Museum Celebrates Swahili Arts and Culture

The National Museum of African Art’s annual Community Day is Saturday, Aug. 18, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. This year’s theme is “Swahili Arts and Culture” in celebration of the“World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” exhibition open at the museum through Sept. 3. The event is free.

Each August, the museum opens its doors so visitors of all ages may experience special performances and events intended to inspire them to learn more about the peoples and cultures of Africa and its diaspora through fashion, crafts, song, dance, comedy, art, exhibition tours and more.

Community Day offers something for everyone; among this year’s highlights are:

  • Children’s hadithi (stories) corner
  • Jewelry-making and Swahili architecture workshops
  • Chetezo (incense burner) decorating
  • Henna and portrait stations
  • Harusi cultural fashion show influenced by the museum’s exhibition “World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean”
  • Swahili culinary arts
  • Docent- and curator-led tours of “World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean”

“World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean”

“World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” is on view through Sept. 3 in the International Gallery. The exhibition reveals the diverse interchanges that break down barriers between Africa and Asia in a space that physically connects the Smithsonian’s African and Asian art museums.

The Swahili coast, where East Africa meets the Indian Ocean, has long been a significant cultural, diplomatic and commercial intersection for Africa, Asia and Europe for millennia. “World on the Horizon” offers audiences an unprecedented opportunity to view over 160 artworks brought together from public and private collections from four continents. 

The artworks, through an intricate network of trade and diplomacy, have historically deep and enduring connections to eastern and central Africa, the port towns of the western Indian Ocean, Europe and the eastern seaboard of the United States. One-of-a-kind objects loaned from the National Museums of Kenya and the Bait Al Zubair Museum in Oman will make their debut to North American audiences. The exhibition is thematically organized and features objects and images recognized not only for their artistic excellence, but also how they visualize wide-reaching networks of mobility and encounter. Ranging from intimate pieces of jewelry to impressive architectural elements, the exhibition includes exquisitely illuminated Qur’ans, carved doorposts, furniture, maps and other works. The public can join in the discussion on social media using #SwahiliWorld.

About the National Museum of African Art

The National Museum of African Art is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of Africa’s arts from antiquity to today. The museum’s collection of over 12,000 artworks represents the diversity of the African continent and includes a variety of media—from sculpture and painting, to photography, pottery, jewelry, textile, video and sound art. 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, Orange and Silver lines. For more information, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the National Museum of African Art’s website. For general Smithsonian information, the public can call (202) 633-1000. Follow the museum on TwitterYouTubeInstagram and Facebook.