'West Africa Before the Boats'
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Much of what we know about Western African history comes from the colonial era, when European powers controlled the politics and commerce of the region.
With its exhibition “Western Africa Before the Boats,” the African American Museum of Iowa, located in Cedar Rapids, is setting out to give visitors a glimpse of life in Western Africa in an earlier era. And the University of Iowa—known for its extensive African art collection and expertise—is helping to tell the story.
Christopher Roy, a professor in the School of Art and Art History in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Catherine Hale, the curator of African and nonwestern art at the UI Museum of Art, consulted closely with the curators of the exhibition and donated a number of items to it.
In particular, the pair arranged a loan of an authentic loom of the type used by the Asante people, and showed them how to set it up and use it. In addition, Roy’s videos on African life and art—including one titled, Men’s and Women’s Weaving in Africa—are part of the exhibition.
"Catherine and I have been working closely with the exhibition’s curator, Lynn Koos, and a committee of experts at the African American Museum of Iowa to organize a great exhibition about Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the slave trade was just beginning but much of the glory of pre-colonial Africa was on display,” says Roy, the Elizabeth M. Stanley Faculty Fellow of African Art History. “This exciting and informative exhibition will help you understand why Africa has had such an enormously positive impact on art and life in America."
The exhibition opens on Saturday, Jan. 12, with free admission and light refreshments from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and runs through Sunday, March 30, 2014. The African American Museum of Iowa is located at 55 12th Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids.