Current Exhibits

“East African Women Wrap with a Message” Kangas: an East African garment for women

Patricia House and Patricia Jackson, curators
Grace Malley, translator

The Kanga is the name used to refer to a colorful garment worn by women, and in rare instances by men, in the countries of East Africa. Kangas are a pair of matching rectangular cloths about one meter long created in bold designs and bright colors with a matching border around the edges. One piece is used as a sarong covering from the waist to below the knee and the other is used for a matching blouse, wrap or head scarf. Kangas are worn for both ordinary and ceremonial dress with messages printed on the fabric. These messages may be proverbs, sayings, wishes, announcements, commemorations and religious verses. The messages concern country, culture, politics, agriculture, science, family, religion and special celebrations.

Kangas are worn by women along the whole of the East African Coast, especially in Tanzania, Kenya and Zanzi-bar. Where and when they originated is debated but early records show women in Tanzania and Zanzibar started wearing these fabrics as wraps in the mid-19th Century. It seems the development of the kanga style was a reaction to the clothing worn by missionaries, which seemed cumbersome and inappropriate for tropical climates.

Kanga cloths are culturally significant and often given as a gift for birthdays, special occasions or are handed down to younger members of the family. Since the words and messages printed on kangas have cultural signifi-cance, they may be passed on to reinforce popular or sacred beliefs. People connect by wearing kangas with the same or similar messages. This contributes to social unity and may constitute a group supporting a person or a cause.

The name Kanga comes from the Swahili name for guinea fowl because the early patterns used for the fabrics resembled the plumage of the guinea fowl. Today the motifs have evolved to provide an endless variety of de-signs in many colors. The name “Kangas” continues to be used to refer to the wearable cloths in East Africa.

The museums show includes a private collection of kangas. Intrigued by the colorful designs and messages, Pat House collected these kangas in Tanzania, Kenya and Zanzibar over a period of thirty years. “I was attracted to the beautiful patterns and colors and I was impressed with the idea of delivering a serious message through ap-parel. Although this is not unusual today, these ladies demonstrated a desire to share and publicize their beliefs before it was popular on the other continents. The Kanga was one way to give East African Women voice”, Pat House.

• This exhibition is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency fund-ed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Windows Gallery - 1st Floor

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 - 4:30 pm OR By Appointment
Mar 2
Apr 29

Pasquale Cortese in the Community Gallery

Artist Statement: My abstract drawings express my interest in visually warping the flat surface and creating the sensation of energy fields. Through complex patterns and intricate inking, I create images of a dual nature, both optically dynamic while stable and meditative. I want viewers to contemplate their relationship to natural forces and forms while feeling their grace and energy. I have recently been exploring color, after working in only black & white for many years.

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 - 4:30 pm OR By Appointment
Mar 2
Mar 25

Jeni Kocher Zerphy in the Sieg Gallery

Artist Statement: Art is for everyone!
I try to create and celebrate something everyday. Some ideas are easily netted, others need to swim about in my head a bit, and still others evade capture entirely, becoming more of a catalyst for other creations. However, most of my work starts and ends up partially abstract and layered.
My photography is a mixed bag - sometimes I want to capture the beauty of the moment just as it is - other times, I want to create a different perspective, a familiar scene, seen differently.
I think of my photography as mining for gems. I collect promising material, sift through, then decide which are specimen pieces and which will be cut and polished. A lot of my favorite pieces happened by asking, “What if. . . ?” I hope you enjoy looking at my artwork as much as I enjoy creating it!

Bio: Jeni Kocher Zerphy grew up in the Lehigh Valley, located in Eastern Pennsylvania. She has been fascinated with the power of an image since she was a small child and has had a camera around her neck since she was thirteen. Living in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Connecticut, and Maryland afforded her the opportunity to enjoy different flora and fauna. Jeni has now made it back to Pennsylvania and resides in State College with her husband, Matt (& Carkie, Squatch). She is an empty-nester as her son, Alex, is a student at Penn State. Her artwork has been in several juried and non-juried shows, including Images.

Her lifelong love of nature was deepened by her son’s interest in the natural world and passion for saving the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab. Jeni was the co-founder and educational outreach
Biography coordinator for the Chesapeake Conservation Center - an organization connecting people with nature and head-starting species impacted by the loss of sandy beach habitat. She is currently a board member for Echoes of Nature, a Maryland-based roving nature center entering their new phase of building a wildlife discovery center.

Jeni attended Penn State University and is a College of Education alumna. She is a Maryland & Pennsylvania certified teacher and has enjoyed working with students in grades PreK-12. She is also the author and illustrator of Submarine, the board book (ISBN# 978-0-692-24373-2). Submarine is proud to call the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry one of its many ports.
In addition, she started Steel Crab Industries, Inc. - a company dedicated to her art and illustration endeavors and is looking forward to connecting her digital art/graphic design/photography with the community & the university.

Sieg Gallery - 1st Floor

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 - 4:30 pm OR By Appointment
Mar 2
Mar 25