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Thursday October 28th

Senegalese fashion comes to life at the North Carolina Museum of Art

One section of the “Good as Gold:Fashioning the Senegalese” exhibit is photographed at the NCMA. Photo courtesy of Kat Harding
Buy Photos One section of the “Good as Gold:Fashioning the Senegalese” exhibit is photographed at the NCMA. Photo courtesy of Kat Harding

The North Carolina Museum of Art is bringing the power of Senegalese women and their fashion to life in its newest exhibit. 

Putting aside challenges from COVID-19, the museum welcomed back visitors to an exhibit titled “Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women” on Sept. 9.

For more information on the exhibit or to purchase tickets, visit the museum's website.

The exhibit will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, until Jan. 3. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time to allow for social distancing, and masks will be required. Tickets and COVID-19 information can be found on the museum’s website. 

“Good as Gold,” which is the first major exhibit of its kind, showcases more than 150 objects, including jewelry and fashion ensembles, that focus on the history of Senegal's gold and the beauty of its use by Senegalese women to create identity. 

The exhibit shows the complexity of the way Senegalese women have used fashion to present themselves over time, according to a press release from the museum. 

"Good as Gold" was originally featured at the Smithsonian in 2018. Amanda M. Maples, the museum’s curator of African art and the exhibit, said that although she’s been a part of the project since 2012, she wanted to expand the exhibit to North Carolina. 

To do so, Maples added five more full fashion ensembles, completed by practicing contemporary female artists, as well as an interactive station where visitors can view jewelry on themselves. The exhibit also implements the use of QR codes to include reproductions of works that could not be installed because of COVID-19. 

Molly Trask-Price, the exhibition designer on this project, said she wanted to not only showcase the jewelry, but also give visitors an experience while walking through the exhibit.  

“We wanted it to feel sort of like a jewelry box and that the pieces were tiny and precious," Trask-Price said. "So we made the room really dark and highlighted the pieces really brightly."

Maples hopes that when people visit the exhibit, they will see that although jewelry is more of a male-dominated art form, it's driven by women. 

“Gold jewelry in Senegal is made by men — almost exclusively made by men — but this show is not about men, it's about women,” Maples said. “It's about empowering women and how gold jewelry is used in such a way that gives power and respect and status to women.”

A main theme of the exhibit focuses on the Senegalese concept of sañse, a Wolof word for dressing up or looking and feeling good. The exhibit explores how women may use a piece of gold jewelry to build a fashion ensemble. 

“Sañse is not just about beauty, it’s not just about wearing a pretty piece of clothing," Maples said. "It’s this moral upstanding quality as well, showing that beauty comes from the inside, and you have to help your community and help other women."

Trask-Price hopes that when visitors walk through the exhibition, they will take the time to view and appreciate each object. 

“I hope that people go in and see it, and I hope that all the pieces are individually special. Hopefully, they come in, and each piece stands out just as much as the next,” Trask-Price said.

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