More than 100 assembled artworks and archeological fragments will help audiences discover the far-reaching impact of historic trans-Saharan exchange and the overlooked role of West Africa at the forefront of these developments. Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Medieval Trans-Saharan Trade challenges the widely held bias of a timeless Africa that is cut off from the dynamics of world history.
Using objects as points of entry and inquiry, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time will interweave the art history, archaeology, history and comparative literature of trans-Saharan trade, situating it within a broad geographical and historical context.
Image: Virgin and Child, ca. 1275–1300, France, Ivory with paint, 14 1/2 × 6 1/2 × 5 in. (36.8 × 16.5 × 12.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917, 17.190.295
Whether or not you go, the exhibition catalog, Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa, tells how West African gold and trade across the Sahara were central to the medieval world, drawing on the latest archaeological discoveries and art historical research to construct a compelling look at medieval trans-Saharan exchange and its legacy. Contributors from diverse disciplines present case studies that form a rich portrayal of a distant time. Topics include descriptions of key medieval cities around the Sahara; networks of exchange that contributed to the circulation of gold, copper, and ivory and their associated art forms; and medieval glass bead production in West Africa’s forest region. The volume also reflects on Morocco’s Gnawa material culture, associated with descendants of West African slaves, and movements of people across the Sahara today. Featuring a wealth of color images, this fascinating book demonstrates how the rootedness of place, culture, and tradition is closely tied to the circulation of people, objects, and ideas. These “fragments in time” offer irrefutable evidence of the key role that Africa played in medieval history and promote a new understanding of the past and the present.
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