The Arts of Africa and the Americas Department is dedicated to the immense creativity of Native peoples across the world, from prehistory to the present. The collection has grown significantly since the department was founded more than thirty years ago, and now numbers more than 3,000 objects, including masterworks of sculpture, ceramics, metalsmithing, painting, basketry, and bead-, shell-, and quillwork, reflecting the diversity of these regions and cultures.
Highlights of African art at the museum include a ceramic portrait head from the ancient civilization of Ife, a thousand-year-old wooden horse-and-rider from Djenne, and a cast bronze leopard and a carved ivory tusk, both from the eighteenth-century Kingdom of Benin. Other important pieces are a rare Luba mask, one of only two known in the world, a dramatic dance mask often known as a “firespitter” from Cote d’Ivoire, and a palace door created by the famed Yoruba artist Areogun of Osi.
The Native American galleries are equally rich in examples of the highest quality art, such as our unparalleled three-thousand-year-old Olmec jade mask, an exceptional nineteenth-century Sun Mask from the Northwest Coast, and a monumental pipe in the form of a bound prisoner, made in southeastern United States around 1200. Additional masterworks include the finely worked gold earspools from the ancient Andes, and a beaded man’s shoulder pouch made in Minnesota in the early 1800s.
Our Oceanic collection contains world-class pieces, such as the Maori Poutokomanawa (Post Figure) created in the 1840s, the three fabulous Malagan figures, an early Papuan Gope Board, and the Bis Pole, a centerpiece of the gallery.
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