West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song

British Library

16 October 2015 – 16 February 2016

£5 with National Art Pass (standard entry £10)

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This ambitious show explores the literature, faith, politics and music of Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and other countries in the West-African region.

Thomas Edward Bowdich, Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee, 1819

This autumn the British Library explores how West Africa’s 17 nations have harnessed the power of words to build societies, drive political movements, sustain religious belief and fight injustice. As well as books and manuscripts, the exhibition features film and audio clips, photographs and textiles in order to reveal how literary culture is intertwinned with oral traditions and local handicrafts.

Highlights include work by Africa’s first Nobel prize winner, Wole Soyinka, a recorded performance of a myth describing the founding of ancient Mali and the display of the ‘saddlebag Qur’an’.

Venue information

Opening times

Main building

Mon – Thu, 9.30am – 8pm

Fri, 9.30am –​6pm (Sat until 5pm)

​Sun, 11am-5pm

Treasures Gallery and PACCAR exhibitions

Tue –Thu, 9.30am-8pm, Mon & Fri until 6pm, Sat until 5pm, Sun 11am – 5pm

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