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Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room

  • Art
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park
Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room
Photograph: Anna-Marie Kellen, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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Time Out says

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is literally making room for the real, lived history of Seneca Village, the once-thriving community founded by free Black New Yorkers that existed just a few hundred yards west of The Met between the 1820s and 1850s.

The period rooms inside the museum have shown off furniture and delicate artifacts from Europe's Rococo era to American Federalist style, but now, they'll include a permanent room that represents Afrofuturism—the African and African diasporic belief that the past, present, and future are interconnected.

The space, conceived and designed by Lead Curator and Designer Hannah Beachler (known for her work on Black Panther and Beyoncé’s "Lemonade" video) and Senior Exhibition Designer Fabiana Weinberg, includes a wood-framed 19th-century home that contains works from The Met’s American Wing that are reminiscent of pot shards and remnants from Seneca Village that were found in 2011. Representing the future with the past in mind, works of art and design from the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art are interspersed in the space as well as contemporary furniture, photography, and ceramics alongside from The Met’s Michael C. Rockefeller Wing.

Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room
Photograph: Anna-Marie Kellen, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Before Yesterday We Could Fly" also features recent acquisitions made specifically for the project, including works by Ini Archibong, Andile Dyalvane, Yinka Ilori, Cyrus Kabiru, Roberto Lugo, Chuma Maweni, Zizipho Poswa, Jomo Tariku, Tourmaline, and Atang Tshikare. There are also animations by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Fabiola Jean-Louis, and Jenn Nkiru.

Its title is inspired by Virginia Hamilton's retellings of the "Flying African" tale, which celebrates enslaved peoples’ imagination, creative uses of flight, and the significance of spirituality and mysticism to Black communities in the midst of great uncertainty, the Met says. 

The period room "celebrates the ingenuity, artistry, and determination of people of African descent and reconfigures how we think about space, place, and time," says Consulting Curator Dr. Michelle Commander. "The untold story of Seneca Village underscores that we walk on hallowed ground right here in New York City. Aspects of our history often fall out of conversation because of the passage of time. In other cases, they have been effectively buried or intentionally silenced. When these significant histories resurface, we ought to show reverence for those who came before whose lives and sacrifices paved the way for our very being. In this period room, archival and archaeological truths meet a range of art from across several centuries, cultures, and geographies. With the guidance of informed speculation, we imagine what was, what might have been, and what is yet to be."

"Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room" is now open at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Gallery 508 on the first floor.

Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room
Photograph: Anna-Marie Kellen, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

Details

Address:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave
New York
10028
Cross street:
at 82nd St
Transport:
Subway: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St
Price:
Pay-what-you-wish for NYC residents
Opening hours:
Mon–Thu, Sun 10am–5:30pm; Fri, Sat 10am–9pm.

Dates and times

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