These wide-ranging objects are connected through shared histories of trade, mobility, and aesthetic exchange that distinguish the arts of eastern Africa and the Swahili world.
An entertainment mask from Mozambique represents a Makonde artist’s vision of an elegant Swahili beauty; a healer’s staff from Tanzania is expertly embellished with delicate carving that resonates with Swahili aesthetic preferences for dense, geometric patterning; a pair of carved sandals, an embroidered cap from the Kenyan coast, and the hinged, sliver anklets from Zanzibar or Oman speak to the Swahili delight in lavish, cosmopolitan styles of dress; and the ornate brass sheeting on a storage chest from Lamu, off the coast of Kenya, reveals a Swahili artisan’s elaboration of a western Indian art form.
Connected by far-reaching networks of artistic affinity, these works highlight the deep and enduring story of Africa as a vibrant arena of global cultural convergence. They also expand KAM’s African holdings beyond the conventional, Anglo art historical canon with its preferences for western and central African aesthetic traditions.
We thank Bob and Nancy Nooter, Iver M. Nelson, Jr., and the KAM Council for their generous support of these acquisitions.