Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley

Cantor Arts Center, May 16 - October 14, Admission is Free 

The new exhibition at the Cantor Arts Center, gives a comprehensive view of the arts from along the river Benue that flows across the center of Nigeria.


Organized by the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles in association with the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, “Central Nigeria Unmasked” presents more than 150 objects drawn from international collections and reveals arts and cultures of diverse peoples who are far less known and studied than those of the majority populations in the country’s northern and southern regions.


The exhibition which unfolds as a journey up the 650-mile-long Benue River presents artistic forms and styles associated with more than 25 ethnic groups. The objects on view embody meanings and purposes crucial to Benue Valley peoples as they confront and resolve life challenges and rites of passage such as birth, initiation, marriage, illness and death.

Works include maternal figures, sleek statues, anthropomorphized vessels, elaborate regalia, masks with naturalistic human faces, and masks that appear as stylized animal-human fusions. Film footage of dynamic, complex masquerades; maps; photomurals; and written material provide further context for understanding the artworks.


We highly recommand this exhibition, not only because it's extremely well curated, but also because it's at the Cantor Arts Center, one of our favorite museum in the Bay Area, who opens its door to the public for free.

Numerous programs are organized: free docent guided tours three times a week, lectures, Nollywood Film Festival (June 9), summer class for children in grades 1 to 6 (July 30-August 3). Check their website.

Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley

Cantor Arts Center

Stanford Campus, Museum way.


Thursday until 8pm.

Admission is Free. Parking is free after 4pm and on week-ends.



Photos credits:

Left : Ochai (active circa 1910–1950), Crest mask. Oglinye, Idoma peoples. Early to mid-20th century. Wood, pigment, vegetable fiber, bead. Height: 14 inches. Private Collection, Paris. Photograph © Hughes Dubois, 2010

Right: Soompa (Active 1920s–1940s), Double-figure statue. Chamba peoples, Mapeo village. Circa 1940. Wood. Height: 21.3 inches. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Robert and Nancy Nooter. Photograph Travis Fullerton© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.