ART on view 78 on the visual arts of East Africa, especially the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian Christian art developed its own distinctive style once the new faith became the state religion in the fourth century. Among the recent acquisitions is an album of forty-four leaves of paintings on parchment from about 1700 featuring Ethiopian saints and scenes from the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament (fig. 4). The MIA also acquired various objects that exemplify Swahili aesthetics—the Islam-influenced melding of African, Arab, Persian, and Indian cultures—including an elegant ivory comb from Zanzibar (fig. 6).6 A talismanic tunic from northern Togo is another striking example of the ways that Muslim faith blends with local practices (fig. 5). In addition, the MIA received an important gift of Liberian and Sierra Leonean art from William “Bill” Siegmann (1946–2011), the former curator of African art at the Brooklyn Museum and a Minneapolis native. Siegmann traveled to Liberia for the first time in 1965 as a college teacher. In the ensuing decades he lived on and off in Liberia and Sierra Leone, pursued a graduate degree in African art history at Indiana University, and was a major force behind the development of two museums in Liberia—the National Museum of Liberia in Monrovia and the Africana Museum at Cuttington University in Suakoko—both sadly damaged during the country’s civil war. During his lifetime he FIG. 7: Installation view of the new African galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. A view of four of the eight ceiling-high column cases that constitute the “Spine of Masks.” Image courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. FIG. 8: Mask. Dan or Mano, Liberia. First half of the 20th century. Wood, animal fur, feathers, cotton, beads. H: 23 cm (mask). Gift of William Siegmann, MIA 2011.70.1.
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