I Write To You About Africa

Doubling The Space Dedicated To African Art At UMMA

Following years of research into the Museum’s and University of Michigan’s relationships with Africa and African art collections, I Write To You About Africa is a complete reinstallation and doubling of the Museum’s space dedicated to African art. 

Featuring a wide range of artworks—from historic Yoruba and Kongo figures to contemporary works by African and African American artists, such as Sam Nhlengenthwa, Masimba Hwati, Jon Onye Lockard and Shani Peters—the exhibition directly addresses the complex and difficult histories inherent to African art collections in the Global North, including their entanglements with colonization and global efforts to repatriate African artworks to the continent.

Art collections, by their very nature, can not be anything other than subjective. With I Write To You About Africa, we examine the subjective ways UMMA and the University of Michigan as a whole have collected and presented art from and connected to the African diaspora.

Drawn from art collections across the U-M campus, a special section of the exhibition highlights how the founding of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS) and the African Studies Center (ASC) impacted U–M’s collecting practices. This section includes an exciting and ongoing project—contemporary African artists, scholars, and curators will be asked to write about their work on postcards, in their first language, and mail them to UMMA where they will be displayed alongside their works. 

I Write To You About Africa will be a reinstallation of the Museum’s Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen Gallery of African art and the connected Alfred A Taubman Gallery II. It is slated to open in 2021 and will be on view indefinitely.

Read More

Select Objects In This Exhibition

,,,,

This project tackles difficult questions head-on, while also exploring and celebrating U–M’s role in establishing a place for the study of Africa.

Laura De Becker, Interim Chief Curator and Helmut and Candis Stern Curator for African Art

New Acquisition Spotlight - Ngoromera

A few new museum acquisitions will be on view as part of I Write To You About Africa. One of them, by Zimbabwean artist Masimba Hwati combines sculpture, sound, with a deep history of global resistance movements.

In this video, you can hear Hwati discuss the piece with fellow artist Mayela Rodriquez, and hear Ngoromera’s haunting sound.

Thank You To Our Collaborators and Partners

During the conceptualization phase of I Write To You About Africa, UMMA curators closely consulted several members of the African Studies Center, the executive board of the African Students Association, and members of the African Graduate Student Association. The exhibition centers around UMMA’s collection, as well as works collected by the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, the School of Social Work, the Museum of Anthropology, the Kelsey Museum of Archeology and the African Studies Center. 

This exhibition would not be possible without them. It is presented here and when it opens in our physical space with deep gratitude for their collaboration and partnership.

Additional Media

We will continue to update this page with additional exhibition related content in advance of the gallery experience opening to the public, and during the run of I Write To You About Africa. You can also explore related content and media below.