In the southeastern region of Africa, there are many populations whose ancestors have preserved these lands for millennia. Their arts are rich, complex, and deeply rooted in enduring values.
There are no masks in this part of Africa, and no public shrines to ancient deities. The works of art presented here are intensely personal. They were created in the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries for specific individuals, marking singular occasions in their lives. In time, each object came to represent the spirit of the individual for whom it was made. After the owner’s death, these private possessions became the focus of commemorative prayers and requests for guidance.
Generations of such homage have increased each artwork’s veneration. Categories such as “high art”, “crafts”, and “folk art” are meaningless here. In this region, a single word can mean both “beautiful” and “morally effective”, and everyday objects are saturated with symbolic resonance. The key to comprehending their beauty is to grasp the complex interaction of intensely personal and ancestral significance that they represent.
With this installation, the Museum celebrates the anniversary of the transfer of the collections of the Sana Art Foundation to the Museum. In July 2009, this collection of more than 900 works of art from Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Native Americas moved from its home of several years in Escondido to the Museum.
Founded by Museum supporters Edward and Mina Smith, the Sana Art Foundation Collection was created to inspire education, awareness, and access to art from the cultural regions of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The San Diego Museum of Art shares in this mission, and it is in this spirit of diversity and cultural history that we welcome you.