Museum of African Tribal Art

Attractions Category: Portland/Freeport

  • The Museum of African Culture was founded by Oscar Mokeme and Art Aleshire August 8, 1998 in Portland Maine. It is the only institution in northern New England devoted exclusively to sub-Saharan African arts and culture. There are over 1,500 pieces in the collection of the Museum, ranging from large-scale, elaborately carved wooden masks to smaller scale figures, cast copper alloy (bronze) figures, textiles, utilitarian objects, ceramic, bone, ivory and composite objects.

    The oldest mask in the collection dates back to 1600 AD. Many of the bronzes are 1,000 years old and the ivory flutes and clay vessels are up to 2,000 years old. These pieces are important as they preserve the religious and cultural legacy of Africa that is fast disappearing in a globalized world.

    Our permanent exhibit features an extensive display of African masks. African masks have many different functions. They are used for initiations, rites of passage, funerals, agricultural ceremonies, marriage ceremonies, harvest festivals, and veneration of the ancestors. They are used to enforce laws of the land and exemplify good moral behavior. In traditional Africa, masks are central and essential to the spiritual and cultural life of this continent.

    In addition to the Permanent Gallery, we have a Heritage Gallery with rotating exhibits featuring themes that include art from all over Sub-saharan Africa. Our Contemporary Gallery has rotating exhibits as well, featuring art inspired by the African Diaspora, and home of the Black Artist Forum.

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