"Art Matters: Strategies of Diplomacy in Ancient Yoruba," lecture by Susan Blier, Harvard University

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A ruler came to the throne in the course of a long civil war, succeeding his father who had died in related battles. Soon this new king also was overthrown, but with the aid of local citizens he eventually returned to power. How does this ruler respond to this series of tragic events? He commissioned a series of remarkable life size bronze castings to honor the various leaders of the feuding parties, works so remarkable in their technical and visual power that they remain today among the finest exemplars of this art in the world. These works also were the focus of local annual rituals honoring these individuals and helping to keep alive the memory of associated events ? as well as the importance of the peace that followed. Today this ruler, who lived in the country we now call Nigeria, is known as one of Africa?s most important art patrons, city planners, and diplomats. Although he created these works to document events some 700 years ago, these arts, along with the related rituals, and the rich oral history legacy accompanying them has kept these events alive in the collective memory of the Yoruba still today. 

Suzanne Blier is the Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and

Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

Sponsored by The School of Art and Art History, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, the Project for Advanced Study of Art and Life in Africa


Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 17:30

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240 Art Building West



Niebuhr, Annette L