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

26 January–23 June 2019

Exhibition Overview


Left: Virgin and Child, ca. 1275–1300, France, Ivory with paint, 36.8 × 16.5 × 12.7 cm. Center: Kneeling Figure Natamatao, Mopti region, Mali, 10th – 14th century, Terracotta, 46 cm x 22.3 cm x 21.5 cm, Right: Seated Figure, Possibly Ife, Tada Nigeria, Late 13th-14th century, Copper with traces of arsenic, lead, and tin, H. 54 cm.

Seeking to dramatically shift how we understand and study the medieval world, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa, the first major art exhibition to address the global reach of West Africa in the medieval period, opens at The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in January 2018.

The exhibition highlights Africa’s central role in the global medieval period, a time when West African gold fueled a far-reaching economy and served as a crossroads for art, people, and ideas that moved across the Sahara Desert to Europe, the Middle East, and beyond.

Caravans of Gold presents more than 250 artworks and fragments spanning types, styles, and religious practices, representing over five centuries and a vast geographic expanse. The works, both European and African, weave a story of the global networks and multi-directional trade at play in the medieval world. The exhibition is notable for an unprecedented number of loans from the national collections of Africa, including many works never before seen in the United States.

(Photo courtesy of the Block Museum of Art.)

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