From a UPM Press Release:

November/December 2008 Special Exhibitions at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Iyare! Splendor and Tension in Benin’s Palace Theatre
November 8, 2008 through March 1, 2009.

“Iyare!”—”May you go and return safely!”—is the phrase onlookers shout when Edo nobles head for Benin’s palace. For centuries, Nigeria’s Benin Kingdom was one of West Africa’s most-renowned and powerful political states, with artists and artisans unsurpassed on both African and European continents. Despite British colonization in 1897 and Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Benin’s Edo people continue to profess loyalty to their monarch the Oba, even as they fully participate in modernity. Inside the Benin palace, the principal royal venue and a site of splendid artistic display, Edo noblemen and women meet, as they have for centuries, to play out rivalries, reenact historic conflicts, impress, inspire, and gossip with one another.

More than 100 objects from Penn Museum’s extraordinary Benin collection of cast bronzes, carved ivories and wooden artifacts, dating from the 16th to the 21st centuries, forms the core of this new exhibition, an outgrowth of a University of Pennsylvania Halpern-Rogath curatorial seminar, and a curatorial collaboration between its students and African art historian and professor Dr. Kathy Curnow. Benin artifacts are used to illuminate the activities—cultural, religious, political, and intensely social—that make up the theatrical experience of palace life for “actors” and “audiences” alike: the Oba, chiefs, courtiers, commoners, and visitors. By focusing on the “theater” that is indeed at the heart of the palace experience, Iyare! tells the story of cultural continuity, change and influence—of an African people who bring all the arts to bear as they engage in the social activities of life.

A website to accompany Iyare! Splendor and Tension in Benin’s Palace Theatre has been made possible with the support of the PoGo Foundation. The William B. Dietrich Gallery.

Kings, Chiefs and Women of Power: Images from Nigeria,
November 13, 2008 through January 18, 2009

Arthur Ross Gallery, 220 South 34th Street (in the Fisher Fine Arts Library)

Twenty-five large format Cibachrome photographs taken in 1993-94 by Phyllis
Galembo highlight the costumes, customs and traditions of Nigerian communities. Also included in this exhibition, on loan from the Penn Museum collections, are 19th and early 20th century prestige objects from the Benin Kingdom and southern Nigeria which provide further cultural context.

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