‘Traveling Africa’ exhibit details adventures by locals

Biggs Museum of American Art curator Ryan Grover stands among the artifacts collected in the museum’s latest exhibit “Traveling Africa.” It is part of Dover’s annual Citywide Black History Celebration. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover will examine ways that Americans record and relate to Africa with its newest exhibition titled “Traveling Africa.”

Part of Dover’s annual Citywide Black History Celebration, the exhibition will run until March 24. It includes travel photography of memorable moments on the continent, as well as the material that tourists from Kent County have collected to commemorate their adventures abroad.

“The show features about 100 collections of African materials in the Kent County area,” said Ryan Grover, curator of the Biggs Museum. “These are items that people have purchased or brought back from Africa.”

Mr. Grover said he received many calls from people and artists in the community to be a part of it once the initial announcement was made.

“It was an open call to the community through our own members and through advertisements through the newspaper,” Mr. Grover said.

“The response was great. It was big. At first it was a whisper of one or two people who you knew were going to be a part of it and then they showed up with a lot of materials. Then more people called and more materials started coming in. We didn’t get to use half of what we received due to everything that came in.”

Above are two necklaces courtesy of Lori Crawford. Under that is an art quilt made by Anne B. Martin courtesy of Don and Delores Blakey. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Grover said they picked the objects that had the best visual impact.

“A couple that got enstooled in a community in Nigeria has the crowns they received during that process on display here,” Mr. Grover said. “They’re here in Delaware and to serve that honorary position with that community is terrific.

“It has visibly changed them in some way and the pride that they have is emotionally impactful and it’s great having those types of pieces of art to share with the museum and visitors.”

Mr. Grover said it’s important for the exhibition to be highlighted to encourage people that the Biggs Museum has art to which everyone can connect.

“For the Biggs Museum we have come to understand we always pictured ourselves with this open door policy that people were already coming, but we figured out that we weren’t attracting certain members of the population and there were a lot of individuals who felt the museum weren’t for them,” Mr. Grover said.

“We thought it was for everyone and figured if we were going to say that, that we should do something about it and this is one of the ways that we can encourage the population that felt this wasn’t for them. It was our job as a museum to show that we have something to reflect that population.”

This acrylic on canvas entitled “My Ancestry” was created by Tony Burton of Camden-Wyoming. The Biggs Museum of American Art will hold a reception for the exhibition on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is free at the facility on Federal Street. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The Biggs Museum will hold a reception for the exhibition on Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. Admission is free.

“I’m always nervous about events because I want to make sure that I do them right,” Mr. Grover said.

“I want to make sure that people are walking away with something genuine. This is a great community event and some of these people haven’t received the amount of attention that they should have and you just want to do it right with a certain level of respect and honor and give them their just due. I want everyone to have a good time.”

The Biggs Museum is at 406 Federal St. in Dover.

This sculpture of a fisherman from South Africa is on loan courtesy of Marshall and Marilyn Popp.

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover. E-mail comments to newsroom@newszap.com.

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