The medium is the message in exhibition of African art
Ottawa, Canada - September 16, 2004
Exposition d’art africain : quand le médium devient le message
Why do artists choose certain materials to create specific works of art? The National Gallery of Canada offers some answers to this question with Material Differences: Art and Identity in Africa, on display from 17 September 2004 to 2 January 2005. This fascinating new exhibition shows why, in African art, the medium is often the message.
The choice of material in African art is an important means of expression, and the process of creating art acts as the artist’s means of constructing identity and power. Thus, to understand African art, one must first understand the symbolic meaning of the materials – wood, ivory, stone, metals, ceramics and animal parts. This magnificent collection of some 100 ritual objects and works of art reveals the inherent relationships between the materials, their significance, artistic techniques, and the role of artists.
“In many cases, each of the materials that are chosen to create a work of art have an intrinsic symbolic meaning which contributes to a major extent to the metaphorical significance of the artwork as a ritual object,” says Frank Herreman, curator of Material Differences and former deputy director for exhibitions at the Museum for African Art in New York, where the exhibition originated.
The choice of materials may be motivated by religious, economic or social reasons. Some materials are ephemeral, while others are chosen to last for generations.
“Material Differences is an intriguing examination of cultural symbols in both historical and contemporary contexts,” says Pierre Théberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada. “We welcome this opportunity to share the wonderful diversity of African artistic traditions with Canadians.”
A full-colour catalogue complements the exhibition, and is available in the National Gallery Bookstore.
Meet the Curator
Tour the exhibition with curator Frank Herreman on Sunday 17 October at 1:30 p.m. (in English), or on Saturday 16 October at 2 p.m. (in French). Free with exhibition ticket.
Saturday Morning Art Club
In the five-part series workshop Out of Africa, kids aged 8 to 12 are invited on a safari through the special exhibition Material Differences: Art and Identity in Africa. Participants will learn about the African continent’s diverse cultural traditions, and create African-inspired arts and crafts projects, including artifacts, masks, jewelry, instruments and textiles. Saturdays from 13 November to 11 December, 10 am to 12:30 pm. Registration required. Tickets go on sale 1 October.
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