comprehensive collection in this region,” said Dr. Bill Hommel, professor of art. “We have things that date around 200 B.C. to the present time.”
The art spans the continent of Africa, but most is from cultures concentrated in West and Central Africa and what is now Nigeria. Hommel said he changes the exhibit every semester to reflect the regional differences.
Most pieces don’t belong to UCO but are on loan from what was the Kirkpatrick Center, and private collectors, like Perry and Angela Tennison, loaned or donated several items like the ornate wooden pipe, made by the Bwa people in Burkina Faso.
Ten goat and ram heads form metallic rings that hug the stem of the nearly 2-foot-long wooden pipe, which was used to communicate with the gods.
“Almost everything has a symbolic importance,” Hommel said.
Hommel spent four summers among the Mendi people in Sierra Leone where he saw masks used in ceremonies and rituals similar to the way the displayed masks were once used.
The masks represent characters from mythology and appear at festivals, funerals and initiation rites, Hommel said.
A Dan Poro mask from Western Africa has many fuctions in society, Hommel said. The masks with large features are used to train men for their adult responsibilities, while the masks with more refined features act as protectors for the young men in initiation and bring food to them until they are self-sufficient.
Many of the same ritualistic concepts and themes run throughout the collection, but Hommel said the cultures are all unique, and the different nuances are apparent.
The Yoruba people in Nigeria believed some older women had the power to turn themselves into night birds. While the village sleeps, these birds punish members of the village. Much of the art from this tribe symbolizes this myth.
The Yoruba tribe in Nigeria has the highest rate of twin births; Hommel said one in 77 births are twins. The culture believed that the twin was born twice, and the soul is locked with the twin. When the twins are born, ibeji dolls are carved and if one twin dies, the doll is cared for the same as the living twin.
Hommel said more display cases will be bought, and he is negotiating with the library to display more art that is in storage.
African Collection at Chambers UCO
The African Collection at UCO is on display on the 4th floor of the Chamber's Library. The exhibition consists of traditional art from all areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Objects dating from as early as 1st Century, BCE through the 20th Century show the range of ideas and rituals of these cultures. Labels in the exhibit give the viewer information about the function of the pieces. Pieces on loan from the Kirkpatrick Center Affiliated Fund, Perry and Angela Tennison have been added to the University's collection to form one of the most comprehensive exhibits of African art in this region of the country.
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Phone: (405) 974-5789
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