Krannert explores Indian Ocean anthropology through artifact analysis

Photo by David Saveanu | The exhibit “A History of the Indian Ocean World in Five Objects” will be at the Krannert Art Museum until March 24, 2018.

Photo by David Saveanu | The exhibit “World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” will be at the Krannert Art Museum until March 24, 2018.

David Saveanu

Staff Writer

The Krannert Art Museum held a talk and an exhibition titled “World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” that revolved around connecting the history of the Indian Ocean with different artifacts to tell the story of the countries that border the ocean.

Professor Isabel Hofmeyr was the speaker for the talk that was held on Thursday, Sept. 7, at 5:30 p.m. Hofmeyr is a professor of African literatures, at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in South Africa; visiting global distinguished professor of English at New York University; and author of books such as “Gandhi’s Printing Press” and “The Portable Bunyan.”

Hofmeyr told the history of the Indian Ocean by using the five objects in the exhibit. The objects were “a tombstone in Yemen; a piece of fabric from inland southern Africa; a ship, HMS Columbine; a world famous book (Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj); and a jelly fish.”

The talk was a part of a bigger exhibit at the museum called “World on the Horizon, Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean” that focuses on the history and artifacts from the countries that border the Indian Ocean. The exhibit captures the culture of the many countries that came together through connecting ports and created a mixing pot of civilization that evolved through the times.

The talk was free and open to the public, as are the rest of the events and exhibits.

Ashley Jackson, a visitor of the talk, said she enjoyed the knowledge she got from the talk.

“It was a great talk,” Jackson said. “I enjoyed how they connected different parts of history through the objects and the backgrounds of all the individual objects was interesting. I definitely learned a lot and will be coming to more events at [Krannert].”

The auditorium was filled with members of the community and college students interested in learning more about the history of the Indian Ocean region.

Each of the five objects “illuminate[d] a set of transregional networks while throwing light on the forms of knowledge and intellectual creativity that transoceanic mobility and connectivity make possible,” as written in the event’s program.

The objects symbolized the connection between the ports that connected these cultures.

The Krannert Art Museum website described the background of the entire World on the Horizon Exhibit as the “the first major traveling exhibition dedicated to the arts of the Swahili coast and their long and enduring connections to eastern and central Africa and the port cities of the Indian Ocean world.”

The exhibit, which opened on Aug. 31, will be present through March 24 of next year. The exhibit includes much more than the five objects used in the talk, showing off many other artifacts acquired from the Indian Ocean and Swahili region.

The talk and exhibit was sponsored in part by the CAS MillerComm Lecture and Krannert Art Museum, as stated on the museum’s website.

The Krannert Art Museum is constantly holding talks and different exhibitions, ranging from ancient artifacts to student art from the University of Illinois. You can look for these events at