Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

March 8, 2004

Congo exhibit highlights reopening of Anthropology Museum

DeKalb, Ill.--The newly renovated NIU Anthropology Museum is marking its reopening with an exhibit of modern paintings and traditional artifacts from the Congo.

Titled "African Dialogues," the exhibit is open for viewing weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of April at the Anthropology Museum, located in the north wing of the Stevens Building. Visits also can be arranged by appointment by calling (815) 753-0246.

The exhibit focuses on materials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It features 23 traditional artifacts on loan from NIU faculty members Chris and Kathy Hubbard and eight paintings owned by the museum. Congolese artist André Mavinga, whose works express the effects of the 1964 Stanleyville Massacre, created five of the paintings.

Guest curator Rebekah L. Kohli, who recently earned her master's degree in art history from NIU, organized the exhibit. Its theme revolves around the dialogues between artifacts that are part of ordinary and ceremonial life and paintings as modern forms of expression that emerged when Africans experienced Western culture.

"The exhibit demonstrates the high quality of both African modern art and traditional sculpture," said Ann Wright-Parsons, director of the Anthropology Museum. "By pairing the modern paintings with Congolese artifacts, Rebekah demonstrates the visual dialogues between traditional and modern forms. Another dialogue is within each painting, where African and European themes, styles and subjects are combined."

"African Dialogues" is the Anthropology Museum's first temporary installation since renovation was completed. Flooding in the summer of 2002 damaged the museum. A $4,000 gift from the DeKalb County Community Foundation served as seed money in the renovation over the past 18 months.

"The whole museum has had a makeover," Wright-Parsons said. "Volunteers--including faculty, students and community members--supplied most of the labor. A portion of the museum reopened in September, but now we're fully open. We have our displays back up, the children's section has reopened and we're again providing tours to visiting school groups."

The museum attracts about 100 visitors each month and is a frequent field trip destination for local daycare and school groups. The gift from the DeKalb County Community Foundation allowed the museum to repair and expand the hands-on children's exhibit, called "Small Wonders."

Children can visit a cave where a model of early Homo sapiens is posed in the act of painting a picture on the cave wall. They can view the massive jaw of the mastodon found on the Vernon Johnson farm near Sycamore. And they can climb on a miniature pueblo, grind their own corn and examine stone tools and arrowheads. One new Small Wonders display will feature games, schoolbooks and school uniforms from children around the world.

The Anthropology Museum has built its collection over the past 40 years. Exhibits in the adult section provide visual context to the research findings of NIU faculty members in anthropology. Their discoveries have often graced the front pages of newspapers across the country, from the Chicago Sun-Times to the Washington Post to the New York Times.