Turning a New Leaf into Art

Oak Leaf Ornament, early 20th CenturyUnknown maker; probably United StatesGold; 4 1/2 in.30713BGift of Mrs. Anita L. Alexander Disbe-leaf That It Is 2024 Hard to believe as it may be, 2023 has ended and the new year, 2024, has begun. With high hopes for all the wonderful and exciting things that the new year may hold, today’s post celebrates the pr...

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Swish Whisks: African Fly Deterrents as Prestige Objects

Fly Whisks, 20th CenturyUnrecorded artist(s), Kuba culture; Democratic Republic of the CongoWood, horsehair, and leather; 13 in. eachF79.27.39-.40Gift of Dr. Daniel Solomon M.D. A Shoo-in’ for Success Though not the deadliest insects on the planet, houseflies are without a doubt one of the most annoying. They have a remarkable penchant for getting ...

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Dancing Flames: Senufo “Firespitter” Masks

Helmet "Firespitter" Mask (Kponyugu), early to mid 20th centuryUnrecorded artist, Senufo culture; probably Côte d'IvoireWood; 40 x 15 x 14 1/2 in.2022.8.11Gift of Diane M. Conn in Memory of Mace Neufeld Passing On Cultures from around the world have found many different answers to the question of what happens when we die. In some versions of the be...

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The Social Beadwork: The Use of Beads in Sub-Saharan Africa

Composite of African beaded art2016.15.32, 2002.45.5a,b, 93.59.14, F74.12.10, 99.76.112Gifts of Diane Wedner and Ronald Ziskin, and Anonymous; Bowers Museum Foundation Acquisition Fund Purchase Exciting Things to Come This past weekend marked the close of the Bowers’ Guo Pei: Art of Couture exhibition and the start of a period of preparation for ou...

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In a Gallery Far, Far Away: May the Fourth at the Bowers

A Coruscant gallery and a selection of objects similar to those from a galaxy far, far away. And With You Happy May the Fourth! As we have done for more than half a decade running, on International Star Wars Day the Bowers Blog again takes a trip to a galaxy far, far away and looks closely at some Bowers objects that are visually similar to the ali...

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Resurrected Aloft: Processional Crosses of Ethiopia

Processional Crosses, 20th CenturyEthiopiaSilver alloy; Various dimensions2022.4.3-.5Gift of The David Poiry Trust Dancing to the Beat of Their Own Drum Christianity in Ethiopia is a product of almost two millennia of practice, isolation, and conflict. For much of the country’s history it has been isolated from other Christian countries, which has ...

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Modern Tradition: Nshak Skirts of the Kuba Culture

Skirts (Nshak), early to mid 20th CenturyKuba culture; Kuba Kingdom, Democratic Republic of the CongoRaffia, cotton thread and pigment2019.15.42,.44-.46Gift of Anne and Long Shung Shih Human Tapestry Donned by cultures across the globe, textiles of all kinds are a second skin, helping to define who we are as individuals. In English, one might say t...

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Hefty Sum: Central African Throwing Knife Currency

Throwing Knife, 19th CenturyKapsiki culture; Cameroon or NigeriaIron, rubber and cloth; 24 1/8 x 5 3/8 in.2003.43.91Anonymous GiftThrowing Knife (Ngwolo), 19th CenturyNgombe culture; Democratic Republic of the CongoIron, wood; 19 3/8 x 12 1/2 in.2003.43.92Anonymous GiftThrowing Knife (Sengese), 19th CenturyMafa culture; Cameroon or NigeriaIron, fib...

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Eureka: Inventions of the Bowers Museum

The State Exclamation The 7th to 13th of June is Museum Week, an annual global event which celebrates museums. The different days of the week are marked with hashtags or themes through which museums can share their collections. Today’s is #EurekaMW, an opportunity to look at some innovations in our collections which may have prompted the maker to s...

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Sonorous Spring: Birds of the Bowers

Detail of 86.47.10Gift of Junius & Angeline HolteDetail of Brocade Worn by Madame Modjeska (5002G)Gift of Myrtle Blakeslee Your First Carson It is a rare history of Earth Day that does not at some point mention Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Though the first day dedicated to restoring the environment—held on April 22, 1970—coalesced from m...

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House of the Head

Orí, the Head Orí, the Yoruba word for head is also the complicated god of the head and destiny in the Yoruban pantheon. In the traditional Yoruba religion of southwest Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, before one is born they stand before a wall of potential destinies and choose their own ìbòrí, which directly translates to ‘inner head’ but as with O...

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Seat of Power: Prestige Chairs of the Chokwe

Chair (Ngundja), early 20th to mid CenturyChokwe culture; AngolaWood, metal and leather; 19 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 13 in.2007.4.55Gift of the Roschen Family Trust Have a Seat Driving to and from work, sitting at a desk, relaxing on the couch—we spend much of our time sitting down without paying too much attention to what we are sitting in. But as thrones, ...

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Ghana's Golden Age of Movie Posters 3: Triple Impact

New Killers in Town, 1996Jonas Golden Boy (Ghanaian)Oil on cotton canvas; 62 × 47 in.2014.28.30Gift of Jay and Helen Lavely Three is the Magic Number In a world where movie theaters are threatened by a global pandemic, one group offers a respite from the doldrums of home quarantine: Ghanaian poster painters. Three long years have passed since the h...

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Hand Solo: Armless Figures and Disembodied Hands of the Bowers

Artist's rendition of 2004.66.1.1-.2 and 31901 in dialogue in a futuristic setting. Man: The Lore (ian) This coming Monday marks yet another May the Fourth (be with you) on the Galactic Standard Calendar. While it might be an unremarkable day for the least nerdy of us, for those of us raised on Star Wars the date is as sacred as the Jedi texts. And...

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The Tooth Tech’s Tiny Tut

Tut Replica, c. 1930Unknown PhotographerPhotographic print99.27.4Gift of Ms. Katherine Hotchkiss Little Mysteries Having been a collecting institution for almost the past 80 years, the Bowers Museum’s collections are, in some cases, rather eclectic. Whether it’s a wreath made from Victorian-era hair art, a Polynesian breadfruit pounder discovered i...

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Birds of a Feather: Plumed Headdresses from Around the World

Detail of Feathered Headdress, 20th CenturyKayapo Mebêngôkre culture; Xingu River area, Para, BrazilMacaw and waterfowl feather, string and cotton; 68 x 57 in. Museum Acquisitions Fund Purchase As the Crow Flies, Not So Far Bird feathers are surprisingly intricate structures: leaflike in nature with a rigid or semi-rigid midrib ca...

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Five Faces of the Moon

Composite image of the moon and objects in this post. One Giant Leap On July 20, 1969 three humans boarded an aluminum and stainless-steel rocket, rose into the heavens and collectively became the first group to set foot on another celestial body. Taking his first apprehensive steps on the alien scape of the moon, Neil Armstrong famously said “that...

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Bamana Ciwarakunw: Icons of Agrarian Society

Headdress (Ciwarakun), 20th CenturyBamana culture; Western MaliWood and metal; 11 × 17 5/8 × 3 in.2018.13.28Gift of Anne and Long Shung Shih On Demigods and Farmers Agrarian cultures often have myths about the origin of their farming practices. As the primary source of subsistence for these groups, farming is a lifeline that everything else grows f...

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Weaving History: Kente Cloth and Naming Conventions in Ghana

Wrap-Around Garment (Kente), early to mid 20th CenturyAkan or Ewe culture; GhanaCotton and silk; 66 1/2 × 105 in.2016.15.30Anonymous Gift Like words composing complex thoughts, the colors and patterns of Ghana’s kente cloth work together to symbolize intricate ideas. The vibrantly-colored fabric not only tells of Ghana’s history; these textiles hav...

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Up to Snuff: Smokeless Tobacco Bottles from Around the World

Scrimshaw Snuff Box, c. 1870United StatesSperm whale ivory, silver and ink2011.25.18Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Burton W. FinkSnuff Bottle, date unknownKenyaWood, metal and horn2013.7.9Gift of Doris L. BuckSnuff Bottle, late 20th CenturyJapanAntler97.11.2Gift of Dr. Murray and Brett ViaAround the WorldAt the height of its popularity, snuff was used throug...

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Swiss Army Pillows: Headrests of Eastern Africa

Headrest, 20th CenturyKaramojong culture; UgandaWood; 7 5/8 x 6 ¼ x 5 7/82017.11.31Gift of Anne and Long Shung Shih  Sleep Like a Log Sleep is one of those fundamental human needs all peoples of the world unconsciously share in, but the trappings of sleep outside of beds, pillows, sheets, blankets, and duvets are rarely covered. Up until recen...

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Marvel of Design: Sources for Costume Design in Black Panther

Gold Ear Ornaments (Kwottenai), 20th CenturyFulani culture; MaliGold and yarn; 9 x 8 1/2 in. of Bowers Museum Collector's CouncilWakanda ForeverMarvel Studios’ newly released Black Panther (2018)—a film about T’Challa, the superhero monarch of the fictional African nation of Wakanda—features an incredible fusion of traditional Afric...

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Manilla Portfolio: West African Worn Currency

Manillas, 19th CenturyUnknown Manufacturer; probably Birmingham, EnglandLeaded brass; Various Dimensions2003.43.72-.79Anonymous Gift Who wants to be a Manillionaire? Some might like to make a grand show of wealth, but along the cost of West Africa, one could literally wear their net worth on their sleeve up until the mid 20th Century. At least unti...

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These Are Not the Sculptures You’re Looking For

Ancestor Figure, 20th CenturySukuma culture; TanzaniaWood, metal and hair; 63 in.2002.58.1Gift of Heather Sacre May the Fourth… In an annual celebration of culture, science fiction, and a beloved galaxy not too near to here, the Bowers Blog once again uses May the Fourth to take the hyperspace plunge. Last year we featured a miniature made from a h...

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