From Africa to America

September 4, 2007 - June 22, 2008
John N. Stern Gallery

This exhibition includes traditional African art and works by African-American artists—some of whom have adapted the styles and motifs of African art to their own working methods. Others have drawn inspiration from African culture. All of the works on view are from the Allen’s permanent collection. Among them is a female bush-spirit mask with humanlike features. This West African mask is constructed of materials such as wood, brass and braided human hair to illustrate its supernatural force. A large wooden dance mask, just over 49 inches high, made by the Baga tribe in Guinea, represents the goddess Nimba, a symbol of fertility. The mask is worn over the head and shoulders of the dancer, who is concealed by a raffia costume and peers through two holes carved between the breasts. These impressive traditional African objects are juxtaposed with works by such contemporary American artists as Willie Cole, Alison Saar and Carrie Mae Weems.

Organized by Stephanie Wiles, AMAM Director


Ivory Coast or Liberia, West Africa (Wee)
Mask, 19th or 20th century
Wood, brass, beads, braided human hair
bells, traces of paint
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1955
AMAM 1955.43

Guinea, West Africa (Baga)
Dance Headdress with Carrying Yoke (Nimba)
19th century
Wood
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio
Gift of Gustave Schindler, 1958
AMAM 1958.175