On Friday, June 30, The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh will be expanding its current African Art Gallery. This updated exhibit features galleries that will give it twice as many art pieces, including completely new works and some pieces that have not been on a wall in decades. The museum will also open an interactive learning section of the exhibit where visitors can learn more about the collection and even contribute to the art itself. This exhibit is opening in order to give visitors more opportunities to see African art and give it the attention that has yet to be granted.
In regards to the exhibit opening, the director of the museum, Lawrence J. Wheeler, said, “This expanded gallery and new interactive learning space elevates our African collection to a central showcase in the Museum, giving it the attention it so deserves and offering visitors countless opportunities to engage with and experience this powerful art.”
One of the new features of this expanded exhibit is African art spanning 16 centuries. This gallery gives insight to the dynamic between the ancient and modern art of Africa. The oldest work is a traditional clay terracotta sculpture dating circa 600, and the newest piece on display is by Nigerian-born artist Victor Ekpuk.
Not only does this exhibit show the evolution of African art through time, but also through geography. The new gallery shows geological focal spots that highlight specific trends and themes throughout the continent. Instead of focusing on just one or two locations in Africa, this new gallery encompasses all of Africa, and many art forms the continent has to offer.
The new gallery also gives a personal touch with art that is specific to North Carolina. This new space focuses on 10 works of art from the Bennett College art collection, a school that is right around the corner from UNCG.
On the subject of having Bennett College’s art in the museum, Interim President Dr. Dawkins said, “Bennett College is pleased to be a part of this exciting African art exhibition. The sharing of these items from our African art collection undoubtedly enhances the public’s awareness of the uniqueness of this form of art as well as fostering an appreciation for the preservation and exhibition of various art cultures.”
As far as the interactive part of the exhibit, there is a floor-to-ceiling loom installation that provides visitors with the chance to weave yarn originated from sheep and goat farms in North Carolina. There will be embroidery activities set up that allows visitors to interactively experience African textiles. There is also many other activities that show the culture of Africa, including a few that are child-friendly. In addition to the expanded gallery, special artist talks and children’s activities are scheduled throughout the summer.
With a larger gallery, there is more space to display works that have never been put up before or to showcase pieces that have not been up in years. The gallery went from exhibiting 65 pieces of art to 125 pieces. Included are more pieces developed by African women like ceramic art.
This expanded gallery brings new insight to the artistic value of Africa, along with interesting connections being made between Africa and North Carolina. Showcasing more African art provides visitors an education that would otherwise not be there, or certainly would not be this accessible. That being said, your opportunity to see intriguing African art being displayed for the very first time, soon awaits you.