World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean

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Zanzibar stamp with dhow
Zanzibar stamp with dhow

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J.P. Fernandes, photographer. Ostafrikanische Schönheit (present-day Tanzania), Photograph before 1900; postcard printed ca. 1912. Colored collotype on postcard stock. Collection of Christraud M. Geary.
J.P. Fernandes, photographer. Ostafrikanische Schönheit (present-day Tanzania), Photograph before 1900; postcard printed ca. 1912. Colored collotype on postcard stock. Collection of Christraud M. Geary.

Exhibition

On view
Aug 31, 2017 to Mar 24, 2018
KAM Main Level, East Gallery

World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean is the first major traveling exhibition dedicated to the arts of the Swahili coast and their historically deep and enduring connections to eastern and central Africa, the port towns of the western Indian Ocean, and, given their circulation within imperial networks of trade and diplomacy, to Europe and the eastern seaboard of the United States.

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.

Curators: Prita Meier, assistant professor of Art History at New York University, and Allyson Purpura, senior curator and curator of Global African Art at Krannert Art Museum

World on the Horizon has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities : Exploring the human endeavor. *

Additional sponsorship provided by the ADAA Foundation Curatorial Award and the Association of Art Museum Curators, College of Fine + Applied Arts Matching Funding Program, College of Fine + Applied Arts Creative Research Award, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus Research Board, and Krannert Art Museum.

 

*Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition or publication do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Christ after the Flagellation, ca. 1670. Oil on canvas. Gift of Ellnora D. Krannert 1960-4-1
  1. May 13, 2017 to Jun 2, 2018
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2016 Art + Design Faculty Exhibition, installation at Krannert Art Museum. Featuring works by Nekita Thomas, Billie Thiede, Jorge Lucero, Stephen Cartwright, Patrick Earl Hammie, Rachel Riley, Ryan Griffis, and Joseph Squire. Photo by Julia Nucci Kelly
  1. Aug 31, 2017 to Sep 23, 2017