This exhibition explores the varied roles of birds across 19th-and 20th-century African states, societies, and cultures. From the largest ostrich to the smallest warbler, the works on view highlight the symbolic meaning and aesthetic appreciation of birds in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Uganda.
Some of the birds in the exhibition played a role in the spiritual life of their creators, while others were simply made to be beautiful. Each section of the exhibition begins with a story that explains how an artist, individual, or society used art to relate to the avian world. While the work is rooted in everyday African life in the 19th and 20th centuries, Beyond Flight presents a universal narrative that encourages visitors to think about how birds—both real and represented—play a role in their own day-to-day lives.