The Cantor Arts Center’s African art collection includes works from across the continent, dating from the pre-dynastic periods of ancient Egypt to the present day. Of the almost 1800 objects in the African collection, about 1100 works originate from ancient Egyptian and Coptic traditions, whereas about 650 were made in diverse sub-Saharan cultures during the late 19th to the early 20th centuries.
The Center’s sub-Saharan collection is especially strong in figurative arts made mostly by western and central African artists. Also represented are utilitarian objects and body adornment made by Zulu and Ndebele artists of South Africa, as well as a large selection of metal, leather, and basketry made by the contemporary Tuareg artists of Niger. Recent acquisitions of works by Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi and Kenyan artist Magdalene Odundo heralded a new direction in the Center’s collection development, which now includes contemporary works by artists from Africa and its diasporas who work in an international style.
A small alcove of the African gallery includes a small selection ancient Egypt bronze figures depicting gods and goddesses. Approximately 80 objects currently on view in the larger gallery are devoted exclusively to sub-Saharan Africa, including fine quality masks and figures from the Bamana, Senufo, and Dogon peoples of Mali, the Fang and Tsogo of Gabon, and the Luba and Yaka of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Recent acquisitions also on display include a selection of healing objects from northeastern Tanzania, utilitarian objects made by Nguni artists from South Africa, and a small selection of body arts traditionally worn by Himba women in Angola.