Artful Animals

July 1, 2009 – July 25, 2010

Mami Wata mask, Guro peoples,
Côte d'Ivoire Mid-20th century,
Bequest of Eliot Elisofon, 73-7-167

National Museum of African Art
950 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC

Sublevel 1

See on Map Floor Plan

Dedicated to young audiences, this exhibition explores how African artists create striking works of art using images from an array of domestic and untamed animals. On view are approximately 125 works that capture not only the physical characteristics of animals but also the many ways that animals, from spiders to leopards, act out our human shortcomings and successes. From rock art to contemporary painting, animals are used as symbols of royal arts and in masquerades for the ancestors. Many of the elements of design are derived through direct observation of the animals in their natural habitat. It is the animal's conduct and distinct behaviors that carry the messages in performances, stories, and proverbs. Themes include notions of nurturing, power, wisdom, transformation, beauty, and aggression.