World Cultures
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 World Cultures


World Cultures is a significant collection area for Leeds (over 12,000 items), demonstrating the city’s historic links to the wider world, and the multicultural vibe of contemporary arts and culture.

Where can you see the World Cultures collection?

At Leeds City Museum the Voices of Asia gallery celebrates the sights, sounds and culture of Asia overseas and here in Leeds. Topics explored include Faith and Festivals, Trade and War, Fashion, Music, Dance and Food. Chinese ceramics are also a key strand at Lotherton Hall, together with Oriental metalwork, ivories and wood carving.

The Leeds African collections are also significant, especially the sculpture, masks and textiles. They are currently in the reserve collections at Leeds Discovery Centre, where you will also find good representations of North American beadwork, European folk items and the traditional arts of Oceania.

How are we developing the collection?

Recent collections development has focused on representing the many world cultures now living in Leeds, especially their festivals, food, textiles and crafts. We also continue to collect material that demonstrates how Leeds and Yorkshire people have travelled and worked abroad. There is an overlap with Decorative Arts, where we want to keep building on areas like Chinese ceramics, which have attract dedicated collectors and maintain their wide appeal.   

Click to expandAfrican Masks and Masquerade

[Image shows an Ekoi or Cross River beautiful ancestress mask, Nigeria, 1900-1920.]

Leeds has more than 40 masks from Africa, where traditional masquerade performances still flourish in many places. Masks have also been made for sale to tourists for over 100 years. Nigerian masks are best represented in Leeds, especially by examples of Yoruba Egungun and Gelede masks, and a spectacular beautiful ancestress mask from the Ekoi or Ejagham peoples.

Other star pieces include an ancestor mask from the Bamum of Cameroon, and an antelope mask worn by the Zamle society of the Guro people from Ivory Coast, a secret society for hunters and warriors.

African masks may be worn in front of the face, over the whole head like a helmet, or on top. In Leeds we only have a few of the costumes that are worn by the masquerade to cover the rest of the body: a colourful body suit from the Ibibio, two coarser netted fibre body suits from southeast Nigeria, and a leafy cover-all for the Kankurang masquerade in The Gambia.

Click to expandChinese Ceramics

[Image shows a Tang dynasty camel]

Leeds has a fabulous range of Chinese ceramics, from the Neolithic  earthenwares of the Gansu Yangshao culture over 5000 years ago, to more modern porcelains with their multi-coloured enamel glazes. 

The Chinese have appreciated the feel of different clay bodies, forms, colours and decoration for centuries. Leeds has examples of the Tang dynasty Sancai three colour earthenwares, including this camel figure grave find donated by Sir Alvary Gascoigne of Lotherton Hall. You will also find plenty of Yue and Longquan celadons, Song dynasty tea bowls, and a great selection of underglaze blue on whites.

The biggest display is at Lotherton Hall, near Aberford, but there is also a case in the Collectors Gallery at Leeds City Museum celebrating the significant bequest from Frank Savery in 1966. Other collectors and donors include Robert Walker, Sam Wilson, Captain George Warre, Charles Roberts and Herbert Hepworth. 

Click to expandContact the World Cultures Curator

​​If you have an enquiry about the World Cultures collections at Leeds, please get in touch.

You'll find full, up-to-date contact details for our curatorial staff in the Collections section of our Staff page (see the link below).

Staff contact details

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