Scholars today recognize Africa as the source of our common ancestry. But in 1974, Senegalese scholar and humanist Cheikh Anta Diop shocked and challenged historians by asserting the influence of ancient African civilizations in his groundbreaking book The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality. This exhibition pays homage to Diop by presenting masterpieces from the Museum’s collections from west and central Africa alongside art from ancient Egypt for the first time in The Met’s history.
Through twenty-one pairings of works from different African cultures and eras, this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to appreciate the extraordinary creativity of the continent across five millennia, revealing unexpected parallels and contrasts. Although there was no contact between their creators, the works share deep and underrecognized histories.
The African Origin of Civilization will remain on view while The Met’s galleries of Sub-Saharan African Art are closed for the complete renovation of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing. The re-envisioned wing is expected to reopen in 2024, and will feature three distinct suites of galleries for Sub-Saharan African Art, Ancient American Art, and Oceanic Art.
See more works featured as part of The African Origin of Civilization initiative in other permanent collection galleries including: European Paintings (Gallery 601), Islamic Art (Galleries 455, 456), Medieval Art (Gallery 304), The American Wing (Gallery 753) and, The Robert Lehman Collection (Galleries 957, 964).
Virtual Group Tours available by request.
The exhibition is made possible by The Daniel P. Davison Fund and Louise Grunwald.
The Met’s quarterly Bulletin program is supported in part by the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, established by the cofounder of Reader’s Digest.
Learn about an installation in the galleries for Ancient Near Eastern Art as part of The African Origin of Civilization initiative.
Marquee: The Royal Acquaintances Memi and Sabu, ca. 2575–2465 B.C. Egyptian. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1948 (48.111); Seated Couple, 18th–early 19th century. Dogon artist: Mali. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Lester Wunderman, 1977 (1977.394.15)