Through the display of more than 100 sculptures, prints, postcards, photographs, paintings, textiles, and video installations by artists from Africa, Europe, America, and the Caribbean, Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body provides an in-depth look at how images of the black female body have been created and used differently in Africa and the West. The exhibition explores themes such as ideals of beauty, fertility, and sexuality, maternity and motherhood, and women’s identities and social roles. It presents three separate but intersecting sections and reveals three different perspectives  — the traditional African, Western colonial, and contemporary global  — that have contributed to current ideas about Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body.

By contrasting historic representations of the African female body with contemporary representations of black womanhood, the exhibition peels back the layers of social, cultural, and political realities that have influenced the creation of stereotypes about black women. The exhibit  promotes and encourages a deeper understanding of the various ways in which ideas about and responses to the black female body have been shaped as much by past histories as by contemporary experiences.

Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Body features works by contemporary African and African-descended artists, and new works by emerging South African artists Zanele Muholi, Senzeni Marasela, and Nandipha Mntambo, which will be exhibited for the first time on the West coast. Also featured will be a new sculpture created especially for this exhibition by the African-American artist Joyce Scott.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a 370-page illustrated catalogue published by the Hood Museum of Art in association with the University of Washington Press. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue make a valuable contribution to ongoing discussions of race, gender, and sexuality, promoting a deeper understanding of past and present readings of black womanhood, both in Africa and the West.

Black Womanhood: Images, Icons, and Ideologies of the African Bodywas organized by the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, and is generously funded by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Art. The local presentation of this exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the Sana Art Foundation, Valerie Franklin, G.S. Levine Insurance Services, Inc., the Museum’s African Arts Council, and the Legler Benbough Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program, and members of The San Diego Museum of Art.

Unknown artist, Makonde peoples, Tanzania Breastplate (njorowe), nineteenth to twentieth century. Wood, beeswax, iron, fiber, pigment. 17.75 x 9.5 x 5.25 in. Hood Museum of Art: Purchased through the Julia L. Whittier Fund; 2005.69. Photograph by Jeffrey Nintzel