Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, the nation’s premiere museum devoted to the arts of Africa. Founded as a small museum on Capitol Hill in 1964, the museum became a part of the Smithsonian in 1979 and, in 1987, it moved to its current location on the National Mall. The museum’s collection of more than 12,000 objects represents nearly every area of the continent of Africa and contains a variety of media and art forms.
Casely-Hayford joined the museum in February 2018 and brings with him a wealth of experience writing, lecturing and broadcasting on Africa’s arts and cultures. Casely-Hayford succeeded Johnnetta Betsch Cole, who served as director of the National Museum of African Art from 2009 through 2017 and now holds the title Director Emerita.
Casely-Hayford is a fellow of the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, a trustee of the National Trust (the U.K.’s largest heritage organization), a member of the Blue Plaque Group and a Clore Fellow. He sits on the board of the Caine Prize for African Writing and has previously sat on the board of London’s National Portrait Gallery. As director of Africa 05, he organized the largest African arts season in Britain, with more than 150 venues hosting 1,000 events. Recently, he developed an exhibition for London’s National Portrait Gallery using 18th- and 19th-century portraits to tell the story of Britain’s abolition of slavery.
A frequent on-air contributor about Africa, Casely-Hayford has presented a six-part television series for Sky Arts called Tate Britain’s Great British Walks and two series of Lost Kingdoms of Africa for the BBC, for which he also wrote the companion book (Bantam Press, Random House, 2012). He has advised on a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet, worked on a British Library exhibition focused on African intellectual tradition, and consulted on Tate Britain’s exhibition Artist and Empire. Casely-Hayford delivered a recent TEDGlobal Talk on pre-colonial Africa and is the author of a book on Timbuktu and the rise of the Mali Empire (Ladybird/Penguin, 2018). In June 2018, he received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to arts and culture.
Born in London, Casely-Hayford was educated at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, where he received his doctorate in African history and was later awarded an honorary fellowship. He delivered a centenary lecture on Ghana for the school and he remains a SOAS research associate and a member of its Centre of African Studies Council.
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