The Africana Studies department unveiled their cultural exhibit for the semester on Monday, titled “The Kings and Queens of Africa.”

On the ground floor of Lippitt Hall, the display features 29 framed poster reproductions of a painting series that was commissioned by Anheuser-Busch in 1975. Each print depicts an influential and well-respected figure of African royalty, dating back to before the common era (BCE).  

Dr. Vanessa Wynder Quainoo, the director of Africana studies, organized, publicized and generated the funding for this exhibit, which is set to run through December. The Africana studies program is nearly 25 years old.

“Every year, for the three years that I have been here, we have done a major exhibit featuring some aspect of African or African American culture,” Quainoo said. “We really like for our exhibits to be artistic, but even more so, educational.”

Dr. Norman Barber, an adjunct professor at URI, is the owner of this set of prints, and was urged by Quainoo to involve them in this semester’s display. The department’s last display, “The Eyes of Africa,” was supposed to be up for just one semester, but stayed for the entire year due to its popularity.

Barber hopes that this exhibit can give students an understanding of the true history of Africa and some of its most influential leaders throughout history. The original paintings made their way through the country in 1975 as a traveling exhibit, going from city to city. The series has also been featured in Ebony magazine.

“The more we dig into the history of Africa, the more we learn about what that continent has to offer,” Barber said. “Not long ago, we all thought that Egypt was part of the Middle East; many of us were taught that. But we know that that’s not true.”

The painting series was the brainchild of an Anheuser-Busch sales representative named Henry Brown. The company was looking to develop a market with the African American Community, so Brown was given the task to come up with a way to do that through African American heritage.

“The more we know about the history of Africa and the history of the world, the more we will be able to relate to one another,” Barber said. “I think we have a problem right now because there are too many barriers. A lot of times the barriers have to do with race. We break down those barriers by learning each other’s history.”

Following the unveiling of the exhibit, Barber gave a lecture on the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti and King Akhenaten. In the audience were members of both Quainoo’s and Barber’s classes, as well as other faculty members and curious students. The lecture focused on some of the mysteries that surround Queen Nefertiti’s life, death and legacy.

The display is open to the public from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday until the end of the semester. More information about the exhibit and the Africana studies program can be found at http://web.uri.edu/africana/.