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Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

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The Museum's collection of art of the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, and North, Central, and South America comprises more than eleven thousand works of art of varied materials and types, representing diverse cultural traditions from as early as 3000 B.C.E. to the present. Highlights include decorative and ceremonial objects from the Court of Benin in Nigeria; sculpture from West and Central Africa; images of gods, ancestors, and spirits from New Guinea, Island Melanesia, Polynesia, and Island Southeast Asia; and objects of gold, ceramic, and stone from the Precolumbian cultures of Mexico and Central and South America.

Now at the Met

Reinforcing Sierra Leonean Identity: Alphonso Lisk-Carew

Julie Crooks, Guest Blogger

Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Alphonso Lisk-Carew was a Sierra Leonean photographer whose practice was firmly rooted in the histories of Sierra Leone. Lisk-Carew's career spanned over fifty years, and his photography threw into sharp relief Sierra Leone's myriad local personalities, cityscapes, cultural practices, and natural resources. Through his lens, Lisk-Carew witnessed the development of Sierra Leone under the colonial regime, and became one amongst many early Sierra Leonean photographers who had a hand in shaping the country's history.

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Photographing the Gold Coast: The Lutterodt Studios

Erin Haney, Guest Blogger

Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015

Who were those Gold Coast men? Lamentably, we are often missing crucial information on photographs from the 1880s. Still, it's worth making some educated guesses about what is signified in Albert George Lutterodt and George A. G. Lutterodt's Five Men.

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Giving Thanks before the Pilgrims: The Art of Feasting in the Ancient Americas

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It is unsurprising that Europeans arriving in the New World, including the first English pilgrims in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, quickly adopted corn as a staple grain. What remains a mystery, however, is how the early arrivals to the Western Hemisphere thousands of years ago first began creating corn, or maize. Unlike Old World grains, corn (Zea mays) was not technically "domesticated," because there is no wild form of the plant. Rather, it was entirely created from ancestral wild grasses by human populations in the fertile highlands and valleys of modern-day Mexico.

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Modeling the World: Ancient Architectural Models Now on View

Joanne Pillsbury, Andrall E. Pearson Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Friday, November 6, 2015

The Metropolitan Museum's permanent collection is unusually rich in archaeological architectural effigies—often called models—from around the globe, including works from Middle Bronze Age Syria, Ancient Egypt, and Han Dynasty China. Now, joining these remarkable works under the Met's roof are the fifty Precolumbian models featured in the exhibition Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas, on view through September 18, 2016.

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When Mummies Were the Life of the Party

Joanne Pillsbury, Andrall E. Pearson Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2015

In the twenty-first century, there is usually a sharp distinction made between the worlds of the dead and the living, with cemeteries now located in park-like settings that are removed from city centers and the daily lives of most. Yet if one reaches further back in time, there is a less pronounced division between the living and the dead, especially in the ancient Americas. The recently opened exhibition Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas, on view through September 18, 2016, provides a rare glimpse into relations between the living and the dead, particularly in one remarkable model on loan to the Met from the Museo Huacas de Moche (above).

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Poetry in Action at Teens Take the Met

Maya Valladares, Education Assistant, Education Department

Posted: Friday, October 9, 2015

Next Friday, October 16, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., dozens of cultural and community organizations and over two thousand teens will gather at the Met for our third Teens Take the Met event. This teen night, open to any teen ages 13 and up, is an explosion of creativity and fun.

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Great Traditions—Kongo: Power and Majesty with Alisa LaGamma

Rachel High, Publishing and Marketing Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Monday, September 21, 2015

Leaders of the Kingdom of Kongo, a region that today spans the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola forged connections with their European counterparts as early as the fifteenth century. While that relationship with the West began as one of equals, soon after the discovery of the Americas, this region of Central Africa became the epicenter of the Atlantic slave trade. This, followed by European colonization in the nineteenth century and the exploitation of the area's immense natural resources, created great instability and subjected Kongo peoples to devastating hardships. The over 170 works created by Kongo artists and presented in this new publication express the majesty of this society in the face of unparalleled challenges and enormous upheaval. Kongo: Power and Majesty accompanies the eponymous exhibition, on view through January 3, 2016.

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Unearthing Gold Masterpieces from Venado Beach, Panama

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Friday, August 28, 2015

In 1948, the United States Navy discovered a rich Precolumbian cemetery with a bulldozer in the target shooting area of Fort Kobbe, a former military installation within the Canal Zone of Panama. In early 1951, after "a great deal of unrecorded digging by soldiers," Samuel Lothrop of the Peabody Museum of Harvard University arrived and conducted systematic excavations of over two hundred burials (fig. 2). After the Harvard project ended, "weekend" archaeologists such as Neville and Eva Harte continued work at Venado Beach and dug over 150 cist-like graves. Another such couple was Lt. Col. and Mrs. Lee E. Montgomery, who excavated in August of 1951, documenting nineteen graves, some of which contained multiple individuals.

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Grasping the Foot of Lightning in a Maya Scepter Fragment

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ancient Maya kings and queens were masters of political pageantry. Rulers and nobles engaged in ritual celebrations while wearing elaborate costumes and regalia that incorporated images of both ancestors and deities. One of the most important classes of objects shown in royal portraits and found in royal burials is that of the scepter, a handheld staff often made of stone. The Metropolitan Museum's collection contains a fragment of one such object made of greenstone (fig. 1).

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"The Blood Was Pooled, the Skulls Were Piled": Maya Star Wars and a Misconstrued Doomsday

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015

A fragment of the bas relief known as Tortuguero Monument 6, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, forms part of one of the most infamous and contentious hieroglyphic texts in the Classic Maya (ca. a.d. 250–900) corpus. For many years epigraphers and lay enthusiasts honed in on the final passage of the text as a "prophecy," a tale of what would have happened on the date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahaw 3 K'ank'in in the Maya calendar. This corresponded to a day in December 2012, leading to spurious and sensational claims about an end of days predicted by the ancient Maya. The Met's fragment contains a pivotal portion of the text (fig. 1).

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Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.