Exhibition on Swahili arts will feature objects shown in the U.S. for first time

Jodei Heckel, Illinois News Bureau 
August 25, 2017

"The first major traveling exhibition in the U.S. on the arts of the Swahili coast of Africa will premiere at Krannert Art Museum this fall.

World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” looks at the movement of objects and people between the Swahili (East African) coast, the port towns on the western Indian Ocean, and the eastern and central regions of Africa. A key part of the exhibition is considering their cultural and aesthetic influences on one another. It will include objects loaned from the National Museums of Kenya and the Bait Al Zubair Museum in Oman that will be exhibited for the first time in the U.S., as well as artwork loans from 15 additional museums and significant private collections.

The objects in the exhibition were loaned from the National Museums of Kenya and the Bait Al Zubair Museum in Oman, as well as other museums and private collections.

The exhibition opens with a public reception at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 and remains at the museum through March 24. The exhibition will then travel to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in summer 2018, and then to the Fowler Museum at UCLA in fall 2018.

The exhibition “asks the question, ‘Where does Africa begin and end?’ After all, Africa and the Swahili coast have been global for millennia,” said Allyson Purpura, Krannert Art Museum’s curator of global African art, and co-curator of the exhibition with Prita Meier, a former University of Illinois faculty member who is now an art history professor at New York University.

Purpura said the Indian Ocean has long been a major trade highway between East Africa, the Arab world and Asia, and the exhibition emphasizes the interconnectivity of those cultures and the influence they have had on one another."

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