D.C. Exhibition To Highlight East Africa’s Global Reach

Goan artist, “East African Beauty” Zanzibar, Tanzania, Early 20th century, Hand-colored collotype, Private collection (Courtesy: Smithsonian)
Goan artist, “East African Beauty” Zanzibar, Tanzania, Early 20th century, Hand-colored collotype, Private collection (Courtesy: Smithsonian)

“World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” is a traveling exhibition featuring nearly 200 artworks that radiate the global influence of the Swahili coast of Africa. The exhibits are brought together from institutions and private lenders in Germany, Kenya, The Netherlands, Oman and the United States and will be on display through September 3, 2018, in the International Gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

The cultural significance of the Swahili coast, one of the most important trade routes in the world, will be highlighted through the scrupulous examination of rarely seen artifacts from different time periods and regions including architectural elements, historic postcards, pieces of jewelry, religious manuscripts, carved doorposts, maps, furniture and other everyday objects.

Frederick de Wit, "Portolan Chart Indiarum Orientalum," from Harmonia macrocosmica, plate 56 (Amsterdam, 1708).
Frederick de Wit, “Portolan Chart Indiarum Orientalum,” from Harmonia macrocosmica, plate 56 (Amsterdam, 1708).

“World on the Horizon is the exciting realization of years of research, collaboration and relationship building in the Swahili coast,” Kevin Dumouchelle, curator at the National Museum of African Art since October 2016, commented on the ongoing extraordinary project. He also explained: “Loans secured from public and private collections in Kenya, Tanzania, Oman, Europe and the United States represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our audiences to see these artworks together in conversation.”

The exhibition is curated by Allyson Purpura, senior curator and curator of Global African Art at Krannert Art Museum (KAM) at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, and Prita Meier, assistant professor of art history at New York University and the author of “Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere” (Indiana University Press, 2016). The Swahili artworks exhibition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities will travel to the Fowler Museum at UCLA in fall 2018.

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