Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

About the Backtalk Exhibit

backtalk's picture

Any display of any object is the result of a vast number of choices made by a wide range of people.  When information about the economics and ethics of the acquisition of those objects is added to this picture, however, these choices take on additional meanings: the money for purchasing some of the objects exhibited here was earned from work done for petroleum companies notorious for decades of exploitative and manipulative labor and environmental policies and practices in Africa. Does our thinking about a piece of jewelry on a wrist change when this kind of information is included in an exhibition such as this one?

Inspired by Fred Wilson’s exhibit “Mining the Museum” at the Maryland Historical Society, Backtalk hopes to create an open dialogue around Bryn Mawr College’s African collection by engaging in the global conversation concerning the display and interpretation of African art and archaeological materials. In honor of Black History Month and looking ahead to the completion of the new Black Cultural Center on campus, Bryn Mawr College's Special Collections and Africana Studies programs are collaborating on an exhibition of selected objects and selective information from the College's African Art Collection. In showcasing artworks keyed to various aspects of family, political and spiritual life, the exhibit will also invite viewers to engage, questions of what the collection includes, leaves out, clarifies and obscures, as well as how this collection came to be and how it functions within and beyond the College.

As an exhibit, Backtalk strives to facilitate meaningful discussions about the complexity of exhibition and ownership of African cultural items. In order to actively center the voices, culture, and experiences of people of African and Indigenous descent when displaying their works, we must actively work to de-center the people, institutions and languages that colonized these peoples.