Africa & Byzantium is a seminal exhibition of nearly 200 works that will explore the tradition of Byzantine art and culture in North and East Africa from the 4th through the 15th century and beyond. This exhibition will shed light on an underrepresented area of art history and showcase a burgeoning new field of interdisciplinary scholarship on medieval Africa. Even though Byzantium was a vast empire that spanned parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia, its extensive connections to Africa have previously been understudied. Bringing together art, religion, literature, history, and archaeology, this innovative exhibition will highlight artworks from the multicultural communities of northern and eastern Africa.
Art history has long emphasized the glories of the Byzantine Empire (circa 330–1453), but less known are the profound artistic contributions of North Africa, Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, and other powerful African kingdoms whose pivotal interactions with Byzantium had a lasting impact on the Mediterranean world. Bringing together a range of masterworks—from mosaic, sculpture, pottery, and metalwork to luxury objects, paintings, and religious manuscripts—this exhibition recounts Africa’s central role in international networks of trade and cultural exchange. With artworks rarely or never before seen in public, Africa & Byzantium sheds new light on the staggering artistic achievements of medieval Africa. This long-overdue exhibition highlights how the continent contributed to the development of the premodern world and offers a more complete history of the vibrant multiethnic societies of north and east Africa that shaped the artistic, economic, and cultural life of Byzantium and beyond.
To access the booklet of all large-print exhibition text, click here.
This exhibition is made possible by the Ford Foundation, The Giorgi Family Foundation, and Mary Jaharis.
Major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.
Additional support is provided by an Anonymous Foundation, the Michel David-Weill Fund, The International Council of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Visiting Committee for the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cleveland Museum of Art.
The catalogue is made possible by The Giorgi Family Foundation and the Mellon Foundation.
Additional support is provided by Nellie and Robert Gipson, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Wendy A. Stein and Bart Friedman, and the Doris Duke Fund for Publications.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Image credit: Mosaic Panel of Preparations for a Feast, Tunisia, Carthage, late 2nd century ce. Marble, limestone, molten glass, 94 1/2 x 88 5/8 in. (240 x 225 cm). Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan Antiquities (MNC 1577; Ma1796). © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photo: Hervé Lewandowski
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