Drawing from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s outstanding collection and other treasures of expressive culture from West Central Africa, Dr. Cécile Fromont, assistant professor of art history at the University of Chicago, will explore five hundred years of the region’s history through art. A careful analysis of crucifixes, power figures, and regalia—including works on view in the exhibition Fragments of the Invisible: The René and Odette Delenne Collection of Congo Sculpture—outlines the rich political, religious, and artistic trajectory of this exceptionally well-documented part of Africa. Key artworks, put into their broader visual and material context, reveal the Central Africans’ own perspectives on key moments of the history of their region, such as the Kingdom of Kongo’s adoption of Catholicism circa 1500, the era of the slave trade, and the rise and apex of colonialism in the late nineteenth and twentieth century.
Cécile Fromont received her Ph.D. in history of art and architecture from Harvard University in 2008. Prior to joining the University of Chicago faculty, she was a postdoctoral scholar at the Michigan Society of Fellows and an assistant professor in the department of the history of art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her 2011 article “Dance, Image, Myth, and Conversion in the Kingdom of Kongo” in volume 44 of African Arts was selected as one of 50 influential journal articles published by the MIT Press between 1969 and 2012.