Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kongo Across the Waters

Robin Poynor and I embarked upon the Africa in Florida project several years ago (much longer than either of us would like to admit). Our conversations and research for Africa in Florida inspired Robin to develop an exhibition (and book) that continued to explore the 500 years of African presence in North America through an in-depth look at Kongo culture, which originated in central Africa.  Watch a video of Robin discussing how Africa in Florida led to this other exciting project.

Kongo Across the Waters is a collaboration between the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. The traveling exhibition originated at the Harn Museum and recently opened at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. It will travel to additional venues.

This project recognizes the longevity of the Kongo peoples and their well-documented history. While popular myths about the wildness of Africa were abundant in past centuries, leaving a residue even today, European powers recognized and admired the Kongo as a national entity.  However, Kongos were also among the earliest enslaved Africans to be brought to the Americas.  Their impact is apparent in archaeological excavations and African-American folk cultureConversations about the diaspora are further enriched within the exhibition due to the inclusion of several contemporary artists who mine Kongo history, religion, philosophy and iconography in their own art.

The Kongo Across the Waters website is full of great resources and the book is available from University Press of Florida.

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