Two recently acquired works in the African collection provide insight into far-reaching social and economic changes associated with the independence movement that swept across Africa during the 1950s and 1960s, bringing an end to European colonialism officially, if not in reality. The upbeat Barber’s Sign from Ghana, infused with the optimism of the new era, suggests modern hairstyles for fashionable personal identity, while celebrating the name Ghana along with the red, yellow, green, and black state colors the new nation adopted after declaring autonomy from Britain in 1957.

Revealing another aspect of the transition, the haunting photo montage, Untitled 21, from the suite Mémoire, by Congolese artist, Sammy Baloji investigates the impact of industrial development in the Belgian Congo during the colonial era and its demise after independence in 1960. In this focus installation, both the sign and the photo montage are presented with related works to portray the historic context more broadly and cast a sharper focus on the nature of the changes in society and art that have played out in Africa during the second half of the 20th century.