Arts + Culture
Photo courtesy of Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

The New Director of Smithsonian's African Art Museum on the Importance of Preserving Our History through Art

Gus Casely-Hayford started his tenure to preserve the cultural legacy of the continent through art in February.

African art in the ownership of western museums has a controversial history. In April, the Victoria & Albert Museum's announcement to loan Ethiopia artifacts which England acquired from the country's ruler, Emperor Tewodros II, painfully echoed the colonialist practice that justified the overtaking of the treasures in the first place. The politics of repatriation of African art impose a prickly moral reckoning for the western institutions in possession of the continent's artifacts in part due to the importance of arts as key to preserving the African narrative.

At the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., preserving the cultural legacy of the continent through its arts is forefront on the agenda of its new director, Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford.

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Photos
From 'Weke' by Namsa Leuba.

This Stunning Photo Series Captures the Mystery and Beauty of Benin’s Voodoo Tradition

Swiss-Guinean photographer Namsa Leuba's new photo series challenges how the western gaze views African traditional religions.

Weke, a new photographic series by Swiss-Guinean art director and photographer Namsa Leuba, offers an intimate view into the voodoo religion and animist practices of the Republic of Benin. Leuba's portrayal results in "images based on contents of the local context which take a new form of life, rooted in artistic aesthetics and fantasy."

The artist lived in Benin, the birthplace of voodoo, for two-and-a-half months, participating in different ceremonies and rituals with voodoo priests for research into the religion. She portrays a concept of voodoo which "cannot be depicted visually," according to her artist statement. Leuba tells OkayAfrica she attempted to make the invisible to make it visible: "I show a fiction vision, different unreal and surrealist scenes with poetry and delicacy."

The title 'Weke' translates to "the visible and invisible universe, all things created, living, breathing or not" in Benin local language. Leuba's camera is also transformative in producing striking digital photography derived from ritual practice and ancient spiritual customs.

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