African Thumb Pianos from the collections of
François & Françoise Boulanger-Bouhière, the Royal Museum for Central Africa and MIM
MIM Target Gallery
February 25 to October 1, 2012
4725 E. Mayo Boulevard Phoenix, AZ 85050
Les textes ci-après sont extraits de la préface du catalogue qui accompagne l’exposition.
Conceived by founder Robert J. Ulrich as a global institution, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) presents exhibits featuring instrument ensembles from every country and major territory in the world. Audiovisual recordings of these instruments appear throughout the museum. Assembling this extraordinary collection led MIM to collaborate with institutions, musicians, collectors, and scholars on every continent. The success of MIM‘s mission has been apparent since our opening in April 2010; the museum has been met with a great deal of enthusiasm and has earned awards for its architectural excellence, presentation quality, and guest-friendliness.
I believe the mark of a great museum is its ability to inspire and motivate guests to request even more information about the objects they have seen. At MIM, we delight in the curiosity of visitors who often note the similarities between instruments from different world regions and ask us for more information about these interconnections. We have built the Target Gallery, our special exhibitions area, to explore these kinds of subjects in greater detail than we can address in our main galleries.
SANZA: African Thumb Pianos from the Collections of F & F Boulanger-Bouhière, the Royal Museum for Central Africa, and MIM is a superb example of how this museum builds on its strengths and collaborations to present the very best of musical instruments and world music to our audiences. MIM Board of Directors member Marc Leo Félix, who is from Belgium, brought Ulrich’s attention to an exhibition of the amazing collection of thumb pianos that had been assembled over the past decades by two dedicated musical instrument collectors. On the spot, Ulrich ,decided that this impressive collection should be exhibited at MIM. MIM’s exhibits already included many fine examples of thumb pianos - both through its existing collaboration with the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, and its own collections – so it was an easy decision to incorporate these into the exhibition.
With its enduring commitment to ensure that these musical instruments come to life, MIM also possessed (or acquired) multimedia resources that demonstrated instrument -making techniques and the instruments magnificent sounds.
A gifted scholar of various groups in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other African countries, MIM curator Dr. Manuel Jordán brought his expertise to the project. As his introduction indicates, sanzas have a deep cultural significance and diverse symbolic meaning for many African peoples. Dr. Jordán‘s understanding, cultural sensitivity, and hard work brought this exhibition and catalog to completion in a short period of time. The work of his wife, Esther Villalobos, is also very much appreciated; her voluntary assistance was an important part of the catalog’s completion. The stunning display created by MIM’s exhibit team has inspired contemplation, interpretation, and appreciation of this incredible instrument and the music it creates.
I know that everyone will enjoy this catalog of an exhibition that brings together many of the finest examples of this exquisite African instrument. Sanzas are now better known, more appreciated, and more widely played around the world than ever before. I hope everyone will return again and again to discover new and exciting happenings at MIM – the most extraordinary museum you’ll ever hear.
Billie (Bill) R. DeWalt, PhD
MIM President and Director
MIM has many roles as a museum; one is to enlighten its visitors. ln June 2011, during the annual Brussels Non-European Art Fair (BRUNEAF) in Belgium, BRUNEAF president Pierre Loos gave MIM’s founder Robert J. Ulrich a private viewing of the stunning original SANZA exhibition. Bob immediately saw the potential to amaze and inform MIM’s guests. Indeed, this is a unique opportunity to show a vast collection of outstanding examples of a single type of instrument. ln order to better appreciate not only the variety, but also the different levels of sanza craftsmanship, creativity, innovation, artistic excellence, and age, it is crucial to see a large number of objects of a similar type.
This monographic exhibition will contrast with, and supplement, the regular displays in MIM‘s Africa Gallery where, in the space allotted to each country, curators show the largest possible variety of instruments found in any given country. I am happy that I was able to bring together all the actors involved so that MIM could feature, for the first time in the United States, this interesting and visually exciting exhibitiont which highlights two hundred beautiful, sweet-sounding sanzas.
Marc Leo Félix
Founder of the Congo Basin Art History Research Center, MIM Board Member January 15, 2012
SANZA was organized to share specific information based on decades of study by collectors François and Françoise Boulanger-Bouhière. Their passion and dedication resulted in a remarkable collection, featuring the majority of known sanza types and styles with excellent representative examples of the instrument. The original SANZA exhibition and catalog were received with enthusiasm in Brussels, thanks to the efforts of Thomas Bayet, Sophie Caltaux, Pierre Buch, and Yannik Van Ruysevelt who had key production roles. The collectors‘ dedication now has new fruitful results at MIM. Sanzas are biloko kitoko, « small objects of great beauty » -in the Lingala language of the D.R. Congo, a geographic center for sanza distribution in Africa.
Billie (Bill) R. DeWalt, PhD – MIM President and Director; Dr. Manuel Jordán – MIM Curator; Pierre Loos – BRUNEAF President
De gauche à droite: Dr. Manuel Jordán – MIM curator; Robert J. Ulrich – MIM Founder; Marc Leo Félix – MIM Board Member;