National Museum of African Art Hosts Programs and Exhibits to Commemorate Inauguration

January 9, 2009
News Release
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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art will offer several art displays relating to President-elect Barack Obama and to the theme of leadership, a series of free public programs and a treasure-hunt activity in conjunction with the inauguration. Activities will be held from Saturday, Jan. 17, through Tuesday, Jan. 20.

The museum will present works of art relating to Obama’s African heritage and on the topic of leadership. On view in the entrance pavilion is the 2009 painting “Finally” by Togolese artist Papisco Kudzi (b. 1972). A resident of the Washington area, Kudzi followed Obama’s campaign closely and, for this mixed-media painting, translated the candidate’s “Yes We Can” message into French. A factory-printed textile known in East Africa as “kanga” also will be displayed. It depicts Obama’s image and features Swahili words commemorating him.

At the base of the museum’s grand staircase, on the first level, will be two special cases of artwork. One will include four objects from Kenya, the homeland of Obama’s father. A second case will include gold objects, which were used for centuries in the West African regions of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to identify leaders and other prestigious individuals and to convey power and splendor. In an adjacent gallery, African textiles and accompanying photographs from the museum’s Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives exhibit the ways Africans use cloth to recognize leadership and make political statements. On view are textiles depicting former leaders of Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania as well as a cloth portraying U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Images of Kennedy were popular in Africa both during his presidency and as commemorative cloths.

Public Programs
Three programs will be held Sunday, Jan. 18. They include a screening of the documentary film “Hip Hop Colony,” which establishes hip-hop’s ties to Kenya, from noon to 2 p.m.; a performance by disc jockey Adrian Loving who mixes African percussion and hip hop, from 2 to 4 p.m.; and a lecture by Mark Auslander of Brandeis University on “Leadership Is People: African Celebrations of a New Leader,” from 4 to 5 p.m. Two programs will be held Monday, Jan. 19: the hip-hop-themed film, “Africa Underground: Democracy in Dakar,” will be screened from noon to 2 p.m., and Kenyan spoken word and hip-hop artist Anna Mwalagho and Afro-Floetry will perform from 2 to 3:15 p.m.

A free self-guided treasure-hunt activity, available at the museum’s information desk, will lead visitors to objects in the museum’s permanent collection that relate to the theme of leadership.

About the National Museum of African Art
The National Museum of African Art is America’s only museum dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Avenue S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the museum’s Web site at For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285.

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Note to Editors: For high-resolution images of the artwork on display in conjunction with the inauguration, contact Kimberly Mayfield at or (202) 633-4649.