Mysteries of West Africa Artifacts and photographs from the collection of the eminent ethno-historian and Africanologist
June 20 - August 2, 2009
Curated by Dieter Tremp
This exhibition features works from the personal collection of David Conrad Ph.D. As an eminent scholar, he provides fascinating and in-depth explanations for meaning-rich African sculptures, textiles, objects and his own color-saturated photographs of places and events that few outsiders ever see. The exhibition reflects many areas of his expertise, cultivated through more then 35 years of work in 29 African Nations. Among his interests are medieval West African empires, Islamic influences, art, female power in West Africa and the complexities of diverse traditions. Each interest has led him to another. Conrad gives an example, “My interest in indigenous systems of belief derives from 1990s research in Guinea when I stumbled on a large body of oral tradition about occult practices. Traditional religion is expressed through the material representation of gods and spirits (masks, statuettes, etc.), and this established my work with West African art history.” In 1975 Conrad began his years of fieldwork by hitchhiking across the Sahara Desert in search of the oral historians of the Mande people.
David Conrad’s unpretentious charm belies his long list of prestigious accomplishments and international honors. Today, as an Emeritus Professor, Conrad still teaches by leading trips for the Smithsonian Institute. He is currently the ethno-historian for a Yale University research team. Behind all of this is the trust he has earned with people in Africa. It is his constant returning to Africa that has been the key to developing deep and fertile relationships there and led him into remarkable experiences.
While being in Africa is second nature to him now, Conrad savors being in Stinson Beach, his home anchor for 40 years, with his wife Barbara Wechsberg. Of this exhibition David says “It great to be able to share my experiences in West Africa with friends and visitors here in my own neighborhood of West Marin.”