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Last updated: 10/05/07

What’s New:
Library Exhibit: October 1 Ė November 1,2007
Makonde: Art & Community

Our October exhibit at the University of Rhode Island Library Gallery is Makonde: Art & Community.


The Makonde live in the high plateaus of Tanzania and Mozambique, a poor and often dry region. They are known throughout the world for their beautiful sculptural works. The works include masks and Ujamma (family-hood/community) pole sculptures along with realistic figures from daily life as well as abstracts. Some are thought to be dark and demonic, but all of them tell the stories of the culture and daily life in this matrilineal society, with great humor and reverence. The works represent the old values of family-hood, equality, and community which must be preserved in the face of the new ideals of individualism. The pieces in the exhibit are from the collection of Dr. Cynthia Hamilton, URI African and African-American Studies Program, who first visited East Africa in the late 1960ís. The exhibit is accompanied by photo images, maps, fabrics and information on the region.


In 1967 Tanzania issued the Arusha Declaration, which officially spelled the Tanzanian Republicís motto of self-reliance and socialism. The Makonde sculpture became an official symbol, with its established motif of family solidarity and hard work.

It is not surprising that particular pieces of the Makonde became symbolic of the effort being made and the belief that Africa might indeed a route to a new society. In the midst of extravagant individualism this art symbolized traditional communal values.

The Arusha Declaration emphasized the development of peasant agricultural economy. Then President, Julius Nyerere declared, Tanzania should strive to be a nation of equals. That would be the basis of the new ujamaa villages which were to be set up. Nyerere termed ujamaa (is a work he defined in English as family hood) as an indigenous form of African socialism.

The Library Gallery is located on the main floor of the University Library, 15 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 02881. Library hours are:

Monday-Thursday 8:00 am - midnight
Friday  8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday 1:00 pm - midnight

For more information, please contact Karen Ramsay at 401-874-4625 or

University of Rhode Island Libraries

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