Installation view of With Opened Mouths, 2021
African Historical Art
About the Collection

Numbering over 500 objects, the Justin and Elisabeth Lang Collection of African Art ranks among Canada’s most comprehensive. Comprised primarily of works by West and Central African artists, the collection emphasizes series that articulate the creative variety and dynamism found among objects of similar purpose. Often conceived as part of larger ensembles that included costuming and performance, the function and meaning of these works are changed in museum display as they are presented to audiences unanticipated by their creators.

Above: Helmet Mask (Sowei or Ndoli Jowei), Mende peoples, Liberia/Sierra Leone, 20th century, wood. Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 (M84-144). Photo: Synthescape


In July 2023, the Lang Collection of African Art made the journey to a temporary home on Queen’s campus in preparation for the Agnes Reimagined rebuild. As a moment of honouring and celebration, members of the broader community enacted the Vulindlela procession to honour the African collection through music, poetry and dance. The song Vulindlela was released by South African music icon Brenda Fassie and was released in 1997 after the end of formal apartheid.

This playlist celebrates the richness and vibrancy of contemporary African music, coming mostly from South Africa and Nigeria but including Kenya. These are the places where either the African collection or the procession participants originated. Some of the tracks also contain musical instruments that reside in the African collection (Pennywhistle by Mango Groove) and Burn Out by Sipho Hotstix Mabuse), while others emphasize migration and movement (CANADA by Lojay and Mowbray Kaap by Freshly Ground). Tracks like Jerusalema (Master KG) and Vulindlela (Brenda Fasie) celebrate life and overcoming difficulty.

Find more

Image Credits

Subscribe to our “This Week at Agnes” e-newsletter to stay abreast of events, news and opportunities at the art museum.