To further complement the themes of the three artists on display this season, the Albany Museum of Art is reintroducing objects from the permanent collection that have been unseen by the public for the past four years. African Artifacts of Spirituality and Identity will be on exhibition in the Hodges Gallery Jan 20-April 23, 2022.
Director of Curatorial Affairs Katie Dillard has selected several objects from the African collection to enhance themes of spirituality and identity. Many of the items on display were once used by the peoples of West Africa to make connections with the spiritual world, to seek blessings, and in honor of their ancestors.
In his 1987 book The Art of West African Kingdoms, Edward Lifschitz (1945-2021), then the curator of the Department of Education and Research for the National Museum of African Art, noted that African life “was sustained by the pulse of ritual. Infused with music, dance, and art, ritual animated the spirit world.”
Lifschitz observed that traditional religions in Africa were based on “the belief that spirits dwell in natural forms, such as trees or the earth, in created objects, such as figurative carvings, and in functional objects, such as drums. Ancestors were always nearby, and attention had to be paid to them.”
To assure protective spirits of ancestors were always close, families often kept in their homes clay or wooden figures such as the Akua’ba dolls or Ere Ibeji sculptures on display in this exhibition.