Goodnight, Cosmos

Untitled, Garth Erasmus, South Africa, 1996; National Museum of African Art Collection

Untitled, Garth Erasmus, South Africa, 1996; National Museum of African Art Collection

African Cosmos comes to a close this weekend, and after months of becoming entrenched in the world of cultural astronomy and the strong field of astronomy across Africa today, I find the questions posed by the exhibit—and by the artists featured in the exhibit—still resonant. What exists beyond the Earth, and in what way does it impact us? How can we capture our curiosity & awe of the sky and use it as a connection to ourselves and others? Cultural connections to the cosmos have been found among groups across Africa and beyond, and these connections will certainly continue on into the future.
Though it’s hard to pick a favorite piece in this exhibition, one small, perhaps easy to miss, untitled work (above) by South African Garth Erasmus continues to draw my attention and spark a sense of connection.  How many of us have stood underneath the sun, looking upward in search of something? The work of Erasmus presents a story of wonderment common to us all.

Guest Voices: My Room at the Centre of the Universe

Our guest post this week is by South African artist Marcus Neustetter, whose work is featured in the African Cosmos exhibition.  To see his work, visit:

My Room at the Centre of the Universe from Africa meets Africa on Vimeo.

In early 2012, Helene Smuts, director of the Africa meets Africa Project, invited a group of artists to join the production team of the latest in its series of educator resource books and films. The Africa meets Africa (AmA) project is an independent NGO which explores and documents southern African cultural heritage, seeking out solutions to contemporary learning problems in our schools by looking to the sophisticated visual language of traditional arts styles. An interdisciplinary research process has led to remarkably pragmatic learning solutions – such as presenting mathematical concepts in relation to the sophisticated symmetries of woven grass baskets and beaded adornments familiar to rural learners. The project stimulates critical thinking around the fluidity of ethnicity in its flow between urban and rural contexts

My Room at the Centre of the Universe is a 12 minute preview of a 60 minute film being directed by regular AmA film maker Guy Spiller. Together with a richly illustrated resource book, it departs from the act of sensitive and intensive observation common to the fields of astronomy, archaeology and the visual arts. A small Karoo farm outhouse becomes a space of contemplation and creativity for the main character, a 16 year old teenager from Sutherland. One small window in his room acts as a framing device through which he observes and contemplates the landscape, the skies, and ultimately the universe– much like telescopes used by physicists, or the views the Hubble telescope offers humankind.

Astronomy in Africa- News and Updates

Cameroon rainforest     Credit: World Wildlife Fund

Theories of Creation

Teens at the Smithsonian’s ARTLAB+ produced and recorded a series of interviews with our own Chris Kreamer, curator of the African Cosmos exhibition, South African artist Willem Boshoff, and astrophysicists at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Check out the second in this series of interviews below, which highlights the astrophysicists involved in this exhibition:

African Cosmos Now Open!

Celebrating the Cosmos opening (left to right): Ambassador Ibrahim Rasool of South Africa, National Museum of African Art Director Dr. Johnnetta Cole, artist Karel Nel, astronaut Mae Jemison, African Cosmos curator Chris M. Kreamer, astrophysicist Thebe Medupe, artist Romuald Hazoumé

Last Wednesday we celebrated both the summer solstice and the opening of African Cosmos: Stellar Arts. We hope you’ll stop by to visit–and share with us your thoughts!

African Cosmos, Two Weeks Before Opening

We are in the midst of installing African Cosmos: Stellar Arts. This has included putting together the massive Rainbow Serpent by artist Romuald Hazoumè, who lives and works in Benin, hanging a monumental painting by Ethiopian-born, New York-based artist Julie Mehretu, and installing the 18-foot high mask carved by a Bwa artist from Burkina Faso.  As with every installation, there are the unanticipated snags…paintings hung too low that have to be rehung; objects brought in on loan that require the fabrication of a mount on site—but so far, things are going pretty well.  Check out some photos from the installation process!

NMAfA staff and contractors working on installation of artist Romuald Hazoumè’s monumental sculpture Rainbow Serpent.

The artist and staff, farther along in putting the piece together

Hanging Julie Mehretu’s major painting, Transcending: the New International. It is big!


Installing the very large Bwa serpent mask

NMAfA master mount maker Keith Conway conducting final examination of mount and placement of Bwa serpent mask.