Dimensions of Power: African Art at the Snite Museum of Art

Aug 22, 2017 - May 1, 2022 | Snite Museum of Art

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Gitenga Muganji Mask, Unrecorded Artist from Democratic Republic of Congo, Pende style, mid-twentieth century, Plant fiber, feathers, clay pigment, Owen D. Mort Jr. Collection, L2010.051.001

Fritz and Milly Kaeser Meštrović Studio Gallery

In the fall of 2017, the African Art collection reopened within a larger, more prestigious space on the main floor of the Museum in a reinstallation that explores themes of power.

In the past, African art was often tied into the way African leaders promoted their agendas. Royalty and rulers used art to project their authority, religious groups promoted their faiths, the wealthy displayed their riches, and ordinary Africans used art to wield their own forms of power. Since supernatural forces were thought to play a large role in determining events, it was important to own objects that could withstand or shape events that lay beyond ordinary control. Fifty-nine outstanding works from the Snite Museum collection illustrate these ideas through themes of economic, political, social, and spiritual power in Africa.

Most of these works have never been on public view. Nearly a third belong to the Owen D. Mort Jr. Collection, with art primarily from Democratic Republic of Congo, where Mort worked for many years. As he said, “My hope is to educate people on Africa. It’s been a great love of mine . . . Ideally Notre Dame would use the collection for education, to get interest going in Africa.”

The African gallery features online interpretive tools to encourage further learning. A highlight is the digital touch screen with an interactive map of Africa.

The reinstallation is curated by Visiting Curator of African Art Elizabeth Morton. An exhibition catalogue by Dr. Morton is available.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Lake Family Endowment for the Arts of the Americas, Africa, and Oceania.

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