Waldlaw Blog

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD)

Today, I went with my son's 6th grade class on a field trip to the new San Francisco Museum of the African Diaspora, and was really impressed. (http://www.moadsf.org/index.html) The museum is very new, having just opened in December of 2005, and it includes audio, film and fine art representing the broad and varied "African Diaspora" -- the items we enjoyed on our docent-led tour were from Haiti, Brazil and all parts of the United States, as well as Africa itself. The children were exposed to dance, music, cultural items such as clothing and jewelry, historical audio and film clips, paintings, photography, sculpture -- all in one well-designed location and all in a jam-packed 1-1/2 hours. MOAD defines diaspora as: "a. The break up and scattering of a people; b. People settled far from their ancestral homelands; c. The place where these people live." (For more on "diaspora," see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora.) They use four themes to discuss the concept: Origins, Movement, Adaptation and Transformation. Relying on these four themes, they trace the African Diaspora from ancient times when the first humans populated Africa, through various migrations including the forced migration of the slave trade, through the U.S. civil rights movement and into the present. They do everything they can to make history live, stressing such things as the continued problem of slavery in some parts of the world and the continuation of migrations based on civil wars, famines, etc.. One of the best examples of "diaspora" given to our kids by our docent had to do with the "Katrina Diaspora" created by the recent devastation of New Orleans. MOAD is in the process of collecting the oral histories and photographs of the Katrina survivors who have immigrated to the Bay Area, in preparation for an exhibition on the "Katrina Diaspora" that they intend to launch soon. The concept of living history is one that doesn't always come easily to middle schoolers, and this museum really does a good job bringing it home. I also have to give a "shout out" to our docent, who did the best job I have ever seen of making fine art interesting to a bunch of fidgety, pre-pubescent kids. He challenged them to describe what they saw in each exhibit, then ask themselves why the artist had made the art the way they did. The kids really got into it, and ended up more actively involved with viewing the artwork than with seeing the film clips, which was quite extraordinary. If this docent represented the quality of folks working at MOAD generally, then they're really onto something. So if you're in downtown San Francisco with some time to spare, check out the new MOAD -- it's well worth the trip.


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