Curator (African Arts and Cultures)
Area: World Cultures, Contemporary Culture, World Art & Culture
Exhibitions & Galleries: Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and the Asia Pacific
Phone: 416 586 5752Follow @silforni
B.A. (Laurea), Philosophy, University of Turin, Italy, 1993
M.A., Cultural Anthropology, Indiana University, IN., 1996
Ph.D., Cultural Anthropology, University of Turin, Italy, 2002
Dr. Silvia Forni is Curator of Anthropology in the ROM’s Department of World Cultures. She is the curator of the African collection, and responsible for the permanent and rotating display of African artworks in the Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and the Asia Pacific. She is also Assistant Professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto where she teaches Anthropology of Material Culture, Ethnography of Africa and Anthropology of Art.
Since joining the ROM in 2008 she has curated the partial gallery reinstallations Maps, Mobility and Borders (2013); Proverbial coffins from Ghana (2011); Community Spectacles: Puppets, Masks, and Musical Instruments from the Amrad Collection of African Art (2011) and For People, Spirits, and Gods: Yoruba Ritual Art from the Jack and Iris Lieber Collection (2011). She has also worked on a number of exhibition projects focusing on African and African Canadian themes including Worn: Shaping Black Feminine Identity (2014); Carnival: From Emancipation to Celebration (2011); El Anatsui. When I last wrote to you about Africa (2010); Position as desired – Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection (2010); Stitching communities. African Canadian quilts from Southern Ontario (2009).
Her research focuses on the significance of art objects and material culture both in local contexts and as part of exchange networks. She is interested in the tensions, dynamics, and feedbacks that inspire contemporary creators in Africa and the way art challenges the way Africa has been constructed in the Western imagination. Her interests have brought her to the Ndop Plain (North West Province - Cameroon) to explore pottery production and supported her participation in cooperative projects and research in various African countries including Kenya, Zimbabwe, Senegal and Ghana. Her recent research focus is on the circulation and interpretation – both in scholarship and museum displays - of 20th century African art. In Cameroon, Dr. Forni has been researching the production and marketing of “traditional” African artworks produced since the second half of the 20th century and focusing on the important role of African dealers in the international trade of African art and their contributions to the shaping of collections and knowledge. In Ghana, she has been investigating the production, meaning, performance, and circulation of the insignia of the Asafo companies of the Fante people.
Since 2013, together with Julie Crooks and Dominique Fontaine she is responsible for the Of Africa project, a three year multiplatform project aimed to support a sustained and long term promotion of the cultural and creative diversity of Africa and its diaspora through an engagement with the collections in the museum and in dialogue with artists and creators active today.
with Doran H. Ross. Art, Honor, and Riducule:Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum. In preparation.
with Christopher Steiner eds. Africa in the Market. 20th Century art from the Amrad African Art Collection. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum. 2015.
Il ventre e la pentola. Ceramiche, genere e società nei Grassfields del Camerun. (The Womb And The Pot: Ceramics, Gender and Society in the Grassfields of Cameroon) Torino. Il Segnalibro. 2007.
Articles and book chapters
“Visual Diplomacy: Art circulation and Iconoclashes in the Kingdom of Bamum.” In Basu, Paul ed. The Inbetweenness of Things. London. Bloomsbury. In press
“Masks on the Move: Defying genres, styles and traditions in the Cameroonian Grassfields”. African Arts 49 (2), 2016.
“Riposizionamenti materiali. Forza visiva e potere evocativo di un abito cerimoniale dei Grassfields del Camerun.”(Material shifts. Visual and evocative power of a ceremonial gown from the Cameroonian Grassfields). In Maria Giovanna Parodi (ed.) African Power Dressing: Il corpo in gioco. Genova: De Ferrari Editore - Genova University Press. 2015, pp. 135-146.
“Museums, Heritage and Politics in the Cameroonian Grassfields.” Museum Worlds: Advances in Research, 3. 2015
with Christopher B Steiner. “The Dislocation of Culture: The Amrad African Art Collection at the Royal Ontario Museum”, in Africa in the Market. 20th Century art from the Amrad African Art Collection. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum. 2015, pp.12-29
with Catherine Hale. “A community of art lovers. African art in Montreal.” In Africa in the Market. 20th Century art from the Amrad African Art Collection. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum 2015, pp.30-46
“Objects fit for kings: the antiquities and replicas art market in Foumban” In Africa in the Market. 20th Century art from the Amrad African Art Collection. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum. 2015, pp. 94-119.
“Narrating the Artist: Seyni Camara and the Multiple Constructions of the Artistic Persona.” In Joanna Grabski and Carol Magee eds. African Art, Interviews, Narratives: Bodies of Knowledge at Work. Indiana University Press. 2013. Pp 70-85.
“Riposizionamenti materiali. Power dressing in un regno del Camerun”.(Material shifts. Power dressing in Cameroonian Kingdom). In Maria Giovanna Parodi (ed) Power Dressing. Libreria Universitaria. 2013
“Masters, trend-makers and producers. The village of Nsei as a multisited pottery workshop”. In Förster Till and Sidney Kasfir eds. Rethinking the Workshop. Work and Agency in African Art. Indiana University Press, 2012 . Pp 91-110.
“Ambiguous values and incommensurable claims. The canon, the market and entangled histories of collections and exhibits,” Critical Interventions 7, 2011, pp. 150-159.
“Oggetti” (Objects) in Cecilia Pennacini (ed.) La ricerca sul Campo in antropologia. Oggetti e metodi. (Field research in anthropology. Objects and methods) Roma. Carocci, 2010. pp 93-124.
Book /exhibition reviews
Exhibition review “Magic Squares: the patterned Imagination of Muslim Africa in Contemporary Culture” African Arts 45 (4)2012: 88-89
Review of Warnier, Jean-Pierre. The pot king. The body and technologies of power. Leiden and Boston: Brill. Social Anthropology. 17 (3) 2009: 370-71.
“Of Treasure and Trinkets”. Peeps. 1. 2015, pp 137-141.
with Uzoma Esowanne, “Ikem Headdress” in Every Object Has a Story: Extraordinary Canadians Celebrate the Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2014, pp. 52-56.
with Lawrence Hill, “Edo Plaque”, in Every Object Has a Story: Extraordinary Canadians Celebrate the Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2014, pp. 82-89
“Showing the Proverbial Colours.” ROM magazine. Spring 2013 , pp. 10-11
“Quill Power” ROM. Winter 2012. pp. 26-29
“Earth’s Magician.” ROM . Spring 2011. pp. 22-26
“Reflecting on Africa – interview by Francisco Avarez”. ROM . Fall 2010. pp. 22-23
“The Sweet Hereafter. Ghana”. ROM. Fall 2010, p. 21
“Foreword” in Positioned as Desired. Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection. Toronto. Wedge. 2010. p.15
Of Africa stems from an original idea of independent curators Julie Crooks and Dominique Fontaine. Since 2013, Crooks and Fontaine have been working with ROM curator Silvia Forni to develop a platform that would enable a more open and dynamic presentation of the diversity and creativity of the African continent. With Of Africa, the curators will present and promote historical and contemporary cultural and artistic production in Africa and its Diasporas to highlight issues that impact the present and evoke the potential of an infinite future.