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The Art of Weapons

Selections from the African Collection

April 26, 2014, through March 13, 2016
Unknown artist, Teke peoples, Ngala peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, executioner’s sword (detail), metal. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Museum purchase; 39.64.6954.

Unknown artist, Teke peoples, Ngala peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, executioner’s sword (detail), metal. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Museum purchase; 39.64.6954. 

Unknown artist, Songe peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, ceremonial axe, insignia of rank, wood, iron, and copper. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Gift of Claire E. and Dr. Frederick R. Mebel, Class of 1935; 991.48.29012.

Unknown artist, Songe peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, ceremonial axe, insignia of rank, wood, iron, and copper. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Gift of Claire E. and Dr. Frederick R. Mebel, Class of 1935; 991.48.29012.

Unknown artist, executioner’s sword

Unknown artist, Teke peoples, Ngala peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, executioner’s sword, metal. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Museum purchase; 39.64.6954. 

Unknown artist, ceremonial axe

Unknown artist, Songe peoples, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, ceremonial axe, insignia of rank, wood, iron, and copper. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Gift of Claire E. and Dr. Frederick R. Mebel, Class of 1935; 991.48.29012. 

Unknown artist, shield

Ngombe people, Democratic Republic of Congo, shield, late 19th century, organic fiber, wood, paint. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Museum purchase; 39.64.6960 

Unknown artist, hippopotamus hide shield

Unknown artist, Nuer peoples, Sudan, Eastern Africa, hippopotamus hide shield, collected 1946–48, hide and wood. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Museum purchase; 48.66.11043. 

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.
Curated by Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Curator of African Art

Press release 

PDF icon Press Release (161.64 KB)

Related publications 

Related events 

May 17
Hood Museum of Art
2:00PM
The Art of Weapons: Selections from the African Collection
May 19
Hood Museum of Art
5:00PM
Conversation (and Champagne) with a Curator Join Smooth Nzewi, Curator of African Art, for a special viewing of the exhibition The Art of Weapons
May 21
Hood Museum of Art
6:30PM
The Art of African Weaponry
Jul 01
Hood Museum of Art, Gutman gallery
12:30PM
"The Art of Weapons: Selections from the African Collection"
Jul 19
Hood Museum of Art, Gutman gallery
2:00PM
An introductory tour of the exhibition "The Art of Weapons: Selections from the African Collection."

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