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Ralph Proctor Gallery
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In Cultural Perspective

October 1 through December 31, 1999
Museums in most major cities either host or have permanent exhibitions of African art. Most exhibitions in these museums are mounted by the Fine Arts division. Therein lies a major problem, because the items are usually treated as art objects devoid of cultural context. The fact is that the items so mounted are not art pieces, but rather artifacts--carriers of the culture of Africa. They were not created to be hung on a wall, or set on a pedestal, knick-knack shelf, or coffee table. They were created, not for their aesthetic value. They were created to perform specific functions in African society. They are symbols of rank and authority. They are used to control unseen, negative forces. They are used for protection, to cure illnesses, exorcise evil spirits, or determine justice. They are used in the life cycles of birth, initiation, marriage and death. Birth marks the beginning of the journey to death. Death is the entrance into the next life in the spirit world. What is important to human beings is what one accomplishes between birth and death, and that one leads a good life in harmony with all of God's creatures. One must also honor societal laws.
African artifacts that are displayed in most museums are displayed out of cultural context, devoid of the music, rituals and dance associated with the artifacts. Masks are displayed without the complete costume. Items are displayed in a static state that are only seen in motion. Some items are displayed that are eroded, have parts missing, or the color faded away. Such items would have been discarded by traditional African societies except for the fact that Europeans are anxious to pay large sums for such items.
This exhibition explores African artifacts in cultural perspective. We will examine how the objects are used in Africa. We will look at initiation rites, funerals and other important events in African society. We hope that you find the exhibition informative and entertaining. As usual, praises go to our extremely talented web tech, for creating such a beautiful site, and to the unknown African artisans who created the work featured here.