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Deep Roots, New Shoots: Modern and Contemporary African Art from the KAM Collection

This is a past event.

Saturday, May 18, 2024 12am to 4pm

271 Columbia Avenue, Holland, MI 49423-3650

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“Deep Roots, New Shoots” features 40 African artworks created between the 1960s and the early 2020s, all of which belong to the Kruizenga Museum’s permanent collection. The artworks span the length and breadth of the African continent, from Morocco to South Africa and Nigeria to Ethiopia. They represent a diverse variety of artistic styles and movements, and reflect a broad range of themes and issues, including celebrations of ethnic and national pride, struggles against various forms of inequality and injustice, and critical reflections on the enduring impacts of colonialism and global consumerism.

“As European colonial rule in Africa came to an end during the 1950s and ’60s, African artists in newly independent countries across the continent grappled with the question of how to make art that was both distinctly African and distinctly modern,” explained Charles Mason, who is the director and the Margaret Feldmann Kruizenga Curator of the Kruizenga Art Museum. “Those artists wanted to create new forms of art that were rooted in indigenous African cultures and aesthetics, but that also reflected international styles and practices. Africa is a huge continent, so naturally there was a lot of variation in how African artists went about creating modern forms of art. In this exhibition I have tried to show that range by including works from 15 different countries across the continent.”

As African artists became more integrated into the international art world, Mason noted, their focus expanded from how to make art that is simultaneously African and modern to how to make art that is globally relevant and commercially viable in a highly competitive market.

“Much of the African art created in the last 20 or 25 years is very in tune with global trends,” he said. “It is still distinctly African, but a lot of it deals with big transnational issues, like human rights, environmental problems, the impact of COVID, and so forth.”

The artworks featured in the exhibition are part of a larger collection of traditional and modern African art that the Kruizenga Art Museum has formed over the past 10 years as part of its mission to expose Hope College students to global cultures. Mason shared that when he was an undergraduate, many American museums displayed only traditional forms of African art.

“I didn’t want to do that at the Kruizenga,” he said. “I want our collection to show how African art and cultures are continuing to evolve in ways that are relevant to us all.”

The museum acquired the artworks through a combination of gifts and sponsored purchases supported by donors who share Mason’s vision for building a well-balanced international art collection.

“I am very grateful to all the donors who made this exhibition possible,” Mason said. “It is unusual for a museum of our size and relatively young age to have such a diverse range of modern and contemporary African art, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to share the collection with the public in this exhibition.”

The Kruizenga Art Museum functions as an educational resource for Hope College and the greater West Michigan community. The museum features two public galleries as well as a study room and climate-controlled storage space for its 7,000-object permanent collection. It is named in honor of a leadership gift from the late Dr. Richard and Margaret Kruizenga of Holland, both of whom graduated from Hope in 1952.

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