Detroit, MI 48201
The James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History’s
Elaine L. Jacob Gallery is pleased to present
When Art Works: African Utilitarian Objects from the Faxon Collection
Curated by Dr. Nii O. Quarcoopome
Most Africans view art primarily as a tool of daily life that fulfills either a practical or symbolic purpose. When Art Works explores Africa’s utilitarian objects, a largely uncelebrated aspect of the continent’s rich artistic heritage. Whether intended as containers, implements, covers, or supports, the objects in this exhibition were once used in mundane activities in homes, artisans’ workshops, farms, and religious shrines, and not intended to hang on walls or sit on living room mantles. Each was created with practicality and convenience in mind. Yet, as mostly personal items, technical mastery and embellishments were also meant to please their owners.
These selections from the Jack Faxon collection speak to African artists’ extraordinary imagination and craftsmanship. While we lack precise information about who owned them, why they were made, and how they were handled, the objects embody rich and complex cultural histories. For some Africans, such objects may constitute all the art there is to see and to ignore them is to dismiss whole visual traditions.
Smoking Pipe (Headless Human Figure)
Tanzania, 20th century
16 x 8 1/2 x 7 3/4 in.
Photo by Tim Thayer