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University of Iowa News Release


May 16, 2008

Exhibition celebrating promised gift of African ceramics opens May 31

The vessels in "African Ceramics," a new exhibition opening May 31 at the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA), reveal the diversity of purpose and style in these functional artworks from Africa.

"With all the wonderful masks and figural sculptures in our African collection, people sometimes forget how important ceramics are to African cultures," said Dave Riep, a UI doctoral student in African art history and the UIMA curatorial staff member in African art. "The sculpting methods, materials and forms of a people's functional ceramics are a reflection of their way of life."

"African Ceramics" will be the first exhibition in the UIMA's newly reopened Ceramics II Gallery, which adjoins the Ceramics Gallery on the southwest corner of the museum building. The gallery, which previously housed other African works from the collection, had been closed for nearly two years.

Carefully created with both practicality and beauty in mind, the nearly 80 works in the show range in function from grain storage to beer brewing. Each ceramic vessel's form matches its function: On one pot, a tall neck helps contain liquids during transport, while a large mouth allows the user to easily stir and ladle them out.

The show, which includes works from cultures across the continent, is culled largely from a promised gift of nearly 100 African works from an anonymous collector. A welcome addition to the museum's famed African collection, the gift includes notable examples of works from the Zulu, Lobi and Songye cultures.

"These pieces are great," Riep said. "They're good quality, good breadth of example, and really well preserved. The donor has really built an impressive collection that represents the entire continent."

With such a wide-ranging gift come exciting research opportunities for students and scholars, Riep noted.

"This gift sets the stage for researchers to make side-by-side comparisons between cultures about techniques, decoration, shape and use," he said. "We're so pleased to be able to add these works to the museum's collection."

The UI Museum of Art is located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City. The museum is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

For more information on the UI Museum of Art visit

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Maggie Anderson, Museum of Art, 319-335-1731,; Peter Alexander, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0072 (office) 319-541-2846 (cell); Writer: Maggie Anderson