Kean University Gallery Celebrates African Art

UNION – The Karl and Helen Burger Gallery at Kean University Hosts the exhibition, “Embodying The Sacred In Yoruba Art: Selections From The Newark Museum Collection” now through April 18. This exhibition is based on the show “Embodying the Sacred in Yoruba Art: Featuring the Bernard and Patricia Wagner Collection,” which was jointly organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, and The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey.

“The Yoruba are among the oldest and most influential of all African cultures and today make up one of Africa’s largest ethnic groups,” said Neil Tetkowski, Director of University Galleries. “More than 30 million Yoruba live in Africa, and large vibrant communities of Yoruba immigrants live in the United States and the United Kingdom.” For centuries countless people of Yoruba descent have been living in the Americas. The broad influence of Yoruba culture today ranges from religious blends of Santeria to the complex rhythmic beats of Afro-Latin and Caribbean music and even to the art of Picasso and Cubism.

The region of West Africa that today includes the countries of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo is the land of the Yoruba people, whose art is an essential and integral element in their way of life. The exhibition at Kean University comprises twenty-eight works from the collection of the Newark Museum. The pieces in the show, which were produced from the late nineteenth through the twentieth century, highlight the relationship between art and the spiritual world.

“We are privileged to be able to study these wonderful works, removed from their original context, from many points of interest,” Tetkowski added. Clearly, the makers of the objects never intended to show them in the static environment of a Western art gallery. “Art in the Yoruba culture is created for ceremony and ritual, a means of engaging the daily yet sacred relationship to the Earth and the spirits of the greater universe. Yoruba art gives visual form to the divine and, in turn, inspires religious devotion. It is our intention that this exhibition will help illuminate our understanding of and appreciation for the Yoruba people and their art.”

The Karl and Helen Burger Gallery is located in the Maxine and Jack Lane Center for Academic Success building on Kean University’s central campus, 1000 Morris Avenue. This is the largest art gallery on campus and features four exhibitions per academic year. The shows are intended to provide opportunities for students, faculty and regional audience to become more familiar with and understand the diverse peoples of the world through art. With this exhibition program and the multi-cultural initiative, Kean University is expanding its influence to a wide audience and is an active partner with the community to spread knowledge and encourage the appreciation of the visual arts, design and culture.

“Embodying The Sacred In Yoruba Art” shows Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission to all galleries is free to the Kean University community and the general public. For further information, updates and announcements about Kean University Galleries, call 1-908-737-0392 or visit

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