The works exhibited in the gallery of African art have been installed to reveal the continent’s immense diversity of artistic production. On view are works from west, central, and south Africa, including objects of prestige and daily use, royal regalia, sculptures that mark such rites of passage as birth, initiation, and death, and others that facilitate interaction between humans and spiritual entities.
The original bequest for the collection, made in 1953 by Mrs. Donald B. Doyle in memory of her husband, comprised works collected prior to 1923 from what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among the objects is a rare double caryatid headrest, an example of the art of the Chokwe people, and a distinctively shaped Kuba box. In recent years gifts have been made principally by Perry E.H. Smith, including a remarkable Chokwe chair and Yaka mask, and by H. Kelly Rollings, whose emblem of the Leopard Society is a remarkable accumulative object from the Cross River region, which marks the boundary between Nigeria and Cameroun. Princeton’s collection was greatly enhanced in 1998 by the bequest of John B. Elliott, which includes a vast number of objects of daily use, adornment, and Akan gold pieces, including a linguist’s staff and a fine cast gold chief’s bracelet. The acquisition in 2003 of a Yoruba stool marked the addition of a sculptural masterpiece that was the focus of devotion to the god Esu. While the collection is relatively small in comparison to others in the Museum, it does reflect a growing interest in the field among alumni and friends.