Giving insight into daily life, spirituality and agricultural practices of Ghana in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 10 original sculptures carved by Lobi craftsmen will go on display at the at the Florida A&M University Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum.
The Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum MEBA collects and preserves African American history and culture in the Southeastern United States to support research and public education.
The new series of exhibitions opened Monday with Field Spirits of the Fante.
The exhibition launched a new series on Land, the Environment and the African Diaspora presented by the center in partnership with the new Lola Hampton Frank Pinder Center for Agroecology and the FAMU African American Studies Department.
“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to present these amazing sculptures to the Tallahassee community and beyond,” said Timothy A. Barber, MEBA director and exhibit curator. “On arriving at FAMU in July 2022, I was immediately drawn to the craftsmanship of the Lobi artisans who created these sculptures from the 1870s to the 1940s. Each sculpture presents a different outlook on life in the fields of Ghana at the dawn of the emergence of a colonial society in Africa.”
The sculptures offer a glimpse into the influence of colonial oversight.
The Lobi craftsmen were known to be skilled, imaginative and non-Christian, with the purpose of protecting women and children, homes, crops, domestic animals and hunters. They also acted as a warning to those considering venturing into protected lands and homes or stealing from the property owner.
While there is rich documentation of the cultural and political history of the Fante, little is written about how their spiritual worldview intersected with their traditional lives, including agricultural practices. These objects represent their beliefs and reflect the subtle shifts in cultural norms brought about by the imposition of political and social change.
The collection was donated to the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum in 2019 by the estate of the late Professor Nana Apt, a lifelong collector of African art and cultural objects. The estate of Marian Sylvia Horowitz of Ann Arbor, Michigan, endowed the collection. Richard Douglass, Ph.D., author of the accompanying book Field Spirits of the Fante, secured, restored and preserved the donation.
A statewide facility, the Black Archives are home to one of the largest repositories relating to African American history and culture in the Southeast and is one of 10 Black archives in the country. MEBA is located in Carnegie Library, the oldest brick building on the campus of Florida A&M University. The center was founded in 1976 by history professor Dr. James N. Eaton. It is named for Eaton and the late Congresswoman Carrie Meek. The center’s holdings consist of more than 500,000 individual archival records and more than 5,000 individual museum artifacts. More than 160,000 people visit the center annually or are educated through the Archives’ numerous outreach programs.