Through African Eyes – The European in African Art

Now to August 8th

This exhibition explores the artistic consequences of the variations and dynamics of cultural exchanges between Africans and Europeans over 500 years, making it the broadest analytical overview on the subject to date. Through African Eyes will illustrate how African artists from diverse cultures have used and continue to use visual forms to reflect their particular societies’ changing attitudes toward Europeans, as the latter evolved from stranger to colonizer to the more inclusive Westerner.

The exhibition features 100 of Africa’s finest three-dimensional artworks and utilitarian objects executed in wood, ivory, metals, and textiles in diverse materials from the holdings of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and other leading American and international museums and private collections. The DIA is the opening venue.

Through African Eyes will offer broad insights into various strategies that diverse African cultures have employed to engage the European outsider. In particular, it will explore Africans’ delicate balancing of assimilation and confrontation of European culture when stimulated by shifts in the relationship. Moreover, the exhibition will show that dynamic cultural exchanges that occurred not only produced new African art forms but also stimulated new social values and modes of governance.

Through African Eyes rests on the premise that African perceptions of the European over time were neither monolithic nor static. It recognizes that many African societies alternately incorporated, rejected, and transformed elements of European cultures. By examining evolving trends in African use of European objects in particular cultures, the exhibition addresses the complexity of African responses to the European presence, presenting exciting new interpretations of this cultural dialogue.

By contextualizing African works that imitate, distort, criticize, or poke fun at the white “other,” Through African Eyes will raise compelling questions: for instance, when is parody humor, and when is it a form of resistance against Western domination? The exhibition casts the European as the cultural “other” and this reversal of the usual Eurocentric perspective suggests the exhibition will be sobering and thought-provoking. African voices will permeate the exhibition and its interpretive strategies to insure that its intellectual conclusions are reinforced by opinions expressed by Africans.

A 200-page exhibition catalogue will include essays by recognized experts and numerous color and black-and-white illustrations that will expand on the ideas conveyed by the exhibition.

Adults: $12
Adult Groups (15+): $10
Youth (ages 6-17): $6
DIA Members: FREE

DIA Website

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