While much is already known about the ways Kongo people relied on minkisi to solve social, political, and bodily problems, X-ray examination provides new information about this figure’s internal structure.
This exhibition of exceptional sculptures from the Princeton University Art Museum, including works newly acquired from the Holly and David Ross Collection, explores culturally significant additions and changes to sculptures’ surfaces made over time.
The exhibition Kongo across the Waters begins its exploration of the vibrant art of the kingdom of Kongo (located in present-day Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Republic of the Congo) in the fifteenth century—but the story is an ongoing one. In recent years, contemporary artists working in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas have engaged with the kingdom of Kongo’s history, spiritual traditions, and aesthetics.
This fall, Chika Okeke-Agulu, associate professor in the Department of Art and Archaeology, taught the seminar “Kongo Art,” which engaged with the exhibition Kongo across the Waters to explore the artistic qualities and legacy of the Kongo kingdom, as well as the effects of Belgian colonial rule (1885–1960) on modern art in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Juliana Ochs Dweck, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow for Collections Engagement, spoke with Professor Okeke-Agulu about how contemporary artists look to Kongo arts for inspiration.
Considered one of the premier ceramicists working today, Magdalene Odundo, born in Kenya, produces ceramic objects whose beauty emanates from their voluptuous forms and shimmering surfaces. These qualities characterize the Museum’s recent acquisition of an early classic Odundo work from 1990: a roundbodied pot with a graceful widemouthed neck and a smooth-burnished dark surface.