West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song

Open until Tue 16 Feb 2016
Final weeks to visit West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition at the British Library
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An exhibition of literature and music – from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to the cultural dynamism of West Africa today

Fascinating stories from the region’s 17 nations show how West Africans have harnessed the power of words to build societies, drive political movements, sustain religious belief and fight injustice.

Beautiful manuscripts, historic film and sound recordings, books, photographs, and woven and printed textiles offer a unique insight into a profound and engaging literary culture with centuries-old written heritage existing alongside ancient oral traditions.

Hear the myth of the founding of ancient Mali in recorded performance. See the influence of religion through colourful fabric and the saddlebag Qur’an. Celebrate writers and artists including Africa’s first Nobel prize winner, Wole Soyinka, and internationally acclaimed musician and human rights activist Fela Kuti.

Gain insights into West Africa’s fascinating heritage with unique collection items and newly-commissioned articles, and experience the region’s history, politics and literature.

A discount of 50% is available for groups of 6 or more buying full price tickets. This will be applied automatically when you reach the checkout page.

West Africa Tours

Join a tour of the exhibition led by one of our curators. Providing a unique insight into the collections on display, there is no additional charge for the tour. Book a combined exhibition and tour ticket  

West Africa learning programme

We offer a programme of workshops for primary, secondary and further education groups and teachers’ events inspired by the West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition


Press reviews

'insightful' Four star review – Londonist

'dazzling' – the Guardian

‘a mighty feast of culture and history that everyone should indulge in.’ The Metropolist 

'a landmark exhibition….. that explodes the myth of a “dark continent”' – Nigerian Watch

'a forgotten heritage revealed' – BBC News

‘the most ambitious exhibition to date at the British Library’ The Lady 

‘prepare to be enlightened’ The Cultural Expose 

Visitor reviews

‘Thank you for organising such a rich and important exhibition.’ – Aqasa

‘Fantastic… it worked on so many levels…’ – Angela  

‘Must see.’ – Shawna Read full review >

‘Well worth a visit… A really interesting exhibition.’ – Ali Read full review >



Name: West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song
Where: PACCAR Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
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