African Heritage Nationality Room Receives Artifacts From Pitt Alum Ralph Proctor, a Nationally Recognized African Art Collector

Issue Date: 
February 11, 2013

The University of Pittsburgh’s African Heritage Classroom Committee has received a donation of eight important African artifacts from Ralph Proctor, a Pitt alumnus and professor at the Community College of Allegheny County who is a nationally recognized collector of African art.

Proctor donated the artifacts during the African Heritage Classroom Committee’s monthly meeting on Feb. 6 in Room 330, Cathedral of Learning. Among those present to receive the donated items were Pitt history professor Laurence Glasco, who chaired the African Heritage Room’s design committee, and Pitt alumnus Rev. Maureen Cross Bolden (CGS ’92), classroom committee chair.

In addition, Proctor, who is also the Community College of Allegheny County’s chief diversity officer, announced that he will make an annual donation of African art to the African Heritage Classroom Committee in honor of Glasco. This year, that donation is a Benin bronze casting of a head of a queen mother. 

The African Heritage Room is one of Pitt’s 29 Nationality Rooms, all of which are housed in the Cathedral of Learning. Designed to represent an Ashanti courtyard in Ghana, the African Heritage Classroom was dedicated in 1989.

Descriptions of the eight other pieces that were donated by Proctor follow.

• A Bundu mask of the Sande secret society, the Mende People, Sierra Leone. This mask was worn by women who were members of the secret society that guided girls in their transition to womanhood.

• A Makonde helmet mask, made of wood and human hair, from Tanzania. 

• A wooden spirit mate statue, representing the soul of a royal spirit mate who dwells in the parallel spirit world. 

• A ceremonial mask from the Dan people, Ivory Coast. 

• A Royal Kente cloth from the Ashanti People, Ghana. This men’s garment was worn exclusively by members of the royal court.

• A priest’s shawl made of cloth and beads. 

• A priest’s divination board, Yoruba People, Nigeria. 

Proctor is a professor in and former chair of the Community College of Allegheny County’s Department of Africana and Ethnic Studies. He received his BS in psychology in 1965 and his PhD in history in 1979, both from Pitt. He served as the assistant dean in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences from 1968 to 1973. Proctor has traveled extensively in Africa and has a significant collection of African art, some of which he has donated to the Carnegie Museum of Art.