Silvia Forni

Portrait of Silvia Forni

Silvia Forni

Senior Curator - Global Africa

Exhibitions & Galleries: Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and the Asia Pacific

Phone: 416 586 5752


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 Senior Curator of Global Africa in the ROM’s Department of Art & Culture. She oversees the large African collection, and is 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.

Since joining the ROM in 2008 Silvia has curated and co-curated several partial gallery reinstallations and exhibitions. Her most recent exhibition projects have been Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art (2018), which traveled to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia; Isaac Julien: Other Destinies (2017); Art. Honour and Ridicule: Asafo Flags From Southern Ghana (2016); and Worn: Shaping Black Feminine Identity (2014). From 2013 to 2018, together with Julie Crooks and Dominique Fontaine, she co-curated the Of Africa initiative, a 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 contemporary artists and creators. The spirit of the initiative continues to this day through a continuing commitment to acquisitions, programming, exhibitions, and internships.

Silvia's interest in African art concompasses both historical and contemporary works. Her research focuses on the significance of art 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. She has conducted long term research in Cameroon and Ghana, and traveled extensively throughout the continent. More recently she has been focusing on the circulation and interpretation – both in scholarship and museum displays - of 20th century African art. She has also been working extensively with contemporary artists from the Continent and the diaspora and adding to the collection a number of contemporary artworks that defly and complicate academic and museolgical art taxonomies.

Silvia is also Associate Professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto where she teaches Anthropology of Material Culture, Ethnography of Africa and African Art. She has participated to numerous working groups and seminars. Since 2017 she co-led the Museum And Public History quadrant of the Mellon funded research project Aesthetic Education: A South-North Dialogue.    She is a Fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, class of 2020. From 2015 to 2017 she was President of the Art Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA).

Recent Publications


Book Cover: Art Honor and RidiculeBook Cover: Africa in the MarketForni, Silvia and Doran H. Ross. Art, Honor and Ridicule. Fante Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum. 2017. 303 pp. Awarded the R.L. Shep Ethnic Textile Book Award from the textile Society of America in 2018.

Forni, Silvia and Christopher B. Steiner eds. Africa in the Market. 20th Century art from the Amrad African Art Collection. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum. 2015. 195 pp. - Awarded the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award from the Art Council of the African Studies Association in 2017


Articles and book chapters

Forni, Silvia and Dominique Malaquais, “Village Matters, City Works: Ideas, Technologies, and Dialogues in the Work of Hervé Youmbi”, Critical Interventions, 12(3), 2019, pp.294-305

Forni, Silvia, Julie Crooks and Dominique Fontaine. “Activism, Objects and Dialogues: Re-engaging African collections at the Royal Ontario Museum.” In Robert Janes (ed.) Museum and Activism. Taylor & Francis. 2019. pp. 186-197

Forni, Silvia and Christopher B. Steiner. “The African Art Market as Ego-System.” Critical Interventions, Volume 12 (1) 2018, pp. 1-7

Forni, Silvia. “Of Patterns and Markets: the making and unmaking of Asafo flags” Critical Interventions, Volume 12 (1) 2018, pp. 22-35

Forni, Silvia. “Engaging dialogues: Re-framing Africa at the Royal Ontario Museum,” Museum Worlds: Advances in Research volume 5. 2017, pp.199-212

Forni, Silvia. “Visual Diplomacy: Art circulation and Iconoclashes in the Kingdom of Bamum.” In Basu, Paul ed. The Inbetweenness of Things. London. Bloomsbury. 2017, pp. 148-157      

Forni, Silvia. “Masks on the Move: Defying genres, styles and traditions in the Cameroonian Grassfields”.  African Arts 49 (2): 2016, pp. 38-53

Forni, Silvia. “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. De Ferrari Editore - Genova University Press. 2015, pp. 135-146.

Forni, Silvia. “Museums, Heritage and Politics in the Cameroonian Grassfields.” Museum Worlds: Advances in Research, 3. 2015, pp 51-68


Popular articles

“Asafo Flag”. Catalogue entry. In Christa Clarke Arts of Global Africa. Newark Museum of Art. 2017, pp.280-283.

“The Stories Behind Asafo Flags”. ROM magazine 49 (3), 2017, pp. 21-25

“Art, Honour and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana”. ROM magazine 49 (2), 2016, pp. 22-25.

“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


Research Projects