Krannert Art Museum at the U. of I. has published a multiauthored catalogue in conjunction with the exhibition “World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean.”
On view at the museum, located at Sixth Street and Peabody Drive in Champaign, until March 24, “World on the Horizon” will travel to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., in May and then to Fowler Museum at UCLA in October.
Kenya, Wasini Island, ca. 19th century. Amulet case. Silver, Lamu Museum, National Museums of Kenya, no 18.
Photo by chrisbrownphoto.com.
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Focusing on eastern and central Africa and the western Indian Ocean world, the catalogue’s 18 essays offer new perspectives on the mobile and deeply networked social lives of Swahili objects. The 384-page volume is edited by the curators of the exhibition, Allyson Purpura, the senior curator and curator of global African art at the museum, and Prita Meier, a professor of art history at New York University. The exhibition and catalogue are made possible in part by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The catalogue is distributed through the University of Washington Press.
“The goal of the catalogue was similar to that of the exhibition, to attest to the Swahili coast as a vibrant site of global cultural convergence and to Africa’s contributions to the artistic vocabulary of the wider Indian Ocean world,” Purpura said. “Moreover, exploring how Swahili arts have been implicated in the politics of trade and imperialism brings a fuller understanding to the objects and to Swahili coast history more broadly.”
“World on the Horizon” contains personal reflections, object biographies and in-depth critical treatments by a range of contributors.
The catalogue and exhibition offer an unprecedented opportunity to view more than 150 artworks brought together from public and private collections from four continents, including loans from the National Museums of Kenya and the Bait Al Zubair Museum in Oman, which are traveling outside their countries for the first time. More than a third of the 125 illustrations feature artworks never before published.
Ranging from jewelry and clothing to architectural elements, and including illuminated Qurans, objects of regalia and photographic portraits, the exhibition introduces visitors to a broad range of Swahili objects.
During the exhibition’s final month at the U. of I., two events will invite visitors to study these objects more deeply. On March 7, doctoral candidate Jenny Peruski will lead a gallery conversation titled “Fetishizing the Foot: Mobility and Meaning in Indian Ocean Sandals.” On Thursday, March 8, members of the African Students Organization will hold a Global Africa Community Forum event titled “World on the Horizon: Points of Departure.” Both events are free and open to the public.