African Cosmos: Stellar Arts - Newark Museum Exhibition Examines Connections Between African Art, Cultural Astronomy

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An exhibtion of 70 African art objects that were inspired by astronomical observations and phenomena, including rainbows and eclipses.

Gavin Jantjes, South Africa; Untitled; 1989-1990; Acrylic on canvas; 200 x 300 cm (78 3/4 x 118 1/8 in.); National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, purchased with funds provided by the

African Cosmos: Stellar Arts, the first major exhibition that focuses on the historical legacy of African cultural astronomy and its intersection with traditional and contemporary African arts, will open at the Newark Museum on February 27 and run through August 11, 2013. This is the only appearance in the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan area for the exhibition, which was organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art and had a highly-acclaimed six-month run there.

The exhibition, organized by Christine Mullen Kreamer, deputy director and chief curator of the Washington, D.C. institution, features more than 70 outstanding works created by artists throughout the African continent. The exhibition considers how the sun, moon, stars and celestial phenomena such as lightning and rainbows, have served as sources of inspiration in the creation of African arts from the earliest of days.

“African Cosmos explores Africa’s contributions to cultural astronomy and demonstrates how celestial observations are central to social, cultural and artistic expression on the continent,” said Mary Sue Sweeney Price, CEO and Director of the Newark Museum. “The exhibition engages visitors with visually powerful examples that demonstrate the intersection of African science, art and cultural expression. The Newark Museum is particularly pleased to present this remarkable exhibition to residents and visitors throughout the Metropolitan area because it so deftly demonstrates our century-long commitment to both art and science.”

African Cosmos captures Africa’s early engagement with celestial observations and its connections to the visual arts with an opening selection of ancient Egyptian and Nubian works that frame the topic historically. The exhibition then showcases 19th- and 20th- century works of traditional African art that illustrate the enduring legacy of astronomical knowledge and its use by artists as a rich source of metaphor in the arts. Among the exhibition’s highlights are Dogon sculptures and masks from Mali that metaphorically connect earth and sky ; chiefly regalia and other Akan arts with celestial symbolism from Ghana; Tabwa and Luba works associated with the moon from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and models of the cosmos created by Nigerian Yoruba artists.

The exhibition also includes works by internationally-known contemporary African artists Romuald Hazoumè, Gavin Jantjes, William Kentridge, Marcus Neustetter, and Karel Nel, each of whom draws on the cosmos for inspiration. On Feb. 21, 22 and 25, Hazoumé will be artist-in-residence at the Museum, personally installing his work, “Rainbow Serpent,” a 12 foot arc constructed of recycled jerry cans, containers used to transport gasoline.

Additionally, Hazoumé will lead a master class for Newark school children on Feb. 27. Accompanied by Kreamer, he will lead a tour of the exhibit with a special focus on the artist's large sculpture, followed by a discussion.

“African Cosmos is an important exhibition that highlights the historical contributions of Africans to our knowledge of the heavens,” said Christa Clarke, Ph.D., the Newark Museum’s Curator of African Art and Senior Curator, Arts of Africa and the Americas. “The spectacular works on view demonstrate how this knowledge has informed and inspired the creation of art on the African continent for millennia, from ancient Egypt to present-day South Africa.”

A fully-illustrated catalog accompanying the exhibition will be available in the Museum Store. Written by Kreamer, the volume also includes essays by noted scholars and artists.
Concurrent with the presentation of this exhibition, visitors will be able to see a new program Stars of the Pharaohs in the Museum’s Dreyfuss Planetarium, the state’s oldest planetarium. It opens February 27 and runs through March 31, and can be seen Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 2 pm; and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 4 pm. Viewers will discover how ancient Egyptians studied the skies to tell time, create workable calendars and align gigantic monuments. The program include images of the Egyptian ruins as they appear today, and some of the most spectacular temples and tombs of the ancient world that have been digitally recreated to reveal their original splendor.

Major sponsorship for African Cosmos: Stellar Arts has been provided by the Republic of South Africa and South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology with additional support from BET Networks; Stuart Bohart and Family; Credit Suisse; South African Airways; South African Airways Cargo; and the Embassy of South Africa, Washington, DC.

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The Newark Museum is located at 49 Washington Street in the Downtown/Arts District of Newark, New Jersey, just 3 blocks from NJPAC and 10 miles west of New York City. The Museum is open all year round: Wednesdays through Sundays, from Noon – 5:00 p.m. Suggested Museum admission: Adults, $10.00; Children, Seniors and Students with valid I.D., $6.00. Newark Residents and Members are admitted free. The Museum Café is open for lunches Wednesday through Sunday. Convenient parking is available for a fee. The Newark Museum campus, including its collections, facilities, and other resources, is accessible to accommodate the broadest audience possible, including individuals utilizing wheelchairs, with physical impairments, other disabilities, or special needs. For general information, call 973-596-6550 or visit our web site,

Newark Museum, a not-for-profit museum of art, science and education, receives operating support from the City of Newark, the State of New Jersey, the New Jersey Council on the Arts/Department of State — a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey Cultural Trust, the Prudential Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Victoria Foundation, the Wallace Foundation and other corporations, foundations and individuals. Funds for acquisitions and activities other than operations are provided by members and other contributors.

The Newark Museum is just a few steps from the new NJTransit Light Rail Washington Park Station. Direct connection with the Light Rail at the Broad Street Station and through Penn Station makes the Museum a convenient ride from all points in the region.


The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art is the nation’s premiere museum dedicated exclusively to the collection, conservation, study, and exhibition of Africa’s traditional and contemporary arts. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Avenue S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the National Museum of African Art’s website, For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

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Lisa Batitto
Newark Museum
(973) 596-6638
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