Exhibition artifact (Courtesy photo)

The Smithsonian Museum of African Art recently unveiled “Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa’s Arts,” the Smithsonian’s largest long-term collection in over a decade and the first broad connection between works across the full spectrum of times, places and media.

“[Visionary] aims to to get visitors to look with fresh and focused insight and, in so doing, to see artworks — and each other — with new eyes,” said Kevin Dumouchelle, museum curator.

Organized around seven viewpoints, “Visionary” serves to frame and affect the manner in which Africa’s art are experienced. With a room devoted to each viewpoint, the installation presents the museum’s collection from the perspective of collectors, scholars, artists, patrons, visitors, performers and the museum itself.

The exhibition will feature over 300 works of art, organized around the central activity of looking closely at issues of technique and creative expression, the varied lives the assembled objects have lived and take a critical look at how we see art works.

The new exhibit will also include more than 30 named artists from 27 African countries, a “Looking Lab” that equips visitors to use basic principles of visual analysis and see as an artist does and the reuniting of the museum’s seminal Mbembe female figure with its once-lost, recently acquired male counterpart.

The exhibit currently occupies the museum’s second-floor gallery and features an eight-foot-tall “Rainbow Serpent” made from mixed materials.

Specifically highlighted within reveal were also two African female artists: Ghada Amer of Egypt and Mary Sibande of South Africa, who had extra unique select pieces placed in plain view of the museum.

“The thing about this exhibition and two powerhouse women artists who have been specially featured in this collection is the fact they are part of a larger initiative here is that it’s women’s voices,” the museum said. “Looking ahead into the future, we are trying to figure out ways to showcase powerful creative women’s voice setting the tone, setting the agenda beginning to speak about theses issues that are so close to us no matter where you are in the world.”

On Saturday Nov. 4, in celebration of the Visionary,” the museum held a Community Day, where visitors experienced special performances and events intended to inspire them to learn more about the people and cultures of Africa and its diaspora through music, books, dance, film and art.

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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