Race

These bronze sculptures by Malvina Hoffman, a student of Rodin, are on display at the Field Museum in Chicago after being put in storage in 1969.

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From left: Sir Arthur Keith, a Sudanese woman; Nobosodrou, a Mangbetu woman; and Dr. Hu Shih, from eastern China.

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A Nuer man from Sudan and a Tamil man from southeastern India. Commissioned in the 1930s to illustrate racial types. Over 100 bronzes by Hoffman were packed away in embarrassment (D Kasnic, New York Times).

Now, 50 bronzes are back as part of an exhibition exploring both Hoffman’s artistry and “the vexed history of the dubious scientific ideas that her talent was enlisted to serve. At the time of the bronzes’ creation, many anthropologists believed that the world’s people could be divided into distinct racial types, whose visible differences in skin tone, hair texture and bone structure explained differences in behaviour. Scientists can now show that human genetic variation doesn’t correspond to racial types. But people don’t always listen to scientists.”