U. of I. Chancellor Robert J. Jones and Krannert Art Museum Director Kathleen Harleman welcomed visitors to “World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” on the exhibition’s opening night at the museum Thursday, including Robinson Njeru Githae, the Kenyan ambassador to the United States, and Mzalendo Kibunjia, the director general of the National Museums of Kenya.
“It is fitting that ‘World on the Horizon’ is organized by Krannert Art Museum, that it begins here but will travel across the country,” Jones said. “This exhibition and its underlying research reflect the vital and important work we do at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and demonstrate how far the impact of our scholarship can reach.”
Jones and Harleman acknowledged the significance of the exhibition, which includes many works of art from Kenya and Oman that are being exhibited in the U.S. for the first time. “World on the Horizon” will be on view at the museum through March 24 in the East Gallery.
“We hope this exhibition of Swahili art will begin an era of partnership between Kenya and the United States,” Githae said. “As the exhibition travels to other museums, we invite all to get to know and understand this art and culture.” There are more than 30 works of art from the National Museums of Kenya in the exhibition.
The exhibition “reflects years of research and tremendous cooperation among institutions, including the National Museums of Kenya and dozens of other museums and private collectors who have lent their work to this endeavor,” said Allyson Purpura, the senior curator and curator of Global African Art at the museum. She and Prita Meier, a professor of art history at New York University, co-curated the exhibition.
“World on the Horizon” will later travel to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., and to Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles. The exhibit enriches understanding of the Swahili coast of Africa by emphasizing its global connections, deepening discourse and advancing knowledge in important ways, Purpura said.
“It asks visitors to ponder how artistic practice and human creativity can lead people to remap their relationship to seemingly distant places and societies,” she said. “It will encourage visitors to make connections between artworks and to question their own expectations of what African, Asian, Islamic or Western culture looks like.”
Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion are part of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at Illinois.