Africa on the Patapsco

Science Center: Exhibition brings continent up close and virtual for all to see.

May 13, 2000

AMERICANS are said not to care much about Africa any more. The White House is moaning about its inability to find a consituency for any Africa policy at all.

Congress did just pass a bill to open access to U.S. markets for manufactures, expecially textiles, from the poorest countries.

But there is little support for making AIDS medicines available at prices that are at all relevant to the hardest-hit countries. Apparently less for debt relief.

And little enthusiasm for diplomatic or logistic intervention -- much less troops -- to curb bloodshed in Sudan or Congo or Angola or Sierra Leone or between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

There is little celebration of the good news in many countries that don't grab headlines because their governments work, their peoples coexist, their elections proceed and their economies chug along.

None of this may be true, merely the prevailing perception in Washington.

Proof that it isn't altogether true, or an antidote if it is, can be found at the summer exhibition at the Maryland Science Center, the largest temporary exhibition ever installed there."Africa: One Continent, Many Worlds" has been at a dozen other museums across the country in the past three and a half years. Using artifacts and re-creations from several cultures as well as film and interactive media techniques that should appeal to younger museum visitors, this exhibition explores family and community life, art, ecology, commerce and the African diaspora.

No one will leave this museum doubting that Africa is very large, very diverse, very real and very contemporary.

And -- with the Inner Harbor tourists' needs in mind in the coming Baltimore summer -- this Africa is also very air-conditioned.

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