Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa

Saturday, Jan 26 – Jul 21, 2019

Northwestern University
40 Arts Circle Dr.
Evanston, IL 60208

Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa

قوافل من ذهب، شذرات من التاريخ: فن، ثقافة، وتبادل عبر الصحراء الكبرى خلال القرون الوسطى

Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time challenges the widely held bias of a timeless Africa that is cut off from the dynamics of world history. This will be the first major exhibition to take stock of the material culture of early trans-Saharan trade and to offer strong evidence of the central but little-recognized role Africa played in medieval history.  Among the diverse materials on view in the exhibition will be sculptures, jewelry, household and luxury objects, manuscripts, and architectural remnants. What unites these materials is their connections to routes of exchange across the Sahara Desert during the medieval period (eighth through 16th centuries).

Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time addresses the shared history of West Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe during the critical epoch of the eighth through 16th centuries, when West African gold fueled a global economy and was the impetus for the movement of things, people and ideas across the Sahara Desert to Europe, the Middle East and beyond. Because of the scarcity of surviving intact works from before the 16th century, the early history and material culture of Africa have rarely been the focus of major exhibitions.

More than 100 assembled artworks and archeological fragments will help audiences discover the far-reaching impact of historic trans-Saharan exchange and the overlooked role of West Africa at the forefront of these developments. Using objects as points of entry and inquiry, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time will interweave the art history, archaeology, history and comparative literature of trans-Saharan trade, situating it within a broad geographical and historical context.

Caravans and Crossroads: Art, Music, and Stories
January 26, Open house throughout The Block, 10:30 AM – 1 PM

Drop by the Block for an all-ages celebration inspired by Caravans of Gold and be among the first to explore the exhibition. Join Chicago artist Rhonda Wheatley in a hands-on activity exploring the powerful stories that objects tell. Experience live West African music and DJ sets throughout the museum featuring special guest, seventh-generation Jeli (griot) Morikeba Kouyate. A master of the kora, Kouyate translates the oral history and legends from medieval West Africa to the present day.

Opening Conversation: Caravans of Gold
January 26, Pick Stager Concert Hall, 2 PM