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Baltimore Museum of Art to Present Exhibition Illustrating the Beauty of Birds in African Art

BALTIMORE, MD — The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) presents approximately 20 works from sub-Saharan artists who drew inspiration from the birds that occupied their world in Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art. On view December 20, 2017 through June 17, 2018, this exhibition explores the varied roles of birds across 19th-and 20th-century African states, societies, and cultures. From the largest ostrich to the smallest warbler, the works on view highlight the symbolic meaning and aesthetic appreciation of birds in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Uganda.

“Birds make up less than one percent of all living things. Yet, they play a role in numerous artistic works, both in and out of Africa,” said Kevin Tervala, Associate Curator of African Art. “There is something about birds that speak to who we are as humans. By representing birds, we are somehow able to represent ourselves.”

Some of the birds in the exhibition played a role in the spiritual life of their creators, while others were simply made to be beautiful. Each section of the exhibition begins with a story that explains how an artist, individual, or society used art to relate to the avian world. While the work is rooted in everyday African life in the 19th and 20th centuries, Beyond Flight presents a universal narrative that encourages visitors to think about how birds—both real and represented—play a role in their own day-to-day lives.

“Beyond Flight documents the beauty of birds in African art, but also helps narrate the story of how the presence and influence of birds has remained a long-standing tradition,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “This is an opportunity for us to share some of the diverse and fascinating works in the BMA’s collection of African art.”

Beyond Flight is co-curated by former Associate Curator of African Art Shannen Hill and Associate Curator of African Art Kevin Tervala.

For general museum information, call 443-573-1700 or visit

Culture: Pende (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Gitenga Mask. Mid-20th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of Amy Gould and Matthew Polk, Gibson Island, Maryland, BMA 2015.148