Exhibitions: African Innovations

Three-Headed Figure

Three-Headed Figure (Sakimatwemtwe). Unidentified Lega artist. South Kivu or Maniema province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th century. Wood, fiber, kaolin, 5 1/2 x 2 x 1 1/8 in. (14 x 5.1 x 2.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.486

Long-Term Installation

A complete reinstallation of roughly 200 works from our world-renowned collection of African art, African Innovations is organized with a particular focus on the aesthetic, social, political, and cosmological problems addressed by African artists through their work. A dynamic and diverse range of objects that includes wood sculpture, metal casting, terracotta, textiles, and beadwork, African art has a long history of adaptation to and exchange with cultures near and far.

Marking the first time that our African collection has been arranged chronologically, African Innovations invites you to examine the continent’s long record of artistic excellence, extending from ancient times through the present day. The installation stretches over some 2,500 years, from masterworks of ancient Nubia and Nok to contemporary pieces from the twenty-first century. Art from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which comprises the majority of the collection, is considered according to five themes: protection, transitions, authority, masquerade, and personal beauty. A concluding section, our first dedicated space for contemporary African works, contains pieces by artists such as Viyé Diba, Magdalene Odundo, and Yinka Shonibare. Each of these artists claims a part in African art history while drawing on global perspectives—thus continuing the ongoing history of African innovation.

African Innovations is organized by Kevin D. Dumouchelle, Assistant Curator, Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands, Brooklyn Museum.



Curator Kevin Dumouchelle and Chief Designer Matthew Yokobosky discuss the reinstallation of the Museum's African collection.


Blog posts

African Innovations Now Open! : After many months of object review, checklist creation, cross-departmental consultation, budgeting, conservation, design, research, writing, photography, editing, construction, painting, installation, read more...
Elvis is in the building : Elvis is at the Brooklyn Museum and not where you’d expect to find him—in the new installation of the Museum’s read more...
Please Touch : Textiles are a crucial element to the story I wanted to tell in African Innovations. Immensely varied in media, form, read more...
Installation in Progress : One of the many adaptations that moving the African collection into the South Gallery on the First Floor has required read more...
Read more blog posts