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African masks on display at the Fort Christian Museum, St Thomas. (photo sent)

The Reichhold Center for the Arts at the University of the Virgin Islands has installed an exhibit of African masks from its African Art Collection at the Fort Christian Museum in St. Thomas. The university launched the exhibition on February 14 as part of UVI’s 60th anniversary celebrationand birthday. It will remain open to the public until March 31.

The historic art collection was originally on display at the Reichhold Center for the Arts until Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused severe damage to the facility, partially exposing the exhibit. With support from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the help of conservators from the Smithsonian Institution and AM Art Conservation, Reichhold was able to restore several badly damaged pieces that are now on display.

“We are delighted to collaborate with Fort Christian and museum curator Monica Prosper on this exhibition. It breathes new life into the collection,” said Denise Humphrey, director of the Reichhold Center for the Arts.

The exhibit contains Bundu helmets from the Sande company of Sierra Leone and Liberia. Also included are two “Maiden Spirit” masks from Nigeria.

Bundu helmets are initiation masks worn by young girls during rituals that induce them to femininity, while Maiden Spirit masks are worn by male dancers who perform during agricultural rituals during the dry season or during funerals of personalities of their society.

African masks are temporarily on display at the Fort Christian Museum from February 14 to March 31. (Photo submitted)

These masks are meant to represent the spirit of a female ancestor and ideals of beauty. A few pieces from the Robert and Donna DeJongh collection will be added to the exhibit later this month. Included will be African headdresses from the Democratic Republic of Congo collected by the DeJongh family.

“The collaboration between the university’s Reichhold Center and the Fort Christian Museum is the first of many activities we will be launching to celebrate UVI’s 60th anniversary,” said Mitchell Neaves, vice president for institutional advancement. “We encourage our residents and visitors to the territory to visit the exhibit in the coming weeks to see the unique and curated art collections we have in the Virgin Islands.”

The Fort Christian Museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Admission is $5 for locals and $10 for visitors.

For more information, contact the Office of Public Relations at pr@uvi.edu.

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