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.

The West Indies and West Africa converge for Africa Underground 2

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Moko Jumbie

I can’t really see myself missing After Hours at African Art, when the Smithsonian opens the doors of its museum after hours to revelers who can dance, eat, drink, party, and enjoy the breathtaking exhibitions there. After being away from the country for a couple of months, I returned just in time to attend the second edition of Africa Underground. For the hugely successful first installment at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC in February, the organizers took us down south for a Brazilian samba-flavored showcase of art, music and culture. This time (the party was on May 20) the serving was distinctly West Indian in its character, yet an equally joyous and colorful exposé of the connection between the Caribbean and West Africa. The sold out event featured live music out on the grounds, and on the inside a DJ, poetry and spoken word, arts and crafts, and a talk on the West Indian/West African connection. I arrived a bit late, unfortunately, and missed a great performance in the garden by the moko jumbies (stilt walkers). But right after that Papa Wabe,
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New Video: Africa Underground at the National Museum of African Art

March 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Zezeh Brazil Samba Troupe

The event was billed as Africa Underground; held on February 18, 2011 it sold out so quickly, to the point where it was rumored that scalpers tried to make a quick buck with their tickets on Craigslist. The organizers knew they had a successful show on their hands, and the video and photos are the proof!. The Afro-Brazilian theme was brought to life with drinks, dancing, partying, and art, featuring Zezeh Brazil Samba, Afrobeat music spun by DJs Adrian Loving and Munch, Brazilian cocktails, and mixed media art from Brazil’s Henrique Oliveira « Read the rest of this entry »

Afro-Brazilian Theme at Africa Underground (After Hours at African Art)

February 17, 2011 § 5 Comments

It has an almost subversive sound to it; the idea that a prestigious national museum would open its doors after dark to drinking, dancing and partying! I mean, the museum’s director is the distinguished former Spellman College President, Dr. Johnnetta Cole!! But it’s all good, and that’s what’s going to happen Friday 18th February at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, in the first of its Africa Underground series that it bills as “After Hours at African Art.” It’s a major African Diaspora event that will feature a Brazilian theme; as Dr. Cole put it in the museum’s blog, “it’s an exciting way to celebrate the ties between Africa and the African Diaspora, and for our museum to continue a vigorous conversation with communities in the Diaspora.” To that end, the organizers have brought in Zezeh Brazil Samba Troupe to have you practice your samba steps; there’ll be African wine and beer, Brazilian cocktails, « Read the rest of this entry »

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