Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Intern Gabriel Kilongo recently spoke to author, composer, musicologist, and record producer Ned Sublette about the musical traditions of historic Kongo and its corresponding modern-day states for the recently closed exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty. As a 2012 Knight-Luce Fellow for Reporting on Global Religion at the University of Southern California, Sublette undertook research in Angola, and his four-episode Hip Deep Angola radio series was produced for the Peabody Award–winning public radio program Afropop Worldwide.
Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2015
On December 12, Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist, author, and current Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Associate Professor Howard French met with Alisa LaGamma, Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator in Charge of the Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, in the galleries of the exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty for a public interdisciplinary conversation on the art of power, leadership, and global trade in Central Africa. The conversation brought together historical and contemporary perspectives on one of Africa's greatest civilizations.
Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2015
The parallels in both structure and symbolism between the objects in the exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty (open through January 3) and dance as a codified art form are endless. Unexpectedly, though unsurprisingly, I was immediately drawn to some of the abstract objects in the exhibition that lead the eye along complex paths such as the exquisitely intricate weaves and multilayered tones of the luxury raffia cushion covers and the carvings that wind around the length of the ivory tusks.
Posted: Friday, December 18, 2015
Posted: Monday, September 21, 2015
The new exhibition Kongo: Power and Majesty, on view through January 3, 2016, displays several musical instruments, including a variety of ivory side-blown trumpets. While many were used as trade items produced for wealthy Europeans, such instruments also served as integral symbols of royal status and power in several sub-Saharan regions. A number of similar trumpets are also on view in The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments.
Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Every time I walk through gallery 457 I am arrested by a big vitrine displaying a rich range of medieval ivory objects produced around the shores of the Mediterranean. This collection of ivories holds secret stories of transformation, from secular to sacred, ending ultimately in their place as objects of desire for collectors. Rare and durable, elephant ivory was valued as one of the most precious materials in medieval times, and a wide range of artifacts were created by skillful craftsmen throughout the Mediterranean. The main patrons were powerful rulers such as Muslim caliphs, Latin or Byzantine emperors, and high-ranking ecclesiastics and noblemen, who took advantage of the ivory supply being imported from Africa.
Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Board games were popular entertainments in the ancient Near East. So what games did the Assyrians and the Phoenicians like to play? Part of the answer is in the very first room of the exhibition Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age, on an ivory box from Enkomi. This unique object has a grid with twenty playing squares incised on its upper surface. Although no accessories were found with this box, we can deduce from other archaeological assemblages and pictorial representations what kind of pieces and dice were required.
Posted: Monday, November 10, 2014
In countless ways, Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age represents the world of the Phoenicians and the world made possible by Phoenician expansion. Sailing westward from their homeland on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the Phoenicians traded with indigenous peoples and established colonies as far west as the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Morocco, past the Straits of Gibraltar. The spread of these maritime people parallels—and can be often understood as the impetus behind—the movement of art objects and the exchange of materials and motifs across the Mediterranean in the first half of the first millennium b.c.
Posted: Thursday, November 6, 2014
The ancient Phoenician city-states (principally Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and Arwad) lay along the coast and islands of modern-day Lebanon. In Greece and Rome the Phoenicians were famed as "traders in purple," referring to their monopoly on the precious purple dye derived from the shells of murex snails found along its coast. In the Bible they were famed as sea-faring merchants; their dyes used to color priestly vestments (Ex. 28:4–8), adornments, curtains, yarns, and fabrics used in the Temple of Jerusalem (Ex. 26:31; 36:35; 2 Chr. 2:6; 3:14; cf. Jer. 10:9). Archaeologically, we know that their trading networks extended from the Levantine coast to the Iberian Peninsula, linking ports in the Mediterranean into a vast mercantile network.
Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for Chinese Decorative Arts, located on the mezzanine at the north end of the Museum, are filled with extraordinary objects made in materials that include silk, lacquer, and jade. These galleries can only be reached by an elevator or a staircase from the Chinese painting galleries, however, so finding the artworks displayed there can be categorized as "extreme" museum-going: It takes true commitment.