January 31 - April 18, 2012
Karl and Helen Burger Gallery

Click here to download a pdf of the catalogue.


The region of West Africa that today includes the countries of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo is the land of the Yoruba people, whose art is an essential and integral element in their way of life. This exhibition comprises twenty-eight works from the collection of the Newark Museum. The pieces in the show, which were produced from the late nineteenth through the twentieth century, highlight the relationship between art and the spiritual world.

The Yoruba are among the oldest and most influential of all African cultures and today make up one of Africa’s largest ethnic groups. More than 30 million Yoruba live in Africa, and large vibrant communities of Yoruba immigrants live in the United States and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, for centuries countless people of Yoruba descent have been living in the Americas. The broad influence of Yoruba culture today ranges from religious blends of Santeria to the complex rhythmic beats of Afro-Latin and Caribbean music and even to the art of Picasso and Cubism.

We are privileged to be able to study these wonderful works, removed from their original context, from many points of interest. Clearly, the makers of the objects never intended to show them in the static environment of a Western art gallery; art in the Yoruba culture is created for ceremony and ritual, a means of engaging the daily yet sacred relationship to the Earth and the spirits of the greater universe. Yoruba art gives visual form to the divine and, in turn, inspires religious devotion. It is our intention that this exhibition will help illuminate our understanding of and appreciation for the Yoruba people and their art.

Neil Tetkowski
Director of University Galleries


(Dance Vest with Èsù Figures, 19th - 20th century, wood, cowrie shells, leather, pigment, 21 x 10 x 6 in.)