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EX AFRICA - Stories and Identities of an universal art

Art | exhibition | culture

Ex Africa shows to the public how African and European cultures have always intermingled relations since ancient times. To remark this long lasting bond, the exhibition opens with the quote by Pliny the Elder saying “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi” (From Africa always something new). Furthermore the exhibition is characterised by ‘stories’ of art, identity, journey and encounters, beginning with travellers’ tales and the first contacts between Europeans and Africans.

 

The exhibition is divided into a number of sections: from formal quality expressed by large and small works to ancient objects from famous African kingdoms, together with masks and figures representing rituals and power.

 

The new frontiers of research into African art are also presented: the existence since ancient times of its manifestations and some ‘master hands’, and a section that investigates the different aesthetics of voodoo, syncretic, persistent art steeped in sacredness, with works shown for the first time in Italy.

 

It is not an ethnographic exhibition, but a grand exposition that goes beyond the general/specialist dichotomy, aiming to tell stories of art, identity, power, sacredness, encounters and communication.

 

Herodotus wrote, “in Africa they are all sorcerers”, and in his Philosophy of History (1830-1831) Hegel drew a picture of the continent that would have negatively and indelibly impressed Europeans for years to come.

 

According to Hegel: “What we properly understand by Africa, is the unhistorical, undeveloped spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the World’s history”. Africa, therefore, as a continent outside the history of the spirit, inhabited by primitive peoples who practiced magic, were steeped in superstition and given to taking part in gory rituals. Actually, texts produced from the fifteenth century on by travellers, merchants, explorers and missionaries point to an affinity between Europeans and Africans.

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Clearly, contrary to what the term ‘tradition’ has often sought to imply, institutions have never been immobile, and have always been sensitive to history, changes and encounters, as well as being curious, open-minded and willing to welcome forces and powers from elsewhere.

 

The intention of Ex Africa, therefore, is to present the value of African art by reconstructing the historic and cultural context from which it originates, touching the legacy and influence of primitive art and so-called Art Nègre on early twentieth century European painting and its effect on contemporary African art.

The exhibition, in partnership with Grand Hotel Majestic “Già” Baglioni in Bologna, is curated by Ezio Bassani (†) and Gigi Pezzoli, with contributions from Italian and foreign scholars, and is a memorial to Bassani, who passed away suddenly while working on the project and to whom Italy is indebted for the dissemination and knowledge of African art. Ex Africa is going take place at Museo Civico Archeologico in Bologna from 29 March to 8 September 2019. 

Due to the exceptional nature of the loans, the exhibition will take place only in Bologna and is not authorised to be moved elsewhere.

 

 

Edoardo Tirelli

 

 

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