The Cheryl Olkes Collection
at Chatham College


This magnificent collection was bequeathed to Chatham college by Dr. Cheryl Olkes, class of 1970, upon her death in 1998. Numbering more than 600 works of African art, Dr. Olkes intended the collection to be used for study and exhibition. She hoped that Chatham students would come to a better understanding of African culture by examining, researching, and writing about these tangible "points of contact" between ourselves and the work's creators.

Cheryl Olkes was a Chatham success story. She graduated from the college in 1970 with a B.A. in English and immediately entered Ohio State University, where she received an M.A. in Journalism in 1971. She then entered the University of Texas, Austin, where she received a Ph.D. in Communications in 1978. Her dissertation addressed the potential uses of mass media in the Republic of Niger.

In the 1980s Dr. Olkes lived in Africa among the Songhay people of Niger. Her experiences are recounted in a book she wrote with her husband, anthropologist Paul Stoller, titled In Sorcery's Shadow: A Memoir of Apprenticeship Among the Songhay of Niger, 1989. The book is still used today as a college textbook.

Dr. Olkes collected African art during her many visits to the continent. She later owned and directed the gallery Harmattan African Arts in Washington D.C. and was an active supporter of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.