Nestled in the heart of Northside is Joseph Clark Gallery: Arts of Africa. Face masks and wooden sculptures greet you at every corner. Filled with the traditional artifacts of Sub-Saharan Africa, the gallery aims to introduce guests to the rich histories of the various ethnic cultures represented. Inside you’ll find art and antiquities from various places such as Liberia, Ghana, and Sierra Leone among others.
Curator and owner, Lowery Joseph Clark, has been a collector of African art since the early 70’s. His 30+ years of experience in African Art and Antiquities is an invaluable resource for gallery visitors.
Though Arts of Africa may be one of Cincinnati’s most unique art galleries, it began with Clark's much humbler wish: “I wanted to know more of my history and my family’s history. I started with one face mask, and I just kept learning.” This love of history, culture, and art prompted him to open the gallery in 2011. Original artwork from local artists including oil paintings, ceramics, and textiles also adorn the space.
When you arrive, Clark lets you pick the pieces that resonate with you and tells you more about them. It’s intriguing how many depictions of family, pregnancy, and active women are showcased.
“They did not have photography, so they captured life in wood,”
Clark points out noting how many of the sculptures are carved. One sculpture, for instance, depicts a woman with two children climbing on her and a baby in her lap. This woman has another woman standing in front of her and one behind her embracing all of them. Clark shared that the statue represented three generations of women in the same family.
Another piece was a mancala board set carved in the shape of an alligator. If you make it through the various sculptures, there’s also plenty of ritual objects, earthenware, textiles, and dolls.
Rows of face masks and games greet visitors in the upper gallery space.
You can also ask to see the upstairs space, and as you walk up, you’ll be welcomed by masks that combine human faces with animal characteristics. All of the objects in the space have been placed in context according to their functions and the culture they are from. Though the gallery space itself is small, one gets the sense that you could visit every day for a month and constantly discover new stories.
The Joseph Clark Gallery is located at 4038 Hamilton Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45223
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