Journey into our renowned African art galleries and come face to face with a mask from the people of Zaire or a gold necklace from Ghana. With objects from nearly 100 ethnic groups and cultures there is something for everyone.
African art has been a vital part of the Museum since the 1870s, beginning with the acquisition of several objects from Liberia. For over 120 years, Hampton has built a permanent collection that represents the visual arts of Sub-Saharan African peoples. Initially, many of the African objects were obtained from the faculty and students. One of the largest and most prominent collections was formed by Dr. William H. Sheppard, an African American, between 1890 and 1910. After attending Hampton, he became a Presbyterian missionary in the then Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo). Among the many fine objects he collected was a c. 17th-century iron ceremonial sword with copper and brass inlay, a gift from the son of the reigning king as a sign of gratitude and kinship.
African students also brought objects representing their cultures to the Museum. Thus, early 20th century examples of the visual arts of the Kikuyu (Kenya), Zulu (South Africa), Kru (Liberia), Mende (Sierra Leone) and other African peoples are well represented.