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African Museum of Art: Washington, DC

The entrance to the National Museum of African Art
Article and photos by Raoul Pascual.

The African Art Museum (also called The African Museum of Art) is part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.  It’s a beautiful massive building but, to be honest, it doesn’t have as extensive a sampling of authentic African art as I expected.  For that I guess you would need to visit the African American History and Culture Museum. You can rent the venue for personal and business functions.

If you’re heading East along Independence Ave. it will be on your left side.

Rusted neck shackle.

If you are in a hurry and just want to get a sampling of the African culture, the AAM is a good place to start. According to their website, “the primary mission of the Education Departments of the National Museum of African Art is to strengthen global arts and humanities appreciation by helping to increase understanding of our world’s cultural and artistic traditions through the lens of African and its diasporas” — yeah, that’s quite a mouthful. From my untrained eyes, the collection seems to be more contemporary than historical. There are permanent displays as well as seasoned highlights of contemporary artists. At the time of my visit, the featured artist was Ayana V. Jackson. Kudos to the architects and the exhibit designers who gave each room its own personality. The generous space, high ceiling and dramatic lighting are displays in and of themselves. Indeed African Americans come from a proud heritage.

Huge photographs by Ayana V. Jackson hang along the walls of the hallway.
Artist/designer Ayana V. Jackson’s fashion designs of an imaginary Afrofuturistic world she called Drexciya.
Futuristic African attire made up of native African material.
“What will the waters tell us?” Burmus Wuling (red bark fiber), patchwork of fabric including “pagne tisse” and factory print cotton. Costume made in collaboration with Rama Diaw.
Artistic Headgear made of indigenous material.
Headgear made of rusted spoons.
Huge snake sculpture that seem to be made of rubber tires.
Even the place to rest is a vibrant collection of art.

If you plan to visit the Smithsonian, It’s best to take the Washington Metro. Maps are available for the asking at the information booth by the entrance. Of course you can always take your chances finding a parking space but I wouldn’t.

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