CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
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UI faculty member helps organize African art exhibition
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- William Dewey, an assistant professor in the University
of Iowa School of Art and Art History, helped organize the first major international
exhibition of art from Zimbabwe, which recently opened in Brussels, Belgium.
"Legacies of Stone: Zimbabwe Past and Present" will be on display
at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels through April 30.
Dewey, a scholar specializing in African art history, was curator for the
ancient and traditional arts part of the exhibition. He also compiled and
edited the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, and he gave introductory
comments at the opening of the exhibition, which was attended by dignitaries
from Zimbabwe and Belgium as well as more than 500 other people.
The modern country of Zimbabwe (known in colonial times as Rhodesia) is best
known to international tourists for natural wonders including Victoria Falls.
However, its extensive cultural and artistic heritage is less known to the
rest of the world. It extends from the San or Bushmen peoples of the stone
age and continues with the rise of great kingdoms in historical times.
The rulers of Great Zimbabwe -- a kingdom that reached its peak in the 13th
and 14th centuries and encompassed most of modern Zimbabwe -- declared their
power by building the stone walls of the Great Zimbabwe ruin, the largest
archeological site in sub-Saharan Africa.
Arriving in the 19th century, Europeans found many smaller kingdoms, each
of them a source of vital arts and crafts.
"Legacies of Stone" is the first exhibition to present a complete
overview of this cultural diversity. Dewey and the staff at the Royal Museum
worked in cooperation with all of the museums and archives in Zimbabwe to
plan for the exhibition, and Zimbabwean objects were borrowed from museums
around the world. Contributions came from collections in London, Johannesburg,
Cape Town, Frankfurt, Berlin, Rotterdam, Harare and Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) and
Objects in the exhibition include stone-age rock paintings, items from the
great kingdoms and the costumes and utilitarian arts of the 19th- and 20th-century
Shona, Ndebele and Tonga peoples.
Dewey is one of the co-directors of The Project for Advanced Study of Art
and Life in Africa (PASALA) at the UI. He has organized several African exhibitions
at the UI Museum of Art, including "Staffs of Life: Rods, Staffs, Scepters,
and Wands from the Coudron Collection of African Art" with UI faculty
members Allen F. Roberts and Chris Roy as co-curators; and "Iron, Master
of them All" with Roberts. "Sleeping Beauties: The Jerome L. Joss
Collection of Headrests," which Dewey organized for the Fowler Museum
of Cultural History at UCLA, also appeared at the UI Museum of Art.
He has published numerous scholarly articles and chapters in books on African
art. His academic honors and grants include a Humanities Research Council
(South Africa) grant for consultation with Art Historians and Museums in South
Africa, an Old Gold Summer Fellowship for a research project on a book and
exhibition entitled "Forging Meaning: Iron Art of Africa," and an
International Partnerships among Museums Grant for linkage between the UI
Museum of Art and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins Site Museum.
He is past president of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association
of America, having served as its president and been on the board of directors
since 1993. He was the Activities Chair for the 1992 Triennial Symposium on
African Art which was hosted by the UI. Dewey received a master's degree in
African Art History from Northwestern University and a doctorate from Indiana