From Kongo to Othello to Tango to Museum Shows

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Artists and scholars are taking increasingly nuanced approaches to tracking the image–and influence–of Africans in Western art


From Kongo to Tango

And next year comes “Kongo across the Waters,” a collaboration between the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. The focus is the art, religion, and culture of the Kongo region of Central Africa–and how they were adapted and transformed when they arrived with the slave trade in the United States and Central America. Along with a multitude of objects from Africa, the show includes vodou vessels from Haiti, face vessels from South Carolina, coiled baskets by Gullah artists of the American South, and examples of the music and dance that developed as Kongo beats were transmitted through Congo Square in New Orleans, emerging in jazz, Stepping, the Charleston, and the Tango.

The final section considers the legacy of Kongo esthetics on contemporary art worldwide, by figures including Steve Bandoma and Paulo Kapela from Central Africa, Haiti’s Edouard Duval Carrié, José Bedia from Cuba, and Renée Stout and Radcliffe Bailey from the U.S.

Radcliffe Bailey, Returnal, 2008, mixed media. In “Kongo Across the Waters,” coming to the Harn.