A New African Art Exhibition at Oberlin College in Ohio

Oberlin College, the highly rated liberal arts educational institution in Ohio, recently dedicated a new African art installation at its Allen Memorial Art Museum. The museum has 107 African art objects in its collection.

The objects are varied and include a selection made by Yorùbá artists, along with pieces such as a three-foot-long carved ivory tusk from Angola and an ivory salt cellar from Sierra Leone.The exhibit was put together by Matthew Rarey, an assistant professor, and students in his seminar class, “African Arts in Museums: From Collection to Display.” Dr. Rarey notes that “my number one priority was not to portray Africa as a monolith. Traditional African art does not exist. African societies are just as dynamic and varied as those in the rest of the world.”

The curators held a “welcoming ceremony” for the new exhibit. Artist Michael Oladipo Oludare performed a ceremonial dance and played a West African dundun or “talking drum.”

Oberlin College artist in residence Adenike Sharpley emphasized the importance of the welcome: “The objects in this exhibition are usually functional and worn by people. Here, they are out of their setting in a museum. We wanted them to meet their community and be welcomed into it the same as if they were at home.”

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