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Art history professor part of curatorial team praised for exhibition of African blacksmithing

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Iron Cow

William J. Dewey, associate professor of art history, College of Arts and Architecture, and director of the African Studies Program, College of the Liberal Arts, was part of the curatorial team for “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths” at UCLA’s Fowler Museum, recently described in “The New York Times” as one of “three knockout art shows to see in Los Angeles right now.”

The exhibition, which opened in June, will be on display through December 30. In “The New York Times” piece, noted art critic Holland Cotter said the exhibition is “the most beautiful sculpture show in recent memory.”

The exhibition, which includes more than 225 Sub-Saharan works of art assembled from public and private collections and dating from early archaeological times to the contemporary period, is the most thorough display of African blacksmithing ever assembled. Along with Dewey, the curatorial team included master blacksmith and MacArthur Fellow Tom Joyce; Allen F. Roberts, professor of world arts and cultures at UCLA; Henry John Drewal, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Marla C. Berns, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA.In 2017, they received a $250,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant for the project, which they began working on nine years ago.

For more information on the exhibition, visit The exhibition will travel to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in February 2019. For more information on Dewey’s work, see the news release about the NEH grant at

Image: Iron Cow, said to have been personally made by the 19th-century Karagwe king Ndagara, Karagwe Kingdom, Tanzania; iron, H: 19 cm. (7 1/2"); collection of the University of Iowa Museum of Art.