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African Apparel Threaded Transformations across the 20th Century

Start Date 18 January 2020
End Date 06 September 2020
Venue Cornell Fine Arts Museum
Location Winter Park, Florida, USA
Curator MacKenzie Moon Ryan

What people wear is deeply personal. It is also enormously impacted by historical, cultural, religious, and political realities, which change over time. This exhibition will highlight a few dozen transformations in African apparel across the long twentieth century to display the breadth, diversity, and artistry of a continent. Drawn mainly from the extensive collection of Norma Canelas Roth ’65 and William Roth, this is the first exhibition in Central Florida to focus exclusively on African textiles and items of adornment. These textile, jewellery, headwear, accessory, and clothing items highlight their indebtedness to global interactions, their embodiment of gendered realities, and their expression of generational conflicts and continuities.

As worn garments, items of African apparel are loved, lived in, laboured over, and invested with salient meaning. African apparel is presented in this exhibition from not only West Africa, but also Central, Southern, East, and North Africa. It embraces globally influenced dress practices as a reality across Africa. Textile selections will include those hand-woven and dyed (for example bogolanfini mud cloth from Mali, adire indigo cloth from Nigeria, and kente cloth from Ghana) alongside those factory-woven and machine-printed cloth (such as wax-print from West and Central Africa, kanga from East Africa, and shwe shwe from South Africa). Items of adornment will include amber and silver jewellery from North Africa, beadwork-embellished clothing from southern Africa, and various headdresses from across the continent, to name but a few examples. The exhibition is guest curated by MacKenzie Moon Ryan, Associate Professor of Art History at Rollins, in collaboration with Morgan Snoap ’20 and Cristina Toppin ’21, and will be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue.