News Release: Arts and Humanities

Jan. 27,  2011

African Art Exhibition at Carlos Museum Explores Human-Divine Connection

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“Divine Intervention: African Art and Religion” will be on view at the Michael C. Carlos Museum from Feb. 5 through Dec. 4, 2011.

 “Divine Intervention: African Art and Religion,” drawn from the Carlos Museum’s rich collection of African art with select loans from private collections, illustrates a traditional African belief that works of art function as a bridge between the human and divine worlds.

The exhibition features more than 50 works from over 20 African cultures including shrine sculptures, masks, divination instruments and body adornments.

The works in “Divine Intervention” illustrate the active nature of African art, in which works of art are not passive representations of gods, deities, ancestors, or spirits. Instead they are agents of communication between the divine and earthly realms.

Jessica Stephenson, curator of African art for the Carlos, explains, “In many cultures of Africa, including Yoruba and Kongo cultures a work of art becomes powerful through its creation or through its use in ritual. It is filled with the authority of the spirit and ancestral realms, and can effect change and transformation in the lives of human beings.”

Islam and Christianity in Africa

The exhibition also explores the relationship of Islam and Christianity in Africa, and their intersections with other African religions.

A hunter’s jacket from Mali, covered with two kinds of amulets, is a good example of how these religions integrated into African cultural practices.

The leather tooled packets contain folded pieces of paper with magic formulas and Khoranic inscriptions as well as a plethora of amulets made from animal teeth, talons and horns, the cavities of which are packed with pharmacological substances from the wild containing nyama, a substance that, like words from the Koran, is empowering and directs protective physical transmissions from God.

Educational programs

Patrons, teachers, scholars, families, art enthusiasts and students of every age will have an opportunity to learn more about African art and religion through related Carlos Museum educational events.

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