The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is pleased to present The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts, an exhibition featuring more than 100 works of sculpture and textiles. Through a series of themes, the exhibition conveys multiple notions of visuality and celebrates artists and performers as agents of insight and transformation. The Inner Eye showcases works from diverse cultures in west, central, and east Africa, and made from a range of media including wood, ivory, terracotta, metalwork, and raffia palm fiber. The works, dating from the 13th to 19th centuries, include figures, masks, initiation objects, royal emblems, and reliquary guardians that guided people to spirit realms, the highest levels of esoteric wisdom, and the afterlife.
African perspectives are vital to understanding aesthetic principles of visuality informing particular works of art. Among Yoruba peoples of Nigeria, for example, an artist with enhanced perceptual capabilities is said to possess ojú inú, or “the inner eye.” The inner eye sees not what is in plain sight, nor what is apparent to the ordinary human eye, but rather, that which is interior and inherent. Thus, to possess an inner eye is to possess insight as expressed in a variety of ways to enhance perception, increase capacity, and enable transformation. While the inner eye as ojú inú is a notion specific to Yoruba culture, the concept of insight resonates across many African aesthetic traditions, which are further explored in the exhibition.
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