Current EXHIBITION and EVENTS:
Africa in Context: San Diego Mesa College World Art Permanent Collection
Curated By Dr. Denise Rogers
January 30 - February 23, 2023
Reception: Thursday, February 9, 4-7pm, FA103
Free Parking in Lot # 1 reception night only. Park in Faculty spaces ONLY.
If you have a Student permit you must park in Student spaces.
"Spirituality and Feminine Power in African Art" Lecture: Tuesday, February 14, 11:15am
- 12:15pm, fa103
for this Lecture please Pay to Park in student spots.
All our events are Free and open to the public.
Join us for a stirring presentation of African art to celebrate Black History Month. Thoughtfully curated by Dr. Denise Rogers, Africa in Context features visually stunning, historically significant objects from the San Diego Mesa College World Art Permanent Collection. Visitors to the exhibition will experience artworks from a range of African countries and regions including Ghana, Mali, Yoruba, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others. Themes related to feminine power, ancestry, healing, and mourning are among the universally relevant concepts evoked by these pieces. The San Diego Mesa College art gallery team working with student assistants, Museum Studies program graduates and local artists have created dynamic, multi-media reconstructed environments within the expansive gallery space that replicate the ritual and cultural context of the objects on view.
In the Western museum tradition, objects like these are usually displayed in glass cases or as stand-alone sculptures on pedestals to be appreciated in the same way we might appreciate an artwork from Renaissance Europe. Displaying African art in this manner does the viewers a disservice because these objects should be seen in the context they were used and as integral parts of the local architecture, costumes, rituals, and performances. Feminine power takes center stage in this exhibit with figures that represent fertility, motherhood or that emphasize the work of women in fashioning many of the objects.
In the gallery space, Kuba royal cloths woven with geometric pattens are displayed hanging on the wall of a communal structure built of bamboo branches and palm fronds; Bamana dancers take on the magical qualities of their ancestral spirit, Ci (Chi) Wara, dressed in attire made out of raffia skirts and carved masks featuring antelopes; an elaborate altar built on a faux-rock wall incorporates a variety of fertility figures from the Ashanti culture and offerings of cowrie shells, seeds and beads; elegant figures attired in colorful patterned clothing are crowned with spirit masks from the Igbo people. As one enters, a row of memorial posts from the Giriama people guard the space. Rather than sitting still the objects populate the space imbuing it with mystery and they transport the viewer to another time and place. African artworks are more than just artifacts; their meaning comes from their connections to their cultures, and their purpose is intertwined with the everyday lives of people across the African continent, and this is what comes across in this installation.
In recent years there has been increasing interest in decolonizing our approach in presenting African Art, and there has been a renewed concern about the origins of African artworks in European and Western collections, a questioning on how they were acquired, and whether they should be repatriated (returned to their regions of origin). Visitors often experience some ambivalence when faced with these issues, and museums and academic institutions have a responsibility to weigh the educational importance of these artworks, particularly for those who trace their lineage to the African continent, against concerns about the manner in which some pieces may have been procured. This exhibition acknowledges these concerns, and proceeds with an awareness of the cultural weight of these precious objects, counterbalanced by the college’s educational mission and the curatorial team’s efforts to present these artworks in ways that are meaningfully connected to their cultures and contexts.
There will be a reception on Thursday, February 9 with light refreshments. A lecture and discussion “Spirituality and Feminine Power in African Art” by Dr. Denise Rogers will take place on Tuesday, February 14, 11:15 am - 12:15 pm in the gallery.