Inside the Museum of African Art

Creation date
acrylic on canvas
16-1/4 x 15-5/8 in. (canvas) 17-1/4 x 16-5/8 x 1-1/8 in. (framed)
Credit line
James E. Roberts Fund
Accession number
Currently On View In
Eiteljorg Suite of African and Oceanic Art - W305

This painting was created after Wosene Kosrof’s visit to the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. The multitude of images that fill the canvas are influenced by the diversity of the museum’s collection and by the artist’s Ethiopian heritage.

The three arches at the top of the painting represent the entrance to the museum. The plant to the upper left is the tree outside of the building but it also represents the Tree of Life that Wosene often saw in early Ethiopian Christian art. Below and to the right of the tree is a rectangular area of bold colors and a striped design reminiscent of kente cloth from Ghana. In the middle is a prominent mask image originating from Central Africa. It is the most realistic and bold image in the painting because it is a welcoming piece to the Museum of African Art, which was memorable for the artist.

Amharic writing, an Ethiopian language, is included throughout the painting. The black lettering around the central mask spells out “Africa,” while another phrase, “the African spirit,” is found elsewhere. The painting is organized into vertical segments. This arrangement comes from the Ethiopian tradition of using long goatskin religious scrolls.

Reproduction of these images, including downloading, is prohibited without written authorization from VAGA.

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