Ancient Africa through the lenses of Art

Yale’s African art archives

The Yale’s art gallery first started with gifts of several textiles in 1937 that came from the Sahara in the South. In  1954, the Lincoln African collection was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn, then in 2004, what is now known as the gallery got a gift of almost 600 African art from a curator named  Charles B. Benenson who then created the Gallery of African Art. The art Gallery in Yale  has around 2,000 objects from Africa from 3,000 years ago. The collection in this gallery are mostly sculptures and masks from 40 countries in the West and Central part of Africa. It does also have a few antiquities from the Sahel region and Southern of Africa. It collection is made of  Christians crosses from Ethiopia, figures from the West Coast of Guinea, Musical instruments from Sierra Leone, jewels, cermaic vessels, and ritual dance costumes.

Using the Archives

When you search Yale art gallery, you will be shown a website that have different parts to help you navigate through it. It also has a search button, but it is easier to click on collection first where different art collections will appear, and you click on African Art. That collection will have a homepage as well which will present the different kinds of materials but not all. So, that is where the search button will be helpful to find different kinds of materials you might be interested in like musical instruments, jewels and such. The materials are organized by origin, classification, culture, status, size, bibliography. The status of the material just let’s you know whether you can see it once you get to the gallery or not. When you click on a material, you can see what how it got to the gallery, who purchased it or donated it and from where.

Possible Research Papers

As you look at this collection of African sculptures, and masks from around the African continent, you will find it that it mostly speaks of African culture during the colonial times, how they lived, what they believed in and how manhood and womanhood was viewed. The kids of research projects you could take out of it would be:

How ancient culture affects the ways societies worked in the past and present.
What kinds of roles women play in African society
Does culture influence African politics?
Are spiritual beliefs and norms a cause for Africa’s underdevelopment?

The collection

The arts shown are used to reflect on Ancient Africa’s materialism, beliefs lifestyle. From exploring the African Art, it really does help one understand the ancient Africa’s: civilization, Beliefs and spirituality, Culture, and European influence. It also betters one’s understanding to the challenges African institutions face today. It has sculptures that shows how women were viewed in society; one was about a female shrine who controlled the rules to be respected, and who also protected the people as a government should, a mask that represented the ceremony for boys that were entering manhood, some talked about voodoo and how it was used by African sand another sculpture known as Bocio and you can find the image below.

This sculpture known as Bocio means empowered cadaver. It was mostly practiced by West Africans who believed that mysterious forces governed the world. It was a used to protect and empower them achieve their goals.They also think it’s a symbol of the trauma Africans went through during slavery.

As you go navigate throughout the website, be mindful of the information given, sometimes, they are certain errors made like the culture of certain objects. For example, there was this necklace from Mauritania and the culture was put as being Islam and Islam is not a culture but a religion. Some little details. Some positive notes are that, it gives you enough information like where the object is from, who is the curator that had it before it reached the Gallery.

To access the materials, visit the University of Yale website at:

The Gallery is located at 1111 Chapel Street between York and High Streets. It’s free and open to the public.


General Information: 203.432.0600

Group and School Tours: 203.436.8831

For visiting hours


10:00 am–5:00 pm

Thursday (Sept.–June)

10:00 am–8:00 pm


11:00 am–5:00 pm

Closed Mondays and on these major holidays:
New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day

As you look though the website, and click on visit, you will get directions and parking information.

Posted: May 8th, 2018
Categories: Uncategorized
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