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National Museum of African Art Shows Its Very First Documentary

The National Museum of African Art will host a public screening of its very first documentary project that showcases cultural similarities between two little heard-about regions in East Africa and Western Asia. Arts of the Monsoon, produced by Smithsonian education specialist Nicole Shivers, is part of museum’s larger project, “Connecting the gems of the Indian Ocean from Oman to East Africa.”

“As a museum, our collection has heavily focused on West African artifacts,” said Shivers. “I don’t think I even knew about Oman before this started. I hope this documentary gives a voice to some new places, a new beauty through the arts and culture.

Shivers teamed up with two members of Combat Films and Edward Burke, the museum’s head of communications, and filmed through Oman and Zanzibar in a 19 day period. Through funding and networking help from the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, the team of four interviewed scholars, historians musicians, fashion designers, film makers, dancers and other Omani artists about the African influences in their crafts.

But why is there a link between two countries separated by oceans? Shivers says that though the history of slave trade between the regions forever scars Omani and Zanzibar culture, the art that it has inspired can heal.

“It’s such a personal story, and sometimes people don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “That’s the beauty of art–we can talk about it through the arts and show the beauty despite the ugliness.”

Shivers has submitted Arts of the Monsoon to be featured in 15 film festivals throughout the world and hopes the documentary will eventually be featured on PBS.

Arts of the Monsoon will screen to the public at the National Museum of African Art this Saturday at 2 p.m. You can make reservations here.



Jennifer Ortiz
Editorial Fellow