Assembly of Friends (Nkuanyiko Wa Marifiki) 2004
Following the destruction of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1998, it was rebuilt at a distant, more secure site. The Foundation for Art and Preservation of Embassies (FAPE) and the U.S. State Department commissioned Zimmerman to create a sculpture for the formal entrance to the new building. FAPE’s Professional Fine Arts Committee has selected some of the best-known artists in the field to provide works for our embassies—among them Louise Bourgeois, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Martin Puryear, and Joel Shapiro.
For Assembly of Friends, (Nkuanyiko Wa Marifiki, in Swahili), Zimmerman extended a sandstone-lined water channel that was originally designed by the building’s architect to course through the large garden adjacent to the main embassy building. She centered the origin of the watercourse in the embassy’s entry court and made it into a round pool surrounded by six granite panels, each 3 feet wide by 8 feet high by 8 inches deep. The panels are uniquely shaped to suggest traditional African forms—shields, scepters, dooways—and their surfaces are textured with hand-drawn patterns sandblasted onto the stone, deliberately evocative of the scarred surfaces of many African artifacts. Zimmerman’s intention was to suggest village wells that traditionally served as peaceful gathering places. As Agnes Gund observed in an interview posted by FAPE on The Huffington Post: “The piece is well understood as a reference to the past and to a peaceful future.”
As in most of her public commissions, Zimmerman worked with local contractors using local materials. Zimmerman’s site specificity here reinterprets historical African art into contemporary visual form. Assembly of Friends signals a meeting place linked to African traditions but now a meeting place used for issues of both local and international impact.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Six 8’h x 3’w x 8”d granite panels surround fountain leading to 200-foot watercourse at entry court of US Embassy
African granite, sandstone, and water
U.S. State Department and Foundation for Art and Preservation of Embassies
Architects: Duncan Lyons of Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum
Stone supply & fabrication: Cold Spring Granite Company;
Fountain engineer: Dr. Gerald Palevsky