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Artist as Explorer

Exploration is always a two-way process—an ongoing journey of discovering self and other. Africans explore the unknown through their arts, and every African language has words for and philosophies of discovery.

"Artist as Explorer: African Art from the Walt Disney-Tishman Collection" is an exhibition on view through February, 2002, at Explorers Hall—the national headquarters of the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. Curated by Prof. Rowland Abiodun (Fine Arts/Black Studies, Amherst College), Mary Nooter Roberts (Deputy Director/Chief Curator, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History), Allen F. Roberts (JSCASC Director), and Doran Ross (former Director, Fowler Museum), the exhibition is one of a series of programs about Africa offered in conjunction with the major eight-part National Geographic television series, "AFRICA," which premiered September 9th, 2001, on PBS.

Six domains emerge from the Tishman-Disney Collection: exploring nature and environment, exploring life changes, exploring power and prerogative, exploring health and welfare, exploring spirit realms, and exploring wider worlds.

"Artist as Explorer" features sixty African objects ranging from a Dogon figure from Mali whose head represents the dome of the sky supported by eleven spirits standing upon the ground, echoing the National Geographic logo depicting the western hemisphere surrounded by the name and founding date of the Society, to an ivory hunting horn commissioned from an African artist in 1497 as a wedding gift to King Manoel I of Portugal; from a Kota reliquary figure from Gabon whose double heads express the two-way interactions between the living and their ancestors, to a scepter for Shango, the powerfully unpredictable Yoruba god of thunder and lightning. These marvelous things were collected in the 1960s by Paul and Ruth Tishman and later acquired by Disney Enterprises. The Tishman-Disney Collection is rarely displayed publicly and the last time so many objects from the collection were on view was in 1961 through the "For Spirits and Kings" exhibition curated by Susan Vogel at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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