Past 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

The First Decade at the Museum: Portraits & Posters

Join friends and museum members celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County with a show reviewing the first nine years with an exhibition of self-portraits done by artists from the museums’ Artist Registry and including a collection of the many posters that were created to announce the shows over the years. The goal is to show our visitors who we are! The show will help artists, members and visitors appreciate the work done by so many to create this enriching destination for the arts in our community!

Windows on the World and Sieg Galleries - 1st Floor

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 - 4:30 pm OR By Appointment
Jan 5
Feb 25
art-heim douglas-weirauch lori-fisher marylou-pepe portraits-and-posters

Susan Parsonage in the Community Gallery

Bio: Susan Parsonage was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After her marriage to William, they moved to State College, PA, where they raised their three children. While her children were growing up, Susan earned an LAS degree, with highest distinction and a BA in Art, with highest distinction, and then an MFA in printmaking from Penn State University, University Park, PA. After graduation, Susan taught art courses at Penn State, for 12 years through the Visual Arts Department and Continuing and Distance Education. She also taught courses in numerous workshop settings.

In 1988, Susan was a Visiting Professor of Art at the Universidad de Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico, where she helped with the design and creation of a print program in the School of Art and Architecture. She was also asked to deliver several public lectures on Contemporary Art and teach a printmaking class.

Susan was selected to be on the PA Council on the Arts roster of artists, in 1989, to do residencies and workshops in regional school settings. In 2005 she received a Fellowship Award from the Women’s Studio Workshop, Rosendale, NY. Susan continues to do post-graduate work in printmaking at Penn State University and exhibits her work regionally.

Statement: For me, there is a distinction between what is merely seen and that which is felt and tacitly understood. Even though we try, we can never convey everything we intend with words. There is so much misunderstanding in the world.
I intend to develop visual equivalents to express perceptions and memories of my life experiences, with a concern for the underlying forces and elements that tie me to the natural world. Marks made by the artist’s hand impart intended and unintended elements of thought (language, memory and ideas) in their every motion, I believe.
We can catch glimpses of the truth through our imagination. The truths we glimpse are not about the world; if they can be said to be about anything, it must be about ourselves, the observers.

Community Gallery - 2nd Floor

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