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Exhibition insights

Experts discuss key takeaways about African history and art

Kathleen Berzock
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Curator Kathleen Berzock describes how this exhibition highlights a period of African history that is not frequently discussed.

Kathleen Berzock
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Curator Kathleen Berzock talks about Mansa-Musa, king of the Mali empire in the early 14th century and possibly the richest man ever to have lived.

Lisa Corrin
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The Block Museum Ellen Phillips Katz Director Lisa Corrin explains how the exhibition places Africa at the center of the narrative in order to highlight its impact on ancient and modern worlds.

Lisa Corrin
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The Block Museum Ellen Phillips Katz Director Lisa Corrin discusses the many objects and ideas that were exchanged on global trade routes.

Edith Ekunke
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Edith Ekunke -- curator of the National Museum in Lagos, Nigeria -- speaks to the necessity of museum and community partnerships to help tell the story of Africa’s cultural patrimony.

Edith Ekunke
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Edith Ekunke -- curator of the National Museum in Lagos, Nigeria -- speaks to the necessity of museum and community partnerships to help tell the story of Africa’s cultural patrimony.

Man at table with statue
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Chris Abani, author of the exhibition catalogue essay "Uncertain Fragments: A Divination," explains why museums typically don't show fragments and why The Block is.

Man at table with statue
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Abani, also a professor of English at Northwestern, discusses how the exhibition challenges existing narratives about African culture.

Man at table
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Adidemi Babatunde Babalola, who wrote the chapter on Medieval Glass Bead Production and Exchange for the exhibition catalogue, discusses what makes fragments captivating as art.

Discussion of fragments

Exhibition curator Kathleen Berzock highlights important and surprising pieces found at an excavation site in Africa.

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Woman holding artifact
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Earthenware containers, such as water jugs, comprise the majority of artifacts recovered at the excavation site. The containers were used for cooking, transporting materials for trade and more.

Small fragments in hands
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A piece of a glazed porcelain bowl and a small piece of silk, found at the excavation site in Africa, came all the way from China.

Woman at table of artifacts
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Fragments of a gold mold that was used for casting ancient coins or denars was found at the excavation site.

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Men moving statue
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Exhibit items are unpacked in preparation for “Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture and Exchange Across Medieval Saharan Africa” which will debut at The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University on Jan. 26. The exhibit runs through July 21, 2019, before traveling to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto (Sept. 21 2019-Feb. 23, 2020) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. (April 8-Nov. 29, 2020).

People unpacking art from crates
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Curator Kathleen Berzock works with partners at the Nigerian National Museum in Lagos.

Sahara Desert
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Global trade routes crossed through the Sahara Desert, exchanging resources and ideas around the world.

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