One of the largest and finest in the United States, and one of the top twenty African collections worldwide, this collection offers a superb representation of the arts of many African nations, including objects from Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa. The Yoruba collection alone is one of the three finest in the world. It contains a spectacular array of beaded objects, including a majestic throne, elaborate chiefly gowns, and sophisticated divination regalia.
A collection of post-apartheid election materials and contemporary South African art is being developed, as are a number of collections of popular urban arts from countries including Tanzania and Muslim Senegal. Recently, more than 400 textiles made by the Kuba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were gifted by the Christensen Foundation.
The collection represents some of the finest examples of men’s embroidered raffia pile cloths and women’s appliqué cloths. This collection complements already significant holdings of West African textiles from countries such as Mali and Ghana, including kente and adinkra cloth and Asafo flags. The museum also has significant holdings of arts from the African Americas, notably arts of Haitian Vodou, Brazil and Suriname.