Engaging Spirits, Empowering Man:
Sculpture of Central and West Africa

September 1 - December 23, 2009
King Sculpture Court and East Gallery

The dynamic sculptural works exhibited here ––from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, and other African countries––were chosen from a private collection to supplement the AMAM’s permanent collection of African art, which has a strong emphasis on West African art of the Yoruba peoples.

While they are aesthetically engaging, the masks, furniture, and other works on view also played a critical role in the spiritual life of the community. These functional objects were used in public and private rituals, including initiations, masquerades, processions, and funerals, seeking to mediate the physical world of man with the closely related world of spirits and ancestors. Themes such as fertility and women, temporal power, initiation, agricultural prosperity, and divination emerge as focal points of traditional African life, engaging both the individual and the community.

This exhibition was curated by Mara Spece (OC ’10) to support a variety of courses taught at Oberlin College in fall 2009. Funding for the exhibition was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the PoGo Family Foundation.

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Chokwe Peoples, Angola or Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ngunja Chief’s Chair, 20th c.
Wood, animal hide, brass nails