National Museum of African Art Receives $1.8 Million Gift for Collaborative Educational Initiative

Gift from the Sultanate of Oman Is the Single Largest in Museum’s History
November 22, 2013
News Release

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art today announced that the Sultanate of Oman will give $1.8 million to support a series of programs celebrating Omani and East African arts and culture. This is the largest donation to the museum to date. This partnership has been made possible by the Sultan of Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.

Beginning in 2014, the museum will launch a multiyear series of programming, Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa, which will highlight the cross-cultural connections of East and North Africa with those found in the Middle East. It will showcase the evolution of Omani arts and cultures, the beauty of the arts in Oman and its connections to the East African Coast.

“Oman’s gift marks a significant milestone as we look to celebrate our museum’s 50th anniversary in 2014, said Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director of the museum. “This unique gift and collaboration will enable audiences to gain a broader understanding of how African and Omani history and culture shape and enrich the world.”

“This is a monumental partnership that we are very proud of,” said Hunaina Sultan Ahmed Al-Mughairy, ambassador of Oman to the U.S. “We’re looking forward to working with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art to bring a greater global awareness of the connections and history between Oman and East Africa.”

Programming for Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean will include:

  • Traditional and newly commissioned dance and music performances based on contemporary and historical connections between Oman and East Africa
  • An art educators’ exchange program between the National Museum of African Art, Bait Al Zubair Museum Bait Al Baranda Museum, Sultan Qaboos University and the National Museum of Oman
  • A lecture series presenting lectures from Omani artists and cultural scholars, virtual exhibition, cross-cultural exchange and hands-on art workshops that will allow local U.S. teachers to broaden their students’ knowledge of Omani art
  • A video documentary on the collaborative work in Oman that will feature the influences between Oman and East Africa 
  • Hands-on public workshops on calligraphy and Majmar craft painting, which is popular in Oman
  • A virtual exhibition of 19th- and 20th-century Omani postcards held in the museum’s Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives
  • A celebratory look at Swahili traditions will take place, including the art of spoken word and history and a performing arts program with several U.S. partners, including the Kennedy Center

With a population of about 4 million, the Sultanate of Oman is a country in Southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arab Emirates in the northwest, Saudi Arabia in the west and Yemen in the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea in the south and east, and the Gulf of Oman in the northeast. Oman’s monarchy is ruled by Sultan Qaboos of Oman.


A fully illustrated catalog, Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa, will be available in 2015. It will include essays and photographs about the project.

About the National Museum of African Art

The National Museum of African Art is the nation’s premiere museum dedicated exclusively to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africa’s traditional and contemporary arts. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Ave. S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the National Museum of African Art’s website. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

Note to Editors: More information about the project and museum is available here.

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