The permanent exhibitions blend art and innovative technology with the African tradition of storytelling. Visitors of all ages can explore cultural traditions in an immersive, interactive environment. Organized both geographically and thematically, the exhibits are designed to tell the story of the origins, migration, adaptation and transformation of the cultures and cultural beliefs and practices of African descendants through seven displays: The Origins of the African Diaspora; Celebrations: Ritual and Ceremony; Music of the Diaspora; Culinary Traditions; Adornment; Slavery Passages; and the Freedom Theater.
The Origins of the African Diaspora
A kinetic map of the world visually informs the visitor about human origins in Africa through chronologic and geographic illustrations. Four monitors imbedded within the map simultaneously display events such as when tools were first used, original bead ornamentation, cave art, culinary traditions, the first astronomical observatory and messages that human life originated in Africa and gradually traveled to the rest of the world. As the video loop continues the final montage shows people from across the Diaspora in contemporary settings.
Celebrations: Ritual and Ceremony
Is a circular space on which projected visual images, large and small, tell a story in motion, overlapping each other sequentially and traveling along 180 degrees of the circle. A video program of 5 to 8 minutes in length explores and celebrates the multiplicity of African Diaspora traditions and consciousness. Through images, sounds and personal recollections, the exhibit evokes a sense of the richness of Black cultural identity. Visitors are immediately enveloped in an experience that engages the senses akin to the feeling of suddenly wandering into a street fair around an unfamiliar corner.
The exhibit contains three lenticular panel stems mounted at varying depths. Within the panels three mirrors are placed throughout various points of the figures and three LCD monitors. Each monitor represents the head of a male, female, and child. Each head shows photos and live-action footage of heads of people from various cultures, with one transitioning
Music of the Diaspora
Consists of four listening stations with touch screen monitors and directional speakers. Each station represents one of the following thematic categories: Music from Africa (tribal, traditional, contemporary); African-Influenced Music in the United States (spirituals –17th thru 20th centuries; gospel and hymns; ragtime/blues/jazz – instrumental & vocal; progressive/bebop/cool/avant guard/fusion-instrumental & vocal; Hip hop/rap.); African Influenced Music in South America and the Caribbean; and African Influenced Music Composers. Each station contains up to five short samples of these different music styles and an interactive component which allows visitors to “jam” using instruments from all styles. A visual component includes photos and short video clips.
There are 3 interactive stations for this exhibit. Each station consists of a flat screen monitor representing one of the following themes – Celebrating Food Traditions; Food Movements & Adaptations; Food and Community. Beneath the flat screen is a fabricated table with buttons visitors push to activate the images on the flat screen monitor. As the image changes the featured food appears along with a short text description of the Diaspora story of the dish. Each image tells the story of both the origin and modern method or production and consumption as well as how it is used throughout the African Diaspora.
This darkened contemplative space, beckons visitors to sit and reflect on the first person accounts of enslaved African men and women. These personal stories of enduring courage come from the United States, the West Indies, South America, and Sudan, spanning three continents and three centuries. Each narrative is introduced by renowned poet and artist Maya Angelou, providing biographical information and underscored with music from the period and the country or origin of the particular narrative. These first voice narratives of experiences of slavery will engage the imagination of the listener.
Our intimate theatre currently features fifteen powerful stories of freedom (from eight minutes to two hours) including: Toussaint: The Heartbeat of Freedom focuses on the Haitian Revolution; Howard Thurman: The Spirit of the Movement focuses on the role of Dr. Thurman in the Civil Rights Movement, and Amandla! – Nelson Mandela and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. This multimedia experience actively engages the visitor in stories of resistance, celebration and the struggle for freedom throughout the African Diaspora.