Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths

Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths

For more than two millennia, ironworking has shaped African cultures in the most fundamental ways. Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths reveals the history of invention and technical sophistication that led African blacksmiths to transform one of Earth’s most essential natural resources into objects of life-changing utility, empowerment, prestige, spiritual potency, and astonishing artistry.

Striking Iron is an international travelling exhibition organised by the Fowler Museum at UCLA that combines scholarship with objects of great aesthetic beauty to create the most comprehensive treatment of the blacksmith’s art in Africa to date. The exhibition includes over 225 artworks from across the African continent focusing on the region south of the Sahara and covering a period spanning early archaeological evidence to the present day. It also features artworks from the Fowler collection as well as American and European public and private collections.

The curatorial team is led by artist Tom Joyce, a MacArthur Fellow originally trained as a blacksmith, with co-curators Allen F. Roberts, UCLA Professor of World Arts and Cultures/Dance; Marla C. Berns, Shirley & Ralph Shapiro Director, Fowler Museum; William J. Dewey, Director, African Studies Program and Associate Professor of African Art History at Pennsylvania State University; and Henry J. Drewal, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Major funding for Striking Iron comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Generous support is also provided by the Fowler Museum’s Martha and Avrum Bluming Exhibition Fund.

Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths runs at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington until October 20, 2019.

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