Visiting Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion? You must join the virtual exhibition queue when you arrive. If capacity has been reached for the day, the queue will close early.

Learn more
a wood sculpture features an animal (a pangolin) suspended between two serpents above a head; the name of the publication is below in white and red type

The African Origin of Civilization

Patch, Diana Craig and Alisa LaGamma
48 pages
54 illustrations
8.5 x 11 in.
View More Publication Info

This Bulletin highlights five millennia of extraordinary artistic production on the African continent. Twenty-one pairings unite masterpieces from the Museum’s collections of ancient Egyptian and West and Central African art to reveal unexpected parallels and contrasts across time and cultures. The title pays special homage to Senegalese scholar and humanist Cheikh Anta Diop, whose book The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality (1974) challenged prevailing attitudes and advocated for recentering Africa as the source of humanity’s common ancestors and many widespread cultural practices. Building on Diop’s premise, this volume allows readers to delve into the rich histories and diverse artistic traditions from the cradle of human creativity.

Striding Figure, Quartzite, paint
ca. 2575–2465 B.C.
Jug with painted decoration, Pottery, paint
30 B.C.– A.D. 364
The King's Acquaintances Memi and Sabu, Limestone, paint
ca. 2575–2465 B.C.
Figure: Seated Couple, Dogon artist, Wood, metal, Dogon
Dogon artist
18th–early 19th century
Figure: Horn Player, Edo artist, Brass, iron, Edo
Edo artist
Statue of the God Ptah, Bronze, gold leaf, glass
ca. 1070–712 B.C.
Memorial Head (Nsodie), Akan artist, Terracotta, Akan
Akan artist
ca. 1800
Canopic Jar (07.226.1) with a Lid Depicting a Queen (30.8.54), Travertine (Egyptian alabaster), blue glass, obsidian, unidentified stone
ca. 1349–1330 B.C. or shortly thereafter
Plaque: Warrior and Attendants, Edo artist, Brass, Edo
Edo artist
16th–17th century
King Sahure Accompanied by a Divine Figure, Gneiss
ca. 2458–2446 B.C.
Guardian Figure, Cedar wood, plaster, paint
ca. 1919–1885 B.C.
Commemorative Portrait of a Chief (Singiti), Hemba artist, Wood, Dogon
Hemba artist
19th–early 20th century
Striding Man, Wood
ca. 2255–2152 B.C.
Commemorative Post: Male (Ngya), Bongo artist, Wood, paint(?), Bongo
Bongo artist
late 19th century
The Statue of the Official Mitry, Acacia, gesso, paint
ca. 2381–2323 B.C. probably
Linguist Staff: Ceremonial Stool, Chain, and Swords Motif  (ȯkyeame poma), Asante artist, Wood, gold foil, Asante
Asante artist
ca. 1930s
Gelede Helmet from a Masquerade Ensemble, Yoruba artist, Wood, Yoruba
Yoruba artist
mid-20th century
Bes-image Rattle, Faience
ca. 945–664 BC
Ritual Figure, Wood, formerly clad with lead sheet
380–246 B.C.
Male Power Figure (Nkisi), Kongo artist and nganga, Wood, pigment, nails, cloth, beads, shells, arrows, leather, nuts, twine, Kongo
Kongo artist and nganga
late19th–mid-20th century
Showing 20 of 44

View Citations

Patch, Diana Craig, and Alisa LaGamma. 2022. The African Origin of Civilization. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.