New Blanton Exhibit is A Glimpse of the Real Africa

I didn’t learn about Africa in school and the images in movies, television shows and the pages of National Geographic didn’t do much to generate pride in the heritage so evident by my skin color.

Then along came Roots. For the first time, I saw that African culture had meaning that wasn’t even hinted at in the classroom. I felt the same excitement seeing a futuristic version of Africa on the big screen. Like everyone else with Panther-mania, I crossed my arms and pledged “Wakanda forever.” Good as that felt, Wakanda isn’t really Africa and Africa doesn’t need Black Panther to save it.

Africa is beautiful, complex and varied.

Africa is beautiful, complex and varied. It can’t be summed up in one movie, book or even a set of encyclopedias. The more than a billion people who live in the 54 countries are diverse in heritage, spirituality, lifestyle and aesthetic.

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, the latest exhibit at the Blanton Museum of Art, provides a glimpse into the ingenuity, artistic expression, and resourcefulness of the continent. On display through January 6, the exhibit showcases the work of 120 artists and designers living within the continent and throughout the diaspora. 

Organized by the Vitra Design Museum and Guggenheim Bilbao, the exhibition illustrates how design accompanies and fuels economic and political change in the continent. The works stand as an assured counterpoint to the images of famine-ravaged children, warlords and game reserves that tend to dominate the western narrative of the continent, even in 2018. 

 

a testament to brilliance in design.

This is a large exhibit and you’ll want to plan a day, or multiple visits to take it all in. The curators have selected works of fashion, sculpture, home decor, photography and digital media. Some pieces are simply beautiful, others make critical statements about the state of the world and the misrepresentation of the continent, all are a testament to brilliance in design.

On Friday, October 26, The B Scene, the Blanton’s art party, will feature live African music, a trunk show including the work of two local designers, and access to the exhibit. Tickets are $15 or admission is free for members.  

The Blanton is located at 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. on the campus of the University of Texas Austin. Entrance to the Blanton is always free for members, teachers, active military and children under 12. Children over 12 and college students get in for $5. Adult admission is $12, but drops to $10 if you are 65 or over. Everyone gets in free on Thursdays.

Multiple gallery talks and events are planned around the exhibition, see the Blanton website for details.

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