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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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The Art of Weapons

Unknown artist, Songe peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, ceremonial axe, insignia of rank, wood, iron, and copper. Gift of Claire E. and Dr. Frederick R. Mebel, Class of 1935; 991.48.29012. Unknown artist, Teke peoples, Ngala peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, executioner’s sword, metal. Museum purchase; 39.64.6954. Unknown artist, Nuer peoples, Sudan, Eastern Africa, hippopotamus hide shield, collected 1946-48, hide and wood. Museum purchase; 48.66.11043. Ngombe people, Democratic Republic of Congo, shield, late 19th century, organic fiber, wood, paint. Museum purchase; 39.64.6960

Selections from the African Collection


This exhibition explores the Hood Museum of Art's extraordinary collection of African weapons for the first time. It focuses on the aesthetic quality of the objects, and on the ways in which they reflect notions of masculinity, warriorhood, and ideal male beauty in traditional African societies. Because the weapons are in a Western museum's collection, the exhibition also considers Western notions of masculinity, as represented in the collecting practices of those Christian missionaries, colonial administrators, military officers, big game hunters, and explorers who acquired most of these weapons in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Although the exhibition draws from several cultures in the five sub-regions of Africa, it is not a broad survey of African weapons. Instead, it presents exemplary highlights from the Hood's extensive collection, categorized as "offensive" and "defensive" weapons.

This exhibition was organized by the Hood Museum of Art and generously supported by the William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Hall Fund.

Press Release

Press Coverage: Valley News -- The Dartmouth

Exhibition Brochure

african art brochure cover

This sixteen-page, fully illustrated booklet is available free of charge in the exhibition gallery.

Related Events

17 May, Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
The Art of Weapons: Selections from the African Collection


19 May, Monday, 5:00 p.m.
Conversation (and Champagne) with a Curator
Join Smooth Nzewi, Curator of African Art, for a special viewing of the exhibition The Art of Weapons and go behind the scenes to explore recent African art acquisitions and learn about Nzewi's work on the Dak'Art Biennale in Senegal. A champagne reception will follow in Kim Gallery. Open to Patron-level members and above; call 603-646-9660 or email to sign up, or for information about joining the Hood's membership program.


21 May, Wednesday, 6:30 PM–8:00 p.m.
The Art of African Weaponry
When is a weapon more than a weapon? Join this discussion-based workshop to explore weapons from diverse cultures across Africa. Through careful looking, we will consider weapons as aesthetic objects and learn about the social values they express in relation to male beauty, power, and warriorhood. Enrollment is limited. Pre-registration is required by calling (603) 646-1469 by May 19.


1 July, Tuesday, 12:30 p.m.
First-floor galleries
"The Art of Weapons: Selections from the African Collection"
Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi, Curator of African Art


19 July, Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
The Art of Weapons: Selections from the African Collection


Last Updated: 12/17/14