African Art Collection

Selected works from the Collection of William D. and Norma Canelas Roth

Numerous artistic traditions from cultures throughout the African continent can communicate certain information as well as identify specific aesthetic styles. One feature that connects the diverse artwork in this exhibition is that all of these creations are part of visual languages. These pieces conveyed a special meaning about the owner. Dolls carried by young Tsonga or Ndebele women of South Africa signify that she is of marriageable age. A Karamajong hunter or warrior of Uganda wears a special headdress that follows strict rules for color and design to designate his age and rank. A beautiful headdress inspired by European-style crowns indicates the power of a Yoruba king in Nigeria. Among the Ndebele of South Africa, women wear special beaded aprons to indicate that they are married. These objects may also communicate information about the governmental rank of the wearer, the intentions of a love pursuit, the success of a hunter, the military or civic group represented, spiritual or religious beliefs, and so on. This is art that speaks.

These carefully created works - whether worn, carried, displayed or used - were intrinsically valuable and special to their owners. The artwork shown here is a visual display of the immense diversity of peoples and cultures from throughout the African continent. These distinctive objects contain special histories, family values, customs, traditions and aesthetic symbols or ideals. Although these works are not in the setting originally intended, recognizing the historical and social context of each work improves our understanding. Sharing this artwork with audiences enables us to provide a glimpse into the lives of the people who created them. The art speaks to us, perhaps differently than to those who originally created it. It becomes part of a shared humanity and a part of our own life experience.

2007-20, headdress, large