Sara Cromwell

New Exhibits Feature WFU Student Work

By the conclusion of the Spring 2016 semester, half of the Museum of Anthropology’s main exhibits will feature work completed by Wake Forest students in undergraduate classes. Opening three student-curated exhibits this academic year reinforces the important connection between the MOA and Wake Forest students.   There is no doubt that the exhibits will also attract interest from members of the community at large drawn to the diverse topics and exceptional artifacts on display.

In the fall, the MOA opened a new long-term exhibit entitled Childhood: Exploring Youth Culture Around the World, which you can read about in detail here.

Another student-curated exhibit, Musical Narratives of the Southwest Pacific Rim, will be on display from March 15 to August 26. This exhibition is the result of three semesters of work by World Music students taught by Wake Forest ethnomusicologist Dr. Elizabeth Clendinning.  Highlighting the MOA’s collections of musical instruments, masks, shadow puppets, and dance costumes from Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, and Papua New Guinea, the exhibit will take the visitor on a tour of the performing arts of these regions. The exhibit will examine how music, dance, and theater intersect with storytelling, religious practice, gender roles, and modernization. Visitors will be invited to interact with the exhibit through hands-on music-making with select objects on display.

The "biography" of this antelope mask will be explored in the exhibit.

The “biography” of this antelope mask will be explored in the exhibit.

Finally, MOA Academic Director Dr. Andrew Gurstelle is currently teaching a First Year Seminar on museum studies, which will produce an exhibit exploring the “object biographies” of intriguing specimens in the MOA’s collections. Incredible Journeys: The Life Histories of Museum Objects will be on exhibit from April 19, 2016 to March 25, 2017. The exhibition will trace objects from their original use through the missionaries, traders, soldiers, and doctors that acquired them, the connoisseurs that collected them, and finally how anthropologists (and the Museum) might use them. The exhibit will showcase the range of the MOA’s collections and the diverse trajectories that objects can have.

The MOA staff is excited to be able to work with faculty members with such wide-ranging areas of expertise and such intelligent and motivated students. We look forward to developing more exhibits that will draw from the MOA’s collections and inspire Wake Forest faculty and students as well as the greater Piedmont Triad community.

Yoruba Gelede Mask

Gelede Mask webxThe Yoruba peoples are found in the West African countries of Nigeria and Benin. They consist of many distinct ethnicities, but are united by similar languages, common religious practices, and shared history.

This Yoruba mask was used as part of the Gelede masquerade celebrating female ancestors and elderly women. For the Yoruba, mask performances, along with music and dancing, are a way of recognizing female status. Without the kind of attention provided by such spectacle, the spirit world is thought to lash out and punish the living.

Gelede masks are composed of two parts: the head and the superstructure. The head is the abstracted and idealized feminine face. Its expression is serene, demonstrating the timelessness of the spirit world. In contrast, the superstructure represents the ever-changing physical world. Its forms update with new trends and fads. This mask features a leopard, a symbol of power. This type of mask is worn on top of the head, with a veil covering the dancer’s face. This mask is on display in the MOA’s newest exhibit, Death at the Crossroads: A Dramatic Reading of Yoruba Art.

Chinese Christmas Card

Christmas Card

This Christmas card comes from the collection of Marion Dudley, who was a missionary with the YWCA. She lived and worked in China from the mid-1920s until World War II. The card includes images of men lighting firecrackers and a traditional Chinese dragon dance. These activities are usually associated with Chinese New Year, which falls in late January or early February depending on the lunar calendar. The dragon dance brings good luck for the coming year, while the firecrackers scare away evil spirits. In this case, these traditional festive images are adopted to celebrate the birth of Christ.

MOA Opens New Faculty-Directed Exhibit on Youth Culture

What do children play with in Mexico? How do kids in Somalia learn to read? The MOA’s new long-term exhibit, Childhood: Exploring Youth Culture Around the World, answers these and other questions about children’s lives around the globe. Among the featured artifacts are an early 20th century Chinese doll in the image of a famous opera singer and a Senegalese lunchbox lined with newspaper comic strips. The exhibit also includes a section for visitors to share comments about their memorable childhood experiences.

Dr. Mary Good

Dr. Mary Good in the new exhibit

The exhibition was developed from the work of a Wake Forest class, Anthropology of Childhood, taught by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dr. Mary Good during the spring 2015 semester. Under Dr. Good’s direction, the students each selected objects from the Museum’s collections in the categories of children’s clothing, education, dolls, games, or toys. The students researched their artifacts and wrote label text. Working with Museum staff, Dr. Good developed the remaining exhibit content. This semester, three Wake Forest students completed internships to assist with the exhibit’s installation. “It’s been such a rewarding experience for the students and for me to see their final class project turn into something tangible that museum visitors can learn from and enjoy,” Dr. Good said. “It also helps students to reflect on how they can communicate knowledge they learn in the classroom about cultural diversity to a broader public audience.”

This exhibit marks the first time in the last decade that a Wake Forest class project has been turned into a full exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology, a trend that promises to continue as the MOA increases its collaborations with faculty members in a variety of disciplines across campus.

Côte d’Ivoire Toy Car

Toy Car webx

This toy car was made by a boy of about 10 years old in Ouassou, Côte d’Ivoire, in the late 1990s.  Cars like this one are made by youths in many parts of Africa using whatever materials are available, such as the sandal soles cut to make the wheels on this car.  The car is in the shape of Peugeot minivan, likely modeled after one of the many used vehicles shipped to Côte d’Ivoire to serve as “bush taxis.”  These vehicles stop to pick up passengers as they make circuits through major cities, or as they cruise the roadways between rural towns.  This object is on exhibit in our new student-curated permanent exhibit, Childhood: Exploring Youth Culture Around the World.  Anthropology student Maeghan Livingston researched this object for the exhibit.  The accompanying photos, taken by former MOA curator, Beverlye Hancock, show the toy being made and used in Côte d’Ivoire.

Toy Car Used2 webx

Toy Car Used webx

Egyptian Mummy Casing


This outer case, or coffin, of a mummy was created by applying plaster on top of layers of cloth and then painting the plaster. After a body underwent preservation processes, it was put into this type of coffin. The Egyptians were firm believers of the afterlife and viewed the process of mummification as necessary to ensure their arrival to the next world. It was typical for the wealthy class to have elaborately decorated mummy cases that were painted with Egyptian gods or other religious symbols. On this piece, Ra, the sun god, and the most important god in the Egyptian pantheon, is represented in the upper left. The figure in the upper right is Nepthys, a protective goddess of the dead. Anubis, son of Nepthys and the god of embalming and the dead, is in the lower left corner. Anubis watches over the mummification process, so it is particularly fitting that he appear on a mummy casing.  This fascinating artifact is currently on exhibit in MOA’s Cabinet of Curiosities.