The Denver Art Museum, one of the premier collections in the United States, maintains a particular focus on assembling works of art from a wide variety of world cultures. Its Daniel Yohannes Family African Gallery brings together 1,000 pieces that showcase the creative spirit of peoples from all over the African continent, from a range of time periods and perspectives. The gallery strives to showcase art produced by women as prominently as that created by male artists.
The African gallery collection includes sculpture carvings created by the Yoruba people of Nigeria and depicting warriors, as well as masks crafted in the early years of the 20th century by the secret anticolonial Ngil society from Gabon. Dance masks from the Bedu culture of Côte d’Ivoire assembled from wood and metal also have a place in the collection, as do architectural elements and musical instruments.
Among the most striking pieces in the DAM’s African collection are the works of the female Akire shrine painters from Nigeria. These contemporary pieces highlight the collective nature of the creative process in the African arts tradition, as well as the role of women in West African society. Throughout the gallery, curators offer blended exhibits that place older and newer works in juxtaposition, in order to demonstrate the linking of thematic material across cultures and artists and show the lines of influence over generations.