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African Art

Currently not on view.

Made almost exclusively for and about Africans, the nearly 4,000 objects in the PEM collection celebrate the artists’ powers of observation and abilities to render distinct human and animal features, and cover a vast geographic reach with depth in several key regions from the ancient to the contemporary era. Many singular and rare works first acquired in the early 1800s by members of the East India Marine Society demonstrate the strengths of sub-Saharan and West African artists working with ivory, leather, wood, resin, and other indigenous materials. Carvings and ceremonial masks with leopard fur and shells speak to makers’ relationships with Europeans and other visitors interested in trade, missionary, exploration, and diplomatic activity. Early and significant works from coastal East and West Africa, an important body of Zulu arts, and storytelling devices illuminate cultural traditions. PEM also has one of the world's finest collections of Ethiopian Christian art featuring 16th- to 20th-century icons and metalwork with roots in the late Antique and Byzantine traditions.

Explore some highlights from the collection