â€œHeroes: Principles of African Greatnessâ€� opens at the Smithsonianâ€™s National Museum of African Art Nov. 16. With nearly 50 artworks from more than 40 artists, the exhibition tells the story of key heroic principles and people in Africaâ€™s arts and history, and it invites visitors to consider the core values of leadershipâ€”justice, integrity, generosity and empathyâ€”embodied in the art. Each artwork in the exhibition is paired with a historic African person, a â€œhero in history,â€� who embodies the thematic value shown in the artwork.
â€œThe exhibition comes at a crucial time in the public understanding of Africa and its arts and history,â€� said Gus Casely-Hayford, director of the museum. â€œCoinciding with two momentous historical anniversariesâ€”400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved African laborer in North America, andÂ the 25th anniversary of South Africaâ€™s first democratic electionsâ€”it invites visitors to consider both the horrors and hopes at work in the continentâ€™s history. Through the stories they tell, the artists assembled here challenge us to be our best selves.â€�
â€œHeroesâ€� features well-known artworks from the museumâ€™s permanent collection, as well as several new acquisitions. Among the new works on display is a work by former South African president Nelson Mandela. The watercolor depicts the rock quarry in the prison on Robben Island where he was exiled for many years and is a haunting embodiment of the sacrifices he made in the struggle for freedom in South Africa.
â€œHeroes expresses the National Museum of African Artâ€™s commitment to the dignity, complexity and universally accessible excellence of African art history,â€� said Kevin Dumouchelle, curator at the museum. â€œFurther, it stands as a testament to the museumâ€™s commitment to the telling of unique, compelling and specific historical African stories. The artworks in â€œHeroesâ€� invite us to imagine our roles in building a new future.â€�
Visitors to the exhibition can engage further with the artworks on their smartphones using the Smithsonian-developed, web-based HI application. Visitors can scan a work of art to discover an added layer of digital content, including videos, images and key facts connecting the artworks to their corresponding â€œheroes in history.â€� The HI application does not require download, and it can be accessed at hi.si.edu. The digital exhibition will also be available on monitors in the gallery and on the museumâ€™s website. The museumâ€™s first exhibition-specific playlist will be available on Spotify Nov. 16. Â
Educational and Public Programs
Public programs will accompany the exhibition throughout its run to engage the museumâ€™s diverse audiences Kâ€“12 to adult. The exhibitionâ€™s curator will conduct a â€œfirst lookâ€� public tour of exhibition highlights Saturday, Nov.16, at 2 p.m. Visitors should meet at the museumâ€™s visitor desk on the Pavilion level at 2 p.m.
About Curator Kevin D. Dumouchelle
Dumouchelle joined the National Museum of African Art in October 2016. He was the project lead for â€œVisionary: Viewpoints on Africaâ€™s Artsâ€� (2017), the museumâ€™s award-winning permanent galleries, along with chief curator Christine Mullen Kreamer and curator Karen E. Milbourne. He was the coordinating curator for â€œWorld on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Oceanâ€� (2018) and â€œGood as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Womenâ€� (2018), as well as the upcoming exhibition â€œCaravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange in Medieval Saharan Africa,â€� which opens April 11, 2020. Previously, Dumouchelle was at the Brooklyn Museum for a decade as the curator in charge of the arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands. He earned a doctorate, Master of Philosophy, and master of arts in art history and archaeology from Columbia University after earlier degrees from Georgetown and Oxford University.
About the National Museum of African Art
The National Museum of African Art is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africaâ€™s arts across time and media. The museumâ€™s collection of over 12,000 artworks spans more than 1,000 years of African history and includes a variety of media from across the continentâ€”from sculpture and painting, to photography, pottery, jewelry, textile, video and sound art. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Ave. S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. For more information, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the National Museum of African Artâ€™s website: Africa.si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000. Follow the museum on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook and join in the discussion about the exhibition on social media using #AfricanHeroes.
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Media preview: Tuesday, Nov. 12; 9:30â€“11:30 a.m. in the museumâ€™s lecture hall, sublevel 2.