31. January - 12. November 2017 Musée Du Quai Branly Jaques Chirac

L'AFRIQUE DES ROUTES

Slab of salt game. Second half of the 20th century. Mali. Rock salt, blue and red pigments. 15,5 x 25 x 3 cm, 2010 g. © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo Claude Germain
Horseman. 16th century. Dogon style. Mali, region of the Cliff of Bandiagara wood. metal. Collection Laurent Dodier. © Michel Gurfinkel
Mami wata. Around 1950. Senegal, Dakar Medina. Glass, paint, a technique known as "reverse glass painting". 48,2 x 36,9 x 0,5 cm, 2011 g. © musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, photo Claude Germain
Yinka Shonibare MBE, La Méduse. 2008. wood, foam, wax fabric, acrylic, cotton. 212,2 x 167,6 x 137,2 cm. Nouveau musée national de Monaco. © Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Crédit photo : NMNM / Andrea Rossetti © ADAGP, Paris 2016
Tracing of rock art. 1st millennium BC. Style known as "Garamantic“. Algerian Sahara Tassili n‘Ajjer Titerast. Paint on paper. Paris, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle l Musée de l‘Homme. © MNHN - JC Domenech

African art and its routes of spreading

The cradle of mankind, Africa has always traded with other continents. It has not only supplied its labour force, its gold and its raw materials for thousands of years, but also its skills and constantly remodelled cultures. Its history is part of the global dynamic.

Africa, a continent without a History? Although the preconceptions persist, the facts themselves are undeniable: Africans have never lived in isolation. Although ignored for a long time, exchanges within Africa, and outside it, began thousands of years ago, well before the arrival of the first Portuguese ships at the end of the 15th century, colonisation and independences.

The 300 sculptures, gold and silver work, ivory pieces, paintings and other artworks presented in this exhibition demonstrate the richness of these exchanges. Unprecedented in its scope and in the diversity of the fields it tackles, "L’Afrique des Routes" (engl. African Routes) aims to show that the history of Africa has been part of world history since prehistoric times, and that this history has left many traces.

From the fifth millennium BC until now, the exhibition evokes the river, land and sea routes that contributed to the movement and contact of men, materials and artworks. Ranging from the rock art of the Sahara to the Chinese porcelain of Madagascar, from the Candomblé cults and rituals of South America to the contemporary mixed art of the Nigerian Yinka Shonibare, the exhibition presents a portrait of a continent at the centre of world history.

Furthermore, the exhibition highlights the circulation of African cultures throughout history, both in the interior and towards the exterior of the continent. It presents a variety of forms of routes: routes involving towns, commerce, religions, colonisation, art objects and art forms.

Not only have Africans constantly circulated within their continent; both people and ideas have continuously been exchanged with the rest of the world. Complete human isolation has hardly ever existed in Africa. Contrary to the accepted notion, Africa has always been an open continent.

Terrestrial, fluvial and maritime routes have naturally favoured migratory movements and alliances which have transformed cultures and enabled the spread of ideas, knowledge, and the arts for thousands of years.

Familiarity with African art has enhanced the imagination and vocabulary of modern western artists. Conversely, images, objects and artistic teaching have been disseminated in Africa. New techniques have been transmitted, such as painting on canvas, lithography and photography.

In this era of globalisation - both in Africa and elsewhere - artists belong to a single nation, expressing themselves in a language that is similar but with which all can assert their uniqueness. Modern and contemporary works by African and European artists here invite us to examine converging forms and intentions.

The exhibition "L’Afrique des Routes" will take place from January 31st to November 12th, 2017 in the Musée Du Quai Branly Jaques Chirac.

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