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Oct. 7, 2014

African exhibit displays culture at The Galleries

By Jaychelle Willis

Friday, Sept. 26, Cleveland State University’s Music Department held Echoes of Africa: Musical Fusion at the Drinko Recital Hall. The performance featured traditional African drumming infused with modern jazz.

Bill Ransom, leading the first ensemble on percussion and drumset, lightly tapped around the drumset, effortlessly creating sounds that resembled the sounds of the jungle. Then, one-by-one, Rey Cintron (percussion), Mamadou Toun Kara (percussion), Aidan Plank (bass), John Perrine (saxophone), and Leo Coach (piano) joined in as the small intimate crowd enjoyed the sounds of Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson.

The audience was also able to view African artwork from the exhibition featured at The Galleries at Cleveland State on a projector.

The performance was corollary with the many events held at Cleveland State to commemorate the At Home in Africa exploratory art exhibition at The Galleries at CSU, which came to an end Saturday, Oct. 4.
The exhibition featured inspirational and traditional handcrafted objects found in African homes throughout the past 130 years. The items covered over 70 ethnic groups from 30 countries including Tuareg, Fulani, Bamana, Hausa, Nupe, Akan and Yoruba.

At Home in Africa took viewers through the journey of the African culture showcasing their beauty, design, creativity and structure. The exhibit included more than 300 objects consisting of fashion, jewelry, furnishing, graphics, tools and interior.

A majority of the collection was received from Cleveland State-owned Howard A. Mims African American Cultural Center. Other objects were loaned from The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Detroit Institute of Arts, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Kent State University School of Art Galleries, Kent State University Museum, Denison University and many generous private collectors.

At Home in Africa curator Dr. Kathy Curnow said her goal with the collection was to bring visitors closer to Africa.

“My major goals for the exhibition were twofold,” Curnow said. “To lead Clevelanders to a better understanding of Africa and its diverse domestic environments, and to bring the beauty of African household goods to viewers unfamiliar with them, particularly designers, in order to inspire.”

Curnow was appointed curator of Cleveland State’s African and African American art collection in 2012. Curnow got the idea to do a showcase when she saw the amount of art the univeristy had that had never been seen by the public.

“I realized CSU’s 50th Anniversary would be coming up and requested a Fall 2014 slot in the gallery’s line-up,” Curnow said.

The preparation for the exhibit was a hectic time for Curnow. The year-and-a-half-long process was full of late nights as she wrote her 304-page catalogue for the show along with gathering items for the exhibition.

Curnow is pleased with the success of the show’s turn out.
“I’m really delighted with how the show turned out and how well it used the Gallery’s space,” Curnow said. “The objects’ placement brings to light color and pattern relationships that accentuate their beauty.”
While the At Home in Africa exhibition was a record-breaking show for The Galleries, Curnow’s only regret was she wished they had more time for the exhibition.

“The Peoples Art Show has a fixed date every two years, and we ran into that,” said Curnow.

Throughout the exhibit’s run at The Galleries, many special events were held to complement the show.

One included the Opening Reception held Thursday, Aug. 28. During the unveiling of the At Home in Africa exhibition, guests dressed in traditional African attire and took a tour of the collection as they enjoyed refreshments, tribal dancing and a drumming performance.

Other events included Teachers’ Day, which featured lectures, lesson plans and ideas for incorporating African history into curriculum for teachers.

One of the last events was Community Day that involved craft demonstrations, performances and a fashion show at The Galleries for families who wanted to view the exhibit.
Many of these events brought individuals to Cleveland State that had never visited the univerity before.
Although the exhibition is now over at The Galleries, Curnow plans to keep the imagery alive with its At Home in Africa website, The site includes some resources on teacher’s manual and lesson plans, as well as images from the events held throughout the exhibition.