The Benton Museum is fueled by the spirit of Africa at UConn in Storrs. Souvenirs of Africa’ is the compilation by Prof. Emeritus Josef Gugler and donated in 2017, of masks, figurines, instruments, utensils and textiles from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Congo and other African countries.
In 1961–62 Gugler visited Nigeria and acquired straight from painters masks and other woodworks. In the late seventies, he returned. The exhibition has been curated by Christopher B. Steiner, a professor of art history and anthropology at New London Connecticut College. Steiner said that Gugler’s artist paperwork is uncommon in the collection of African paintings.
“Not signed are the most traditional African paintings. When Africa is left, it is difficult to understand who the artist was, where he was produced and when he was bought,” Steiner said. “He purchased them directly and recorded from the sculptor who did it. He even photographed the performers.
Lovely, some of the pictures, blown wide, hang near artifacts produced by the painters. Other artworks stand alone and offer a glimpse of African tradition and folklore. Masks are produced in the form or ferociously expressed animal heads. For funeral, religious and magical rites, small numbers were produced. For teaching Koran texts, small clay tablets have been used.
Twins are regarded to be excellent luck in the Yoruba culture, so if a sibling dies, twin (ibejis) little surrogate men were forced to avoid poor happiness. In the middle of the gallery there is a set of Yoruba twin substitutes. The divination tapper and protective amulets are also mystical things.
The only African culture in which women, instead of men, wear masks and perform rituals is Sierra Leone. The masks are man-sculpted.
Steiner and his wife, Janine, purchased them more than half a century ago and the tapestries are unusually high.
“In 1962, the stuff was placed in wooden boxes from Nigeria. It was sent to Connecticut. Until two or three years ago, they opened the boxes, “said Steiner. The welcome will be on September 5 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. “They’re in excellent form since 50 years have been unshaken in wooden boxes.” A Duain Richmond show will appear. In the 2012 Broadway revival of’ Fela, Richmond was the leading role.”the Nigerian musical legend Fela Kuti musical musical. The guitarist and multi-instrumental and singer Domenica fossati will be accompanying Ricky Quinones, also from Broadway.
SOUVENIRS D’AFRIQUE is at William Benton Museum of Art, 245 Glenbrook Road on the campus of UConn in Storrs, until Oct. 13. benton.uconn.edu.
On other walls
An exhibit of work by members will be at Gallery on the Green, on the town green in Canton, until Sept. 28. An opening reception is Aug. 31 from 6 to 9 p.m. galleryonthegreen.org.
Mystic Museum of Art, 9 Water St., opens three exhibits — “Linda DiFrenna: Life, Death, and In Between”; “The Outsider Art of Ruby C. Williams”; and the 63rd Regional Exhibition — on Aug. 29, with a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. All will be up until Oct. 5. mysticmuseumofart.org.
Wesleyan Potters, 350 South Main St. in Middletown, has a gallery show of work by Lynne Scullion and Kathryn Mayfield until Sept. 29. wesleyanpotters.com.
“Beyond Reality,” a show of surrealist art by Clinton Deckert, Stewart Wilson, Salvatore Gulino, Matang Gonzales and Joseph Copija, is at 550 Gallery, 550 Main St. in Bethlehem, until Sept. 8. 550gallery.com.
“Trailblazer: Connecticut Jewish Women Making History” is at Mandell JCC Chase Gallery, 335 Bloomfield Ave. in West Hartford, from Sept. 3, opening with a reception starting at 5:30 p.m., until Oct. 2. A luncheon program with Judith Rosenbaum of Jewish Women’s Archive is Sept. 12 at 12:30 p.m. mandelljcc.org.