Art Splash and Creative Africa

CA Ladies on the end and prints

CA Mermaid Dress



The Philadelphia Museum of Art just launched Creative Africa and it is a pretty wonderful place to wander through. Creative Africa is made of up 5 very different exhibitions and will be view until December 4th.

I do find museums to be culturally rich, national treasures, a little too quite, and a bit on the dry side for my high energy. Which might make me the perfect person to review this for families because like children I seem to crash into a room, fidget, and always wonder what it next around the corner before I have finished my current task. Needless to say grabbing my attention can be hard.

The Creative Africa exhibit did grab my attention. Through the five exhibits you are going to see historical and traditional pieces, photography, architecture, and contemporary fashion.

As you might have guessed the fashion exhibit was the best of all five and the interactive architecture is a close second.

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage

CA ShoesWhen you walk in the room you feel as if someone has frozen the guests at a lavish cocktail party. You have to circle this par of the exhibit several times before you can be sure you have seen everything. On the mannequins you get a 360 view of dress after dress produced by contemporary African fashion designers in traditional ways. Even though the styles look familiar (A-line dresses, ballgowns, pants suits) it is the wax printed fabric used in each design that make the outfits truly African. Even if the fabric is designed (and always has been) by Dutch textile brand name Vlisco. African textile dealers in the marketplace and Vlisco have a weird marriage that I never knew about before this exhibit.  Surrounding you on the walls are the wax printed fabrics with iconography that seems quirky to us but hold both meaningful and playful symbolism in African society. For example an alphabet pattern symbolized the importance Africans place on education. An egg motif with a hen and chicks, represents the importance of family.

So. Let’s tackle the million dollar question. Is Creative Africa an exhibit for children?

yarn aloneI think I could get my 6 and 5-year-old to spend about 30 minutes at this exhibit. I would want them to share my excitement over the fashion but they would only be humoring me and I think that would last about 1 minute. They would love Francis Kere’s “colorscape” of suspended cords that for a child, create a dangling neon forest to run through. The right way to get your kids to experience Creative Africa is through Art Splash. Back for another summer and running from July 1st to September 5th the museum knows that its youngest visitors need to engage with the collection in their own special way. Through Art Splash children will be able to experience daily gallery explorations, studio art creations, and interactive activities.

CA kids photo

Visit the hisperhenry activity calendar to help plan your week or

Check out Art Splash weekly because the event will change all summer long. *I don’t often recommend membership to places but a membership to the PMA for parents of, especially toddlers, is something you will use over and over again. If you can skip the expensive parking lot and park in the fairmount neighborhood or down by boathouse row.