The Block launches to support teaching and learning on medieval Africa

The Block Museum of Art announces the launch of, a companion site to museum’s 2019 exhibition Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa. The exhibition is currently on view at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum and will travel to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in 2020.

Caravans of Gold is the first major traveling exhibition to use medieval objects to place West Africa at the center of a global historical narrative during the 8th to the 16th century. The exhibition and the companion site introduce audiences to Africa’s vital presence in medieval world history, making this past visible and tangible. The site offers downloadable resources to support teaching and learning on the topic of medieval Africa.

Featuring images and information about key objects from the exhibition, an exhibition checklist, extended video interviews with archaeologists , maps of medieval trade routes the website shines a light on the research behind the groundbreaking exhibition. Additional lesson plans and a recommended reading list for K-12 educators are forthcoming in 2020.

In our history classes, we are always trying to complicate accepted narratives of history. Many of our students come in with an accepted and limited view of African history and people. This exhibit allowed us to give clear and compelling examples of how African nations and empires were actively engaged in global trade for centuries before most students would have guessed.

Pankaj Sharma, Niles North High School, Skokie, Illinois

The Block Museum recognizes the importance of engaging with and exploring histories and art histories that are underrepresented in the public sphere, including in art museums. We invite the public, especially educators, to use this site to learn about and share this important story which celebrates West Africa’s historic and under recognized global significance.

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