Associate Professor of Art History Lisa Homann will join a team in the development of a new exhibition by the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) and the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (NMAfA). Funded with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), New Masks Now: Artists Innovating Masquerade in Contemporary West Africa will be a nationally and internationally traveling exhibition and will feature an accompanying scholarly publication and series of public engagement programs.
Homann joins a large curatorial planning team led by Amanda M. Maples, curator of African art at the NCMA, which includes Jordan A. Fenton of Miami University Ohio, Kevin D. Dumouchelle of the NMAfA, and Hervé Youmbi, a collaborating researcher and a leading contemporary artist in Cameroon.
“Masquerade has long stood as the iconic African performance genre, and yet the artists who create masquerades are often unacknowledged and underrepresented in exhibitions and publications,” the NCMA said in a statement announcing the NEH grant. “New Masks Now will showcase the artworks and voices of individual creators and offer a fresh take on the vitality of masquerade arts.”
The exhibition will focus on four masquerade artists: Chief Ekpenyong Bassey Nsa (Nigeria), David Sanou (Burkina Faso), Sheku “Goldenfinger” Fofanah (Sierra Leone), and Hervé Youmbi (Cameroon). It is scheduled to open at the NCMA in 2024 and will subsequently travel to the NMAfA and the New Orleans Museum of Art, with the possibility of exhibition at other North American museums.
Homann’s research focuses on West African masquerade practices from the late 19th century to the present. She serves on the editorial board in the publishing consortium for the journal African Arts and has published articles and editorials in African Arts and the journals Res and Africa. Her video footage of ephemeral masquerades is in the NCMA’s permanent collection.
“Being awarded full funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities will allow our team to move forward on this innovative traveling exhibition and scholarly publication that will introduce the work of several contemporary masquerade artists to audiences in North America and beyond,” Homann said. “I am thrilled to bring my years of research in Burkina Faso on the artworks of David Sanou and his father, André Sanou, to the project as a co-curator.”
Pictured right: Portrait Mask for Sogossira Sanon from the atelier of André Sanou, Sya district, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, 2009. Photo by Lisa Homann.