The Brooklyn Museum: Africa

Double Bell (Egogo) from Benin, Edo State, Nigeria. Made of Ivory.
Double Bell (Egogo) (early 16th cen.) from Benin, Edo State, Nigeria. Made of Ivory.

The double gongs were used by the oba (king) during the Emobo ceremony to drive away evil spirits. The carvings on this gong, one of only 6 known to exist, depicts the oba supported by his military commander and his heir. This is one of the oldest surviving African ivory sculptures.

Figure of a Horn Blower (circa 1504-50) from Benin, Edo State, Nigeria made of copper alloy.
Figure of a Horn Blower (circa 1504-50) from Benin, Edo State, Nigeria. Made of copper alloy.

This figure most likely stood on an altar dedicated to a deceased oba. His attire indicates that he is a court official and the leopard tooth necklace was only worn by warriors. The horn that the figure once held may have been used for ceremonial purposes.

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National Museum of African Art: Through the Lens of Roger Ballen

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Lines, Marks and Drawings: Through the Lens of Roger Ballen was not at all what I expected to see when I walked into the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. For starters, the artist and photographer Roger Ballen is an American born in New York in 1950. Ballen has experimented with black and white photography for nearly 50 years, 30 of which have been in South Africa where he works as a geologist and photographer. His creations are both strange and intriguing, prompting the viewer to ask – what is Ballen attempting to convey through his art?

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National Museum of African Art: The Artistic Legacy of Gabon

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Last weekend during a quick visit to DC, I decided to spend the day at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. The first exhibit that I encountered was The Artistic Legacy of Gabon which was presented in conjunction with the Museum’s Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa exhibition. Earth Matters focused on African artists and their relationship to the land from which they draw both inspiration and materials for their work.

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