African Art: Spotlight on Art Museums, Part 5

African Art: Spotlight on Art Museums, Part 5

Posted in Art Market

Eastern Africa is a real haven for archaeology lovers. The region’s rich culture and history is preserved in its museums and art galleries. Most of these are situated in the countries’ capital as a focal point to the social and cultural heritage. The archeology and ethnology of East Africa, as well as the contemporary art are of particular significance. Indeed, for many visitors, a trip to this part of Africa just wouldn't be complete without a visit to find out more about the rich history of early man. We continue our review of African art museums with five major museums of Eastern Africa.

National Museum of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The National Museum of Ethiopia, also referred to as the Ethiopian National Museum offers a complete overview of the country's natural, political, and art histories. It is well-known for its rich collection of paleontological and archeological artefacts. Perhaps the most famous is Lucy, the 3.5 million year-old skeleton of the world's oldest known hominid, a primate ancestor of humans, which was discovered in 1974. The skeleton and skull on display are in fact replicas – the real Lucy is kept very much under lock and key, as the remains are so fragile. Nonetheless, visitors can't help but be fascinated by the detailed casts on display. Also on display is a reconstitution of Selam, a female hominid considered to be the earliest child. In 1936, the concept of a museum was first introduced in Ethiopia when an exhibition was opened, displaying ceremonial costumes donated by the royal family and their close associates. The museum is currently home to the throne of Emperor Haile Selassie, traditional tools and textiles, and displays about Ethiopia's different tribes. It also exhibits an appealing collection of Ethiopian paintings.

National Museum of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya

The National Museum of Kenya or Nairobi National Museum has played an important role in East African history for many years. Founded in 1910 as the Natural History Museum of Kenya, and later the Coryndon Museum, the museum houses a comprehensive collection of artefacts relating to the history, culture, and biodiversity of the East Africa region. After the independence of the country in 1963, the museum was renamed National Museum and included in a group of museums managed by a state corporation. Following a 3-year rebuilding program, the museum was reorganized around four permanent exhibitions covering the country’s cultural heritage: nature, culture, history, and contemporary art. Kenya has gained international audience for its contribution to the theory of evolution by the discoveries of fossilized human remains, which are display in the museum. Photographs, written archives, and artefacts relating to key players in the independence movement are among the exhibits, and together they offer an insight into the country's final days as a colony.

Uganda Museum, Kampala, Uganda

Founded in 1908, the Uganda Museum is the oldest museum in Eastern Africa. It is home to a variety of archaeological artefacts, traditional music instruments, as well as ethnological and historical exhibitions that celebrate Ugandan’s cultural heritage. The Uganda Society’s library is housed in one room of the museum. Started in the 1930’s by a group of scholars, the collection is comprised of approximately 3,000 volumes of historical maps, periodicals, and photographs. In addition to its collection, the library houses the books of the East African Wildlife Society and a number of books from the museum which were given to the society’s care some years ago. The museum also has permanent exhibitions of archeology, ethnography, science, natural history, and traditional culture. One of its most interesting features is the collection of traditional musical instruments, which one is free to play. In addition, the museum regularly presents performances of traditional music.

National Museum of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The National Museum of Tanzania, originally known as the King George V Museum, was established in 1934 and inaugurated six years later. It was initially a memorial museum dedicated to King George V, and one of the cars of the King is still on display. Today, the museum is dedicated to the history of Tanzania, and has managed to build up an impressive collection of Tanzanian-related exhibits, most notably fossils of early humans collected during the Leakey digs at Olduvai. The main gallery features the history of slavery in the country, as well as local traditions and events during Tanzania's colonial period. It presents ethnographic collections of traditional crafts and tools related to the culture of the Maasai and Hadzabe people among many other tribes. The museum also has a large section dedicated to the Shirazi city-state of Kilwa, an island located along the Swahili Coast. More historical miscellaneous material is related to the German and British rule, and ancient Chinese pottery. A contemporary art gallery was recently added to the museum.

National Museum of Somalia, Mogadishu, Somalia

Formerly established as the Garesa Museum in 1933, the National Museum of Somalia was renamed after the country gained its independence in 1960. The museum displayed an exhibit on the history of Somalia from the trading relationship with ancient Egypt to present day. Its initial catalog contained over 3,500 objects including historical and ethnographic documents, contemporary photographs, industrial objects, traditional and modern weapons, as well as geological and botanical specimens. The Persian influence was documented by the display of remains of armory, pottery, and marble decorations, all found along the Banadir coast and most of them dating back to antiquity. Also exhibited were numerous ancient bronze coins that bore the name of Muslim sovereigns of South Arabia, Persia, and the Somali sultans. The museum was moved to a new location in Mogadishu in 1985, while the old museum was converted to a regional museum and retook its former name. Following the start of the civil war in 1991, a large part of the permanent collection consisted of paleontological findings including items from the Leakey’s excavations was stolen, and the museum closed down. It was subsequently reopened and currently holds many cultural artefacts.


Posted in Art Market  |  May 13, 2017