Within my time in Los Angeles I had the pleasure of visiting LACMA (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and its new gallery and initiative dedicated to the arts of Africa. Through educational programs and outreach the new initiative will provide audiences of all age levels with the experience of exhibitions and the permanent collection dedicated to the arts of Africa. The new gallery gives a more permanent presence at the Museum for the arts of Africa.
LACMA states on their wall text as you enter the gallery, “Situated next to the Egyptian gallery, this new space will foster [the] understanding of the relationships between sub-Saharan Africa and ancient Egypt as part of the shared continent of Africa, and signals LACMA’s commitment to presenting Africa’s innumerable artistic and cultural legacies”.
The first exhibition of the initiative is entitled “Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa”, representing a glimpse of the society which is one of the most important kingdoms in Central Africa. LACMA collaborated with the staff of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, in Teruvren, Belgium, specifically with Anne-Marie Bouttiaux who is the Head of the Ethnography Division and served as co-curator of the exhibition.
Within the exhibition you can find a glimpse into the Luba society with emblems from Luba rulers. Not only do you view the arts, you also get a sneak into the underpinnings of authority. One proverb states, “Men are chiefs in the daytime, but women are chiefs at night.” Although Luba arts were made and owned by men, the arts almost always represent women, showing the role women played in their communities and their importance.
In addition to historical works, there is an installation entitled Congo: Shadow of the Shadow (2005) by the Luba artist Aimé Mpane, borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art. There is a male figure made from 4,652 match sticks displaying human strength and fragility with light playing against shadow.