KONGO ACROSS THE WATERS | First exhibition in America to deeply explore the legacy of Kongo culture


PRINCETON--In 1483 when Portuguese explorers first set foot in the Kingdom of the Kongo located in parts of today’s Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, and Angola, they discovered a sophisticated society with a strong artistic and cultural life. The exchange between the Kongo and Europe continued as enslaved Kongolese, transported to the Americas through the Atlantic slave trade, left an imprint of their cultural heritage on the development of art and music in the Americas. Presenting masterpieces of Kongo and African-American art, Kongo across the Waters (October 25, 2014-February 25, 2015) will trace a journey of ideas, artistic practices, and religious beliefs across 500 years and three continents.

On view at the Princeton University Art Museum from Oct. 25, 2014 to January 25, 2015, Kongo across the Waters will be the single most important project ever presented at Princeton University that addresses the issues of the slave trade and colonialism through the lens of the artistic traditions of Africa and the African diaspora.

“This exhibition presents some of the finest works of African art in the world, and reminds us of Kongo’s visual legacy throughout the Atlantic world—an idea of central importance, considering the fact that nearly one fourth of first-generation African slaves in the United States were from the Kongo region,” said Princeton University Art Museum Director James Steward. “In doing so, this represents the Museum’s most ambitious project to date involving African artistic production and culture.”

Kongo across the Waters features over 100 works, including numerous pieces never before exhibited in the United States. It is accompanied by a catalogue with entries by leading scholars in archaeology, history, religion, and African and African-American art history. In addition to featuring rare archaeological finds, the exhibition includes sculpture, carved tusks, musical instruments, baskets, and textiles from Kongo and the Americas. Works attributed to the Kongo artist “The Master of Kasadi,” the American cane carver Henry Cudgell, and the South Carolina basket weaver Elizabeth F. Kinlaw will be on view, along with contemporary art by Steve Bandoma (Democratic Republic of Congo), Edouard Duval-Carrié (Haiti and USA), José Bedia (Cuba), Renée Stout (USA), and Radcliffe Bailey (USA). A video produced for the exhibition reveals the notable influence of Kongolese music on the development of jazz.

Kongo across the Waters is a joint project organized by the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. At Princeton, supplementary interpretive content has been developed by the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibition at Princeton has been made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Frances E. and Elias Wolf, Class of 1920, Fund; Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965; the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project; the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University; and an anonymous fund. Additional funds have been provided by the Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Exhibitions Fund; Heather and Paul G. Haaga Jr., Class of 1970; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; and by the Center for African American Studies, the Program in African Studies, the Office of Religious Life, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Department of English, Princeton University.  Further support has been provided by the Partners and Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum.


About the Princeton University Art Museum

With a collecting history that extends back to the 1750s, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include over 92,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. Intimate in scale, yet expansive in scope, the Museum offers a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art, and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.


About the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art

Founded in 1990, the Harn Museum of Art is an integral part of the University of Florida. The Harn contributes to an interconnected, international community by integrating the arts and culture into curricula throughout the university’s system of colleges and centers. Its holdings include more than 9000 works in five main collecting areas: Asian art, African art, photography, modern art of the Americas and Europe, and international contemporary art. The museum also has noteworthy collections of Oceanic and Ancient American Art and works on paper. In addition to rotating installations drawn from its permanent collection, the Harn organizes traveling exhibitions, public lectures, panel discussions, academic symposia, and educational programs for adults, students, and children.

The Harn Museum of Art, at 3259 Hull Road in Gainesville, Florida, is part of the University of Florida’s Cultural Plaza, which is also home to the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is open until 9 p.m. the second Thursday of every month for Museum Nights. The Camellia Court Café is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  For more information call 352-392-9826 or visit www.harn.ufl.edu.


About the Royal Museum for Central Africa

The Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) is one of the world’s most beautiful and impressive museums devoted to Africa. Since its founding in 1898, the Museum’s task has been to preserve and manage its collections, conduct scientific research and disseminate knowledge to the general public through museological, educational and scientific activities. The Museum plays an active role in the sustainable development of Africa and aspires to be a center for collaboration and reflection on today’s Africa and the challenges it faces. Its collections have great scientific value and are unique in many ways. Large portions of these collections are currently being digitized in order to make them accessible to researchers worldwide.

The RMCA also plays a crucial role in numerous international projects and networks to which it contributes expertise and specialized knowledge. RMCA scientists write over 300 scientific publications a year. As a dynamic museum, the RMCA vigorously pursues a policy of mounting frequent temporary exhibitions and contributes to approximately 30 exhibitions in Belgium and abroad by loaning art works or imparting its expertise. On 1 December 2013 the museum building closed its doors for a three-year renovation period. When the museum reopens in mid-2017, it will have drastically changed in appearance. More information: www.africamuseum.be 

Please direct image requests to Erin Firestone, Manager of Marketing and Public Relations, Princeton University Art Museum, at (609) 258-3767 or ef4@princeton.edu.