Friday, February 24, 2012

Eastern Africa Exhibit Extended at SRAC

Docents MaryAnn Taylor, and John and Dee Margetanksi
“Ordinary Objects– Extraordinary People,” an exhibit dedicated to the study of the eight nomadic tribes of Eastern Africa which was scheduled to end February 25th will be extended until March 17th due to popular demand at the Susquehanna River Archaeological Center (SRAC) at 345 Broad Street, Waverly, NY.

Philadelphia’s Betty and Bill Baumann, who with Sultan Somjee, a Kenyan anthropologist developed the exhibit which was sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee. The goal was to prepare a representative group of indigenous nomadic herders from northern and eastern Kenya to share their material culture (essential everyday objects) and their experiences. Today it is the only exhibit of its kind in the world.

Maps of Africa pinpoint the area traversed by the tribes of the nomads as they eke out their existence in the harsh sub-Saharan environment. The tribes navigate the desert from one watering hole to the next, staying for months at a time and then moving on to find a new source of water and food. Because all tribes are constantly traveling, all possessions must be portable. Dress consists of sandals, ornate beaded collars and simple clothing which are represented in the exhibit. Visitors will also see a Somali hut which is occupied by up to two adults and three children, and although are made to be portable with its branches thatched with raffia , it can last 25 – 30 years and can withstand wind gusts of 40-50 miles an hour. Near the hut, a camel sits close by with its feed and watering trough while a fire with wooden stools invites visitors of all ages to sit and take in all that surrounds them.  Simple utensils, ornate headrests, spears and throwing sticks, and beautifully created milk containers also adorn shelves of the exhibit, with many more artifacts to discover around each corner. Visitors are invited to touch, smell and experience the exhibit with a hands-on approach not seen in many museums today by a trained staff person who will guide you through the exhibit.

The exhibit itself fills nearly 2,000 square feet at SRAC where they redesigned their lecture hall space in order to make this an incredible experience for all who visit the exhibit. To date the exhibit has been viewed by hundreds of people just in the past three weeks - and for that reason, it was decided to extend the "Ordinary Objects– Extraordinary People” at SRAC until March 17th. The exhibit will be open during normal business hours (Tuesdays - Fridays 1-5pm, and Saturdays 11-5pm. ) The public is invited to attend this exhibit as well as SRAC's own Exhibit Hall filled with thousands of local Native American artifacts for the same donation requested all year long with one exception that ALL students and children will have free admission during the month of February in order to try and allow all kids a chance to see this incredible
one-of-a-kind exhibit.

SRAC’s co-founder and executive director Deb Twigg stated, “Ordinary Objects– Extraordinary People” is a “city exhibit” that has traveled from Philadelphia to other large cities in the Midwest and Canada. I am proud to say that the Baumann's say that they have never seen the exhibit better displayed anywhere than it is right now at SRAC. We were fortunate to bring it to Waverly, New York for the month of February, which is also Black History month and the popularity of the exhibit with people of all ages has been outstanding. Don't miss your chance to experience it while it is here.”

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