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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Professor Thompson to Present a Public Lecture on Kongo Art History, November 18

November 5, 2007 (DETROIT) The Detroit Institute of Arts’ (DIA) auxiliary Friends of African and African American Art (FAAAA) will present its third annual African Art Recognition Award to Professor Robert Farris Thompson, one of the world’s foremost authorities on African and Afro-Atlantic cultures, on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. at the DIA’s Lecture Hall. The DIA established the award to honor the contributions of scholars, artists and collectors who have made significant contributions to the field of African art.

Immediately following the ceremony, Thompson will present a lecture titled “Kongo Carolina, Kongo New Orleans: Notes from a Transatlantic Classical Tradition.”  He will use kongoism, like the conga drum, the conga line and the conga grind, to argue that Kongo art history, far from exotic or distant, is right next door. He will also address issues of gesture and traditional Kongo writing, reserving special remarks for the DIA’s Nkisi N'kondi (nail sculpture), a masterpiece of Central African art. Thompson is a spellbinding lecturer, known to break into dancing, singing, and drumming during his presentations. A brief reception for Thompson will follow the lecture.

Thompson is currently the Col. John Trumbull Professor of the History of Art and Master of Timothy Dwight College of Divinity at Yale University. He is credited with transforming the fields of African and African Diaspora art history, and is extensively published. In 1995, he received the Leadership Award of the Arts Council of the United States African Studies Association for his contributions to scholarship in arts of African and the African Diaspora.

The ceremony, lecture and reception are open to the public and free of charge, but a reservation is required for the reception.  To make a reservation, please call 313-833-3862 by Wednesday, Nov. 14. 

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Located in the heart of Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts was founded in 1885 and is recognized as one of the country’s premier art museums. The museum’s approximately 60,000 works of art comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from prehistory through the 21st century. From the first van Gogh to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera’s world-renowned Detroit Industry murals, the DIA’s collection reveals the scope and depth of human experience, imagination, and emotion.
To complete the final phase of the DIA renovation project, which includes reinstalling over 5,000 works of art in redesigned galleries, the museum is currently closed. Arts Alive! on Nov. 10 will kick off more than a week of events to celebrate the opening of the new DIA, concluding with its official public debut at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving. 

Media Contacts  

Pamela Marcil 313-833-7899
Brendy Barr 248-651-4858

Please submit your request for media credentials to cover Arts Alive! (Nov. 10) or the Grand Opening (Nov. 23) as soon as possible. If you need a request form, please email No credentials are needed to attend the Media Preview (Nov. 12) but you need to RSVP to