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New Exhibition of African Art at the Dallas Museum of Art
Chihongo face mask, Chokwe peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo or Angola , late 19th–early 20th century © Dallas Museum of Art , African Collection Fund.

DALLAS, TX.- The Dallas Museum of Art will present a significant look at African visual culture through African Masks: The Art of Disguise, a new exhibition of approximately seventy works of art exploring the highly developed and enduring art of the African mask and revealing their timeless beauty, function, and meaning. Centered on the DMA’s distinguished collection of African art, acclaimed as one of the top five of its kind in the United States and which has set precedents since its inception 40 years ago, African Masks: The Art of Disguise features several works of art from the Museum’s collection that will be displayed for the first time. Significant works from other museum and private collections are also included in the exhibition.

African masks serve as supports for the spirit of deities, ancestors and culture heroes, which may be personified as human or animal, or a composite. Masked performances, held on the occasions of thanksgiving celebr at ions, rites of passage and funerals, often entertain while they teach moral lessons. In African Masks: The Art of Disguise, a variety of masks from sub-Saharan Africa offers a range of types, styles, sizes and m at erials and the contexts in which they appear. Carved wooden masks will be fe at ured along with masks made of other materials including textiles, animal skin and beads. Because the mask is frequently only one part of an ensemble, full masquerade costumes will also be displayed, and the masks will “come to life” in performances recorded on film and in contextual photographs.

On view August 22, 2010 through February 13, 2011 in Chilton Gallery I, African Masks will be accompanied by an all-new smARTphone tour highlighting 19 masks in the exhibition and a visit “behind-the-scenes.” Visitors will be encouraged to view 10 additional masks in the Museum’s Arts of Africa galleries on the third level; they are among the 150 objects from the collection th at are currently on view at the DMA.

“Our extraordinary African art collection is a particular point of strength and pride for the Museum, and with African Masks: The Art of Disguise, we take an in-depth look at the collection and present an innovative new way of looking at it,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “Through the use of the smARTphone tour, which includes cultural information, videos and behind-the-scenes interviews, along with more information about the works of art, this exhibition offers the visitor a dynamic experience.”

“Connoisseurs of African art and tourists collect masks, preferably carved wooden ones. Africans consider the entire masquerade—the object that conceals the head and the costume th at covers the body—to be the “mask.” The person within this ensemble is also part of the mask! This exhibition celebr at es the art of both the sculptor and the costume maker,” said Roslyn A. Walker, Senior Cur at or of the The Arts of Africa, the Americas , and the Pacific and The Margaret McDermott Cur at or of African Art at the Dallas Museum of Art and the exhibition cur at or. “The African masquerade is a multimedia interactive experience that involves not only the sculptor but also the costume makers, dancers, musicians, spirits and audience.”

African Masks is divided into four sections and includes these highlighted works of art:

Masquerades are multimedia events that often include not one but several masked dancers embodying various spirits. On display for the first time is Chihongo face mask from the Democr at ic Republic of the Congo and Angola: Chokwe peoples, made of wood, basketry, fiber, fe at hers, tukula, kaolin and iron; and Egungun costume from the Republic of Benin (former Dahomey): Yoruba peoples, made of cloth, appliqué, wood, cowrie shells, glass beads, animal claw or beak, sequins, animal fur and animal hide, and vinyl.

Human Disguises, including Four-face helmet mask (ñgontang) from Gabon : Fang peoples, made of wood and paint; and Forehead mask (mbuya type) from the Democr at ic Republic of the Congo : Central Pende peoples, made of wood, pigment and raffia fiber

Composite Disguises, fe at uring a W at er spirit helmet mask (Obukele) from Nigeria , Delta area: Abua peoples, made of wood, pigment and paint; and Mask (kifwebe) from the Democr at ic Republic of the Congo : Songye peoples, made of paint, fiber, cane and gut

Animal Disguises, including Mask (gye) from the Côte d'Ivoire : Guro peoples, made of wood, paint and sheet metal; and Elephant mask (mbap mteng) from Cameroon : village of Banjoun (?), Bamileke peoples, made of palm-leaf fiber textile, cotton textile, glass beads and palm-leaf ribs

Two other masks th at have never been on display before include Face mask (gle or ga),Dan peoples, Côte d’Ivoire or Liberia, made of wood, fiber and pigment; and Helmet mask (Lipiko), Makonde peoples, Tanzania, made of wood, beeswax, human hair and pigment

Visitors will be able to explore and experience the exhibition with moving footage sound, and a smARTphone tour fe at uring Dr. Walker, Exhibition Designer Alan Knezevich, art collectors and performers, as well as a mask and animal connection fe at uring animals from the Dallas Zoo. The tour can be accessed by visitors on Wi-Fi–enabled smartphones and media players at

The Dallas Museum of Art | African Art | "African Masks: The Art of Disguise" |

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