Escape to the sun-drenched sands — and cities — of the Sahara Desert this January with the Aga Khan Museum’s Caravans of Gold talks, tour, and workshop. Like the exhibition they complement, these events offer a chance to explore the thriving African empires that connected the medieval world.
On Jan. 23, in the company of Aga Khan Museum curator Dr. Michael Chagnon, you can visit the exhibition, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange Across Medieval Saharan Africa.
On this guided tour, he’ll highlight rarely seen artworks on loan from museums in Mali, Nigeria, and Morocco, and discuss what they tell us about the wealth, power, and cultural influence of West African kingdoms in the Middle Ages. After all, this was the time and place that produced King Mansa Musa of Mali, the richest man ever.
Medieval African rulers showed off their wealth with extravagant gifts — like the live African elephant that was sent to London, kicking off a European craze for anything elephant-related, including the ivory that came from elephant tusks.
This winter’s museum events also celebrate Africa’s cultural power today. Contemporary Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako has responded to Caravans of Gold with Building Black: Civilizations, an Afrofuturist exhibition featuring sculptures built with only black LEGO pieces.
On Feb. 5, Nimako is joined by Art Gallery of Ontario curator Julie Crooks and artist/curator Chiedza Pasipanodya for a talk called Contemporary African Art Practices in A Globalized World. This timely discussion marks Black History Month, while examining Toronto’s role as an international hub for creative art practices.
If you’d like to try your own hand at a creative art practice inspired by African cultural traditions, the African Vegan Art daylong workshop on Feb. 2 is an opportunity to learn about bògòlanfini, a Malian dye technique using natural plant dyes and fermented mud. By day’s end, you’ll be combining old and new approaches to create personalized textile art.
For more details and to discover related events, visit agakhanmuseum.org. The exhibitions Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time and Building Black: Civilizations are on at the Aga Khan Museum until Feb. 23.
Angelica Fox is a writer at the Aga Khan Museum.