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(c) Andrea Jemolo

Historical Collection

Deepening scholarly understanding and public appreciation of Africa's long-understated position in global culture.

The goal of our collection of historical arts from West Africa will be to celebrate the region’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, its millennia-long traditions of highly skilled craftsmanship, and its artists’  never-ending inventiveness deployed across media.

Recognizing the fragmented nature of knowledge on Africa’s heritage, our team’s efforts will focus on selecting works that contribute to building and presenting the historical narrative of West Africa’s ancient past and connect them to the present.

“There is so much more in Africa to be known about the people, the landscapes, the beliefs, and economies that produced a rich tapestry of material and visual culture.”
― Professor Shadreck Chirikure, Oxford University
With our Historical Arts collection we have the ambition to build a comprehensive collection of art originating from, and in relation with, West Africa.

We want to enable high-quality exhibitions, research, education, and public engagement on the one hand, while safeguarding and caring for works of historical significance and masterful artistry in the context of under-resourced arts and education institutions in Nigeria.  We will do this by focusing on these three key areas:

Geography: Anchored in Benin City, the Collection will span West Africa along the Benue and Cross Rivers into Cameroon, up the Niger River Valley and Western Sahel, and along the Guinea Coast.

Time Period: The Collection will build a narrative of West Africa’s artistic achievements, with archaeological and cultural heritage dating back 3000 years.  From the Nok terracotta sculptures up until the beginning of the colonial era. Contemporary responses by artists considering themselves heirs of ancient traditions will also be included.

Materiality: The collection highlights West Africa’s history of skilled craftsmanship across media. Looking beyond the more expected technique of wood carving, works in clay, metals, textiles, and stones will be prioritized.


Explore our Historical Collection here


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