Huffpost Arts

12 African Artworks Give Glimpse Into A Continent's Worth Of Art History

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Whether a graceful maternity figure, a wooden protector against disease or a ceramic soldier mask -- there's something about a relic from another time and place that makes you feel as if you're peeking into another world. That's the sort of feeling you can hope to encounter at the Brooklyn Museum, in their long-term exhibition "African Innovations."

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Bamileke. Kuosi Society Elephant Mask, 20th century. Cloth, beads, raffia, fiber, 56 3/4 x 21 1/2 in. (144.1 x 54.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Milton F. Rosenthal, 81.170

Over 200 pieces from the Museum's collection, from ancient Nubia to contemporary Nigeria, constitute the expansive exhibit, spanning Africa's cultural innovation throughout the last 2,500 years. Specific artwork from the 19th and 20th centuries (pictured here) will be grouped according to the ideas of protection, transitions, authority, masquerade and personal beauty. Although thematic and chronological ordering is present, eventually the allure of the works prevails over any distinct artistic direction or evolution.

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Yoruba. Beaded Crown (Ade) of Onijagbo Obasoro Alowolodu, Ogoga of Ikere 1890-1928, late 19th century. Fiber, beads, cloth, basketry, 37 3/4 x 9 1/2 in. (95.9 x 24.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Caroline A.L. Pratt Fund, Frederick Loeser Fund, and the Carll H. de Silver Fund, 70.109.1a-b.

Holland Cotter described assistant curator Kevin D. Dumouchelle's skillful curation in his 2011 review. "He sets everything within a loose but linear chronological framework," he noted, "which argues against the notion, old and tenacious, that African art is historically mysterious, developmentally static and has no provable past."

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Nalu. Banda Mask, late 19th or early 20th century. Wood, metal, pigment, 61 1/2 x 15 3/4 x 15 3/8 in. (156.0 x 40.0 x 39.0 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Caroline A.L. Pratt Fund,

Take a journey through the continent's multifarious cultural history from your work desk with this preview of Brooklyn's finest African artifacts below. Let us know your favorites in the comments.

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Chewa. 'Elvis' Mask for Nyau Society, ca. 1977. Wood, paint, fiber, cloth, 11 x 9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in. (27.9 x 24.1 x 18.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. Gordon Douglas III, Frederick E. Ossorio, and Elliot Picket, by exchange and Designated Purchase Fund

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Kongo (Yombe subgroup). Figure of Mother and Child (Phemba), 19th century. Wood, beads, glass mirror, metal, resin, 11 x 5 x 4 1/2 in. (27.9 x 12.7 x 11.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund

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Bamum. Funerary Headdress (Tugunga), late 19th century. Wood, rattan, pigment, 33 x 14 3/16 x 14 3/16 in. (83.8 x 36 x 36 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Melville W. Hall

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Bamum. Funerary Headdress (Tugunga), late 19th century. Wood, rattan, pigment, 33 x 14 3/16 x 14 3/16 in. (83.8 x 36 x 36 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Melville W. Hall

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Punu. Mask for the Okuyi Society (Mukudj), late 19th century. Wood, pigment, 9 7/8 x 7 x 6in. (25.1 x 17.8 x 15.2cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund

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Makonde. Lipiko Mask, 19th century. Wood, human hair, fiber, pigment, 13 x 10 1/4 x 11 1/4 in. (33 x 26 x 28.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund

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Master of Ntem. Reliquary Guardian Figure (Eyema-o-Byeri), 1750-1860. Wood, iron, 23 x 5 7/8 x 5 in. (58.4 x 14.9 x 12.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund

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Lega. Three-Headed Figure (Sakimatwemtwe), 19th century. Wood, fiber, pigment, 5 1/2 x 2 x 1 1/8 in. (14 x 5.1 x 2.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund

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EbriƩ. Snake Pendant, 19th century. Gold alloy, 3 9/16 x 1 5/16 in. (9 x 3.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund

CORRECTION: A previous headline incorrectly identified the works pictured in this article as "ancient." While "African Innovations" includes ancient artworks, the selection of images here shows mostly 19th and 20th century artworks. We regret the error.

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