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Ancient central Africa artefacts go on exhibit in New York.

Oct 02, 2015 Ancient Artifacts from Central Africa were recently compiled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for an exhibition tagged, “Kongo: Power and Majesty”. The artifacts, which dates back to the 15th century, tells the story of the Kingdom of Kongo.

The exhibition opened in mid-September, featuring 146 works from more than 50 institutional and private collections across Europe and the United States. The showcase aims to present a major visual examination of the relationship between Africa and the West.

Alisa LaGamma, Curator in Charge of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at The Metropolitan Museum of Art spoke on some of the artifacts saying:

“The first objects are sent as gifts from peer to peer. The king of Kongo asks the king of Portugal to send him religious objects that relate to Christianity because he introduces Catholicism as the official state religion and wants to implement that with the proper artifacts. We have a section of this exhibition that gives you a sense of how Kongo artists reinterpret those Christian forms in their own idiom,”

The variety of textiles and ivories used to create the arts bore testament to the diversity of artists at the time.  With most the works on exhibition scattered in major collections abroad, the curator of the exhibition went on to explain that this was the first time the world saw them together.

“The works that we present in the first gallery of this exhibition are borrowed from princely European collections. They are rarely exhibited and this is the first time that all of the beautiful textiles and ivories that Kongo leaders sent out into the world before the 19th century have been assembled so that we can get a big picture view of what survives from that center,”

A major highlight at the exhibition was a collection of sculptures that directly conflicts the male power figures.

“They appear as nurturing mother figures but they are framed with attributes of male leadership. And this is one of the great moments in African art. The depiction of these very regal, serene, composed female figures who are all about the future of Kongo communities and were created to bring new life into that society,” explained the curator.

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