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Photo by Jakob Skogheim

Traces: Reconstructing the History of a Chokwe Mask

October 22, 2016 - January 22, 2017
The Jan and David Brandon Family Bridge

The exhibition Traces focuses on one artwork from UMMA’s African holdings: a Chokwe mask that was collected in 1905 near the Angolan city of Dundo by the German explorer Leo Frobenius.

Its presence at UMMA today—almost 7,500 miles away from the context in which it was originally created, used, and valued—is the result of a long and tumultuous journey, spanning a hundred years, three continents, and numerous people whose lives are forever connected to the artifact that passed through their hands.

Traces tells the stories of some of these individuals as it reconstructs the “biography” of the mask. Drawing on the Museum’s African art collection and complemented with national loans, the exhibition is informed by research that exposes the mask’s many layers and restores some of its historical complexity. Visitors will be able to look closely, and in great detail, at this intriguing artwork and its fascinating story.


Lead support for Traces: Reconstructing the History of a Chokwe Mask is provided by the James and Vivian Curtis Endowment. Additional generous support is provided by the University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women’s Frances and Sydney Lewis Visiting Leaders Fund, the African Studies Center, and the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.