Design for Mobile Living: Art From Eastern Africa

From June 1, 2016 — November 27, 2016

This exhibition presents the art of eastern Africa's nomadic societies in order to explore the ways in which mobility shapes creativity and artistic form. Unlike monumental sculpture found in societies that settle in one place, the artworks presented in this exhibition are lightweight, portable, and almost always associated with the body. They were created by nomadic cattle herders whose lives were defined by a near-constant state of movement across the lush highlands, dry savannas, and sparse deserts of eastern Africa.

The 28 visually striking artworks were created during the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries by artists from the Maasai, Samburu, Somali, and Turkana ethnic groups and the vast majority have never before been displayed. Among the highlights of the exhibition are the colorful designs of Kenyan beaded jewelry and the geometric stylization of Tanzanian shields. These works highlight the abstract impulse of area artists and showcase how, in mobile societies, body ornamentation becomes art.

Curated by

The exhibition is curated by Kevin Tervala, Former Curatorial Fellow for the Arts of Africa, the Americas, Asia, & the Pacific Islands, with Shannen Hill, Associate Curator for African Arts.

Supported by

This exhibition is generously sponsored by Amy L. Gould and Matthew S. Polk, Jr.

Artist unidentified. Man's Belt (Enkeene Pus). Maasai region, Loita section, Tanzania. Mid-20th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Nancy and Robert H. Nooter, Washington, D.C., BMA 1994.293