CHAMPAIGN, Ill., August 31, 2017 — Krannert Art Museum (KAM, kam.illinois.edu) introduced visitors to World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean on its opening night at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (illinois.edu). The audience was welcomed by Museum Director Kathleen Harleman and U. of I. Chancellor Robert J. Jones, who introduced and thanked special guests including the Kenyan Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Robinson Njeru Githae, as well as Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia, Director General of the National Museums of Kenya.
“It is fitting that World on the Horizon is organized by Krannert Art Museum, that it begins here but will travel across the country,” said Chancellor Jones. “This exhibition and its underlying research reflects the vital and important work we do at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and demonstrates how far the impact of our scholarship can reach.”
Chancellor Jones and Director Harleman acknowledged the significance of the exhibition, which includes many works of art from Kenya and Oman that are being exhibited in the United States for the first time. World on the Horizon will be on view at Krannert Art Museum through March 24, 2018, in the museum’s East Gallery.
“We hope this exhibition of Swahili art will begin an era of partnership between Kenya and the United States,” Ambassador Githae said. “As the exhibition travels to other museums, we invite all to get to know and understand this art and culture.” There are more than 30 works of art from the National Museums of Kenya in the exhibition.
The exhibition “reflects years of research and tremendous cooperation among institutions, including the National Museums of Kenya and dozens of other museums and private collectors who have lent their work to this endeavor,” said Allyson Purpura, senior curator and curator of Global African Art at KAM. She and Prita Meier, assistant professor of Art History at New York University, co-curated the exhibition.
World on the Horizon opens first at KAM, and will later travel to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., and to Fowler Museum at UCLA. It enriches understanding about this region of the world — the Swahili coast of Africa — by emphasizing its global connections, deepening discourse, and advancing knowledge in important ways, Purpura said.
“It asks visitors to ponder how artistic practice and human creativity can lead people to remap their relationship to seemingly distant places and societies,” Purpura continued. “It will encourage visitors to make connections between artworks and to question their own expectations of what African, Asian, Islamic, or Western culture looks like.”
The curators also thanked Associate Director of the National Museums of Kenya Coast Province Athman Hussein and Archeologist Mohammad Mchulla for their presence and support of the exhibition.