National Museum of African Art: African Mosaic


African Mosaic: Celebrating a Decade of Collecting is an ongoing exhibit featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African History in Washington, DC. The exhibit is a showcase of extraordinary pieces collected by the National Museum for over ten years. The works on display come to the Museum either through donation or purchase and demonstrate the wide variety of artistic traditions from an array of African nations available to the public.


Portrait of a Woman is a popular work painted on glass by Ibrahima Sall. Sall, born in 1939 in Senegal, completed the piece sometime after 1967. The bright gold color reiterates the importance of gold to African kingdoms over the centuries, as well as its continued favor in contemporary times.


Furnishing the home with beautiful, yet functional items, is a practice found all throughout the continent. Intricately designed bowls may be used for cooking purposes, but they also add artistic and sacred elements to the home.


This female figure with child was crafted by an Asante artist from Ghana sometime between 19th and mid-2oth century. The majestic piece is composed of wood, pigment, and glass beads.


Masks may be one of the most widely collected of African treasures. Masks usually serve a sacred function such as honoring those who have passed away, teaching moral lessons to the community, or acknowledging the transitioning of a young person into adulthood.


This bottle, created in Cameroon by a member of the Bamum peoples in the Grassfields region, is constructed from a gourd, glass beads and buttons, and wood sometime between the 19th and early 20th century. Highly crafted works such as this and the bag, stool, and ankle cuffs below communicate a lot about its owner’s wealth and status.

IMG_1072Divinity bag.


IMG_1069Ankle cuffs.

IMG_1073African Moasic gallery space.

For information on current exhibits, visit the National Museum of African Art’s website at



 Photography by Ajua Hawkins.

Copyright 2014 Ajua Hawkins

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