Kongo Across The Waters

On View February 27, 2015 – May 25, 2015

New Orleans, LA- Opening February 27, 2015 at the New Orleans Museum of Art, the exhibition Kongo across the Waters explores the connections between the art and civilization of the African Kongo peoples with that of African American art and culture in the United States. The Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium jointly organized this extensive exhibition, including over 160 works of art and artifacts. The exhibition will introduce audiences to the art of the Kongo region of Central Africa and the Kongo diaspora to the New World.

“Art and music of the Kongo has strongly influenced the culture of New Orleans evidenced even today by the myriad of cultural activities that take place in our own Congo Square,” said Susan M. Taylor, director of NOMA. “This exhibition promises to resonate with the history and traditions of New Orleans.”

“Many of these extraordinary art works have rarely, if ever, traveled from the Royal Museum in Belguim to other museums,” said William Fagaly, The Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art. “It is a pleasure to be able to demonstrate the connection between the art of Africa and its manifestations in the New World, particularly the American South.”

Exhibition Overview
More than 160 works in the exhibition are organized into sections defined by geography and time. In the first two sections, visitors will be introduced to the Kongo Kingdom and its early encounters with Europeans. Europeans brought with them new ideas, different models of political organization, and many new trade objects. The Kongo peoples responded to these introductions by incorporating and adapting them within their own traditions. The third section examines the flourishing of the Kongo in the 19th and 20th centuries-the various structures of power and religious beliefs, and also the influence of trade with Europeans. Visitors will then be transported “across the waters” to discover archaeological evidence of Kongo in early North America, particularly in the Southeastern United States. This includes evidence of ritual activities, as discovered through materials intentionally buried in mansions of colonial Europeans and in slave cabins, and also continuities in the production of domestic wares. Carved wooden canes, ceramic vessels and coiled baskets are prominent in this portion. The legacies of Kongo culture have also resonated in African American musical traditions, and a short film included in the exhibition featuring Luther Gray and Freddie Evans illuminates some of the New Orleans connections.

The final section demonstrates that Kongo culture continues to inform and inspire contemporary art throughout the Atlantic world. It includes works by Edouard Duval-Carrié (Haitian-Floridian), Renée Stout (American), Radcliffe Bailey (American), José Bedia (Cuban-American) and Steve Bandoma (Congolese).

Public Programs

The following public programs are organized in conjunction with the exhibition Kongo across the Waters. All of these programs take place at NOMA except for the reburial and Congo Square Celebration on April 18.

LECTURE February 27 | 6 pm with Hein Vanhee, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren: “True stories from Leopold’s Congo: Collections, Representations, and History” and performance by Bamboula 2000

LECTURE March 13 | 6 pm with Susan Cooksey and Robin Poynor of the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida and co-curators of Kongo Across the Waters

SYMPOSIUM March 14 | 12:30-5:00pm |Connecting ‘Kongo across the Waters’ to New Orleans: A Symposium

In coordination with the University of New Orleans, local scholars and students will gather to discuss new approaches to the long history of connections between New Orleans and Central Africa. Selected speakers include Ryan Gray, James Mokhiber, Andrea Mosterman, Freddi Evans, Luther Gray, and a panel of UNO graduate students at NOMA.

LECTURE April 10 |6 pm with Radcliffe Bailey. Times TBA.

LECTURE April 17 | 6 pm with Grey Gundaker, William and Mary College: “Ancestors, Remembrance, and Moral Force: Flashes of Spirit in Burial and Residential Settings”

REBURIAL AND CONGO SQUARE CELEBRATION April 18 | St. Peter Street Cemetery: A Reburial Ceremony. At St. Augustine Catholic Church, St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery and Congo Square. Times TBA.

LECTURE May 15 | 6 pm with Matthew Stanard, Berry College: “Belgians Across the Kongo: Collecting, Curators, and Colonialism at the Tervuren Museum” and Sarah Van Beurden of Ohio State University

LECTURE May 22 | 6 pm with John Thornton of Boston University: “Kongo and the Formation of Afro-Christian Religions in the New World”

Please check www.noma.org for additional programs and program updates.

Related Publication
The Kongo across the Waters exhibition is accompanied by a 450 page publication available in the Museum Shop which presents a collection of richly-illustrated essays and a catalogue of the exhibition with superb photography. Edited by Susan Cooksey, Robin Poynor and Hein Vanhee, the essays discuss a variety of questions that the exhibition raises about the wider historical and cultural context. Written by a mixture of seasoned scholars and younger researchers in African and African American studies, the essays aim to bring new scholarship to a wider audience.

*Exhibition Credit Line *
Kongo across the Waters is organized by the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium. The New Orleans presentation of this exhibition is sponsored by the City of New Orleans, The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chevron and Whitney Bank. Additional support has been provided by Adams and Reese and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Belgium in Atlanta.

About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses nearly 40,000 works of art spanning 4,000 years. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing special exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Fridays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjacent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century’s master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit www.noma.org.