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ArtHis - Exhibition Review Final

ArtHis - Exhibition Review Final - Art His 55A Art of...

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Art His 55A : Art of Africa Beth Rosenblum Despite trying to dispel the mystique of the Tuareg people, the exhibition “The Art of Being Tuareg: Sahara Nomads in a Modern World” at the UCLA Fowler Museum still shrouds the Tuareg in mystery. The curators, Thomas K. Seligman and Kristyne Loughran, are trying to show how a now semi-nomadic group can still retain a culture despite trying to be colonized by the French, conflicts with bordering countries, and sedentary people. Through the 235 objects on display, the exhibition attempts to accomplish these goals (Abarbanel). Before even entering the museum, the exhibit has already begun. The exterior wall of the museum has a large poster advertising the exhibit. On the poster is an image of a veiled man riding on a majestic white camel. The concept of a man riding a camel as a transportation means evokes words such as “primitive” or “ancient,” but the exhibit is of the Tuareg in a “modern world.” Questions arise as one ponders walking into the museum. At the entrance of the exhibition, the same image of the man on the camel is echoed. Curiosity builds. The first object that catches one’s eyes when entering the exhibit is the indigo sheer screen on the left. Although there is a prominent photo of a veiled man in front, the screen draws attention away from the man due to the vastness behind the screen. This screen motivates the visitor to move forward through the exhibit. There are ten sections in the exhibit; each representing a different part of Tuareg culture and each with their own themes. The first of which is the orientation room where there are photo
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portraits, a map of where the Tuareg people live, and wall texts introducing the group. The wall texts next to the pictures have a familiar tone to them with writings such as, “To be Tuareg is to be friendly and hospitable, sober and tough, sincere and tolerant…(Wall Text, UCLA Fowler Museum)” These characteristics are understood and valued by every culture, therefore, one can relate to these people on the walls. The wall writings reduce the mystery of the Tuareg. Also, there are pictures on the three brightly lit walls of the room. It’s peculiar that out of all the Tuareg people, four out of the five portraits are very similar to one another. There are two men wearing a veiled turban and there are two women in similar dress. The curators bring together these similar images to bring attention to the visitors that the Tuareg are not just a single person, but a population of over a million. Here, the curators could have opened up the Tuareg with more pictures of daily life, but instead there are only five pictures of these strangers, half of them veiled. The mystery is still there, nothing is exposed to the public besides a brief synopsis of the Tuareg’s history and culture.
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