Great Washington Museums: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Great Washington Museums Celebrate Great Women Artists is a NMWA-organized collaborative city-wide project highlighting works by women artists. During 2012, institutions throughout the Washington area are featuring an array of signature works by women artists that have enriched their distinguished collections. This landmark program, in conjunction with NMWA’s 25th anniversary celebration, continues NMWA’s dedication to celebrating women’s achievements in the visual, performing, and literary arts. This excerpt explores one of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s signature works by a woman artist, Nakunte Diarra’s Bògòlanfini wrapper. Visit www.nmwa.org and download the pdf map to begin your journey!

Nakunte Diarra, Bògòlanfini wrapper, 1990; Handwoven cotton textile with mud dye designs, 149 x 118 cm.; Department of Anthropology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution; Photograph by James DiLoreto

Nakunte Diarra, Bògòlanfini wrapper, 1990; Handwoven cotton textile with mud dye designs, 149 x 118 cm.; Department of Anthropology, NMNH, Smithsonian Institution; Photograph by James DiLoreto

The cloth depicts a traditional style of hand-woven and hand-dyed wrapped skirt worn by Bamana women in the Republic of Mali. The mud dye design is hand painted onto the cotton cloth. This design refers to marriage and the moving of a bride to her husband’s village. Nakunte Diarra, the artist, was taught this art form by her grandmother and her mother, and she has now taught her own children and grandchildren. On view indefinitely in the African Voices Exhibition, a National Museum of Natural History permanent exhibition on African Cultures, which features artwork by a number of African and African Diasporan women.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, 10th St. & Constitution Ave., NW;  www.mnh.si.edu/africanvoices.

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