February 6, 2023

Mesa College Presents the Reception for "Africa in Context" Art Exhibition in Honor of Black History Month

By Office of Communications

africa in context

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 expression.


“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:


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:


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Tags: art gallery, Art, African Art, African Culture, Art Exhibit