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

African Art books I like | Genuine African Masks

Philadelphia Museum - Living culture

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


African Art Takes Center Stage At Local MuseumRead also African Art Takes Center Stage At Local Museum


Museum family programs explore African art forms

By ARCHANA RAM For the Courier-Post Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will be offering a trip to southern Africa for the fall and winter seasons and museum-goers won't need their bags or passports.

Beginning Oct. 2 and running until Jan. 2, 2005 the museum brings to life southern African cultures with its Special Family Events series.

Each Sunday highlights a different region of Africa and includes African and African-American performance groups, ongoing craft demonstrations by African artists and hands-on workshops.

"The shows are really about living culture. So much of art is frozen in historical time," said John Zarobell, assistant curator at the Museum who coordinated the exhibition.

He also expanded the selection of works by contemporary artists.

The Special Family Events will complement the museum's exhibition of African art, entitled African Art, African Voices: Long Steps Never Broke a Back.

About 150 works of art from the sub-Saharan region spanning the 19th century to the present will be on display in the Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries on the first floor.

The exhibition, from the Seattle Art Museum, includes carved masks from western Africa, beaded jewelry from Kenya, gold weights from Ghana and a rare royal throne room - with carved wood stools and sculptures of ancestral leaders - from the Kom Kingdom of Cameroon. Beyond appealing to aesthetic senses, the performances and audio guides will provide context for the artwork, said Katy Friedland, family programs coordinator at the museum.


Visiting families can also listen to local storytellers share tales from Africa on Oct. 10, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. 2004

"It's hard to understand art behind glass," Friedland said. "African art objects are meant to be used, not just looked at."

To kick off the celebration, the museum brings the culture of coastal West Africa to life on Oct. 3 with performances by AyanAgalu, a group of traditional drummers, dancers and praise singers from southwest Nigeria.

During the day the Odunde Marketplace on the East Terrace will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Master drummer Magauwane Mahloele performs on Nov. 14 to celebrate the culture of southern Africa.

Mahloele, who creates all of his instruments by hand, is trained in the tradition of the Ba-Pedi, a south African group of people known for their versatility in creating musical instruments.

"You have a much closer relationship with the drum (when you make it). You know its behavior, its downfalls," said Mahloele, 51, of Yardley, Pa., who also crafts string instruments, African trumpets and flutes.

Also representing the southern African heritage is the Kulu Mele African-American Dance Ensemble. Its music and dance has roots in Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Senegal, Brazil, Haiti and Cuba.


Though the 23-member ensemble is based in Philadelphia, many of its costumes and instruments hail from Senegal, Guinea and Cuba.

Kulu Mele's dances depict both religious and everyday events. Dorothy Wilkie, the artistic director, said she hopes her ensemble's performance will keep the culture alive.

"We were raped from our culture in the past," Wilkie said. "Now we got our torch back and are speaking out for our ancestors."

Like Kulu Mele, the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble, representing central and east Africa, will perform with materials from Africa on Dec. 12.

This 21-year-old ensemble based in Camden will showcase their dancers, drummers and acrobats, as well as Pasha, the stilt walker, in their performance of "The Beauty of African Culture."

All of their instruments are from Africa, many being gifts from kings.

The ensemble's repertoire focuses on family values, showing day-to-day life from an African standpoint.

"(The audience) can learn what culture is and the love and respect of humanity," said Robert Dickerson, co-founder and co-director of the ensemble with his wife, Wanda. "If you can relate to a culture, you'll see the beauty of it."

Even before African Art, African Voices opens, museum-goers can celebrate the Museum's Korean Art Collection with demonstrations, workshops and a traditional drumming and dance performance by the Nori Company on Sept. 19.

Special Family Events showcase local and nationally recognized performance groups throughout the year. Past countries featured include India, Japan and Mexico.

Zarobell said this year's focus on Africa will shed light on a culture that isn't heavily represented in the Museum.

"I want people to learn more about both Africa and Art," said Zarobell, who worked with local African advisory groups to organize the exhibition. "I want to strip away all sorts of false impressions people have and restore an African perspective."

African Art Takes Center Stage At Local MuseumRead also African Art Takes Center Stage At Local Museum

Cincinnati Museum of Art

African art, african voices. Philadelphia Museum 

  contemporary related: 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