Karibu from Nairobi, Kenya! For thirty years, the Museum for African Art (MfAA) played a key role in the exploration, investigation, and presentation of African art and culture beyond objectification. As one of the first institutions of its kind, MfAA pioneered contextualization of African material culture that traversed the Continent and global history. The museum helped deem Africa’s cultural products worthy of the academic and aesthetic inquiry undeniably offered to other cultures from around the world.
As you may have read in the New York Times, the MfAA collection remains an essential part of The Africa Center’s past, present, and future. Pieces like Wangechi Mutu’s Machinehead, currently on view at the New Museum, continue to challenge public beliefs and awareness of Africa’s artistic outputs. Sharing works by African artists remains essential to The Center’s mission of expanding public understanding of what it has meant and means to be an African or person of African descent navigating the world.
Today, The Africa Center has a more interdisciplinary focus on examining the ways culture, policy and commerce intersect within African societies and affect people of African descent. In that vein we were thrilled to partner with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation at this year’s International Governance Weekend to present our “One Good Thing” program — a policy dialogue with young African leaders to help drill down on the most essential and transformative policies African Leaders must take to shape a positive African future.
We hope our role as a platform for this type of robust and spirited exchange continues to reflect the multiplicity of African narratives we know have always been present. We also intend for our public programming to continue delving into and celebrating who we are as dynamic individuals from a heterogeneous continent, who are also part of an ever-expansive and impactful Diasporic community.
This May, we will bring this celebration to our Plaza. On May 27, we invite you to join us in commemorating the 60th observation of Africa Day with a weekend celebration that will include our vibrant tribute to each of Africa’s 54 nations. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I encourage you to show up in colors that represent your country’s flag – and if you have one, bring the flag along too. In the spirit of our previous outdoor celebrations, there will be food, music, and fun in collaboration with our community partners. You can register to attend here. More information about the event is below.
In celebration of Africa Month at The Africa Center, we’re also excited to kick off two special programs: First Fridays at The Africa Center on Friday, May 5 and the Africa in Harlem Walking Tour in partnership with Professor Boukary Sawadogo. Join us every first Friday of the month for good food, good music, good vibes, and good people. Registration is free and available here. The Africa in Harlem Walking Tour includes a 90-minute exploration of the historical and contemporary African presence of New York City’s African communities, and will highlight the ways in which African immigrants have shaped Harlem and New York City’s cultural landscape. Buy tickets for this unique and much-needed local expedition here.
In the New York Times article, writer Dionne Searcey notes that The Africa Center is becoming “a landing place for the African Diaspora, an exploration of Blackness and a venue for changing the way Americans interact with the African continent.” I truly hope that we live up to these words. As a team, it is certainly our intention, and with your continued encouragement and support, I am sure we will go above and beyond what anyone once thought to be possible.
I look forward to seeing you at The Africa Center soon.