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02 Feb 2016

Exhibition 'African Art Against the State' at WCMA

Fabrice Monteiro, The Prophecy, Untitled #1. Courtesy Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

African Art Against the State
Williams College Museum of Art


Duration of the exhibition:
Jan 29–Aug 28, 2016
Celebration: Feb 2, 2016, 4pm
Hours: Open 10 am–5 pm
Thursdays 10 am–8 pm
Closed Wednesdays


+1 413 597 2429
+1 413 597 5000

Williams College Museum of Art
15 Lawrence Hall Dr Suite 2
Williamstown, MA 01267

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African Art Against the State highlights the long and extraordinary history of activism, intervention, and resistance that has characterized a great deal of art-making in Africa from prehistory to the present. A select group of art works has been chosen from various traditions and artistic moments to demonstrate how expressive culture can produce advocacy and agency for disenfranchised and marginalized groups and communities across both space and time, giving teeth to the adage that sometimes images can speak louder than words.

This focused exhibition includes works by Lalla Essaydi, David Goldblatt, Fathi Hassan, Romuald Hazoumè, Seydou Keïta, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Fabrice Monteiro, Zanele Muholi, George Osodi, Yinka Shonibare and Malick Sidibé, as well as works by artists from the Kongo, Teke, Yoruba, Bamana, Igbo, and Mende peoples. African Art Against the State is curated by Michelle Apotsos, Assistant Professor of Art, and will be on view at the Williams College Museum of Art from January 29 through August 28, 2016.

Exhibition Description

African Art Against the State is organized into three thematic sections. Each section includes both historical and contemporary works of art.

The Politics of Existence: Gender, Sexuality, and SocietyThe Politics of Existence presents art forms that have mediated and contested the power dynamics of society in a variety of African contexts. Many of these works reflect the ideologies and aspirations of an ideal society, while others attempt to counteract societal imbalances by producing agency for disenfranchised individuals. The Politics of Existence includes; Ogboni Society sculptures, a Kònò Society mask, a Sande Society Mask, an N'kisi Power Figure, a Ghanaian 'fantasy' coffin, and works by Lalla Essaydi, Zanele Muholi, Zwelethu Mthethwa, and George Osodi.

The Politics of Empire: Colonial Mentalities and Subversive Visualities The Politics of Existence focuses on art works that have been used over time to counteract the power structures of Western imperialism, often by appropriating or assimilating visual forms. The Politics of Empire includes; an Igbo Helmet Mask and works by Malick Sidibé, David Goldblatt, Fathi Hassan, Seydou Keïta, and Yinka Shonibare.

The Politics of the Environment: Earth, Activism, and Eco-vention — From drought and desertification to pollution, land dispossession, and the oil boom, the environment constitutes a force that has inspired numerous forms of artistic intervention on the continent. The Politics of the Environment includes; a Chi Wara crest mask, a Teke power figure, and works by Roumald Hazoumè and Fabrice Monteiro.

Williams Winter Study Course
Apotsos is teaching a course that addresses the methods of creating an effective exhibition space for the arts of Africa. Students will be reading foundational texts on African art and the history of its display in Western museum institutions, while also discussing the issues and politics of these ventures and putting these conversations into practice by organizing a section of the exhibition.

Related Programs
Opening Celebration
Tuesday, Feb 2, 4 pm
A gallery talk with artist Fabrice Monteiro. Reception to follow.

Curator's Insights
Thursday, Feb 25, noon
Walk through the exhibition with Michelle Apotsos, Exhibition Curator and Assistant Professor of Art.

Williams College Museum of Art
The Williams College Museum of Art makes dynamic art experiences to incite new thinking about art, museums, and the world. At the heart of the Williams College campus the museum draws on the collaborative and multidisciplinary ethos of the surrounding college to enliven the more than 14,000 works in its growing collection. The museum and its collection are a catalyst for student learning and community engagement. WCMA is free and open to all.