The Divine Comedy: African Artists explore Dante’s Epic at the Museum of African Art

April 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Aida Muluneh, part of The 99 Series. Photo courtesy the artist

Aida Muluneh, part of The 99 Series. Photo courtesy the artist

What do you envisage when you think of heaven and hell? Most people’s imagination of the afterlife is tied to something written in a novel or depicted on screen. At the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art until August 2nd you can see a refreshing new take on Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, collected and curated by noted art critic Simon Njami, and featuring a host of contemporary African Artists from the continent and the Diaspora. Divided into themes of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, the exhibition takes up all three floors of the museum, with art also displayed on the entry pavilion and

Wangechi Mutu, "The Storm has finally made it out of me"

Wangechi Mutu, “The Storm has finally made it out of me”

the stairwells. Forty women and men that include both established and emerging artists have their work displayed here, and it ranges from paintings to textiles to sculpture to collage to photography and video. Well known names like Kenya’s Wangechi Mutu and the UK’s Yinka Shonibare share the space with up and comers like Angola’s Edson Chagas, who was one of the breakout stars at the Venice Biennale in 2013. On Wednesday at the opening of the exhibition, Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh (Howard University alum), Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr, Senegalese painter Pélagie Gbaguidi and Benin’s Dmitri Fagbohoun were part of a discussion panel led by the guest curator Simon Njami.

Moataz Nasr, Aida Muluneh and Simon Njami at the opening of The Divine Comedy Exhibition

Moataz Nasr, Aida Muluneh and Simon Njami at the opening of The Divine Comedy Exhibition

(Nasr was later kind and accommodating enough to grant us an interview for Afrofusion TV’s upcoming web series.)

Students and artists alike are invited to submit an original poem inspired by three of the works from the exhibition, by Abdoulai Konaté of Mali, Wangechi Mutu, and Edson Chagas. For more information about submitting work to the contest, go their website. The deadline for submission is April 17. Bless.

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