African art debuts to the public in Buley Library’s Art Gallery
Ali Fernand – Features Editor
The Buley Art Gallery currently has a collection of ceremonial African art on display. According to the email sent by campus announcements, these are highlights from a permanent collection
“These are pieces that are authentic, they go back to the 1800s,” said art teacher and Gallery Director Cort Sierpinski.
Sierpinski has been the director of the gallery for the past five years. He has overseen all the displays the university hosts in the art gallery located in the basement of Buley library.
“The art gallery hosts many different exhibits. Last year they had the Dahil exhibit and this year the African art exhibit,” said Studio Art Major Alaina Pierce, a junior.
This gallery hosts pieces that are all from the continent of Africa. According to Sierpinski, they are mostly from the western part of Africa. This includes countries like Nigeria, Sierra Lione, Mali and Ivory Coast.
These African pieces are a debut to the gallery. This is the first time that they are being displayed.
“These are a lot of pieces that have not been shown in the public before,” said student worker at the gallery Brenda Ruiz, a senior.
Since there is no documentation, it is hard to know exactly where these pieces came from. It can be assumed that these were used in ceremonial contexts.
These cultures celebrated many types of events to celebrate those within their tribes. They would celebrate things like weddings and the coming of age.
There were various items they would use for these events. This is what can be seen in the basement of Buley Library.
“There’s African masks, there’s ceremonial drums,” Sierpinski said.
This collection is unique. These are pieces that are not allowed on the continent anymore. There could be more of these pieces that have existed but would not be known unless they were sent to a different continent.
The pieces are all crafted. There are no paintings or drawings. They are all structures and instruments that were used for practical reasons.
“Each is made out of wood, some are made out of clay,” Ruiz said.
The university has a vast collection of historical art. According to Sierpinski, the African collection has about 300-400 pieces. In total, there are about 1200-1300 pieces being stored in the university.
This is a collection of historical and cultural pieces. Though there is a lot of competition in the area, Pierce feels that the university’s collection is still worth people’s time.
“I feel like we’re constantly being compared to Yale’s art gallery and yes while ours is smaller, it still has a lot to offer and I feel like we have a stronger African art selection,” Pierce said.
The gallery is always cycling what it displays in the basement. It exists for students to learn about different cultures.
“For art students, it gives them a better understanding of how these processes were done historically,” Sierpinski said.
The art students on campus are involved in the art displayed on campus. However, they are not the sole audience that is meant to be impacted by the university’s collection. It shows off a culture that has not been displayed before at the university or in public.
“Once you walk in there, you’re walking into a new world,” Ruiz said.
Photos: Luke Molwitz