Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Website Search Box

Unless you know the road you've come down, you cannot know where you are going.
Temne proverb, Sierra Leone

Africa’s people have profoundly influenced global culture and history—and continue to do so today. In this 6,500-square-foot exhibition, meet individual Africans from around the continent, encounter proverbs, music, prayers, and written word representing both everyday people and historical figures, and engage with more than 400 objects that explore commerce, art, political activism, and community life from a diversity of communities and personal viewpoints.


  • An aqal, a portable home used in Somalia by herding communities, and listen as two Somali immigrants recall their early lives in the aqal
  • The Market Crossroads, a re-creation of a busy marketplace in Accra, Ghana, where you can view goods from yams to kola nuts to kitchenware and learn why the market remains a central part of Ghanaian daily life
  • Two ciwara—wooden antelope masks—representing the mythical animals that taught farming to the Bamana people of Mali


  • Pause in any of 11 “listening stations” to hear Africans’ stories in their own words, as well as music and atmospheric soundscapes.
  • Step into the Mud Masons of Mali gallery to learn how tradesmen in the ancient city of Djenné build and re-build the community’s beautiful and distinctive buildings and historic mosque from baked-earth bricks and plaster.
  • Stop by the Freedom Theaterto watch two short films: “Atlantic Slave Trade” and “The Struggle for Freedom.”

[ TOP ]

Sign up for the latest news!