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Brooklyn Museum Expands Its Focus On African Art With 'Double Take: African Innovations'

The Brooklyn Museum expands its focus on African art with a new long-term installation, 'Double Take: African Innovations.'

All images courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum


Double Take: African Innovations is the Brooklyn Museum's new long-term installation focusing on the interconnected narratives that weave through African art from the past to the present. The experimental exhibit, which made its debut on October 29th, invites visitors to trace links between works from differing time periods by drawing out recurring artistic techniques, solutions, and motifs in African creativity within different historical and cultural contexts. The main gallery of the show features close to forty works grouped into fifteen categories based on shared themes such as performance, portraiture, the body, power, design, satire, and virtue, among others. A nearby open-display storage annex features over 150 selections from the Museum's extensive archive of African art.

Though Double Take represents only a small fraction of Africa's varied forms of visual expression (primarily sub-Saharan), the installation definitely serves as a primer on the continent's diverse art history. The majority of the objects in the show are from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century while others date as far back as 643-623 B.C.E. Works on view from contemporary artists include Vessel (1990), a handmade burnished ceramic pot by Kenyan studio potter Magdalene Odundo; Nigerian conceptual artist Yinka Shonibare's Dutch wax-clad Skipping Girl (2009); the Adinkra symbol-laden Looking Back Into The Future (2008) by Ghanaian painter Owusu Ankomah; and on view at the Brooklyn Museum for the first time, a trademark plastic jerry can mask by Beninois mixed-media artist Romuald Hazoumé, titled Fiegnon (2011).

Alongside the exponential growth of major African art exhibitions such as the prestigious Dak'Art Biennale, and newer events like 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair and Lagos Photo Festival, which provide increased visibility and a necessary platform for contemporary artists from Africa and the African diaspora to showcase their work, Double Take's novel approach to mapping strains of influence within diverse works of African art through the ages highlights the long and nuanced history of the continent's artistic mastery. Organized by the Brooklyn Museum's Associate Curator of Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands, Kevin Dumouchelle, Double Take is an offshoot of the 2011 installation African Innovations, which focused on the aesthetic, social, political, and cosmological problems and solutions explored by African artists through their work. Dumouchelle and his team plan to expand this second phase using audience questions and feedback to inform a third and even more extensive presentation of the museum's African collection in the near future. Click through our gallery above for a preview of the installation. Visit the Brooklyn Museum website for more information.

Double Take: African Innovations is now on display at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway) and continues through July 2016.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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