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Where Gods and Mortals Meet: Continuity and Renewal
Male figure (edjo rakare)Wood, pigment. H. 140 cm. Private Collection.
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA.- The Columbia Museum of Art presents Where Gods and Mortals Meet: Continuity and Renewal in Urhobo Art, through January 16, 2005. This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the art of the Urhobo people of the western fringe of the Niger River Delta in southern Nigeria. Approximately 80 artworks, photographs, video and audio recordings of cultural performances, from yesterday and today are included in this exhibition. Where Gods and Mortals Meet addresses the effort to preserve culture, religion and art in the face of modernization. This exhibition introduces the spiritual beliefs, social and economic life, and the role that art plays among the Urhobo peoples and is organized by the Museum for African Art, Long Island City, NY.

Since the 1970s, the petroleum industry has brought worldwide wealth and attention to Nigeria, but tragically it has detracted from broad economic progress as flow stations, flare-offs, drilling platforms and pipelines have proliferated. As rural economies suffered an inevitable decline, the custom of maintaining traditional Urhobo art has experienced a parallel atrophy. The resultant decline in Urhobo culture has prompted a response among many Urhobo who want to celebrate and preserve their traditions for future generations. The Museum for African Art is proud to make a major contribution to this effort through the presentation of Where Gods and Mortals Meet, the first exhibition to showcase Urhobo arts. The exhibition introduces never before seen Urhobo art and footage of cultural performances from yesterday and today.

Where Gods and Mortals Meet includes traditional artworks from the historical period 1850-1975 including monumental wood figures, metal and clay sculpture, masks and costumes with accompanying poetry and song. Also included is a selection of contemporary works by Bruce Onobrakpeya, an Urhobo by birth and one of Africa's foremost artists whose style draws upon historical Urhobo art as its key source of inspiration. Photographs and video footage of extraordinary multi-media masquerades round out the exhbition. The exhibition's artists, scholars and consultants include six Urhobo nationals who are purposefully maintaining their cultural heritage in art, dance, poetry, music, rituals, ceremonies and written scholarship.

Organized by the Museum for African Art, Long Island City, NY. This exhibition is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, finding, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.





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