February 4, 2002
Lively exploration of African art at SAM
by Deborah Stone
Arts and Entertainment
Seattle Art Museum's new exhibit, "Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back," is a compilation of selections from SAM's African collections and loans representing a broad range of cultural classifications.
Royal art from the Kom and Asante kingdoms, masquerades from the Yoruba, Dan and Mende, sculptures created for healing from the Kongo and Maasai beadwork are just a few of the classifications represented. What is unique about this exhibit is the dialogue, special effects and other creative elements that accompany them.
A dozen or so African and American artists and scholars have assisted the museum staff in presenting the works along with audio and video recordings of memories and opinions, oral narratives and conversations on various subjects.
These topic explore such issues as the nature of collecting, the difficulty in determining authenticity of a piece and the separation of private from public art.
A variety of music and dance performances, film showings, lectures and artist-in-residencies will supplement the artwork throughout the exhibit's duration. "Art from Africa" evolved from a book compiled and written by Pam McClusky, Seattle Art Museum's curator of art of Africa and Oceania. The book, "Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back," analyzes methods used to collect African objects during the past century and explores why so many misunderstandings and mistakes were made in this collection process. McClusky uses 12 case studies of specific objects in SAM's collection and examines what happens when objects are taken without consent and without an understanding of their meaning. The book explains how such errors can be prevented with an emphasis on new methods of collecting, exhibiting and interpreting African art with the involvement of contemporary African artists, patrons and scholars.
SAM's exhibitbrings to life objects previously seen only as exotic artifacts by presenting the stories and voices behind them, allowing visitors to connect the artwork with its true origins. "Art from Africa" runs through May 19. Call SAM at (206) 625-8900 for more information.