Located at the crossroads of Africa and the Indian Ocean, the Swahili coast has been a site of long-distance trade and migration for millennia. The exhibition offers audiences an unprecedented opportunity to view over 150 artworks brought together from public and private collections from four continents. Objects generously loaned from the National Museums of Kenya and the Bait Al Zubair Museum in Oman are making their debut appearance to North American audiences.
The exhibition is thematically organized and features objects recognized not only for their artistic excellence, but also for how they visualize wide-reaching networks of mobility and encounter. Ranging from intimate pieces of jewelry to impressive architectural elements, and including exquisitely illuminated Qu’rans, objects of regalia, and photographic portraits, to name just a few, Swahili objects embody multiple cultural histories and aesthetic trends that are themselves itinerant and open to interpretation. Thus, World on the Horizon powerfully attests to the Swahili coast as a vibrant site of global cultural convergence, and to Africa’s contributions to the artistic vocabulary of the wider Indian Ocean world.
The accompanying multi-authored publication, co-edited by Meier and Purpura, is the first interdisciplinary study of Swahili visual arts and material culture and their reach beyond the east African coast. In Summer 2018, World on the Horizon will travel to the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and then to the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles in Fall 2018.