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African Art, African Voices: Long Steps Never Broke
Retainer Figure, 19th century. Laikom, Kom, Cameroon. Wood, nails, fiber fragments. Seattle Art Museum: Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- A broad-ranging exhibition of African art is the centerpiece of a lively celebration of African culture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through January 2, 2005. African Art, African Voices: Long Steps Never Broke a Back presents nearly 200 works of art from the perspectives of the Sub-Saharan cultures in which they were created, utilizing music, movements, staging, and storytelling to span a period of creativity from the 19th century to the present. The exhibition gives full expression to the stories behind many of these works of art and enables visitors to appreciate them in close relation to their original functions.

African Art, African Voices features carved masks and sculptures from Western Africa, beaded jewelry from Kenya, gold weights from Ghana, elaborate costumes from the Yoruba, Dan and Mende, powerfully encrusted Mande hunters' shirts, and a rare royal throne room—with carved wood stools and sculptures of ancestral leaders—from the Kom Kingdom of Cameroon. The works on view are drawn largely from the noted Katherine White Collection that was formed in the 1960s and ’70s and acquired by the Seattle Art Museum in 1981as a gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Corporation. The exhibition also presents an array of more than 40 contemporary works created in Africa from the late 1960s to the present, including photographs of Mali by Malick Sidibe (b. 1936) and the late Seydou Keita (b. c. 1921-d. 2001), as well as works by Yinka Shonibare (b. Nigeria, 1962), Magdalena Odundo (b. Kenya, 1950), and William Kentridge (b. South Africa, 1955), and a number of contemporary African artists whose works will be on view in a major American museum for the first time. Their photographs, ceramics, paintings, sculptures and works on paper reflect a dialogue both with African traditions and with current international tendencies in art.

“African Art, African Voices will give our visitors the opportunity to admire these impressive works not only as objects of compelling aesthetic contemplation but also in contexts that evoke their original functions and meanings in powerful and provocative ways,” said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Our Museum has a small but growing collection of African art, an important field in which we would like to expand our holdings. It will be exciting to present this broad-ranging selection of superb objects from the Seattle Art Museum, shown alongside contemporary African art on loan from distinguished artists and other major collections.”

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