More than half a century ago, the Makonde tribe sculpted and created beautiful artifacts that were used as communication tools, to improve fishing and hunting skills, and to ward of illnesses. Today, those same artifacts are displayed at the Turner Center for the Arts where anyone can come and observe them free of charge.
The permanent collection of Eastern African artifacts was first displayed at the Turner Center in 2003 when Jerry Tillman, a Lowndes County native, donated his collection to the Center. Tillman was a financial controller for U.S. disaster aid missions to the African continent and spent more than 12 years in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Somalia. Most of the artifacts donated were made by the Makonde tribe located in Tanzania. The unique collection has more than 100 artifacts that include animal skins, sculptures, tribal drums, and once poisoned arrows and bows.
Larger museums, such as Ohio State University and even The Smithsonian, wanted the artifacts displayed at their museums, but Tillman wanted to keep the artifacts local.
Bill Shenton, artistic administrator of the Turner Center for the arts said that the African artifacts sets the Center apart from other art museums. “I think it’s a great asset for us to have the permanent collection because it gives us a cultural enhancement element that some other art centers don’t have,” Shenton stated.
Each artifact has a history behind it, and this history is now preserved as a beautiful collection to be seen with new eyes.
For more information about the collection of East African artifacts, or to schedule a tour, call the Turner Center at 229-247-2787 or visit the Center at 527 N. Patterson Street.