Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths

National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
950 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, District of Columbia 20560
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution
Striking Iron exhibition
Photo caption
Fowler Museum

For more than two millennia, ironworking has shaped African cultures in the most fundamental ways. Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths reveals the history of invention and technical sophistication that led African blacksmiths to transform one of Earth’s most basic natural resources into objects of life-changing utility, empowerment, prestige, spiritual potency, and astonishing artistry.

Made possible by major funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Striking Iron is an international traveling exhibition organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA that combines scholarship with objects of great aesthetic beauty to create the most comprehensive treatment of the blacksmith’s art in Africa to date. The exhibition includes over 225 artworks from across the African continent focusing on the region south of the Sahara and covering a time period spanning early archaeological evidence to the present day. Striking Iron features artworks from the Fowler collection as well as American and European public and private collections.

Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths will open at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art Feb. 27, 2019. Among the exhibition's works of art are blades and currencies in myriad shapes and sizes, wood sculptures studded with iron, musical instruments and elaborate body adornments. Striking Iron will close Oct. 20, 2019, and then travel to the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris (November 2019–March 2020).