Aida Muluneh, b. 1974, Ethiopia, Sai Mado (The Distant Gaze), 2016. Digital photograph. Museum purchase, 2016-16-2.

I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa

Exhibition of Multimedia Works of Art by 28 Modernist and  Contemporary Artists From 10 African Countries

Featuring works by 28 of Africa’s leading modern and contemporary artists, all of whom are women, this exhibition highlights the vital contributions of women to numerous issues, including the environment, identity, politics, race, sexuality, social activism, faith and more. Taking its name from the 1970s feminist anthem, “I Am Woman,” this exhibition updates and broadens perspectives on women making art. The exhibition continues through July 5, 2020.

Aida Muluneh, b. 1974, Ethiopia, Sai Mado (The Distant Gaze), 2016. Digital photograph. Museum purchase, 2016-16-2.Aida Muluneh (b. 1974, Ethiopia), Sai Mado (The Distant Gaze), 2016. Digital photograph. Museum purchase, 2016-16-2. All images courtesy of Smithsonian.

Each of the exhibition’s 30 works of art come from the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art. Incorporating paintings, sculpture, ceramics, high fashion, fibre arts, video projection and installation pieces, the exhibition showcases the technical sophistication and range of Africa’s artists.

The museum began collecting modern and contemporary art from its earliest days in the 1960s. A collections assessment five years ago revealed that only 11% of the named artists in the exhibition were women. Since then, the percentage of women represented in the museum’s collection has risen to 22%. This exhibition is part of a standing commitment by the museum to increase the representation of women in the arts through exhibitions, publications, programs, accessions and professional advancement.

Batoul S’Himi (b. 1974, Asilah, Morocco), Untitled, from the series World Under Pressure, 2011. Aluminum. Museum purchase, 2014-15-1. All images courtesy of Smithsonian.Batoul S’Himi (b. 1974, Asilah, Morocco), Untitled, from the series World Under Pressure, 2011. Aluminium. Museum purchase, 2014-15-1. All images courtesy of Smithsonian.

“The works of art and artists included in ‘I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa’ reveals the compelling contributions of women to the issues that have defined their times,” said curator Karen E. Milbourne. “It also offers insights into one institution’s efforts to strengthen the diversity and inclusion of the artists represented within its collection.”

“This museum is dedicated to the fullness of Africa’s history, from ancient to contemporary times, and doing justice to this rich history is not possible without attention to the women who have shaped it,” said Gus Casely-Hayford, director of the museum.

“I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa” is part of an ongoing women’s initiative by the National Museum of African Art that has also yielded the exhibition and publication, “Good as Gold.”

Frances Goodman (b. 1975, Johannesburg, South Africa), Skin on Skin, 2012. Faux pearl earrings, found leather car seat, adhesive. Museum purchase, 2016-17-1.Frances Goodman (b. 1975, Johannesburg, South Africa), Skin on Skin, 2012. Faux pearl earrings, found leather car seat, adhesive. Museum purchase, 2016-17-1.

“I Am… Contemporary Women Artists of Africa” will open at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art 20 June 2019.