More than 160,000 years ago the first modern humans lived in East Africa. That means they were the first people to take in the wonder of the night sky and ponder, “How the hell did I get here?” The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art doesn’t have any artifacts from these ancient astronomers, but its new exhibit “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts” does highlight the Motherland’s contributions to interpreting the cosmos through creation. The earliest version of what we would recognize as astronomy started in Mesopotamia, and “African Cosmos” features several Egyptian and Nubian artworks and artifacts from way back. But there’s also an emphasis on modern art inspired by cosmography, including works by El Anatsui, Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, Owusu-Ankomah, Julie Mehretu, Karel Nel, and more. Gazing at the wonderful sculptures and paintings in “African Cosmos” will not have you wondering, “How the hell did I get here?”
“African Cosmos: Stellar Arts” is on view daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Dec. 9 at the National Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Ave. SW. Free. africa.si.edu. (202) 633-4600.