Power & Purpose: Reflections from the African Art Collection

Power & Purpose, on view February 16 through June 19, 2022, brings forth a visual engagement of history and cultural celebration. Featuring forty selected objects from the college's permanent collection, narratives of beauty, hierarchy, motherhood, masculinity, spirituality, sustainability, rites of passage, and diversity speak to Africa as a continent, embodying tradition and cultural practice. Guest curator Dr. Littles approaches Power & Purpose through the lens of healing and reclamation. 

"We are reminded that much of historical/traditional African Art was not made for western eyes, or, in many cases for anyone outside of the familial or cultural realm." shares Littles. "With this in mind, I want visitors to step back and allow the art to speak its history. Power & Purpose is an invitation to imagine a time when the objects' power was in a sense 'activated' and took effect. We are indebted to the artists and the traditions, and we appreciate African Art for its effortless beauty and substance." 

Traditionally minimized by colonial history and collection practices, Power & Purpose acknowledges the western impact on the historical practices of exhibiting African Art. While holding this truth, Littles opens a conversation to the ethical questions around the projected western gaze and provides a space for dialogue and response for ancestors of those impacted by the African Diaspora.  

The exhibition was created with consultation with the College Committee of Inclusive Excellence (CCIE) and the assistance of alumnae Enobong Akan-Etuk and Briana Swain. A panel discussion featuring Akan-Etuk, Swain, and Tammy Appling-Cabading is scheduled for Saturday, March 19, 2022 at 2:30 p.m.

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Resource Guide 


The Power & Purpose Resource Guide is designed to contextualize African art from day-to-day reading to structured lessons. Explore documentaries, podcasts, lesson plans, and more.

This gallery shares selected work featured in the exhibition.