I met Dr. Roy Sieber in 1965, during my senior year at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). He was on campus to give lectures about African art and culture to Peace Corps Volunteers destined to serve in Africa. As a non-PCV, I could not attend those lectures. Instead, we met at the College Museum1 where I had been a student assistant since my freshman year. Evert Johnson, director of the museum, had invited his good friend and African art expert to evaluate the African art collection. Although I was familiar with the collection, I had little understanding of the importance, especially of the Kuba materials given by William Henry Sheppard (Figs. 1–2). I assisted Dr. Sieber during his visit and in the process developed a greater appreciation for and understanding of the artworks. This encounter cemented my desire to work in a museum and began a long and beneficial association with my mentor, one that endured over three decades.
In my estimation, Roy Sieber (1923–2001) is the First Ancestor of the discipline of African art history. As the first to earn a PhD with a specialization in African art, he is the academic father of a large family of scholars. Awarded the degree by Iowa State University (now University of Iowa) in 1957, he enjoyed a long, productive career as a highly respected and much-admired professor and museum professional. Moving to Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1962, he earned the title Rudy Professor of African Art early in his tenure; he retired in 1993. He was a published author, innovative curator, and an arts administrator. Long involved in appreciation of the object and having developed the eye of a connoisseur, he became an advisor to collectors, a consultant for museum collections, and strove to develop the ideal university collection of African art. He did likewise as the Associate Director for Collections and Research at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African Art from 1983–1994. During his tenure at Indiana University, Dr. Sieber taught hundreds of undergraduates and mentored graduate students, of some fifty of whom earned the MA or PhD degree in African art under his supervision; I am among the latter group of Sieber graduates. Dr. Sieber's extraordinary career has been reviewed by Doran Ross (1992), and memorialized by Robert Farris Thompson (2001), Robin Poynor (2001), Christine Mullen Kreamer (2003a–b), and Stephen Mellor and Dana Moffett (2003), among others. I would like to add this personal remembrance of my mentor, surrogate father, boss, colleague, and friend. While I always referred to him with affection as “Papa” (which he knew but did not seem to mind) and we had a genuinely close relationship, I could never call him Roy. He will always be “Dr. Sieber.”
When Dr. Sieber asked about my plans for graduate school, I shared with him my desire to work in an art museum and plan to apply to Oberlin College, the rare American institution at the time that offered any kind of museum training.2 Dr. Sieber helped me refine my career goal and suggested I consider applying to Indiana University instead of Oberlin. I did; and thanks to Dr. Sieber, I enrolled in the fall of 1966 with financial support and the title of “Graduate Research Assistant in African Studies in the Art Department.” I received a new name, too: “Intrepid,” the name Dr. Sieber gave to each of his graduate assistants.
Dr. Sieber's mark on the professions of African art through his academic progeny can be noted in several areas. He mentored more than fifty students who went on to populate colleges and universities through the United States. In each, he instilled an appreciation of the object and an understanding of how to explain the object in the context of the culture that produced it. Whether his students went on to teach in colleges and universities or assumed museum positions, the idea of the “sacredness of the object” had been firmly planted in their minds. His devotion to the object and understanding of how that object came to be and what it meant to its creators made an impact not only on his teaching but also led him to explore these ideas by placing objects in exhibitions. These exhibitions were instrumental in introducing African art to great numbers of museum visitors but also inserted important academic ideas into scholarly discussion.
In 1966 Indiana University, because it had a thriving African Studies Program, was a magnet for students who wanted to pursue advanced degrees. The university offered courses on anthropology, folklore, geography, history, African languages, ethnomusicology, and, of course, African art history. Some of Dr. Sieber's students were former Peace Corps Volunteers who probably had heard him lecture at other PVC training sites, while others, like me, arrived straight from college; still others had already begun their doctoral programs and by the time I arrived were back from fieldwork. Included in this group were: Arnold Rubin, who had come with Dr. Sieber from the University of Iowa and was the first to earn a PhD; William “Bill” Fagaly, who earned a MA degree in 1966 and went to work at the Delgado Museum (renamed New Orleans Museum of Art), where he stayed for fifty glorious years; and René Bravmann, who became a professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. My classmates included Anita Glaze, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Côte d'Ivoire Coast, who studied the Senufo, while Babatunde Lawal, who hailed from Nigeria, focused on art related to Shango, the Yoruba god of thunder. After teaching for several years in Nigeria and the United States, Tunde settled at Virginia Commonwealth University until his retirement. Emannuel Odita, also from Nigeria, joined the faculty of Ohio State University, Columbus, and Daniel Mato returned to Canada to teach at the University of Calgary. Robin Poynor, who succeeded me as an “Intrepid,” focused on Yoruba art in Owo, Nigeria. He honed his teaching skills in correspondence courses on African art for Indiana University Division of Continuing Education and eventually enjoyed a stellar career teaching at the University of Florida, Gainesville, until his retirement in 2016. My class also included Martha “Marty” Ehrlich, who pursued Asante royal regalia and after stints as an itinerant art historian, finished her dissertation and went on to teach African art at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, until her retirement in 2012. Three of our classmates completed the MA degree under Dr. Sieber's guidance: Robert Boyce, who went on to do a PhD in architectural history and taught at his alma mater, Berea College in Kentucky; Lou Ann Lambeth, who taught for several years at Governors State University before she moved to Urbana, Illinois, to pursue a degree in museum studies; and Constance Kemmemer, who went into the health and wellness field.
When I returned to Indiana University in 1970 to begin work on my PhD, Fred Smith (Kent State University), Judy Perani (Ohio University), Marcilene Wittmer (University of Miami), Lisa Aronson (Skidmore College), Mary Jo Arnoldi (Smithsonian Institution), Christopher Roy (University of Iowa), David Binkley (Nelson Adkins and Smithsonian Institution), and Patricia Darish (University of Nebraska) had joined the Sieber clan. Subsequently, Dr. Sieber would direct the doctoral programs of another generation or two of students: Arthur Bourgeois (Governors State University), Diane Pelrine (Indiana University Art Museum), Christine Mullen Kreamer (Smithsonian Institution), William Dewey (Pennsylvania State University), Michael Conner (Southern University of New Orleans), Cornelius Adepegba (University of Ibadan), Kristyne Loughran (independent scholar, Florence, Italy), Andrea Nicolls (Smithsonian Institution), Kathy Curnow (Cleveland State University), dele jegede (Miami University of Ohio), Barbara Frank (State University of New York, Stony Brook, and my “spiritual child”), and Ray Price, Kay Dowling, Johanna Edwards, and Karen Brown.
During the Smithsonian years, Dr. Sieber split the year between Washington, DC, and Bloomington, where he continued to teach and mentor African art history majors as well as serve on many dissertation committees with Patrick McNaughton. They cochaired Kristyne Loughran's committee. Among the many for which Dr. Sieber served as committee member after his retirement were Rebecca Green (Bowling Green State University), Victoria Rovine (University of North Carolina), Alice Burmeister (Winthrop College), Kathleen Bickford Berzock (Art Institute of Chicago), Tavy Aherne (Indiana University Art Museum), Joanna Grabski (Denison University), Suzanne Gott (University of British Columbia), and Terri Sowell, who majored in Oceanic art. Dr. Sieber's last committee membership was for Amanda Carlson (University of Hartford), who defended in 2002, after his death.
In addition to Fagaly, Kemmemer, and Lambeth, other Sieber students who received only a MA degree in African art include Peggy Pulliam McDowell (University of New Orleans), Sara Hollis (Southern University of New Orleans), Rachelle Puryear (Swedish Royal College of Art, Stockholm), Ted Celenko (Indianapolis Museum of Art), and Gilbert Ametgatcher (Kwame Nkurumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana). Dr. Sieber also mentored graduate students majoring in other disciplines. This group includes Paula Girshick (anthropology; Indiana University), William Siegmann (history; Brooklyn Museum), Edward DeCarbo (anthropology; Pratt Instiute), James Bellis (archaeology; Norte Dame University), and Philip Peek (folklore; Drew University). Dr. Sieber was also involved in the PhD programs of students from other universities: Robert Soppelsa (Washburn University and Art in Embassies, US State Department), came to spend a year with Dr. Sieber from Ohio State University, where his professor was Emannuel Odita. When Robert Goldwater died in 1973, Dr. Sieber served as the primary reader for Susan Vogel's dissertation.
As indicated above, the majority of Dr. Sieber's graduates became professors of art history, thus expanding the course offerings in this country. Several members of this group curated African art exhibitions from time to time. However, several of his students devoted their careers entirely to museum work. Members of this group include: Peggy Gilfoy (Indianapolis Museum of Art), William Fagaly (New Orleans Museum of Art), Ted Celenko (Indianapolis Museum of Art), and William Siegmann (The Brooklyn Museum). Several of us were career curators at the Smithsonian Institution: Andrea Nicolls, David Binkley, Christine Mullen Kreamer, and I joined the National Museum of African art while Mary Jo Arnoldi, despite being an art historian, headed the Anthropology Division of the National Museum of Natural History.
Dr. Sieber was an engaging teacher whose lectures in a dark auditorium kept his students awake and enthralled. He used to bring real African sculptures to class for examination with one's eyes and nose and hands. He discussed not only form, style, and aesthetics of the objects, but also placed them within their cultural and historical contexts. He made us aware of proximity and influence. I can still hear him explain that Africans did not live in hermetically sealed vacuums but were in contact with their close and distant neighbors through trade, conquest, or other means. They might incorporate some element of the other's style in their own art or obtain from others certain types of objects for their own use.
He made us aware of sources he had utilized to understand African art that include early traveler and missionary accounts of particular peoples. He also cautioned one to understand the bias of the authors of such reports. That was good advice for life in general. Dr. Sieber's approach to teaching combined the methodologies of art history and ethnology that he learned from the professors he most admired: Meyer Schapiro at the New School of Social Research, New York, and Melville Herskovits at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Schapiro greatly shaped the discipline of art history at the time, forging new art historical methodologies that incorporated an interdisciplinary approach to the study of works of art. His association with Schapiro, whose expertise on early Christian, medieval, and modern art, allowed him to explore art historical periods and movements with an eye towards the social, political, and the material construction of art works. Having begun as a medievalist, Dr. Sieber understood these premises as he moved into the study of African art. In fact, he saw parallels between medieval art and African art in the importance of art in religious and leadership contexts. He incorporated these ideas learned early on at the New School in his dissertation. Influenced by Herskovits's concept of anthropology, Dr. Sieber investigated all elements of human existence and all facets, emphasizing for his students that objects did not exist alone. Then it moves with people, with all of those things that make a “culture.”
Dr. Sieber did not provide a syllabus at the beginning of a course. Rather, he provided a reading list—which included Schapiro's essay on “Style” (1961)—and had the books placed on reserve in the Fine Arts Library. He expected us to read those books. He did not expect nor want students to regurgitate his lectures on exams but to answer, citing sources if necessary. There was usually a question about a particular author's bias. Similarly, field research, which majors pursuing a doctorate were required to undertake, was accomplished without much direction. We had, of course, a role model in Dr. Sieber, whose personal experiences in the field in Ghana and Nigeria helped us create our own methodology. Self-reliance.
In the 1960s, art history professors served as adjunct curators at the university art museum. Dr. Sieber was the curator of “Primitive Art” (i.e., the arts of Africa, Oceania, and pre-Columbian Americas). His enthusiasm for “the object” led him to provide hands-on experiences with art in the storage room. These student-object encounters were both enjoyable and beneficial. While we never organized an exhibition for the university art museum, several art history and anthropology students worked together to create an exhibition in the Anthropology Department. It entailed building a Sudanic mosque or residence out of clay. Poynor organized an exhibition in the Student Union to coincide with a conference on African literature and later curated an exhibition with IU Art Museum African artworks and produced a small catalogue. His exhibition traveled throughout the state of Indiana.
In an effort to set me on the path to a museum career, Dr. Sieber encouraged me to become a docent and give public gallery tours at the University Art Museum, which I did. I experienced being a gallery guard on one memorable Saturday when most of the security personnel were required at a football game. I also gained experience talking about artworks to children when Dr. Sieber sent me in his place to do “show, tell, and experience African art” in the local elementary schools.
The summer of 1967 offered another opportunity for me to substitute for Dr. Sieber. He was to be a consultant to the board of directors of the original International Afro-American Museum, Inc. (renamed the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History) which was planning to create a museum on African history and culture in Detroit. As it turned out, Dr. Sieber also received an invitation to teach at the University of Ghana.3 When the directors accepted me as a substitute for Dr. Sieber, I went to Detroit, where I learned that the museum had purchased a mobile trailer that was expected to be furnished with displays and ready to open in late summer at the Michigan State Fair. Furthermore, I was to work with a volunteer architect, carpenters, painters, and Professor Audrey Smedley, an anthropologist from Wayne State University. Clearly, I was not going to be short-term consultant but a curator and exhibition designer of the mobile history museum. I could have turned around and returned to Bloomington, but I did not. I accepted the challenge—as I suspected Dr. Sieber expected me to—and brought the project to fruition despite the devastating race riots that occurred that summer.
While Dr. Sieber was away in Ghana, Arnold Rubin taught the professor's classes while working on his dissertation. I remember a no-nonsense but caring teacher who let students know, in no uncertain terms (I think of his comments in my examination blue books), that he expected their best effort. He left Indiana University in 1967 to teach at UCLA where he was a prolific author whose research interests extended beyond African art to such subjects as the public arts of Forest Lawn Cemetery and the Pasadena Rose Parade as well as the arts of tattoo. Regarding the latter, his research entailed personal experience; he had himself tattooed.
Dr. Sieber had a generous spirit. He unselfishly gave his time, offered advice, and launched his students' careers by acknowledging their contributions in print and providing opportunities for them to publish. Arnold Rubin, for example, was his acknowledged collaborator on “The Sculpture of Black Africa” exhibition and catalogue, which they produced in 1968 (Fig. 3). This groundbreaking exhibition broke with the model set by Carl Kjersmeier in the 1930s, which had arranged African sculptural styles geographically. Instead, Sieber and Rubin explored the connection between the art object and the African languages, oral traditions, and contacts between and among groups and the complexity and connections that contribute to African style areas. When the International Exhibitions Foundation recreated “The Sculpture of Black Africa” as a traveling exhibition in 1970, Robin Poynor, the then current “Intrepid,” coauthored with Dr. Sieber an Addendum to the catalogue (Sieber and Rubin 1968; Sieber and Rubin 1970; Sieber and Poynor 1970).
After being away for two years—employed as a registrar at the Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, and curator of the University Art Gallery at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a summer job as registrar at the Nigerian Federal Department of Antiquities, Lagos (all positions facilitated by Dr. Sieber)—I was back at Indiana University in 1970 as a Visiting Lecturer in the nascent Afro-American Studies Program and re-enrolled in the Graduate School to pursue my doctorate. Dr. Sieber's 1970 sabbatical project had been field research on textiles and decorative arts in Nigeria (Sieber 1973).4 He, with the assistance of Katherine White, an African art enthusiast and collector who had made a nationwide survey of such objects, began to work on a new, groundbreaking exhibition focused on the ornamentation and decoration of the human body. I was invited to assist with the project. Initially, my job was to visit prospective lenders and check the condition of the objects we wished to borrow, obtain whatever information I could about them, and locate contextual images. Later Dr. Sieber assigned me to write a bibliographic essay. This was my first important publication, thanks to Dr. Sieber. Titled “African Textiles and Decorative Art,” the exhibition opened in 1972 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York—site of the 1935 “African Negro Art” exhibition (Sweeney 1966)—the exhibition and accompanying book served to extend the definition of African art, which until that time had been limited for the most part to sculpted masks and figures (Sieber 1972).
In this groundbreaking exhibition, Dr. Sieber selected textiles and objects intended to beautify the human body. Being of its time, when discussions of African art tended to be limited to sub-Saharan Africa, objects exhibited did not include much outside of West or Central Africa. But within that vast region Dr. Sieber intended that “No style or geographical area has been consciously ignored” (Sieber 1972:10). He selected objects he deemed of aesthetic excellence in contemporary Western terms. The fact that the exhibition was held at the Museum of Modern Art, emphasis was on aesthetic merit. Dr. Sieber was emphasizing “art” not “ethnology.”
Having discovered great examples of household objects during the course of researching African body arts, it was only natural that Dr. Sieber plan a focused exhibition that would further expand the parameters of traditional African art. Thus, he conceived “African Furniture and Household Objects,” a major touring exhibition accompanied by a substantial book (Sieber 1980). Whereas most of Dr. Sieber's research for “African Textiles” was accomplished with help from rare books librarians (for early travelers' accounts) and studio art colleagues at Indiana University, this time he enlisted the help of his graduate students Martha Anderson and Mary Jo Arnoldi and past graduate research assistants David Binkley, Patricia Darish, Sigrid Munt, and Michael Conner. While I was not part of the exhibition team, when the exhibition was presented at the Brooklyn Museum in 1981, Dr. Sieber, who was otherwise engaged, asked me to give a gallery talk in his place.
After a few years in Nigeria where I was Curator of Collections at the University of Ibadan, I returned to the United States in 1975 and found employment at Illinois State University, Normal-Bloomington. I held positions of curator, lecturer, and director of the University Museums, which included a collection of traditional African art. On the recommendation of Dr. Sieber, I was the guest curator of “African Women/African Art” at the Africa-America Institute, New York, in 1976 (Walker 1976). Barbara Frank, a student at Illinois Wesylan University, Bloomington, took my African art course and found her calling. I encouraged her to study under Dr. Sieber, which she did and earned a PhD in 1988, three years before I earned mine. After five years, I was ready to be a fulltime curator again. I returned to the Museum of African Art to assume the position of Curator of Research. In 1979 the Museum, located on Capitol Hill in the historic Frederick Douglass townhouse, had been acquired by the Smithsonian Institution by Act of Congress and in 1981 renamed the National Museum of African Art. Following the retirement of the founding director, Warren M. Robbins, the search was on for his successor. In response to letters requesting recommendations for a staff representative to serve on the Search Committee, I nominated myself. Naturally, I encouraged Dr. Sieber to apply for the position. Both he and Sylvia Williams, who had been a student of Robert Goldwater at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and then Curator of African Art at the Brooklyn Museum, were such great candidates that the Smithsonian hired both of them, with Ms. Williams as the Director and Dr. Sieber as the Associate Director for Collections and Research. I used to tease him about how I got him a job at the Smithsonian.
I was not the only Sieber student to work at the Smithsonian. In time I was joined by Andrea Nicolls, David Binkley, and Christine Mullen Kreamer at the National Museum of African Art. Mary Jo Arnoldi went to work at the National Museum of Natural History. René Bravmann's “African Islam” exhibition was presented at the National Museum of African Art in 1983–1984.
The new National Museum of African Art building was scheduled to open on the National Mall with special exhibitions in 1987. Sylvia Williams in collaboration with Andrea Nicolls curated an exhibition of the museum's permanent collection, while Dr. Sieber organized a loan exhibition of masterpieces drawn from important public and private collections throughout the world. Initially I was his research assistant but was soon elevated to collaborator and co-author of “African Art in the Cycle of Life.”
In an unpublished written proposal, Dr. Sieber explained his concept and rationale for the exhibition that began life as “Art in African Life.” The exhibition was to be both aesthetic and illustrative, i.e., addressing equally the aesthetic brilliance of major works of African art and simultaneously presenting them in a format focused on general continent-wide themes: continuity (human fertility and birth); transition (transformation of the child to responsible adult); security (life-sustaining and life-preserving acts of securing food, physical and psychological health, religious beliefs, and fulfilment of social goals); governance (in both acephalous societies and highly stratified societies); human status and prestige (body adornment, insignia, regalia); reaction to outside forces (imports—and “impositions”—on indigenous cultures); and finally, death and the ancestors (the afterlife and renewal).
The exhibition would present the unities of African sculptures from Black Africa and their most distinctive styles and forms. The exhibition was to include approximately 150 works that met two basic criteria:
[T]hey must be outstanding works of art, that is they must meet, insofar as can be determined, the requirements of the culture that gave rise to them as well as meet the highest standards of Western aesthetics. They must conform to the form and style expectancies of their originating cultures as we understand them from comparable pieces in museums and from data collected in the field. Where we have no direct field data we must depend on the adherence of the piece to stylistic and morphological norms, [and]
[Each piece] had to express some important, even critical aspect of the parent society, to have played a significant role in that culture … The meaning of a work of art is contained in its form and subject matter, but it is accessible only from information from its original users, [information that can only be obtained from field research].
In summary, Dr. Sieber stated that:
… as with the understanding of all art from any place or any time, we must bring to bear a congeries of criteria: internal evidence, style, type, and aesthetic considerations, must be joined with external evidence, history, geography and cultural context, fully to explore and present a fair view of the richness of African sculpture (Sieber 1986).
He also explained the critical anthropological and art historical standards (indicated in brackets by the author) that make an art object a classic example of outstanding aesthetic merit, i.e., a masterpiece:
Work must have been used in a traditional context, whether ritual, ceremonial, or mundane. Work must reflect known use patterns through evidences of aging and patination. [essentially anthropological]
Work must be a product of traditional artists using traditional media and techniques. [essentially anthropological]
Work must be morphologically central to its type (i.e., within parameters of known variations; a classic example. [essentially anthropological]
Work must fit a known historical sequence. [art historical]
Work must be stylistically central to a major style or substyle, and, if possible, by an artist other works of whom are known. [art historical and critical]
Work should have been of highest aesthetic value to African users. [art historical and critical]
Work must be of highest aesthetic esteem from a contemporary Western aesthetic (Sieber 1986).
“African Art in the Cycle of Life” was accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Dr. Sieber; the catalogue entries, provenance, and publication data, and bibliography were by me. His published “Introduction,” an expansion of his concept and rationale for the exhibition, addresses history, aesthetics, style, artists, techniques, religion, use, and rites of passage (Sieber and Walker 1987). Thirty years later, this book remains an excellent primer not only for individuals encountering African art for the first time but also for serious collectors and seasoned scholars. Since its publication, this book has inspired the organization of numerous exhibitions and permanent collection installations, including mine at the Dallas Museum of Art. His critical standards guide me in selection of works for acquisition.
Textiles were not excluded from the inaugural exhibitions. Peggy Stoltz Gilfoy, an early Sieber graduate student, curated “Patterns of Life: West African Strip-Weaving Traditions” (Gilfoy 1987).
During Dr. Sieber's tenure, which ended with his retirement in 1994, he guided the National Museum of African Art's collecting activities, including the acquisition of works that met the aforementioned criteria and expanding the parameters of the collection to include textiles, pottery, and contemporary art. For over a decade the gallery currently devoted to contemporary art and named in honor of Sylvia Williams was devoted to women's pottery from Central Africa (Sieber 1992).
After his retirement, Dr. Sieber continued contributing to the field. For example he was a Harn Eminent Scholar visiting professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville, where he taught and supervised students developing an African art exhibition.5 He contributed essays and catalogue entries to several publications including African Masterworks in the Detroit Institute of Art (Sieber and Kan 1995); African Seats (Sieber 1995); and Out of Africa: Sub-Saharan Traditional Arts (Sieber 2000). For a particularly significant post-retirement project, Hair in African Art and Culture (Sieber and Herreman 2000), Sieber worked with Frank Herremann, Director of Exhibitions at the Museum for African Art. The “Hair” exhibition reiterated several ideas nascent in previous exhibitions such as “African Art in the Cycle of Life,” “African Textiles and Decorative Arts,” and “African Furniture and Household Objects.” Like the textiles exhibition and the furniture exhibition, Sieber strove to expand and to extend the boundaries of African art. By looking at the body, again, as an armature for aesthetic expression—this time through the arrangement of hair—he expanded the idea of “ornament.” Hair played a major role in the creation of identity, as a declaration of prestige, as a powerful, protective medium, and as an artistic process of creativity. Continuing ideas explored in the textiles exhibition, not only hair but also headdresses, combs, hairpins, neckrests, and other objects of status and prestige, were included in the exhibition. Although most of the objects in the exhibition were carvings, and again objects of exceptional merit, coiffure itself can be seen as a sculptural form.
In 1998, I curated an exhibition of works by Olowe of Ise (c. 1875–1938), a Yoruba court sculptor (Fig. 4). It was only fitting that Dr. Sieber should write the introduction to the book accompanying my exhibition, because he had encouraged me to pursue the study of this artist whose work was included in two of the inaugural exhibitions, of the permanent collection and “African Art in the Cycle of Life” (Walker 1998). I was director of the National Museum of African Art by that time and really appreciated his sound advice, sense of humor, and hand-holding across the telephone wires as I tried to balance administrative and curatorial responsibilities.
Dr. Sieber's passing was a shock. He had bounced back before after heart attacks and I was confident he would again. He had been enjoying retirement, after all, busier than I am sure he ever imagined he wouId be. I was, like all of his spiritual children, devastated when he passed away and was touched when his children—our younger siblings—asked me to join Robin Poynor as speakers at his memorial program at Indiana University. While our “Papa's” physical self is no longer, he remains a real presence in our lives and for the generations of African art history students to come.
All of Roy Sieber's publications, including books, exhibition catalogues, catalogue entries, and reviews can be found at www.siris.si.edu, under his name.
The Museum at Hampton was established in 1868, the same year the institution was founded. African materials were early entries into the collections, but they were greatly enhanced by the collection of William Henry Sheppard, an African American Presbyterian missionary who lived in the Belgian Congo from 1890–1910. As the first Westerner to visit the Kuba/Bushong Kingdom, his Kuba material is some of the first to be collected. Sheppard was an early advocate for Africans and voiced his deep concerns about Leopold's harsh treatment of the Congolese, specifically the Kuba peoples.
Although Oberlin was one of the few to offer training in museology in the 1960s, today over fifty such programs offer training in museum studies in the United States.
Fifty years later after teaching at the University of Ghana, ACASA, the organization he founded, will hold its 17th Triennial Symposium at the university in 2017. Ironically, the first Triennial was held at Hampton, where I met Dr. Sieber. I was able to attend thanks to Hampton Institute, the museum of which was under the direction of Richard Long. I was the audiovisual manager.
His research on crafts in Nigeria led Dr. Sieber to appreciate more fully the more “ordinary” manifestations of human aesthetic impulses, resulting in this article.
Over the course of a year, Dr. Sieber and his students worked on a concept for the exhibition, selected objects from a wide variety of museums and collections, and organized the exhibition with the title “Permutations of Power” (Sieber 1997). Among the students in the seminar were Susan Cooksey and Barbara Thompson, both of whom went on to museum curatorial positions.