This collection presents an opportunity to experience the arts of the African continent and its many diasporas in a new way. As with most Western museums, the foundational objects of this collection were created in or taken out of Africa during periods of enslavement or colonialism. To acknowledge and help visitors critically engage with these histories, we have arranged artworks by several interconnected narratives that center on human experience as the driving force for the production and circulation of art. Highlighting a dynamically connected continent, they include arts of resistance and resilience, the skillful works of named and individual artists, and the power of the written and spoken word. They also include arts that reflect a spirit of individuality during Africa’s Independence era; contemporary diasporic responses to African art histories; personal adornment, dress, and design; and performances of intangible heritages, memory, and ancestral knowledges.
African art is full of surprises: the unfamiliar can become familiar and vice versa. We invite you to engage with artworks by African and diaspora artists, examine the construction of art and value, increase cross-cultural understanding, and see yourself and the world in a new way. We hope you enjoy these works of art from a continent of immense creativity and find the opportunity to connect to what may already be familiar or find new meaning in the unfamiliar.
Amanda M. Maples
Curator of Global African Arts
Additional works of African art are featured in the NCMA’s ancient Egyptian collection and galleries of twentieth-century, twenty-first-century, and global contemporary art, as well as in the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park.