African Cosmos: Stellar Arts

Hammer Building, Level 3
August 24, 2014–November 30, 2014

Originated by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, and curated by Dr. Christine Mullen Kreamer, African Cosmos: Stellar Arts is the first major exhibition exploring the historical legacy of African cultural astronomy and its intersection with traditional and contemporary African arts. For millennia, Africans have gazed upon the celestial firmament, made sense of the heavenly bodies above them, and used their observations to chart their movements through the physical environment and regulate their agricultural and ritual calendars.

The exhibition considers how the sun, moon and stars, as well as celestial phenomena such as lightning and rainbows, serve as sources of inspiration in the creation of African arts from ancient times to the present. An outstanding selection of works ranges from ancient Egyptian sculptures to traditional Dogon masks of Mali, and from Yoruba divination instruments from Nigeria to evocative light projections and other works by contemporary South African artists.

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Image: Gavin Jantjes, South Africa, Untitled, 1989–1990, Acrylic on canvas, 200 x 300 cm (78 3/4 x 118 1/8 in.), National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, purchased with funds provided by the Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, 96-23-1, Photograph by Franko Khoury.