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New Ackland exhibition featuring African metal arts opens this Friday

The Ackland Art Museum pictured on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. The Ackland welcomes a new exhibit which opened on Jan. 28.

The Ackland Art Museum opened a new exhibition called “Peace, Power & Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa" on Friday.

The art pieces in the exhibition were created by artists in Sub-Saharan Africa between the 12th and 21st centuries. They include a range of iron, brass, bronze, gold, copper, silver and alloyed metal works.

The over 140 pieces of art for the exhibition are from The Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida and private collections.

Susan Cooksey, the curator of the exhibition, said that through 2024 it will be traveling to three different venues. In addition to the Ackland, the exhibition will be displayed at Figge Art Museum in Iowa and Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College in New York.

“Mainly the exhibition was put together because I had worked in Africa with brass castors and some blacksmiths, and I interviewed them, and I saw what their work meant to the local people,” Cooksey said. “It was beautifully made."

A significant amount of the art in the exhibition is from the private collection of Dr. John Dintenfass and Nicole Dintenfass, who Cooksey said she worked with for five years to create the exhibition.

“Metals had so much to offer societies in Africa — they transformed societies," Cooksey said. "They transformed it in a political sense, in terms of governance and who was a leader. It had symbolic value too and spiritual value, and all those things have to be considered when you look at metal objects.”

Peter Nisbet, the deputy director for curatorial affairs at the Ackland said that the museum has been actively working to expand its engagement with African art over the past decade.

“We have been consciously trying to add different media to the collection," he said.

Nisbet also said that the Ackland has acquired textiles and different kinds of beadwork in an effort to broaden people's appreciation for the breadth of African art. He said the museum has been looking at regions beyond central Africa, including collecting art from the southern and eastern regions of the continent.

Allison Portnow Lathrop, the head of public programs at Ackland, said that the museum is planning many public events and programs in relation to the exhibit. The programs range from lectures to metalworking demonstrations and hands-on art-making events.

One of the events will be an open house event in Raleigh with an organization called ShopSpace – a metalworking workshop with a forge and fabrication studio, Lathrop said.

Those who attend the event will see artists that work in the metal shop and learn about the history of metalwork.

The exhibition will be on display at the Ackland until April 3. Events are open to the public. Information on how to participate is available on the Ackland’s website.


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