Author Topic: Visiting the African-American Museum: Waiting, Reading, Thinking, Connecting...  (Read 2227 times)

Offline imchills

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I’m going to level with you. Getting inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is hard. “Advanced timed passes for April 2017 Available on January 4th,” the website laughs.

So with all due respect to the buckets of cash raised to fix Dorothy’s ruby shoes, the opening of the Blacksonian is the museum event of the year — probably the century. (Yes, “the Blacksonian,” because no one is going say that whole name; and no one’s going to say “NMAAHC,” either, because no one wants to hear “God bless you” every time somebody does.)

The wait to create a national museum of black history and culture was decades long. And the result amounts to a major bureaucratic, academic and emotional achievement. Now everybody wants in. So some of us have to wait.

I got in on a chilly autumn Sunday, after a stranger, who had more passes than she needed, gave an extra one to me. There aren’t many places where gluttony becomes largess, but it does at the Blacksonian. While you’re standing there, hoping a look of pity turns into a pass, there’s plenty of time to roll your eyes at the faint fragrance of barbecued meat from the food truck parked along Constitution Avenue, or to ask someone to hold your spot in line while you consult with the man selling sweet-potato pies nearby.

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There’s also plenty of time to admire the edifice you’re waiting to enter: three tiered trapezoidal stacks of bronze-tinted gating that sheaths a giant glass box. I had assumed that the gating was iron or actual bronze. Nope. Aluminum. Aluminum siding. But it’s the most vivid, most alive, aluminum siding you’re ever going to see. Obviously, we’re talking about architecture not black hair, but the edges lay perfectly. Designed just a little differently, the gating might have read as defensive, as a meticulous: “Keep out.” But the panels are too porous for combat. They extend cautious warmth, instead: “Take care.”

The trapezoids, we’ve been told, evoke a Yoruba crown, imputing a sense of majesty. You can see that, especially in the museum’s silhouetted logo. Yet viewed from the minor distance of 14th Street and Constitution, with the Washington Monument playing the role of antenna, it’s a fortress. But — unlike, say, the pink marble of its neighbor the National Gallery of Art, or the weathered-looking, curvilinear limestone of the National Museum of the American Indian — the Blacksonian is brown.

In the course of a day, depending on the weather and the light, that aluminum skin turns every shade of that color. In the sunlight, it’s golden, sepia in the shade, red-bone when it’s overcast. At dusk, it’s mahogany and deep chestnut after a cloud gobbles up the sun. The building can be all of these browns without ever getting to black, as if it knows that no black person is actually, phenotypically black. So the building, a mighty, physical construct, memorializes a figurative one. “Black” is the concept that gets unpacked, rebuilt and celebrated within the museum.


Offline Battle

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Monday, 30th September 2019
Africa’s most prized artifacts that were stolen by colonisers but now returned
by Theodora Aidoo

The colonization of Africa did not only rid the continent of its people and dignity but also of its traditional and cultural symbols which have been kept outside the continent as trophies.

Many African treasures have ended up in Britain and some were moved to museums in America and other European countries.

Calls have been made by African empires whose artifacts were stolen to be returned.

Experts estimate that up to 90 percent of African art is outside the continent, including statues, thrones and manuscripts.

Thousands of works are held by just one museum, the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, opened in 2006 to showcase non-European art — much of it from former French colonies.

Many African countries have been fighting tooth and nail to get back the artefacts stolen or sold illegally to museums and private art collections overseas.

These efforts have yielded quite positive results, with many countries- especially former colonies- stating that they will return the artefacts to their rightful homes.

The stolen artifacts have never been returned until in 2014 when two of the Benin bronzes were returned by a British citizen, Dr. Mark Walker, who stoked the interest of the rulers and other African traditional kingdoms to call for the return of their heritage displayed in British museums.

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