Thursday, February 16, 2017

L'Afrique des Routes - Exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Africa has always been an open continent.

Stairway leading to L'Afrique des Routes
© Discover Paris!

The exhibition L'Afrique des Routes at the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac opened on January 31, 2017. It highlights the circulation of African cultures throughout history, both across the continent and across the globe. Through the "routes" theme, it looks at commerce, religion, and colonization and features major cities/towns, objects, and African expertise in arts, crafts, and healing.

There are seven sections to explore:

  • Routes and means of transportation
  • Cities - Milestones along routes
  • Commercial routes
  • Spiritual and religious routes
  • Esthetic routes
  • Colonial routes
  • Epilogue: A nation of artists

Timelines for the migration of African peoples from before the Common Era through 2006 are posted on red panels throughout the exhibition.

Timeline for migration during the 14th through 17th centuries
© Discover Paris!

Animated maps trace the routes between African empires, the spread of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and the European colonization of the continent over the centuries.

Empire Routes - 8th Century
© Discover Paris!

The objects displayed range from what one might consider archetypal, such as masks and jewelry, to items such as this mancala game sculpted from a block of salt,

Mancala salt block
Late 20th century
Salt block, red and blue pigments
Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris
© Discover Paris!

this ceramic vase with an Ethiopian head as the motif,

Vase sculpted from an Ethiopian Head
The Darius Painter
320 BCE
Puglia, Italy
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
© Discover Paris!

and this cameo from the collection of King Louis XIV.

Cameo representing an African King with Bow and Quiver
16th century
Agate, gold, diamonds, rubies
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
© Discover Paris!

From the section on religious and spiritual routes, I was most impressed by this painting that presents the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.

The Legend of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon
ca. 1930
Oil on canvas
Amhara style, Ethiopia
Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris
© Discover Paris!

Sommet de Masque, the signature work for the exhibition, is found near the end of the show. It represents the aspirations of a young man to fly to destinations far removed from his homeland.

Sommet de Masque
ca. 1930
Wood and pigments
Baga style, Guinea
Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, Paris
© Discover Paris!

As with most exhibitions at the Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac, L'Afrique des Routes is densely packed with objects, art, videos, and information. If you want anything more than a cursory walk through, plan to spend several hours here.

L'Afrique des Routes
West Mezzanine
Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
37, quai Branly or 217, rue de l'Université
75007 Paris
RER: Pont de l'Alma (Line C)
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday - 11 AM to 7 PM; Thursday through Saturday - 11 AM to 9 PM. Closed Mondays.
Entry fee: 10€
Reduced fee: 7€
Through Sunday 12 November 2017


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