In 200 years, what items will future generations look back on
from our lives today? Will it be our television sets, furniture or
our large cell phones? The new art exhibit at the University
of Michigan Museum of Art gives visitors the chance to look at a
collective people’s artifacts and draw conclusions about its
culture and traditions.

Fine Arts Reviews
Wood. (Courtesy of UMMA)

The exhibit, The Art of the Lega: Meaning and Metaphor in
Central Africa, begins with photographs and history about the Lega
and proceeds to artifacts, including sculptures, masks and small
ivory pieces. The artifacts were used in initiation rights and were
arranged in order of importance. Most of the objects are small
enough to hold in one hand. These were used for teaching, or they
were carried around and used for either protection or
identification. By the end of the exhibit, the viewer has the
knowledge to interpret the artifacts on their own, and before the
end, the viewer is given this opportunity. The last room contains
various artifacts without explanations, allowing the visitor to
draw their own conclusions using the newly obtained knowledge of
the Lega people.

But worry not, the exhibit will not leave you unprepared for
making these interpretations. Carole McNamara, the assistant
director for Collections and Exhibitions at the museum of, said,
“It would be easy to get the feeling of the objects being
cherry-picked without seeing how they were used, but with this
exhibit you not only see how they were used, but also see how they
were experienced in initiation rights.”

Just as one day someone will look back at a plasma-screen
television in a museum somewhere, the art of the Lega lets visitors
look back on a culture and its traditions.

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