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The World Moves—We Follow: Celebrating African Art

January 11, 2003–May 18, 2003

The World Moves—We Follow: Celebrating African Art is a centerpiece in the semester-long celebration of the culture, history and the visual and performing arts of Africa at the University of Tennessee, “Africa Semester, Spring 2003.”

Approximately 100 objects, from premier museums across the nation—the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Field Museum; the New Orleans Museum of Art; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; UCLA’s Fowler Museum of Cultural History; the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art; the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and four private collectors—will be included in this important exhibition.

The exhibition, curated by William Dewey, assistant professor at the UT School of Art, will use objects to focus on the artistic and cultural richness of the African heritage. Jefferson Chapman, director of McClung states: “We are most pleased to offer this excellent exhibit. Dewey has managed to collect extremely important pieces from top museums and put them together in a meaningful, educational and beautiful manner.” The title, The World Moves – We Follow, taken from a Yoruba proverb, speaks to the inevitability of change, in this instance regarding African art.

A catalogue by curator William Dewey is being published by the museum with many of the objects illustrated in full color. Rosalind Hackett, UT professor of African religion, contributed a chapter on art and religion, and dele jegede, professor of African art history at Indiana State University, contributed one on the relationships between “traditional” and “contemporary” African art forms.

The Exhibition

The exhibition will be organized into the following themes:

  • Leadership and Status, which will show artifacts used to declare status and leadership positions through visual means.
  • Utility and the Art of Living which will show the subtle visual beauty of African utilitarian objects such as pottery, furniture, containers, combs, ceremonial weapons and currency tokens.
  • Transitions, showing items such as masks and figures that are used to guide and educate.
  • Death and the Ancestors, which will feature masks, figures, burial shrouds and memorial posts.
  • Connecting with the World, which will feature the work of contemporary African artists.

Objects to be included cover a variety of forms (masks, figures, textiles, paintings, weapons, furniture); time periods (ranging from a bronze head and plaque from the ancient kingdom of Benin up to contemporary times with factory-printed cloth and art about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa); and geographic areas (ranging from Madagascar to eastern and southern Africa, through central and western Africa, to northern and northeastern Africa).


Curated by William Dewey, assistant professor at the UT School of Art.

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