San Diego, CA. – On Thursday, February 9 at 4:00 p.m., the San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery will
hold a Reception to present a stirring presentation of African art to celebrate Black
History Month. Thoughtfully curated by Dr. Denise Rogers, Africa in Context features visually stunning, historically significant objects from the San Diego Mesa
College World Art Permanent Collection. Many of the objects and pieces of art have
not been displayed publicly in over six years. The World Cultures Art Collection,
which includes over 1,200 pieces from around the world, offers a glimpse into other
cultures and civilizations – right on the Mesa College campus. Each artifact in the
collection tells a powerful story of world history, cultural values, and artistic
“The most impactful and exciting aspect of this exhibition is that the art is presented
IN CONTEXT, as the name implies.” stated Dr. Denise Rogers, Curator of the collection.
“Meaning, the art is not just on a stand with a blank background; students, faculty
and staff have actually constructed sets and displays that reflect how the objects
and art were used and/or worn.”
The exhibition will feature artworks from a range of African countries and regions
including Gabon, Mali, Yoruba, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.
Themes related to feminine power, ancestry, healing, and mourning are among the universally
relevant concepts evoked by these pieces. The San Diego Mesa College art gallery team
working with student assistants, Museum Studies program graduates and local artists
have created dynamic, multi-media reconstructed environments within the expansive
gallery space that replicate the ritual and cultural context of the objects on view.
The World Cultures Art Collection Committee is accepting funds and donations to house and expand accessibility of the Collection.
A lecture and discussion, “Spirituality and Feminine Power in African Art” by Dr.
Denise Rogers and Professor Cara Smulevitz, will take place on Tuesday, February 14,
11:15 am - 12:15 pm in the gallery. The full exhibition will run January 30 – February 23, 2023.
Reception Date/Time: Thursday, February 9, 2023, 4:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Location: San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery
Fine Arts 103
7250 Mesa College Dr.
San Diego, CA 92111
Refreshments will be provided
Parking available in Parking Lot #1
Please see the Mesa College Map
Visuals: World Cultures Collection Art Display
1:1’s with art students
1:1’s with Mesa College faculty, staff and administrators
Gallery hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 12:00 – 5:00 p.m., Thursday 12:00 –
7:00 p.m. or by appointment.
Closed Fridays, Weekends and School Holidays.
For info call (619) 388-2829. Gallery website: www.sdmesa.edu/art-gallery
More Information About the Exhibition:
In the Western museum tradition, objects like these are usually displayed in glass
cases or as stand-alone sculptures on pedestals to be appreciated in the same way
we might appreciate an artwork from Renaissance Europe. Displaying African art in
this manner does the viewers a disservice because these objects should be seen in
the context they were used and as integral part of the local architecture, costumes,
rituals, and performances. Feminine power takes center stage in this exhibit with
figures that represent fertility, motherhood or that emphasize the work of women in
fashioning many of the objects.
In the gallery space Kuba royal cloths woven with geometric patterns are displayed
hanging on the wall of a communal structure built of bamboo branches and palm fronds;
Bamana dancers take on the magical qualities of their ancestral spirit, Ci (Chi) Wara,
dressed in attire made out of raffia skirts and carved masks featuring antelopes;
an elaborate altar built on a faux-rock wall incorporates a variety of fertility figures
from the Ashanti culture and offerings of cowrie shells, seeds and beads; elegant
figures attired in colorful patterned clothing are crowned with spirit masks from
the Igbo people. As one enters, a row of memorial posts from the Giriama people guard
the space. Rather than sitting still the objects populate the space imbuing it with
mystery and they transport the viewer to another time and place. African artworks
are more than just artifacts, their meaning comes from their connections to their
cultures, and their purpose is intertwined with the everyday lives of people across
the African continent, and this is what comes across in this installation.
In recent years there has been increasing interest in decolonizing our approach in
presenting African Art, and there has been a renewed concern about the origins of
African artworks in European and Western collections, a questioning on how they were
acquired, and whether they should be repatriated (returned to their regions of origin).
Visitors often experience some ambivalence when faced with these issues, and museums
and academic institutions have a responsibility to weigh the educational importance
of these artworks, particularly for those who trace their lineage to the African continent,
against concerns about the manner in which some pieces may have been procured. This
exhibition acknowledges these concerns, and proceeds with an awareness of the cultural
weight of these precious objects, counterbalanced by the college’s educational mission
and the curatorial team’s efforts to present these artworks in ways that are meaningfully
connected to their cultures and contexts.
About the Mesa College World Arts Collection: https://www.sdmesa.edu/campus-life/galleries-and-attractions/world-cultures-gallery/
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Tags: art gallery, Art, African Art, African Culture, Art Exhibit