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Africa & Byzantium

Sunday, April 14–Sunday, July 21, 2024
Location:  003 Special Exhibition Hall
The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall

About The Exhibition

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Three centuries after the pharaohs of ancient Egypt ended their rule, new African rulers built empires in the northern and eastern regions of that continent. Spanning from the Empire of Aksum in present-day Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Yemen to the Christian kingdoms of Nubia in present-day Sudan, these complex civilizations cultivated economic, political, and cultural relationships with one another. The Byzantine Empire (Byzantium)—inheritor of the Roman Empire—also took part in these artistic and cultural networks as it expanded its footprint in northern Africa. Together, these great civilizations created their own unique arts while also building a shared visual culture across the regions linked by the Mediterranean and Red Seas, the Nile River, and the Sahara Desert.

Africa & Byzantium considers the complex artistic relationships between northern and eastern African Christian kingdoms and the Byzantine Empire from the fourth century CE and beyond. The first international loan exhibition to treat this subject, the show includes more than 160 works of secular and sacred art from across geographies and faiths, including large-scale frescoes, mosaics, and luxury goods such as metalwork, jewelry, panel paintings, architectural elements, textiles, and illuminated manuscripts.

Lent from collections in Africa, Europe, and North America, many works have never been exhibited in the US. Most were made by African artists or imported to the continent at the request of the powerful rulers of precolonial kingdoms and empires. The art and faith of these historical kingdoms—including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—resonate with many worldwide today.

The exhibition is organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Ticket Prices

Additional discounts may apply. Member benefits vary depending on level.


Principal support is provided by the Payne Fund and John and Jeanette Walton. Major support is provided by Austin and Gillian Chinn, Ellen Chinn Curtis, the Malcolm E. Kenney Endowment Fund, and the late Mrs. Jeptha H. Wade. Generous support is provided by Leigh H. Carter in honor of the Wade family, Jamie Wade Comstock, the Helen Wade Greene Charitable Trust in memory of Edward Lee Perry, Slocumb Hollis Perry and the late Edward Lee Perry, the George Garretson Wade Charitable Trust No. 2, and Randall H. Wade. Additional support is provided by Irene and John Briedis, Garretson W. Chinn, Emily Wade Hughey, Carl M. Jenks, Mr. and Mrs. Ellery Sedgwick, Theodore Sedgwick, the Simon Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, and William G. Wade. 

This exhibition is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.

Seal of the NEH

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Principal annual support is provided by Michael Frank and the late Pat Snyder, the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, the John and Jeanette Walton Exhibition Fund, and Margaret and Loyal Wilson. Generous annual support is provided by an anonymous supporter, Gini and Randy Barbato, the late Dick Blum and Harriet Warm, Gary and Katy Brahler, Cynthia and Dale Brogan, Dr. Ben and Julia Brouhard, Brenda and Marshall Brown, Richard and Dian Disantis, the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, the Frankino-Dodero Family Fund for Exhibitions Endowment, Florence Kahane Goodman, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Marta Jack and the late Donald M. Jack Jr., Carl T. Jagatich, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, the Roy Minoff Family Fund, Lu Anne and the late Carl Morrison, Jeffrey Mostade and Eric Nilson and Varun Shetty, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, William J. and Katherine T. O’Neill, Michael and Cindy Resch, Betty T. and David M. Schneider, Paula and Eugene Stevens, the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Claudia Woods and David Osage.