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Dec. 14, 2010

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Harn Museum of Art Presents Textiles from Around Africa

Five newly commissioned works feature contemporary and traditional textiles, garments


GAINESVILLE, Fla. —Beginning February 8, 2011, more than 50 objects from around Africa, including high-fashion garments, and textiles worn as masquerade costumes will be on display at the Harn Museum of Art as part of the exhibition Africa Interweave: Textile Diasporas. The exhibition includes five newly commissioned works from African artists and showcases African textiles, garments and other works of art from regions throughout the continent. On view through May 8, 2011, the exhibition demonstrates the aesthetic power of textiles which is enhanced by diverse local and regional ideas, materials and techniques. The works also illustrate how global influences affect the production, meanings and use of textiles.

The exhibition demonstrates the continuity of African artists’ fascination with textiles, and the interrelationships of textiles across cultures by juxtaposing traditional and contemporary textiles, garments, paintings, sculpture and photography. The five newly commissioned pieces show how contemporary garments often borrow from traditional methods. The commissions include an embroidered woman’s cotton robe with traditional embroidery patterns in silk from Mali, a kente cloth commemorating a visit to Ghana by Bill Clinton in 2009, an Ebonko masquerade ensemble and Ekpe chief’s attire from Nigeria, and a man’s cloth with adinkra patterns from Ghana.

Susan Cooksey, Harn Curator of African Art, curated the exhibition in collaboration with four University of Florida students. The students worked with Cooksey to develop the content for the exhibition. Working closely with African artists and textile producers, UF students, Dr. Courtnay Micots and Ph.D. candidates Jordan Fenton, Christopher Richards and MacKenzie Moon Ryan researched, procured or commissioned works specifically for the exhibition and the Harn’s permanent collection.

“One excellent example of student research includes that of Jordan Fenton,” said Susan Cooksey, Harn Curator of African Art. “Jordan was initiated into the Ekpe society and given the title isung mbakara, overseer of all rituals and functions, while conducting fieldwork supported by the Fulbright-Hays doctoral dissertation research abroad program. While he was there, Fenton commissioned an Ebonko masquerade ensemble and an Ekpe chief’s attire especially for the exhibition.”

“The works acquired by the students demonstrates the continuity of textile traditions in new, innovative forms that, in some cases, have not been exhibited in the U.S. or acquired by U.S. museums,” said Rebecca Nagy, Director of the Harn Museum of Art. “The student involvement provided an opportunity for the museum to gain access to works that no one else could provide based on the students’ recent field research.”

The student collaborators’ research will be published in a catalogue featuring their essays exploring prints and politics in Ghana; the emergence of Kanga in Tanzania; Kweku Kakanu's Asafo flags in coastal Ghana; and chieftaincy dress and the Ebonko costume from Calabar, Nigeria. The catalogue will also include essays by Cynthia Becker, Susan Cooksey, Sarah Fee, Suzanne Gott, Robin Poynor and Victoria Rovine.

Africa Interweave: Textile Diasporas is organized by the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida and made possible by The 1923 Fund, The 20th Anniversary Event Fund, the Harn Program Endowment, and the UF Center for African Studies, and Mary Ann and Richard Green. Some works are on generous loan from the Norton Museum of Art and private collections. Admission to the Harn Museum of Art is free. For more information visit or call 352-392-9826.

High resolution images of works are available at the following media website:


The museum is offering a number of related programs and ways to participate in the exhibition for audiences of all ages.

February 10
University of Florida students and the community will enjoy an interactive evening celebrating African art and culture in honor of Black History Month. Offerings will include art making, drum and dance performances, and refreshments at Museum Nights from 6 to 9 p.m. The evening is partially supported by the University of Florida Center for African Studies in addition to the UF Honors Program and UF Student Government.

February 13
Dr. Victoria Rovine, Associate Professor in the University of Florida School of Art and Art History and the Center for African Studies, will discuss her recent work on African textiles and contemporary African fashions during a gallery talk at 3 p.m. titled “Chic Matters: Insights into Global African Cultures through Fashion.”

February 19
From 1 to 4 p.m. Family Day participants will take a tour of the exhibition and make their own loom and yarn weaving to take home.

February 20
An exhibition spotlight tour will be offered at 2 p.m.

February 20
Dr. Robin Poynor, Professor in the University of Florida School of Art and Art History, has been researching the art of Africa for 40 years, specializing in the art of the Yoruban Kingdom of Owo. Poynor will discuss his recent research and his contributions of art to the exhibition during a gallery talk at 3 p.m.

February 27
Susan Cooksey, harn curator of African art, will give a gallery talk at 3 p.m. exploring the uses and traditions associated with the works in the exhibition.

April 3
University of Florida student Dr. Courtnay Micots and Ph.D. candidate Christopher Richards will discuss their research and contributions to the exhibition at 3 p.m. Dr. Micots will focus on Kweku Kakanu's Asafo flags and followers, and Richards will discuss prints and politics in association with President Clinton and President Obama’s visits to Ghana.

April 9
University of Florida Ph.D. candidates MacKenzie Moon Ryan and Jordan Fenton will discuss their research and contributions to the exhibition at 3 p.m. Ryan will discuss the emergence of Kanga and Fenton will focus on chiefly dress and masquerades in Cross River State, Nigeria.


Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
Founded in 1990, the Harn Museum of Art is an integral part of the University of Florida. The Harn contributes to an interconnected, international community by integrating the arts and culture into curricula throughout the university’s system of colleges and centers. Its holdings include more than 7,300 works in five main collecting areas: Asian art, African art, photography, modern art of the Americas and Europe, and contemporary art. In addition to rotating installations drawn from its permanent collection, the Harn organizes traveling exhibitions, public lectures, panel discussions, academic symposia and educational programs for adults, students and children. In 2012, the Harn will open the 26,000-square-foot David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing, which will feature three levels, including new galleries, storage and conservation spaces, as well as outdoor gardens.

The Harn Museum, at Southwest 34th Street and Hull Road in Gainesville, Fla., is part of the University of Florida’s Cultural Plaza, which is also home to the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is open until 9 p.m. the second Thursday of every month for Museum Nights. The Camellia Court Café is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 352-392-9826 or visit

Media contact :
Tami Wroath
Harn Museum of Art
(352) 392-9826 x2116

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