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A celebration of UMMA's fall season with exhibition openings of You're Welcome, Hear Me Now, and A Gathering.
Photo by Mark Gjukich

We Write To You About Africa

Curated by: Laura De Becker, Interim Chief Curator and Helmut and Candis Stern Curator for African Art; Ozi Uduma, Assistant Curator of Global Contemporary Art
A. Alfred Taubman Gallery II

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, We 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 Nhlengethwa, 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 We 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.

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

Recent Acquisitions on View

Masimba Hwati, Ngoromera, 2020, Brass wind instruments, iron tubing, copper coil, high carbon steel hewing spear heads, transparent plastic tubing, Museum purchase made possible by the University of Michigan Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the Director's Acquisition Committee, 2020
Matthew Angelo Harrison, Celestial Tower, 2021, Wooden sculpture and tinted polyurethane resin, Museum purchase made possible by Wayee Chu and Ethan Beard, 2022
Frederick Ebenezer Okai, When Gods Speak, Heaven Listens, 2022, Clay, duvet, light, nylon rope, metal wire, polyurethane glue, Museum purchase made possible by the Director's Acquisition Committee, 2022

From Ghana to Ann Arbor

Follow the journey of a work of art to UMMA

What does it take to get a huge work of art into a Museum? Follow the journey of Frederick Ebenezer Okai’s monumental pottery work When the Gods Speak, Heaven Listens as it travels from Ghana, through the streets of Accra, to UMMA in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It features on-the-ground and drone footage of the pot being packaged in Ghana, driving through the streets of Accra, arriving in Ann Arbor, being unboxed, and installed at UMMA.

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, Chief Curator Helmut and Candis Stern Curator of African Art

Select Objects on View

circa 1952
Charles Alston
oil on canvas
circa 1890
wood, tukula powder, clay, string, metal, fur, snakeskin, cloth
Walter Oltmann
aluminum wire


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.

Thank You to Our Collaborators and Partners

During the conceptualization phase of We 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.


​​Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost, the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, and the African Studies Center.