National Museum of African Art
December 3, 2015
National Museum of African Art
Smithsonian Institution
950 Independence Ave. SW
Washington DC 20013

National Museum of African Art Installs “Indian Ocean
Experience” to Its African Mosaic Exhibition

 Exhibition Displays Unique Works From the History of the Swahili Coast

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art launches “Indian Ocean Experience Dec. 3, a selection of works in its current exhibition “African Mosaic.” This installation of 20 works is part of the museum’s “Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean: From Oman to East Africa” project made possible through the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.

The installation tells the story of diasporic influences and connecting culturesillustrated through rare objects from the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art and the collection of the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center. The collection gives a hint of the diverse artistic materials and techniques found throughout the Indian Ocean region, from the skill of Omani smiths to the beauty of Indian patterns, the ingenuity of Swahili coast artisans and the creativity that emerged through commercial and cultural trade among these and other groups. The works were commissioned by the museum and curated by Bryna Freyer, Nicole Shivers and Glenn Ojeda.

 “The museum is excited to continue to explore the cultural connections of the Indian Ocean,” said Nicole Shivers, the museum’s education specialist for performing arts and project lead. “We hope that this installation will inspire new reflections on the rich and interconnected artistic cultures of this region.”

Exhibition Highlights

  • Gems Insights video series produced as part of the “Connecting the Gems of the Indian Ocean” project containing original footage featuring acclaimed scholars and artisans in Zanzibar, Oman and Washington, D.C.


  • A 20th-century wood, iron and brass chest collected in Bagomoyo, Tanzania. It originates from the days when large sailing dhows followed the annual monsoons bringing goods to the east coast of Africa from the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and the western coast of India.


  • 19th-century Tanzanian door and frame. Ornate Swahili coast doorways combine African, eastern Islamic and Indian influences.


  • Early to mid-20th-century jewelry provided by the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center.


  • Mid-20th-century glass, silver-alloy rosewater bottle from Mogadishu, Somalia. The production of rosewater, used in Islamic and Christian purification ceremonies and funerary rituals throughout East Africa, was historically prominent in Oman.


  • Silver coffee pot originating from Oman 20th-century provided by the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center.


The installation is supported by the gift of $1.8 million from the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.

Educational Programs

Public programs will accompany the exhibition to engage the museum’s diverse audiences from K–12 to adult. In 2016, the museum will premiere the documentary, Arts of the Monsoon,in addition to a project memoir and mobile app.

About the National Museum of African Art

The National Museum of African Art is the nation’s premier museum dedicated exclusively to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africa’s traditional and contemporary arts. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Ave. S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the National Museum of African Art’s website. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.    

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