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Release: Dec. 3, 1999

UI Museum of Art receives $20,000 Rockefeller Foundation grant

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa has received a $20,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to be used toward the cost of an upcoming exhibition of African Art.

"Renewing Tradition: The Revitalization of Bogolan in Mali and Abroad," an exhibition of more than 60 African fabrics and fashions, will be shown at the museum from Saturday, March 25 through Sunday, May 28, 2000. The exhibition has been organized by Victoria Rovine, the curator of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Museum of Art.

The exhibition, focusing on bogolan, or African mudcloth, and its American adaptations, will provide visitors with an opportunity to enhance their understanding of contemporary African art, its growth and its international influence.

Although the term bogolan is unfamiliar, many Americans will find the bogolan designs familiar, as they have gradually entered American markets over the last 10 years. Few people, however, are aware of the textile's origin, role, and rich history in the lives of many Malians.

The exhibition will feature bogolan paintings, garments and cloth adapted to the tourist art market, along with photographs and labels explaining the cloth's production.

Rovine hopes that the exhibition will foster an appreciation for the work of contemporary African artists and show the cosmopolitan nature of Africa today. "Our experience of African art generally hasn't entered the modern age," Rovine said. "We tend to see it still as highly exotic, tribal and traditional. I'd like to provide an alternate vision to the famines, masks, grass huts and tribal warfare that often represent Africa in the American media and imagination."

Rovine has spent more than a year in Bamako and elsewhere in Mali, interviewing artists, art consumers and art merchants. Her research has continued in the United States, where bogolan designs have been widely assimilated, appearing on a range of consumer goods including postcards, coffee cups, curtains, decorative pillows, wrapping paper and gift bags.

After it closes at the UI Museum of Art, the exhibition will travel to the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago and the University of California at Santa Barbara.