U-M exhibition challenges traditional understanding of African arts and cultures | Arts & Culture

U-M exhibition challenges traditional understanding of African arts and cultures

U-M exhibition challenges traditional understanding of African arts and cultures

Kehinde Wiley. "On Top of the World," 2008, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Aishti Foundation, Beirut © Kehinde Wiley

More than ever in the age of globalization, ideas fluidly cross geographic, generational, and cultural boundaries.

“Beyond Borders: Global Africa,” an exhibition that will open at the University of Michigan Museum of Art this month, seizes this moment by repositioning Africa and its artists at the center of complex cross-cultural exchange for centuries.

Bringing together paintings, photographs, sculpture and installations created in Africa, Europe and the United States from the 19th to the 21st centuries, the exhibition features approximately 40 works of art drawn from UMMA’s African art collection and from private and public holdings around the world, including the eminent Contemporary African Art Collection assembled by Jean Pigozzi of Geneva, Switzerland.

The exhibition explores issues such as slavery, colonization, migration, racism and identity through works by Kudzanai Chiurai, Omar Victor Diop, Seydou Keïta, Houston Maludi, Nandipha Mntambo, Fabrice Monteiro, Wangechi Mutu, Sam Nhlengethwa, Serge Alain Nitegeka, Alison Saar, Chéri Samba, Kehinde Wiley, and a host of unrecorded artists.

“Beyond Borders presents UMMA’s distinguished collection of historical and contemporary African art, along with outstanding international loans, to ask questions about what it means to be an ‘African’ artist and make ‘African’ art,” said UMMA Director Christina Olsen.

Serge Alain Nitegeka, "Colour & Form XVIII," 2016, paint on wood. Courtesy of Mott-Worsh collection, Flint and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg. © Serge Alain Nitegeka
Omar Victor Diop, "Jean-Baptiste Belley (1746-1805)," 2014, pigment inkjet printing on Harman by Hahnernuhle paper. Courtesy of Mott-Warsh collection, Flint, Michigan and MAFNIN-A Gallery, Paris, © Omar Victor Diop
Artist unrecorded, collected in Florida, "Paket kongo" (Vodou medicine packet), 2012, cloth, thread, feathers, metal pins, unidentified substances. Private collection. Photography: Charlie Edwards
Nandipha Mntambo, "Ukungenisa," 2008, chromogenic color print. Courtesy of the Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC). Collection Jean Pigozzi, Geneva, and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg. © Nandipha Mntambo
Artist unrecorded, Kongo peoples, Vili group, Democratic Republic of the Congo, "Nkisi" (power figure), ca. 1800, wood, tukula powder and kaolin. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern, 2005/1.180.
Chéri Samba, "Hommage aux Anciens Créateurs (A Tribute to Earlier Artists), 1999, acrylic and glitter on canvas. Courtesy of the Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC), Collection Jean Pigozzi, Geneva © Chéri Samba
Seydou Keīta, "Untitled," 1956-57, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC), Collection Jean Pigozzi, Geneva, © Seydou Keīta/SKPEAC

Works on view include a video of the South African artist Nandipha Mntambo as a combined bullfighter and bull; Senegalese artist Omar Victor Diop’s photograph re-enacting the 18th-century portrait of abolitionist Jean-Baptiste Belley by French artist Anne-Louis Girodet; Kehinde Wiley’s “On Top of the World” (2008), a large-scale portrait by the renowned African-American artist that conflates Nigerian independence and the Black Power movement in the U.S.; and a Nkisi power figure by a Vili artist from the late 19th century.

“Beyond Borders: Global Africa” will be on view at the U-M Museum of Art from Aug. 11 to Nov. 25, 2018, and is curated by Laura De Becker, UMMA’s Helmut and Candis Stern Associate Curator of African Art.

“The works in the exhibition demonstrate how conceptual and geographic borders continue to inform—and limit—the way we collect, research and display the arts of Africa,” De Becker said.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated book published by UMMA, with an essay by De Becker, and a range of related public programs.

Lead support for “Beyond Borders: Global Africa” is provided by the U-M Office of the Provost, Michigan Medicine, National Endowment for the Arts, U-M Office of Research, African Studies Center and Department of Afroamerican and African Studies. Additional support is provided by the University of Michigan CEW+ Frances and Sydney Lewis Visiting Leaders Fund and Susan Ullrich.