Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths
The Art of African Blacksmiths is an international traveling exhibition that combines scholarship with objects of great aesthetic beauty to create the most comprehensive treatment of the blacksmith’s art in Africa. The exhibition includes more than 225 artworks from across the African continent, focusing on the region south of the Sahara and covering a time period spanning early archaeological evidence to the present day. Borrowed from American and European public and private collections, it also features wood sculptures studded with iron, blades, and currencies in a myriad of shapes and sizes, diverse musical instruments, body adornments, an array of ritual accoutrements, tools and weapons, and other important objects that enabled Africans to forage and hunt, till the soil, and assure their own protection and prosperity. Currently presented at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. it will then travel to the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris. A feature about the show is available in the Summer Issue (T92) of Tribal Art magazine.
Good as gold
In the cities of the West African nation of Senegal, stylish women have often used jewelry as part of an overall strategy of exhibiting their elegance and prestige. Rooted in the Wolof concept of sanse (dressing up, looking and feeling good), a new long-term exhibition, Good as Gold:Fashioning Senegalese Women, opening October 24, 2018, examines the production, display, and circulation of gold in Senegal. It explores golden adornment as part of a larger dialogic constellation of identity, nationhood, politics, wealth, and individual taste that is largely driven by women. It also celebrates a significant gift of gold jewelry to the National Museum of African Art’s collection. It is guest curated by Amanda M. Maples, curator of African Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and its opening will be followed by a full-length publication in spring 2019.
In the MET AOA galleries, Atea: Nature and Divinity in Polynesia will open November 19, 2018. Atea is a Polynesian cosmological term that refers to the moment when it was believed that light first sparked forth, resulting in the birth of the first generation of gods. This exhibition will celebrate the creative ingenuity of Polynesian artists who drew from the natural world to give material expression to their understanding of the divine. Featuring objects from American collections and the Met’s own holdings, the exhibition will showcase some thirty artworks—figural sculpture, painted barkcloth, rare featherwork, and more—dating from the late eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The presentation will provide an opportunity to understand a core principle of Pacific art: The divine is not abstract but very much alive in nature. It will be the subject of a Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin.
Heroes and Spirits in Cannes
CANNES—In collaboration with the city of Cannes, the Musée de la Castre is presenting Héros et esprits de Nouvelle-Guinée (Heroes and Spirits of New Guinea), an exhibition that features some forty photographs taken by insatiable adventuress Wylda Bayrón. Her series of portraits shows people from New Guinea wearing their elaborate costumes and extraordinary ornaments. A selection of traditional Melanesian objects is also on hand, complementing and enhancing the photos and providing context for the lively or even apocalyptic imagery by the New York–based photographer. Her work captures societies in transformation that persevere with their ancestral traditions while their traditional lifeways are under constant threat. The remarkable men and women her lens captures challenge the viewer, revealing aspects of these individuals without completely penetrating their mysterious universe. The exhibition is on view from July 5–October 27, 2019, and was produced under the supervision of Chris Boylan.
PARIS—From October 17–31, 2019, Galerie Meyer will devote an exhibition to the art of tattooing, a practice in which peoples all over the world have engaged in order to mark identities and status, as well as to protect themselves against their adversaries. Particularly ubiquitous in the Pacific and the Great North, the two areas Galerie Meyer specializes in, the art of tattooing requires the use of special instruments. The designs made with them are reflected in sculptures and masks, they can also be seen in photographs and paintings. Identités encrées (Inked Identities) will explore the history of all aspects of the tattoo with traditional objects and historical documentation, but it will also delve into the contemporary aspects of the subject. Well-known artists will be on hand and working at the gallery, transforming it into a temporary tattoo parlor. Visitors will have the opportunity to discover the work of Russian artist Dmitry Babakhin and of Polynesian artist Po’oino Yrondi, both of whom specialize in Polynesian tattooing.
In Dialogue with the Forest: Barkcloth Paintings from Congo
To make barkcloth, traditionally used for clothing, Mbuti men collected pieces of the inner bark of fi g trees and pounded them until they were thin and pliable. Mbuti women decorated the surfaces with intricate designs, using twigs and their fingers to apply dyes made from plant saps and charcoal powder. The abstract paintings express the shapes and motions of the forest, with the motifs referring to paths, webs, insects, and hunting nets, among many other things. These vibrant patterns also refer to the noises of the rainforest and to Mbuti music. An exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art until November 3, 2019, features fifteen of these elegantly painted barkcloths dating from the mid twentieth century. Excerpts of Mbuti songs and recordings of the rainforest, played in a continuous loop, create an acoustic ambiance for the paintings. The barkcloths featured in In Dialogue with the Forest were formerly in the collection of the late Mary Hunt Kahlenberg in Santa Fe and were acquired by the museum in 2018.
The Last of the Kalash at the Musée des Confluences
Fêtes himalayennes, les derniers Kalash (Himalayan Festivals: The Last of the Kalash), on view at the Musée des Confluences through December 1, 2019, lifts the veil on some of the least-known people of Pakistan with a fi rst-of-its-kind exhibition in a French museum. Thanks to the work done in the second half of the twentieth century by two researchers and photographers from Lyon, the exhibition presents the beliefs and customs of the Kalash, a community of 3,000 people who inhabit an isolated mountainous region and who live and function in ways that are opposite to those we know in our consumerist society. It relates the story of these researchers as they explored an intersection of worlds and religions and discovered religious practices previously unknown to the outside world: a world populated by beneficent fairies called suchi and characterized by ritual ceremonies honoring the gods and celebrating the generosity of the Great Men. This universe gives rise to an art that is replete with symbolism, such as a two-headed equestrian figure, who rewards the most generous men, and a rich textile tradition maintained by women. The non-material culture is also vast: The language is unique, ancestral rites are highly codified and dictated by the deities, and shamans are ubiquitous and omnipresent. Kalash life is filled with spirituality, reflecting their struggle to survive in a harsh and restrictive climate. This exhibition demonstrates once again the extent to which museums are the repositories for human memory, both material and immaterial. It shows how a reclusive society gradually adapted to the outside world, how its rites altered due to pressures from external religions such as Islam, and how a people maintains its identity as it strives to conform to the established codes of modern life.
The Impermanence of Things
After many months of renovation, the Musée d’Ethnographie de Neuchâtel has entirely revamped its space and is reconsidering its holdings in terms of their wealth and variety, without confining them to purely ethnographic, geographic, ethnic, or functional considerations. It has asked and is endeavoring to answer the questions that twenty-first-century ethnographic collections must pose in order to remain relevant. As a start to this process, the museum has opened a major new exhibition at Villa de Pury titled "L’impermanence des choses" ("The Impermanence of Things"). This show is made up of nine modular spaces in which the museum’s holdings are used to put contemporary questions into perspective. In the “Poids” (Weight) section, Asante goldweights refer to the moral burden of the connection between the history of colonization and ethnographic collections, as well as the power relationships between peoples and the weight of the obsessive hoarding of objects, knowledge, and archives. In the “Plumes” (Feathers) section, headdresses from Papua New Guinea are presented within the décor of a Parisian cabaret, since such items are equated with spectacle and show. “Acteurs, Ambassades, Bazars, Artistes” (Actors, Embassies, Bazaar, Artists) and “Regards” (Views) both emphasize that human beings and material possessions are always changing, as are the ways in which they are perceived.
Sous l’oeil de Malick Sidibé Et un chant contre le sida
Malick Sidibé (1935–2016), a famous Malian photographer, was granted the Hasselblad Award in 2003, among other prizes, and received a Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2007. He is the first artist to earn these two prestigious distinctions. The Musée Barbier-Mueller is paying tribute to this photographer, whose body of work the visitor will first discover through a dozen unpublished portraits, taken within the framework of a competition featuring songs against AIDS, organized in Mali by Monique Barbier-Mueller in 2005. Better-known prints, displayed in the basement, bring the Mali of the 1960s–1970s back to life and bear witness to the kind, curious, and spirited gaze with which Malick Sidibé regarded his peers. The museum wishes to showcase Mali, while at the same time promoting its traditional arts. Extraordinary pieces, including pendants, ornaments and figurines, masks, seats, and statues belonging to the Soninke, Dogon, and Bamana peoples, to cite only a few, are thus exhibited on the mezzanine. Brought together in the museum for the first time, these works will show the artists’ admirable creativity, while opening a window on the many rites and beliefs they sustain. Photo : ©Malick Sidibé. Courtesy Galerie Magnin-A, Paris.
Museum der Kulturen
The Museum der Kulturen in Basel is planning a show about objects that generally reside in its storage. This is an innovative concept and one that will interest many people who are eager to know what goes on behind the scenes at a museum. It also reveals how objects that are not under the bright lights all the time are housed and care for. These days, many of these treasures are often the subject of controversy— they may have been stolen, unjustly removed from their contexts, or be made of materials that are now prohibited. What was earlier sought after is the subject of criticism today. How must these sensitive objects be handled? These issues and more will be explored by the museum beginning on March 22, 2019.