Savannah African Art Museum exhibition explores the importance of cowries in African culture | cultural | Savannah News, Events, Restaurants, Music

The Savannah African Art Museum (SAAM) 2022 exhibition arrives in February.

“Culture, Currency and Continuity: The Significance of Cowries in African Art,” will officially open to the public Feb. 2 at the nonprofit museum, 201 East 37th St.

“Our exhibits rotate and kick off each February with the launch of Black History Month,” said Billie Stulz, Executive Director and Chief Curator of SAAM.

SAAM reserves a gallery for annual rotating exhibitions that allow for a more in-depth presentation of a specific aspect of African history and culture. Rotating exhibitions are curated by Stultz with a SAAM intern choosing a curatorial track for the semester. SCAD student Tiva Baloi was the intern who participated in this exhibition.

“This last exhibition was ROOTS: Hair-Culture-History, Exploring the Hair & Cultures of West & Central Africa, where we focused on the importance of hair in African culture. This new exhibit focuses on cowries as they are linked to many elements of African art and culture,” said Stultz.

The new exhibit aligns with SAAM’s participation in the 2022 Savannah Black Heritage Festival, which runs February 1-20, 2022. As part of the festivities, SAAM is presenting a workshop that ties into the new exhibit, “Creating Wearable Art on February 12 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the second floor of the museum’s Upbeat Village Terracotta gallery.

“The cowries have come to represent the African continent to the world. They’ve taken root in pop culture, coming a long way from the surprised looks and comments Venus and Serena Williams received when they adorned their braided hair with them as a connection to their African roots during early tennis competitions. their careers,” said Lisa Jackson, SAAM Education Coordinator.

Although cowries are not native to Africa, they are primarily associated with African culture.

Small, shiny seashells were more than just elegant, they had economic value in ancient African societies. For centuries, beige seashells were a representation of wealth and were used as currency due to their sturdy and lightweight character.

Apart from their economic value, seashells were also distinguished by their power to bring prosperity, fertility, healing and spiritual connection to ancestors.

“These shells were completely tied to the culture spiritually, emotionally and financially. They were an integral part of African life. We want our visitors to leave with more knowledge about these popular seashells than they came in with and share it with others,” Jackson said.

In addition to learning about the history of seashells, workshop participants will have the opportunity to create wearable works of art from cowrie shells and other materials. Also on February 12, participants will be able to have their photographs taken to display and upload them to the SAAM website. Each photo will be surrounded by a border displaying the SAAM and SBHF logos and the date, making them great souvenirs of the SBHF and SAAM experience.

“I hope this exhibition will spark interest and curiosity for people to start doing their own research on seashells and for it to be a starting point to start the conversation about the different forms of materials that have great significance in Africa,” Stultz said. .

NOTE: The gallery is accessible by stairs only, no elevator or wheelchair access is available.

For more information on the new exhibit, visit

For more information about the workshop, visit

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