Thursday, 28 February 2008

Article by Ben Enwonwu | Dated 1949

Image: African Graffiti by Joe Pollitt

1949 - First Published
West African Pilot, May 1949


Author: Ben Enwonwu

I should ask the gods of my ancestors to tell me what art is and for what purpose it exists. It is easy to talk about painting and sculpture, or architecture, music and other forms of art but it is not so easy to discuss fully what constitute their natures and qualities. The question What is Art? has been widely discussed by artists, philosophers, and art critics but many aspects of it have merely been explained away. It is also a question for which no cut-and-dry definition has yet been offered, nor would any if offered, be adequate. Through aesthetic experiences and constant application of thought to art, writers on art have been able to offer different aspects of the answers which may serve as an adequate definition of art.

But very often the language of art employed is misunderstood, or else, taken for granted. One of the reasons for that misconception of written documents memoirs on art being of course that the eloquence of a work of art is beyond verbal interpretation. The most effective language of a work of art is its quality, which speaks for itself. Some people can react to the effect of the quality of a work of art, others cannot but this is a matter of sensitivity and education to an appreciation of the work of the human hand.

People with good taste are apt to wonder why it is that what they admire in works of art are not easy for others to grasp. A man of good taste may like certain qualities in a work of art for certain reasons, no matter whether those qualities recall to his memory what he had experienced in life or not. He likes those qualities simply because they appeal to him.

To be able to admire certain qualities in a work of art in this way, is to begin to discover for oneself, what art really is.

But, of course, some men of taste take art objects for granted as historical and fashionable documents. Usually, a class of aristocratic or bourgeoisie art connoisseurs spring up in a society, who are themselves genuine and ardent admirers of the beautiful. They would be classified as people who understand art. There is no question that they do, when it comes to the fact that they are the precursors of what society is to acclaim and emulate. But quite often, these art enthusiasts have no independent judgement and criticism of art based on justifiable aesthetic concepts. Art has suffered under the patronage of aristocracy which is the least criterion for assessing artistic merits and demerits. It is equally true that such patronage has promoted artistic creativity, but only materially. This is a matter of history.

Does the criterion for artistic judgement therefore depend on standards set by aristocracy and elegant taste, or does it depend on the nature and types of human races, who have so produced, as it were, not one art but many? Are beautiful paintings, beautiful buildings and beautiful sculptures necessarily art? Are works produced merely for purposes of the representation of things in nature and for decorum? Has man`s whole spirit and soul been wrapped up with the idea of building monumental copies of natural phenomena, and of creating great artistic impressibilities as a result of his reaction to impulse? If not, what is art, and for what purpose does it exist? Is what prompts artistic creativity art? Or, is what transforms a piece of wood or canvas, or even sounds into that, what has given life and concrete meaning, art?

I should now begin to seek answers to all these questions, and then try to explore the nature and types of human arts for upon the answers to such questions would depend what I would contend to be, a clear definition of art.

Art is not the human activity which aims at the creation of beautiful things. By this, I do not exclude elements of beauty, or beauty itself, from the qualities which a work of art must embody but such a hypothesis bridges the gap between art, as a reality, which is not visible nor tangible, and art as a human activity, the product of which we know as a work of art.

When critics of art discuss the subjects of art, they generally do not talk how clever the artist is, how he has copied nature or imitated her, nor even how nearer to nature the colours in a painting are. They, the critics of art, talk about artistic qualities which do not necessarily recall to mind what had been seen before that is, those eternal qualities which know neither time nor space.

To value a work of art, says Tolstoy, by the degree of realism or by the accuracy of the details is as strange as to judge of the nutritive quality of food by its external appearance. When we appraise a work of art according to its realism, we only show that we are talking, not of art, but of its counterfeit.

Most people admire what recalls things of sentimental value, or expect to find such things in a work of art and when such things do not exist in a work of art, they think that the work of art is either crude or not even art at all.

Others expect to find in a work of art and the function it performs, records of history and great deeds. It is in fact, one of the functions of art to record history: to tell the story of man`s intellectual and mental development in time and space, but such stories which a work of art does tell, are but its descriptive qualities, which must be subjected to greater qualities that are aesthetic in essence. Eugene Delacroix once said to Baudelaire:

The visible world is only a shop full of images and signs to which imagination gives relative value and place. It is a kind of pasture – land which imagination should order and transform. All the faculties of human soul should be subordinated to the imagination which uses them simultaneously.
A genius creates his own method he has no other a true artist is born to pick and choose, and group with intelligence, elements in nature, so that the result may be as beautiful as the musicians gathers his notes and forms his chords, until he brings forth from chaos, glorious harmony. To know what art is, one must know the human mind.

Most art lovers do not like to feel that beauty is not automatically implied when the word ART is mentioned. So that to them, it would seem quite aesthetically incoherent to call what seem an ugly object of art, beautiful. Unlike the Hellenic standards up to, and after the Renaissance, the classic theory of beauty conformed to realism and photographic verisimilitude. It is the meaning of art, and the purpose for which it exists, that justifies shapes, colours, or designs in a work of art.

Unless the meaning of a thing is understood, it is difficult to appreciate that thing in any reasonable sense. It is easy to misunderstand it, or take it for granted. One of the qualities which a work of art has, is its power to attract attention and to make an appeal. By this means, what the artist has communicated or had expressed, and the significance of his interpretations, become part and parcel of his medium or material, which is merely a means by which ART is born.

Art is therefore not a quality of things, but an activity of man. Beautiful lines in a drawing, or beautiful colours in painting or beautiful shapes in a piece of sculpture, are not at all ART. Art does not imply good colours, lines and shapes, not do these make up Art.

Thinkers, philosophers, and artists, have offered varied definitions of art, its manifestations and its functions. Apart from the fact that art gives pleasure, it also fulfils other functions which are as important as living itself.

Art elevates the human mind, sublimates his base emotions, and cultivates his sense to be more sensitive to the finer things of life. Art gives peace and vitality to the human mind and soul and as children are to women of whom they are born, so is art to its creator, the artistic genius. To cultivate ones mind so that art may speak, is to raise oneself above the level of the animal kingdom it is to give freedom to man`s spirit which is the real joy of life.

But I am limiting art to painting and sculpture in the sense as Vernon would contend, that art is essentially the expression of emotion. Great music cannot exist if it does not express emotion. And in painting, it does not matter if colours are not rich and harmonious. Degas, the impressionist and Cezanne, both painted in entirely different styles. Degas` colours were rich and characteristic of the impressionist school whereas, Cezanne sometimes, and quite often used dirty muddy colours but the unity, and vitality which his work conveys, are what critics call art in its entirety. Thus a work of art is complete, and nothing is left out, if even the absence of luscious colours predominate.

Tolstoy`s definition of art emphasises the transmission of the human emotion as the essence of art. Here, there is justification for the interpretations and the ideas which artists like Mark Ernst, Paul Klee, Duchamp, and others of the DADAIST group show in their works. Although the platonic theories of art, as the Imitative and the Representational, or the Aristotelian speculations on the mimetic impulse have prevailed, other theories like Schiller or Karl Groos whose views are equally acceptable, have added to man`s aesthetic discoveries. While Plato and Aristotle upheld the view that art must represent what the eyes have seen, and this idea prevailed throughout the immense period of art history, and was used to a very great extent by the Greeks and the Europeans, Schiller`s play theory of art has explored other aspects of art, which had never occurred to philosophers of his time and before.

The imagination of man, says Schiller, like his corporeal organs has also its free emotion and its material play, in which it merely enjoys its native power and liberty without reference to shape or colour. This play of the imagination consists in a free, unconstrained flow of images, which, because of the absence of form, is not yet aesthetic. But from this free play of ideas, the imagination makes, at length, a leap to aesthetic play. An entirely new power comes here into requisition for the directing spirit at first interfering in the operations of blind instinct, subjects the arbitrary process of the imagination to its immutable eternal quality. Art, in other words, is born when taste, asserting itself, imposes upon the products of the free play of man`s imagination.

Schiller`s analogy of the manifestations of art in the human imagination pre- supposes an answer to the question What is Art? From this point, the essential features of art begin to show themselves in positive terms. At this, I should contend that art, in the broadcast sense of the terms, is the human activity which is consciously so controlled as to produce a result satisfying some specified condition. I use the term specified in the sense that the artist/s free play of imagination helps, or does not hinder the ultimate creation of a desired effect which is the aim of Art be that effect one of fear, or joy, of the mysterious, or even of death and horrors – so long as the artist had been impulsed to infuse an effect into his image-making propensity.

In this sense, also, it would be reasonable to state that the germ of artistic creativity is that which differentiates man`s artistic expressions from the dim adumbrations of animal art. It follows, as the trend of art history has shown, that in its entirety, Art has been produced by man from the pre-historic times to the present and that there can be no logical argument denying the fact that what man had produced when he lived under primitive conditions, inspired by fear or imbued with taboo and superstition, is still great, if it was acknowledged so to be when compared with Art which he now produces as a civilized or cultivated man.

The capacity for artistic creation of the early man whose environment differs from ours is no less inducive to the production of great art as that of the man of the middle ages, or man of the Renaissance, and even modern man. It is only the treatment of the material which the artist employs as an agent, that is different itself, a product of science or industry or of nature, but not of Art – is a matter of studies and experience. The telic activities which I have stated can be classified in such positive terms so as to state quite categorically the extent to which the effect a world of Art has is a direct result of the manifestation of Art in the human imagination and vice versa.

I should divide Art into two species – the Ectotelic and the Endotelic. Ectotelic art may be defined as utilitarian or skilled work and Endotelic Art which is skilled self-objectifictation is the one with which I am essentially concerned. What the positive end of endotelic Art seeks is objectification of the artist`s beliefs, his feelings, meanings or significances, and volitions. The Art which is endotelic consists in conscious or subconscious, critically controlled, objectification of self or equivalently, in consciously objective self-expression.

It does not imply that the feeling, meaning, or significance and volition, which may be expressed in a material that the artist uses, or call it his medium which renders observation and admiration by the artist and others possible, is meant when objectification is addressed to artistic creativity. Objectification is usually mentioned in personal stuff but it plays its role in Art in distinct image-stuff that is to say, the interplay of both material and thought, is the result of a conscious creative activity of the artist. In this sense, self-objectification remains private to the artist. It is easy to see that the image stuff has a limit, where it meets with the realm of perpetual-stuff. The latter is what objectification denotes. However, the image-stuff as a medium of artistic creativity or expression, remains empirical.

Theoretically, image-stuff is possible stuff for self-objectification in so far as it does not encroach upon perceptual objectivity. Let me be more explicit – the expression in a work of Art which is a quality, is creative of something i.e. capable of being contemplated by the artist and others as well. But this is not the meaning of self-objectification.

The expression, as objective is such that in contemplation of some quality in a world of Art, it yields back to the artist`s feeling, meaning, or significance and volition, of which it was the attempted expression. Thus, an artist paints a picture or carves a figure and in desolation or dissatisfaction, destroys the work he has done because he knows that he has failed to express what he wanted. He would say, on contemplating his work, Yes, that is what I meant, or sometimes, No, that is not what I meant, if on the contrary, according as the extent to which self- objectification has manifested itself in terms of expression.

The artist may get rid of the impulse to express something, but that something may not rid him of it by objectifying it. Unsuccessful attempts at objective self-expression can only be noted, by contemplating the products – the works of Art. By obtaining back to the observer of the work, or by the artist, of what has been attempted to express, is the only proof as to the meaning of self- objectification. Objectification is a means and not an end but it is also the meaning of a work of Art, otherwise creative Art would be essentially not endotelic but ectotelic.

Artistic creativity is the act of self-expression. The act of self-expression is blind to accuracy or definite form unless it has been tutored – that is to say, the expression which the work thus produced possesses, is bound to be native, whenever expression is something original or new unless the technique is good enough. This does not deny the fact of its power or its vitality. The point I am trying to make is that when a child draws something, self-objectification remains a matter of guesswork, and in most cases, never occurs. Until he has learnt the Art and the craft, he cannot develop a sense of critical analysis. So it is with a clever draughtsman on the other hand, whose technique is superior to his capacity for self-expression, and self-objectification. Such blind acts never pass objectivity in the sense of that term, for the work produced would have no purpose except that which is purely biological or utilitarian.

Art is not merely self-expression but objective self-expression in the act of which it must be a conscious effort, only permissible of un-self consciousness in cases of primeval Art when self-objectification has been canalised into some definite purpose, categorized in various, though interrelated mechanisms as part and parcel of other dynamic forces that exist in the human society. I speak of the so-called primitive Art of which some critics of Art have described as unconscious self- objectification. Primitive Art is self-conscious, because the artist, either before or during the act of its creation, was conscious of certain elements which were to play a role in the artist`s creations he was aware of being aware, that certain elements were playing a part the question of the time when such elements became a part of the work produced is irrelevant.

Every artist, no matter what race, country, or epoch has been endowed with gifts such as capacity for artistic contemplation in word, that thing which he creates yields back to his feeling, meaning or significance and volition of which the work was the attempted expression.

Art is not only capable of passing the test of conscious objectivity but must have passed it before successful work is done. This means that a work of art is finished before it begun. The artist must have conceived an image of a thing before actually making it a concrete thing – a work of art. Consciousness of the act is gained by contemplation of the product, i.e. judgment as to whether or not the work truly mirrors back what Wassily Kandisky calls the inner klang.

The conscious objectification of the artist`s feeling belongs to the realm of aesthetics. Here the reason for calling Art Fine Art which is an ambiguous term crops up. The implication which the term Fine Art carries has implied, on many occasions, that Art so referred to, is an activity essentially concerned with the production of something beautiful. This, of course, is false and a wrong view of the nature of Art, as has already been pointed out in the earlier part of this article. Any activity of which the deliberate and ultimate aim is to produce something beautiful is Ectotelic Art i.e. skilled work, crafts. A craft work may be beautiful or lovely but that is its ultimate aim it does not reveal the maker`s imagination to question. As long as the eye beholds is as something attractive and `fine` or beautiful, it has performed its function.

The definition of Endotelic Art or Aesthetic Art is wholly independent of the notion of the beautiful. This does not mean that its product must or must not lack beautiful lines, and beautiful colours, and beautiful forms. It only means that Art the products of which are things pre-conceived, is true to the precepts of the images thus created in concrete form.

The word aesthetic is used at random and is applied even to the emotion which an American saloon can evoke on the mind – the steam lines! Sometimes the workd is used in its etymological sense – meaning perceptible. When the etymological sense of the word is conjoined with ethnography, the word is used to standardize works produced by man living under primitive conditions or else the work of the pre-historic man.

Kant`s first part of his Critique of Pure Reason dealt with aesthetics as if it has only to do with perception. Thus the word as I have stated above has been used to make all sorts of distinct enquiries such as the philosophy of beauty and empirical investigations of the characters and qualities which objects of art should possess, and then judged by standards established by society, based on beautiful things or persons, correct angles or rectangles, and anatomical proportions and so on.

Some Art critics have not resisted the temptation to judge some works of Art on such basis. But great critics of Art like John Ruskin, Herbert Read, Morris Collis and Eric Newton, would judge Art from a wider angle according as Art has satisfied all aesthetic canons. Any object may be called beautiful when, or in so far as, the feelings which one obtained in the aesthetic contemplation of it are pleasurable feelings. A beautiful object therefore may be, but need not be, a work of Art and a work of art may be, but need not be, beautiful. Beauty, being purely a matter of the sort of feeling that an object gives us in contemplation, remains wholly independent of the manner whether artificial or natural in which the object itself came into existence. On the other hand, a work of Aesthetic Art, being simply the consciously achieved objectification of a feeling, will not be beautiful unless the feeling objectified in it and reflected by it in contemplation, is a pleasurable feeling.

A mask can be a work of art if it is a successful attempt to imprison an idea or express an idea in terms of wood, and if it reflects such ideals or ideas by the effect of its shape, be they repellent or pleasurable to the onlooker. If the mask represents a goddess it could be a model of beauty in so far as the same ideal and the ideas that made the perpetual stuff possible of achievement, is triumphant. A realistic painting could be beautiful, but not a work of Art. The masks created by our ancestors are not only beautiful, but are highly sophisticated masterpieces.

The essay continues by discussing the nature of Negro African Art.

Ben Enwonwu | Problems of the African Artist Today, 1956

I wanted to post this article today at the end of Feburary 2008 and ask the question how have things really changed in the last 50 years...?

1956 - First Published in Paris
Paris: Editions Presence Africaine

Author Ben Enwonwu

The problems which face the African artist of our generation are many and difficult. They may be classified as political, cultural, educational and social, and even emotional problems. I should, however, like to introduce a few thoughts on some aspects of these problems that may throw light on the inevitable causes, in the hope that some solution can be found.

Perhaps, the most pressing among these problems and therefore one which I feel personally, should be given first attention is the political. The cause of the political aspect of these problems can be envisaged and considered by the extent to which Art has been accorded its proper place in the political life of the African peoples.

It is a common assumption that Art has nothing to do with politics. That this human activity, is not a biological necessity and therefore, it is an isolated phenomenon which has no political context or mission. This common attitude to Art is an under-estimation of its useful and practical purpose, as well as of the basis for its existence. For, it is not even so much what Art has to do with politics, that has created such difficult problems today, as how political situations affect Art and the artist.

In fact, every true artist is bound by the nature of the traditional artistic state of his country, to express, even unconsciously, the political aspirations of his time. And for expressions to be true, they must be an embodiment of the struggle of self-preservation.

The epochs of high artistic achievements of any country, have been those of comparative political stability, and of great national pride. It is in such a period in the life of a country that Art assumes its role of great national importance. Then the artist is able to devote his energy freely, to the creation of national art such as memorials, and monuments, to the glory of his country. The political function of Art can therefore be determined by the subject matter of Art which can be differentiated from its aesthetic beauty.

Benin is known throughout the world today for its Art. Certain types of the art of Benin can be characterized as essentially civic, by the descriptive motifs and patterns of the sculpture. The bronze plaques that depicted scenes of each succeeding Oba and the grades of chiefs of the old Kingdom the decorated maces the carved staffs of office by which the order in the hierarchy of chiefs were graded the armour and embellished weapons, these works of art were almost essentially inspired by political ideals. It was to the political function of the State that they were directed.

Unlike the old days when the African artist did not have to face problems of political nature, the transition period that we are passing through therefore presents new artistic problems. The present political situation in Africa affects the artist, and has tended to divide artistic productivity into lesser and greater kinds, by the conditions which it has created for the artists.

We now have artists who live in villages, and because their mode of life is not unaffected, they continue to maintain the old vision and traditional craftsmanship. They still carve masks in old style, which are used in the dance they still carve ancestral figures for the sanctuary of our fathers, and their fathers` fathers. In fact, they are struggling under new social, religious, and political systems, to maintain the lamp of continuity of our spiritual values and indigenous culture. The art they create is a living art, and their appreciation of art generally is genuine, simple, direct, and sincere. Their emotional reaction to all kinds of art works is vital, and therefore important to note.

We also have artists who are moving into big towns from the villages, and who are the makers of tourist art whose objets d`art are sought after by most European visitors and settlers in Africa. These artists are nonetheless interested in what they produce, but it is of equally great importance to them to find a market for their art pieces. The economic necessity is caused by political situation which is beyond their control. They have to live, and their art affords an economic solution to their means of living.

Then we are now having artists among the young people who have been to school, as well as those who are educated. These artists are using western techniques to express themselves as individual artists. I think that the problems of this group are the greatest and most difficult of the others, because they bear the burden of having to bridge the gap, between the ancien and the modern in art. Besides this fact, it is they who have to evolve a contemporary art that will, for political reasons, prove to the world that African Art can be preserved and can be continued. In my opinion, the preservation and continuity of the characteristic quality of African Art, depends largely, on how modern African artists can borrow the techniques of the west without copying European Art.

It would not have been necessary for the African artist of today, to prove to the world that he can create objects of great beauty, had the political problems that he has had to face, not affected him so deeply, and his art as well. I need not mention the problems that Africans face both at home and abroad, as we know what they are, and there are experts who deal with such sociological, educational, and economic problems, and soon, I would group these problems within the political heading.

An artist can create while in a state of mental worries or when he suffers. Sometimes, his suffering can bring out the genius within him through emotional strife to externalize his burning desire, or say, as many people say, that an artist does his greatest work when he is suffering. This may be true, but it depends or what kinds of sufferings, and the causes of the suffering. But I know that when a country is suppressed by another politically, the native traditions of the art of the suppressed begin to die out. Then the artists also begin to lose their individual and the values of their own artistic idiom. Art, under this situation is doomed what follows is an artistic vacuum that may be prolonged for even a century. By this of course, I do not mean that no more art can be created by the artists, but much of what they could, and did do in the past, can be denied them and those who follow them.

The present generation of African artists therefore has to face their political problems, and try to look at Art through politics the kind of picture that the political aspect of African Art shows is one of intense strife and pity.

One, it is a pity that while the historic influence of African Art on European aesthetic traditions and Art has created a healthy revitalization of decadent art-form and traditions of Europe and America, the influence of western ideas and technological system, as well as that of education has, politically speaking, not proved, and can never prove, the best means of keeping alive the native genius of the African peoples. And while Europe can be proud to possess some of the very best sculptures from Africa among museums and private collectors, Africa can only be given the poorest examples of English Art particularly, and the second-rate of other works of art from Europe.

The preservation of the old art in certain regions of Africa is, of course being carried out particularly in Nigeria. But it is strange - strange because I would like to put this point to you – that those in supreme authority for the preservation of what is left of African Art, as well as what can be bought or brought back home, are not the Africans whose ancestors created the sculptures but Europeans, whose predecessors were responsible for the disappearance of numberless African art works from their country of origin. I would admit though that this disappearance, also had its good results. It has resulted in the world-wide admiration and an aesthetic evaluation of African Art. It has also won a place of honour for African Art in the aesthetic traditions of the west. Yet, the African himself seems to have so little to do with these either through his own lack of interest in his past, or through not being given the opportunity to participate in the development of his native art.

The African intelligentsia considers this aspect of the problem an academic one, for which he claims that few Africans except himself, were qualified to examine scientifically. The science of anthropology has therefore, and for a long time, been used to create an intellectual barrier which makes it extremely difficult for most Africans to be considered qualified to play an important part in the development and preservation of their native art. Even those intellectuals who know very little or nothing about art, and African Art, are the authorities in whose hands lie the future of African Art. In the educational and social activities that have political support, the African artist of today is subordinated to instructions of persons whose opinions are biased uninformed, and fallacious.

In some parts of Africa, the problems of the modern artist, are more politically involved, and therefore more difficult, than others. In more advanced parts where political consciousness had culminated in the desire for political independence or self- government with all this implies, the artist`s function and duty to his country as an interpreter of the group-political ideology, have not yet been fully realized, even by those Africans in political power. At least, they have not realized that art should develop simultaneously with political growth and freedom.

It is, in fact, in these regions that African Art has not only come under the pressure of modern industrialism and the machine age, but it is also in danger of being forgotten. The artists are not being fully used either by the government in power, or by the public. Nor is any serious attempt being made to see that the African artist is given priority when commissions for works of art of national importance are being given. For instance, in Nigeria, postage stamps commission was offered to a free-lance European artist without any Nigerian artist being considered. In Benin, the city of ancient art, stands a bronze figure of EMOTAN. No Nigerian artist was considered for the commission. Perhaps, the Benins themselves wanted a sculpture made or manufactured in England.

Intelligent Africans and Europeans who have failed to look at the problem essentially from the political aspect of its involvement, but who are not themselves artists, have argued that since art is international, it is justified to give commissions for art works that will live in Africa for all time, to whoever that is qualified to undertake them. The assessment of the right person and his qualifications having been based entirely on western standards is decided, not by Africans but by Europeans.

I am not saying that the European authority whoever he may be, is not sometimes kind enough to offer a commission to an African artist, but the fact is that the African artist must be humble enough to apply for, or receive from the benevolent European something that belongs to the African. The emotional strife involved under such conditions can be a hindrance to free creative energy being directed into its right channel.

This regrettable factor has thrown the field of African Art open to the monopoly of the powers that be, and sometimes to the philistines, as well as to fallacious standardisation on foreign basis an art that is best known and understood by the people who create it. While Europeans are the best judges of their own art, and no one argues about this fact, the African does not even have a chance to play an equally important part in judging his art, let alone his justifiable claim if he chooses to make one, that he is the best judge of his own art.

Another instance that I would like to give in reference to this is that in Nigeria Annual Festival of Arts are held in all regions, namely, the three regions, the east, north, and the west and also, in the colony of Lagos. The sole judges of the Arts Festival are Europeans. They organize the show, run and judge the works of art. Of course, I was not welcomed as a member, because of my criticisms of the way in which they are run, and who run them. But I attend the Festivals and give lectures and exhibitions when I am invited to do so.

I have stated some of the political problems which the African artist faces in his own country, but outside of his own country today, he faces the humiliation of having to listen to lecturers on African Art in foreign art galleries and museums. He visits foreign museums in order to see a collection of the art of his own country and very often European curators show him round the museum.

This aspect of the problems is cultural, emotional, a political and there are many other problems in which politics and culture as well as education enter into the life of the African artist`s life and his dilemma.

I have only mentioned the political aspect so far, although the other aspects are important, I would prefer to leave them to an open discussion.

Research on Contemporary African Art

Previous Critiques on Contemporary African Art
Dates: 1960 - 2003

Sureys and Critiques
Source: Compiled by Janet L. Stanley
National Museum of African Art Library
Smithsonian Institution Libraries



Surveys and Critiques

1966 | Brown, Evelyn S. Africa`s contemporary art and artists: a review of creative activities in painting, sculpture, ceramics and crafts of over 300 artists working in the modern industrialized societies of some of the countries of subSaharan Africa. New York: Division of Social Research and Experimentation, Harmon Foundation, 1966. 136pp. illus. N7397.S3B87 AFA. OCLC 1063546.

The Harmon Foundation promoted artists from Africa and sponsored exhibitions in the United States as early as the 1950s. The first attempt of the Harmon Foundation to compile a directory of African artists was in 1961 Evelyn Brown`s 1966 directory was the second, considerably more substantial effort. For many years it stood as the sole directory of African artists, and now stands as an historical marker of the mid-1960s. The archival files generated by this compilation are now in the Library of Congress other records of the now-defunct Harmon Foundation are in the National Archives in Washington, DC.

April 1966 | McEwen, Frank. Modern African painting and sculpture, pp. 427-437. In: Colloquium: function and significance of African Negro art in the life of the people and for the people, March 30-April 8, 1966 organized by the Society of African Culture S.A.C. with the co-operation of UNESCO, under the patronage of the Senegalese Government. Paris: Presence africaine, 1968. At head of title: 1st World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar, April 1-24, 1966. NX587.C714 1966 volume 1 AFA. OCLC 1874183.

McEwen`s defense of the workshop approach to nurture creative artists in Africa is forceful, fearless, and unapologetic: personal inducement of inborn talent is the way to go. He lashes out at Western-style art schools in Africa as producers of mediocrity and killers of talent, headed by bemedalled academic nonentities. With traditional African art dead or dying, Africa`s creative energies are all too often channeled into the demeaning production of airport art -- the disparaging epithet which McEwen is credited with coining.

In the workshop scenario, many are called but few are chosen, in what McEwen calls a metaphoric anthill, where the supreme emerge on the corpses of many. The success of McEwen`s Workshop School at the National Gallery of then Rhodesia is a case in point. He argues that although there is no African tradition from which these works of stone sculpture spring not as yet any corrupting influence from European art, they are clearly African in character. The explosive talent in Africa, its potential unrealized, faces a real threat from becoming stultifyingly bland and boringly imitative by exposure to the aridity of international art. How long can it remain African?

The year is 1966. It would be many years before McEwen`s paternalistic, if well-intentioned, views about modern African art were challenged.

Sept-Oct 1966 Art nègre, Vivante afrique Namur, Belgium no. 246: 1-53, septembre-octobre 1966. illus. BV3500.A3G75 AFA.

Vivante afrique , a Belgian Catholic missionary journal, devoted a special issue to the emerging African art forms evident at the time of the 1966 World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar. It is interesting as an historical document of the period in recognizing that African art was indeed becoming something new and that the role of the African artist was changing. Among the several artists whose works are illustrated are Christian Lattier Côte d`Ivoire, Ignace Bamba Congo Democratic Republic, Benjamin Mensah Ghana, Paul Ayi Togo, Kitsiba Congo, and Ibou Diouf Senegal.

Partial contents: Un laboratorie de formes neuves pp. 14-22 L`artiste moderne en divorce avec son peuple, pp. 25-31 Que sera l`art africain de demain? pp. 32-42 Art nègre: utopie ou vocation, pp. 43-52.


Image: Twins Seven Seven | The King's Cock

1968 | Beier, Ulli. Contemporary art in Africa. London: Pall Mall Press New York: Frederick Praeger, 1968. xiv, 173pp. illus. pt. color. N7380.B42a AFA/N7380.B42 AFA. OCLC 463332/OCLC 1234759.

An important early survey of contemporary African art focusing on the new artists, that is, those working in non-traditional modes and settings. Covers all the new schools of art with particular emphasis on Beier`s own experience with the Oshogbo artists.

Reviewed by E. Okechukwu Odita in Africa Report New York January 1970, pp. 39-40.


1973 | Mount, Marshall Ward. African art: the years since 1920. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. 236pp. illus. pt. color., bibliog. N7391.65.M68 1973X AFA. OCLC 861736.

Mount`s survey of modern African art is much read and often quoted in part because so little was published on the subject, but also because it is a fair-minded and broadly based survey of the state of contemporary African art in the early 1970s. The survey looks at the various art school and workshop traditions e.g., English-speaking countries, French-speaking countries and at thematic topics, such as mission-inspired art or souvenir art. As a text it has stood the test of time reasonably well, but must today be viewed as an historical survey.

1973 | Mount, Marshall Ward. African art: the years since 1920. New York: Da Capo Press, [1989], c1973. xviii, 236pp. illus., bibliog. Reprint of the 1973 edition with new introduction. N7391.65.M68 1989X AFA. OCLC 19887831.

This is a reprint of Mount`s 1973 text see preceding entry presented without change apart from the removal of three color plates that appeared in the original edition. Mount does, however, provide a new six-page introduction to update and correct some of the earlier information, following the chapter outline of his original work, e.g. mission-inspired art, souvenir art, etc. Still, the intervening years from 1973 to 1989 have witnessed so many developments and new artists on the modern art scene in Africa, which cannot be dealt with in six pages, that this book remains an historical look at the subject.


1974 | Oledzki, Jacek. The contemporary African art, some remarks on new trends in the development of sculpture, Africana bulletin Warsaw no. 21: 9-35, 1974. illus. VF -- Artists - General.

New forms of artistic expression abound in Africa, but remain overshadowed by traditional genres or ignored by scholars. New sculptural forms have emerged more slowly than painting see Oledzki`s article Les peintures de l`Afrique noire -- next entry and have been more greatly influenced by market tastes. Commemorative sculptures, inspired by Christianity or by syncretic churches, comprise an inventive and original stream of creativity arising from local concerns and needs. Sepulchral monuments, vaults, and cemetery statuary in cement and clay are widespread in West Africa. Oledzki illustrates several examples from Cameroon and southern Nigeria.

In the popular arts, sculptural equivalents of barbershop signs occur in sculpted, painted wood mannikin heads. Other examples of sculptures as advertisement can readily be cited. Sculptural innovation also occurs within traditional contexts, e.g., reliefs on Bamileke meeting houses. Makonde sculpture, however, arises as a purely commerical venture.

Oledzki, Jacek. Les peintures de l`Afrique noire, Africana bulletin Warsaw no. 20: 9-46, 1974. illus. VF -- Commerical Art.

One of the livelier forms of popular arts in Africa are the barbershop signs, which are found in cities and towns across West, Central and East Africa. Painted vehicles of public transport are another exhuberant popular art expression in Africa. Bar painting is yet a third common public art form, equally imaginative and colorful. One muralist working in a different vein is a Kano artist, named Suly, who has distinguished himself by the paintings he executes on outside walls of private residences and compounds. Less well known are rural homes for example, in Cameroon, Central African Republic and Congo Democratic Republic with whitewashed exterior walls painted with figurative murals. Church murals are also found in these same regions, both fairly recent phenomena. The popular arts in Africa today are not ethnically based, as older art forms were. They differ, too, from paintings of elite artists. These paintings described by Oledzki are created by and for the people.


1975 | Delaquis, H. Ato. Dilemma of the contemporary African artist, Transition Accra 9 50: 16-30, October 1975-March 1976. illus. qDT433.2.T772 AFA.

The dilemma for the African artist is where to position himself between a cultural heritage not fully lived or experienced and an artistic neo-colonialism that insists on cultural referents in anything called modern African art. What is needed is a neo-African cultural response to present day realities in Africa.

Why is it that realism is regarded as taboo for contemporary African artists? Possibly because too many attempts to achieve it were and still are unconvincing. Tradition-inspired art which emerged in the 1940s and 1950s has in most cases been equally unconvincing. Some educated artists have self-consciously sought to retrieve a romanticized past, but much of this experimentation has proved arid. In fact, both realism and tradition-inspired art are legitimate avenues for the African artist to explore. The modern artist, however, must recognize that his spiritual connectedness to tradition is quite different from that of the village artist, and the resulting art works must necessarily be different. Creating an art for art`s sake poses new sorts of intellectual challenges. The modern artist needs to reconnect with his present-day society, a vastly different reality.

Accusations of derivation and imitation are particularly acute and sensitive ones for the intellectual African artist. Criticized on the one hand for being derivative of Western art forms and, on the other, for losing one`s roots, he cannot win.

The concluding portion of Delaquis` essay on The Modern International Outlook was to have been published in the next issue of Transition volume 9, no. 51. But the journal folded, and it was never published.


1976 | Ethnic and Tourists Arts: cultural expressions from the fourth world / edited by Nelson H. H. Graburn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976. xv, 412pp., [4] leaves of plates. illus. pt. color, bibliog. N5311.E73X AFA. OCLC 2762615.

Graburn`s introductory essay constitutes a pivotal statement on the nature of fourth world arts. In it he sets up categories of creative production: extinction traditional or functional fine arts commercial fine arts souvenirs reintegrated arts assimilated fine arts popular arts. There are four essays out of twenty relating directly to Africa: Changing African art, by William Bascom `A la recherche du temps perdu`: on being an ebony-carver in Benin, by Paula Ben-Amos The decline of Lega sculptural art, by Daniel P. Biebuyck Functional and tourist art along the Okavango River, by B. H. Sandelowsky.


1978 | Moderne konst i Afrika Modern art in Africa / text by C. O. Hultén [and others]. Lund, Sweden: Kalejdoskop, 1978. 136pp. illus. pt. color, bibliog. Text in Swedish with English summaries. N7380.M68 AFA. OCLC 6110928.

The Swedish art publication Kalejdoskop spent about three years pulling together a special issue devoted to modern art south of the Sahara under the guidance of artist C. O. Hultén. In a series of essays, he and other writers survey some of the new developments and art movements that define modern African art: Mbari, Poto Poto, and Thèis. Also covered are short synopses on individual artists, including among others, Malangatana, Skunder Boghossian, Baby Joachim Daman-M`Bemba, Vincent Kofi, Amadou Seck, Asiru Olatunde, and Jimoh Buraimoh. There is an essay on monumental public art and another on the cultural politics of FESTAC.


1980 | Leyten, Harrie M. and Paul Faber. Moderne kunst in Afrika. Amsterdam: Tropenmuseum Zutphen: Terra, [1980]. 94pp. illus. pt. color, map, bibliog. Text in Dutch. N7391.65.L49X AFA. OCLC 08194607.

The 1980 exhibition of modern African art at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam followed close on the heels of the Berlin Festival Horizon `79 and featured much of the same work and themes: self-taught and commercial artists, workshop artists, and academic artists. In their essay, Leyten and Faber place these widely scattered new art movements into a context of evolution and change in Africa.


1984 | Jules-Rosette, Bennetta. The messages of tourist art: an African semiotic system in comparative perspective. New York: Plenum Press, 1984. xviii, 266pp. illus., bibliog. N7399.65.J85 1984X AFA. OCLC 10778364.

This book examines tourist art as a system of symbolic and economic exchange. Drawing upon seven years of fieldwork in Zambia, Kenya and the Ivory Coast -- plus information collected in the United States on the consumer response to African tourist artwork, Jules-Rosette integrates a theoretical approach to the sociology of culture with firsthand ethnographic evidence of the production and exchange of tourist artwork in an international context. She rejects the assumption that tourist art is mass produced and challenges the view that tourist art is inferior to, or even separate from, high or traditional art. She shows that although the economic motive in tourist art production alters both the creative process and the artistic display, it does not determine the final product. In-depth interviews with grass-roots painters, potters, woodworkers, tinsmiths, and ivory carvers -- along with forty-nine illustrations of the artists and their work -- provide graphic documentation of how the messages of tourist art shape and reflect culture. -- from the book`s dust cover.

Reviewed by Simon Battestini in African studies review Atlanta 30 2: 104-105, June 1987.


1986 | Jules-Rosette, Bennetta. Aesthetics and market demand: the structure of the tourist art market in three African settings, African studies review Los Angeles 29 1: 41-59, 1986. bibliog.

Rejecting the notion of ethnoaesthetics, Jules-Rosette defines tourist art as a media of communjuleication between the new art producers and their audience she analyses aesthetics in village markets as exemplified by Korhogo carvers or Lele raffia makers and in popular art markets as exemplified by Lusaka commercial painters or Kamba carvers she goes into the history of Kamba carving tradition which dates to the early years of the 20th century and derives from Makonde work.

1986 | Fosu, Kojo. 20th century art of Africa. Zaria: Gaskiya Corporation, 1986. vii, 241pp. illus. pt. color, portraits, bibliog. N7380.5.F758 1986 AFA. OCLC 14259840.

A conscientious but not wholly successful attempt to survey contemporary art in Africa organized roughly thematically by school or workshop, e.g., Polly Street Art Center, Zaria Rebels, Makerere Direction, Coptic Infusion and so forth. The focus is on black African artists with primary emphasis on the decades of the 1960s and 1970s.


1987 | Airport Art: das exotische Souvenir . Stuttgart: Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, 1987. 118pp. illus. color. N8217.E88A29 1987 AFA. OCLC 17466554.

On tourist art worldwide, including several Africa-related contributions. Hermann Pollig, in his essay entitled Airport art, provides an overview of airport, or tourist art, worldwide, discussing themes, market responses to demands, copies and trivializations, new materials and new forms. Ronald Ruprecht Airport Art in Nigeria argues that Nigeria, lacking a mass tourist market as found in East Africa, has not developed the same kind of souvenir art. Here one sees copies and spin-offs of genuine objets d`art. The Benin ivory mask, symbol of FESTAC, inspired a whole host of souvenir pieces big and small. Benin heads and Yoruba twin figures ibeji are also recreated in a variety of sizes and materials ceramic ibeji!.

Dieter Göltenboth Cottage industries -- die Definition des afrikanischen Kunsthandwerks durch europaische und merikanische Designer maintains that the ways in which foreign consumers and foreign design have shaped and driven craft production in East Africa is reflected in both tourist art and recycling of goods. New objects for the tourist trade e.g., wooden animal puzzles, old objects from new materials e.g., Kamba baskets woven in plastic, and new objects from old materials recycled rubber tires and inner tubes all respond to new demand and/or availability of raw materials. In a second essay Makondeschnitzer in Ostafrika, Göltenboth discusses modern Makonde carving, which is probably the African tourist art most widely known it has become a major industry in Tanzania and Kenya today, both as a production and a marketing enterprise. Its initial impetus came from mission and colonial influences and encouragement. Lastly, Göltenboth explains Masai, die Vermarktung des `edlen Wilden` that the marketing of the Maasai for the tourist trade goes beyond airport art. The Maasai also market themselves in photo opportunities and staged dances. But it is the Kamba carvers who are cashing in on the trade with woodcarvings of Maasai masks and figures depicting Maasai warriors.

Heidwig Hadidi-Feuerherdt Aus dem Land der Pharaonen confirms that pharaonic kitsch for the tourist market is nothing new. Its most enduring and popular images and themes are pyramids, the Obelisk, the Sphinx, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen, scarabs and the Horus eagle.

1987 | Jules-Rosette, Bennetta. Rethinking the popular arts in Africa: problems of interpretation, African studies review Atlanta 30 3: 91-97, September 1987.

One of four commentaries on Karin Barber`s paper on popular arts in Africa see Barber above. Setting forth the matrix used by Barber for the production and consumption of popular arts, Jules-Rosette finds it rigid and misleading with respect to understanding the role of the artist in the process of negotiating between producers and consumers culture brokers.

She takes issue with the pidginization thesis of tourist art advanced by Ben-Amos and invoked by Barber, because it ignores the communicative and symbolic dimensions of art. She proposes a model of her own which diagrams a hypothetical communication system between artists, middlemen and consumers of popular arts.

Barber agrees that much more needs to be understood about relations between producers and consumers of popular arts, but she rejects the communication model proposed by Jules-Rosette which implies that popular arts are exclusively commercial -- which they are not because it ignores the emergent quality of popular arts and denies their fluidity and diversity.

1987 | Arnoldi, Mary Jo. Rethinking definitions of African traditional and popular arts, African studies review Atlanta 30 3: 79-83, September 1987.

One of four commentaries on Karin Barber`s paper on popular arts in Africa see Barber below. While agreeing that popular arts in Africa reflect change in the urban setting, Arnoldi cautions that the historical dimension of artistic production and the rural-based popular arts should not be missed. Using her own research among the Bamana, she finds unofficial arts exemplified in puppet theater. Syncretism domesticating the foreign is also characteristic of older traditional art forms. In her response, Barber acknowledges that there are elements of the popular in traditional art, but maintains that popular arts of the colonial and post-colonial periods are qualitatively different.

1987 | Barber, Karin. Popular arts in Africa, [and] Response, African studies review Atlanta 30 3: 1-78 [and] 105-111, September 1987. notes, bibliog. pp. 113-132.

A major overview paper commissioned by the Joint Committee on African Studies of the ACLS/SSRC in which Karin Barber grapples with defining what are popular arts in Africa. She explores the sociological popular and the aesthetic arts aspects of popular arts -- here including not only visual arts but also music, dance, theater and literature. She considers the often used triadic classification Traditional/Popular/Elite, but finds it unsatisfactory to conclude that popular arts are what is left in the middle after traditional and elite, which are easier to define, are set aside. Barber sees the unofficial character of popular arts as the source of its extraordinary vitality. They are novel, syncretic and urban-oriented. She analyzes the limitations and the virtues of this triadic classification, emphasizing the extreme fluidity and relativity of the boundaries between them.

Who produces and who consumes popular art? These form the economic and political matrix of Barber`s analysis of popular arts and what they tell us about a society, how they communicate to their audience, and how to discern the sub-texts in their message. She draws in her analysis from the work of Fabian and Szombati-Fabian on Shaba paintings and Jules-Rosette on Zambian popular paintings.

In her response Barber sets out again what for her is the crucial question: What do popular arts communicate? The content of the message is more important than the process of communicating. What are people thinking about, aspiring to, fearful of? -- these are the insights that popular arts can provide.

See critiques by Arnoldi, Cosentino, Cooper and Jules-Rosette.

1987 | Brett, Guy. No condition is permanent, chapter 3, pp. 82-111. In the author`s Through our own eyes: popular art and modern history. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1987. illus. pt. color, bibl. refs. N8210.B84 1987 AFA. OCLC 15065445.

Draws on the work of Szombati-Fabian and Fabian on Shaba painters to describe Congolese collective memory genres and Mamba Muntu mermaid images. Turning to Ghana, Nigeria, and Côte d`Ivoire, Brett looks at popular art of mammy wagons, sign paintings, mbari houses and children`s toys. This is a very useful synthesis of some of the popular arts in contemporary Africa.

1987 | Cooper, Frederick. Who is the populist? African studies review Atlanta 30 3: 99-103, September 1987.

One of four commentaries on Karin Barber`s paper on popular arts in Africa see Barber above. Cooper seeks to probe more deeply than Barber did the relationships between popular art forms and the shifting urban audiences consumers and ultimately what those dynamics can tell us about a particular setting in modern Africa, not about the masses or the populace as an abstract category. Barber, in her response, is in full accord with Cooper`s plea for greater historical specificity in examining popular arts, rather than merely looking at them against a generalized backdrop of colonialism or post-colonialism.

1987 | Cosentino, Donald. Omnes Cultura Tres Partes Divisa Est? African studies review Atlanta 30 3: 85-90, September 1987.

One of four commentaries on Karin Barber`s paper on popular arts in Africa see Barber above. The triadic classification Traditional/Popular/Elite, which Barber invokes, wrestles with, but never fully rejects, Cosentino rejects outright. Instead, he sees a unitary seamless web quality to contemporary African culture. The role of the marketplace both international and local as motive and inspiration for artistic creation and the process of re-contextualization are crucial to our understanding of contemporary African arts.

Though it is initially tempting to buy this argument, Barber, in her response, takes issue with Cosentino`s using commercialization as an all-purpose explanation for the production of popular arts in Africa today. This art for profit approach tells us nothing of the historical specificity of the production and dissemination of art or of the popular consciousness which it addresses.


1988 | Kunstreise nach Afrika: Tradition und Moderne . Bayreuth: Iwalewa-Haus, Universität, 1988. 128pp. illus. 48 figs. on 32 plates pt. color, bibliogs. N7380.K965 1988 AFA. OCLC 18689509.

In his forward to this collection of essays, Ronald Ruprecht dispels the idea that art in Africa is in decline. Indeed, he makes the case that the vitality and ingenuity of artists today is remarkable and worthy of serious attention and of celebration, which this volume sets out to accomplish. There are eight separate individual contributions: Friedrich Axt on Senegalese art, Ulli Beier and Georgina Beier on Alaraba cloth, Helke Kammerer-Grothaus on painters from Congo Democratic Republic and Congo Gunther Péus on Shona sculpture, Ronald Ruprecht on art in Nigeria since 1950, Winfried Schmidt on the Nsukka school of modern art in Nigeria, and Josef Thiel on the representation of man in African art.

1988 | Oloidi, Ola. Who is the new African artist? Aspects of African spirit / special issue of: Chrysalis New York: Swedenborg Foundation 3 l: 4-13, 1988. illus., bibl. refs. DT14.A83 1988 AFA. OCLC 18129862.

The new generation of modern African artists by which Oloidi means those who came of age post-independence seeks to differentiate itself from the earlier generation, who were products of colonial art institutions or foreign education -- artists such as Ibrahim el Salahi, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Vincent Kofi or Herbert Owiti. The hallmarks of this modern African artist are his creative independence, his re-interpretation of traditional heritage, whether expressed abstractly or naturalistically, and his moral and humanitarian standards. Oloidi illustrates works of five Nigerian artists: Boniface Okafor, Dele Jegede, Clary Nelson-Cole, Tayo Adenaike, Obiora Udechukwu, and Ghanaian El Anatsui.

1988-89 | Faber, Paul. Kunst uit een andere wereld Art from another world, pp. 9-30. [introduction to] Kunst uit een andere wereld Art from another world [exhibiton, Museum of Ethnology, Rotterdam, November 4, 1988-February 13, 1989]. Rotterdam: Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1988. illus. pt. color, bibliog. pp. 133-134. N72.S6K96 1988 AFA. OCLC 20254165.

The complacent division of the world between Western and non-Western art, between objects found in art museums and in ethnographic museums set in the nineteenth century, no longer holds. It collapses under a more fully understood anthropology of art -- a concept of art developed by anthropologists who began to study aesthetics, style, creativity, innovation within so-called traditional societies. One can no longer continue to historicize art beyond Europe, while retaining modernity and the avant-garde as preserves of contemporary European art.

Faber discusses manifestations of what he calls tradition on the move, such as the use of new materials and techniques for old art forms, or the impact of commercialization. The place of an art tradition or practice in a larger society may very well determine its survival: traditions belonging to the dominating culture are more likely to survive than those of political or cultural minorities.

Popular urban arts, such as painted lorries or commercial street art, may not even be thought of as art, but as individual expression, now more frequently signed. Faber coins the term art to be looked at what art isn`t? by which he means an art for art`s sake. Tourist art the ultimate cliche is one obvious manifestation of this new productivity stimulated by a new market, but the creativity of artists propelled by some kind of European intervention e.g., the Oshogbo artists is also an art to be looked at.

The intellectual approach to art, which may be said to have begun in the late nineteenth century in Europe, is not confined to European art but in Africa it has been slow to take hold, and Faber gives cogent reasons why this is so. One is the artistic conservativism of the academic art schools in Africa and its perpetuation through the second generation of African teaching staff.

Faber concludes that art in these societies is not a clear-cut concept and that these four different art circuits exist simultaneously and side-by-side: tradition on the move, a new commercial popular art, art to be looked at, and academic art.


1989 | Agthe, Johanna. Die Sammlung zeitgenössischer afrikanischer Kunst in Frankfurter Museum für Völkerkunde, pp. 28-34. In: Afrikaforschung in Frankfurt: Begleitheft zur Ausstellung analässlich des 75 Jährigen Bestehens den Frankfurter Unviersität: 8 November bis 16, Dezember 1989. Frankfurt am Main: Die Bibliothek: Das Institut, [1989]. illus. DT19.95.U543A38 1989X AFA.

OCLC 21411904.
The Museum für Völkerkunde in Frankfurt is committed to collecting and documenting art from outside Europe. The rationale for this policy is that contemporary art is part of recent culture and is therefore a legitimate form of cultural expression for a museum of ethnography to collect. The curator Johanna Agthe is careful to point out that theirs is not an art museum and that they collect broadly the work of academic artists and self-taught artists, tourist art, posters, advertisements, cartoons and book illustrations. The acquisitions are made in Africa, preferably from the artist directly, so that documenting the artwork goes hand in hand with gathering information about the artist and the circumstances of production.

At present the collection of contemporary Africa art in Frankfurt comes from six areas: Nigeria, East Africa, Senegal, South Africa, Congo Democratic Republic and Zimbabwe.

1989 | Bender, Wolfgang. Modern art to the ethnographic museum! pp. 182-196. In: Die verborgene Wirklichkeit: drei athiopische Maler der Gegenwart The hidden reality: three contemporary Ethiopian artists: Zerihun Yetmgeta, Girmay Hiwet, Worku Goshu / by Elisabeth Biasio. Zürich: Völkerkundemuseum der Universität, 1989. illus., notes pp. 203-206. N7386.B57 1989 AFA. OCLC 20878295.

Art museums and galleries in Europe reject modern African art as being derivative and imitative, yet not modern enough, while ethnographic museums are at best ambivalent about accepting it into their collections. Those few that have done so, tentatively and hesitantly, seem to be sifting out that which is deemed too modern. They are looking for modern art which seems to relate to traditional art from the area in question. Artists themselves are tired of being relegated, if dealt with at all, to the categories of ethnic arts and shown only in ethnographic museums.

Bender argues that ethnographic museums ultimately do a disservice to their own mission if they continue to ignore contemporary expressive arts of the cultures they purport to represent. Curatorial timidity and inexperience with modern art can and should be overcome. Unlike art museums and galleries, which are compelled to show only trendy art, ethnographic museums can freely and comfortably collect and display a wide range of contemporary art -- academic, popular, tourist. Moreover, ethnographic museums have a responsibility to more fully document this art, just as they would for any object in their collections, with contextual and historical information.


1990 | Jules-Rosette, Bennetta. The aesthetics of communication and the reproduction of cultural forms: the case of tourist art, [with particular reference to artists in Lusaka, Nairobi and Kinshasa]. pp. 41-61. In: Aesthetic illusion: theoretical and historical approaches / edited by F. Burweick and W. Pape. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1990. diagrams, bibl. refs. VF -- Artists - General. OCLC 22274024.

Jules-Rosette challenges the conventional view of aesthetics based on evaluation and judgmental responses to artworks. She proposes instead a communicative model of aesthetics with reference to tourist art, which explains the complex relationship between the production and reception of tourist art page 42. The tourist art system posited by Jules-Rosette is an interactive one between art producers, art objects and audiences through which aesthetic standards are negotiated. Marketing strategies are further negotiated by middlemen as seen, for example, with the Kanyama painters of Lusaka.

Image-creators are those who innovate and are imitated by image-producers. Three such image-creators are profiled: Jonathan Kimetu Kioko, master Kamba carver at the Mombasa cooperative Safari Mbai, a Nairobi-based master carver and Diouf Kabamba, an academically trained Congolese painter who works in Lusaka.


1991 | McEvilley, Thomas. The selfhood of the other: reflections of a Westerner on the occasion of an exhibition of contemporary art from Africa, pp. 266-275. In: Africa explores: 20th century African art. New York: Center for African Art Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1991. illus. pt. color, notes. qN7391.65.V63 1991X AFA. OCLC 22909235.

As twentieth-century Modernism dissolves into Post-modernism, the essential cultural relationships and assumptions on which it is built shift dramatically. Ideas about center-periphery, Western progress, nature-culture, cultural-mixing, and ethnic purity are all challenged by the deconstructionist attitudes of Post-modernism. The dialogue of objects between cultures, whereby ideas and material goods are exchanged and revalued, is just beginning to reach the realm of contemporary African art. Ways of seeing and of representing the Post-modernist world are relativist and non-absolute the center is unanchored and set adrift. The search for the Other becomes a search for self.

1991 | LaDuke, Betty. Africa through the eyes of women artists. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1991. 148pp. illus., bibl. refs. N7380.L15 1991 AFA. OCLC 24281599.

American artist Betty LaDuke sought sisterhood in Africa through women artists: her unique introduction to a complex continent. She sees in their work perhaps, was looking for a common thread: the representation of positive feminine role models. From this personal odyssey emerged the profiles of nine African artists and three from the Diaspora: Elizabeth Olowo Nigeria, Nike Davies Nigeria, Susanne Wenger Nigeria, Pama Sinatoa Mali, Anta Germaine Gaye Senegal, Theresa Musoke Uganda, Chaibia Morocco, Inji Efflatoun Egypt, Sue Williamson South Africa, Lois Mailou Jones USA, Edna Manley Jamaica and June Beer Nicaragua. One chapter is devoted to each, and an introductory chapter pays tribute to traditional women artists, especially the potters.

Reviewed by Lisa Aronson in African arts Los Angeles 26 1: 99-100, January 1993 by Teresa Unseld in Journal of multicultural and cross-cultural research in art education Madison, WI 12: 98-101, fall 1994 by Bennete Armah Hanson, Projecting women`s image, West Africa London no. 3899: 992, June 8-14, 1992 by D. J. Johnson in Choice Middletown, CT 30 3: 455-456, November 1992.


1992 | Guez, Nicole. L`art africain contemporain Contemporary African art. Edition 1992/94. Paris: Association Dialogue entre les Cultures, 1992. xvii, 293pp. illus. pt. color. Text in French and English. N7380.5.G93 1992 AFA. OCLC 26984935.

A pocket-size directory of African visual artists living and working in Africa and overseas. Arranged by country. Also included are names and addresses of galleries, museums and key individuals in the field of modern African art.

1992 | Duganne, Erina. The presentation of twentieth-century African art in the west. B.A. thesis, Reed College, 1992. [7], 111, [18] leaves. illus., bibliog. [unpublished]. N7428.2.D86 1992 AFA. OCLC 30087275.

This thesis examines Western presentation of twentieth-century African art. Duganne shows how attitudes toward African art have evolved through a chronological investigation of four exhibitions of Third World art: Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, Magiciens de la Terre, Contemporary African Artists: Changing Traditions, and Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art. Duganne examines the methods of presentation employed by Western museums and how these procedures interpret the displayed objects. Three twentieth-century African art forms -- international , popular, and tourist -- are examined in more depth. This exploration leads to some general reflections on the nature of museum settings and how future exhibitions might go about finding alternative approaches for the display of African art. Included in this final section are the author`s own proposals for exhibitions as well as her concerns for incorporating African collaboration in the development of future exhibitions of African art in the West. -- adapted from original abstract.

1992 | De receptie van Afrikaanse kunst . Amsterdam: Stichting Kunstlicht, 1992. 64pp. illus. Kunstlicht jaarg. 13, nr. 3-4. N7380.R28 1992 AFA. OCLC 32254626.

This special issue devoted to the reception of African art in Europe and in the Netherlands, in particular includes articles on Africa explores, and on Kenyan and South African artists.

1992 | Kennedy, Jean. New currents, ancient rivers: contemporary African artists in generation of change. Washington: Smithsonian Institutiton Press, 1992. 204pp. illus. pt. color, bibliog. N7391.65.K46 1991X AFA. OCLC 22389510.

Jean Kennedy`s book is the summation of thirty years of personal and professional involvement with artists of Africa, which is both a survey and a celebration of some of Africa`s finest. Her odyssey begins in Nigeria, which she knew best, and continues in West Africa with a separate chapter on Senegalese artists. Other chapters cover Sudan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, plus artists from other countries as well. Although sub-Saharan Africa is too vast to be encompassed in one volume, Kennedy has selected around 150 artists to demonstrate what she felt represented the vitality and originality of contemporary creativity from the continent. There are many illustrations, but few in color.

Indexed separately are chapters on modern art in Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Ethiopia, East and Central Africa, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Reviewed by Dele Jegede in African arts Los Angeles 29 1: 21, 96, winter 1996 by Elsbeth Court in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies London 56 2: 428-429, 1993 by Monni Adams in International journal of African historical studies Boston 26 1: 444-446, 1993 by Aaron Segal, Africa`s creative energy, Africa today Denver 41 2: 106, 2nd quarter 1994 by Dennis Duerden, Contemporary African art West Africa London no. 4020: 1809, October 17-23, 1994 by Christopher D. Roy in Choice Middletown, CT 30 4: 610, December 1992.


1993 | Gaudibert, Pierre. L`art africain contemporain. Paris: Éditions Cercle d`Art, 1991. 175pp. illus. pt. color, bibliog. N7380.G26 1991 AFA. OCLC 26593361.

Contemporary African art has found an enthusiastic publicist in Pierre Gaudibert, who documents its emergence from tentative beginnings in the mid-decades of this century to its assured multi-faceted expressions evident by the beginning of the 1990s. His geographic focus is sub-Saharan Africa his approach is one of sweeping survey and inventory of names: the big picture, no in-depth analysis of particular art movements, schools or trends. Within this broad brush stoke, he includes academic artists, workshop artists, self-taught artists, elite arts and popular arts. Gaudibert takes into account the international dimension, that is, African artists living and working outside of Africa. Beware the inordinate number of spelling errors in names of artists the editing, if there was any, is extremely sloppy. No index.

Reviewed by Giovanni Joppolo, Art africain contemporain, Opus international Paris 131: 60, spring-summer 1993.

1993 | Fosu, Kojo. 20th century art of Africa. Revised edition. Accra: Artists Alliance, 1993. 245pp. illus., portraits, bibliog.

The revised edition contains very little new material apart from the inclusion of five additional Ghanaian artists and slightly expanded entries on three other Ghanaians. Basically, the text is silent on developments over the last decade in the field of modern African art, nor does it update information on artists represented. It remains focused on the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, the weaknesses of the original Zaria edition are unaddressed. The illustrations are of even poorer quality, and none are dated.

1993 | Cultural diversity in the arts: art, art policies and the facelift of Europe / edited by Ria Lavrijsen. Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute, 1993. 119pp. bibliog. NX180.S6C96 1993 AFA. OCLC 29789693.

The European art establishment is beginning to face the tough questions of how to open up and respond to newness of art in their increasingly diverse, pluralistic societies. In a complex multicultural environment, how does one define quality in the arts? How do art institutions move away from parochial vision to a more global view of art? Is there any intermediate space between the rigidity of binary opposites -- Western/non-Western, Black/White, South/North, power/powerless -- and a neutral, apolitical approach which discounts the social and historical context of art? These issues were aired at a 1993 conference on Cultural Diversity in the Arts held in Amsterdam. The essays, reports and recommendations in this volume arise from that gathering.

1993 | Binet, Jacques. Thèmes and sujets de la painture africaine, pp. 125-130. In: Creer en Afrique / 2e colloque européen sur les arts d`Afrique noire, Paris, les 23-24 octobre 1993 au Musée national des arts d`Afrique and d`Océanie. Arnouville: Arts d`Afrique noire, 1993. N7380.C714 1993 AFA. OCLC 30387506.

What are African painters painting? Landscapes do not inspire the intellectual artists, but naïf painters like rustic scenes. Portraits are popular among the so-called popular painters, but intellectuals are not interested. Historical genres also appeal to the popular painters. Engaged painting on metaphysical or political themes does appeal to some intellectuals. The nude is not a subject for the intellectuals, though the watistes flock to Mami Wata as a perennially favorite subject.

Pure abstraction, as a style, is rare among African painters. Figurative baroque might be a more accurate designation. Ornamental motifs are sometimes used in symbolic ways, rather than as the purely decorative. In fact, there seems to be a great affinity between artists and traditional motifs, reworked and re-interpreted. One thinks of uli, Hausa embroidery, Dogon graphic signs, Akan symbols, or bogolanfini.

In sum, African painters are drawn to metaphysical or political themes and reject hedonistic ones. Painters avoid exposing individuality and are preoccupied with the urgency of transmitting a message, often wrapped in nationalistic or ethnic colors.

1993 | McEvilley, Thomas. Fusion: hot or cold? pp. 9-23. In: Fusion: West African artists at the Venice Biennale. New York: Museum for African Art Munich: Prestel, 1993. bibl. refs. N7398.M14 1993 AFA. OCLC 29513040.

The identity crisis that beset African artists in the colonial-Modernist period -- manifest initially in assimilation and later in cultural resistance -- now seems a struggle of the past. At least for younger generations of African artists, whose cultural heritage is a hybridization. This thirty-something or twenty-something generation is in the postcolonial phase, that is, one in which artists self-consciously accept hybridization and make their work reflect various forces that have formed them as individuals pp. 12-13.

There is a kind of balance in these artists in the impulses between sameness and difference, which represents a postcolonial reversal. The 1993 Venice Biennale itself represents a kind of cultural nomadism, or global intermingling. Although the African artists in Venice may not regard themselves as post-Modernist, their presence in Venice is a distinctly post-Modern event. Autonomy and individuality are paramount values to the African artist, whatever his perceived or actual relationship with his culture may be.

McEvilley interviews four of the five West African artists in the 1993 Venice Biennale the fifth, Senegalese Mor Faye, is deceased. The four are sculptor Moustapha Dimé Senegal, painter Tamessir Dia Senegal-Mali, painter Ouattara Côte d`Ivoire, and painter Gerard Santoni Côte d`Ivoire.

1993 | Hassan, Salah M. Creative impulses/modern expressions: African art today, pp. 1-14. In: Creative impulses/modern expressions: four African artists: Skunder Boghossin, Rashid Diab, Mohammed Omer Khalil, Amir Nour. Ithaca: African Studies and Research Center, Institute for African Development, Council for the Creative and Performing Arts, Cornell University, 1993. notes, bibliog. N7380.C912 1992 AFA. OCLC 28319148.

African art scholarship urgently needs a new framework and fresh paradigms for assessing and analyzing contemporary African art. It is not being well-served by existing ones. Of the several attempts at definition so far advanced, one element always present is the artists` search for a new identity. Why is this so important? It is true that a central intellectual concern for academic artists, coming from whatever part of the continent, is the quest for African-ness in their work.

Hassan calls into question the facile dichotomy traditional and contemporary -- and a parallel concept: authenticity -- as no longer useful or valid. We need to see the artist as a whole, complete individual, a product of all his experiences and personal history, and as a player within the creative process, which also includes his audiences and patrons and the social milieu within which he works. Art is essentially a communicative process and must be analyzed as such. Hassan suggests a dialogic relationship between artist and audience. The pernicious tendency to continually categorize the product, the artwork elite, traditional, popular, tourist must be resisted.

1993 | Art, anthropology and the modes of re-presentation: museums and contemporary non-Western art / edited by Harrie Leyten and B. Damen. Amsterdam: KIT Press, Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen, 1993. 80pp. N430.A78 1993 AFA. OCLC 29465456.

Exhibitions of non-Western art are no longer a rarity in Europe and the USA. The Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the Dutch anthropological museums that has followed an active policy of exhibiting non-Western modern art. This book focuses on questions of how to display non-Western art, as well as the different approaches of anthropological museums and museums of modern art to these complex and fascinating issues. Among the contributors are David Elliott Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, Paul Faber Museum of Ethnology, Rotterdam, Harrie Leyten Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam. -- from the publisher`s catalog.

1993 | Picton, John. In vogue, or the flavour of the month: the new way to wear black, Third text: Third World perspectives on contemporary art & culture London 23: 89-98, summer 1993. illus., bibl. refs. NX1.T445 AFA.

The propensity to categorize African artists and their art production perversely and willfully fails to reckon with the artists themselves and their personal histories and environments. This was true with Susan Vogel`s Africa Explores exhibition and catalog it was true with Nelson Graeburn`s paradigms of Fourth World art it is true in the fatuous presumptuousness of collector Jean-Christophe Pigozzi`s search for untrained African artists. Contemporary African art is still being looked at in broad, sweeping, generalizing terms and placed into similarly restrictive boxes. Particular art histories are ignored or, in most cases, are lacking. Yet it is to these more specific levels -- nation, regional, local, individual -- that the multiple histories of modern African art must begin.


1994 | Global visions: towards a new internationalism in the visual arts / edited by Jean Fisher. London: Kala Press in association with The Institute of International Visual Arts, 1994. 175pp. illus., bibliogs.

This anthology gathers papers presented at a symposium on the New Internationalism in the Visual Arts, held in London in April 1994. Contributions by: Rasheed Aareen, Hal Foster, Guillermo Santamarina, Sarat Maharj, Geets Kapur, Olu Oguibe, Judith Wilson, Hou Hanru, Everlyn Nicodemus, Gilane Tawadros, Jimmie Durham, Gordon Bennett, Gerardo Mosquera, Raiji Kuroda, Fred Wilson, and Elisabeth Sussman.

1994 | Enwezor, Okwui. Redrawing the boundaries: towards a new African art discourse, NKA: journal of contemporary African art Brooklyn, NY no. 1: 3-7, fall-winter 1994. bibl. refs. NX1.N737 AFA.

Post-modernist critiques, which appear to profess solidarity with outsider artists and with cultural practice of the decolonized world, is but another form of appropriation. It may be less transparently patronizing than the Primitivism in Modern Art phenomenon, which begrudgingly allows the spotlight to fall briefly on tribal art. But it is just as effective in maintaining a very unequal relationship. Within official boundaries of Eurocentric circles, the silence -- and silencing -- of African artists continues. How, then, are African artists to open their own discourse, to renarrate the multifaceted, variagated histories of modern African art? Where do we situate the cultural nomads? When do we begin to recognize the diversity and resilience of artistic expression on the continent, a continent clearly beset with its own eruptions -- political, social, cultural? The journal Nka seeks to be one such forum where one can unite and engage the different spectrums of African viewpoints on 20th century cultural practices.

1994 | Lucie-Smith, Edward. Modern Africa and Asia, chapter 10, pp. 186-204. In the author`s Race, sex, and gender: in contemporary art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994. illus. color. N7429.4.L83 1994X AFA. OCLC 28889101.

Modern African art does not know quite where to situate itself in the post-Classical period. It is political only in the sense of being acutely aware of the tremendous political and social upheavals of twentieth century Africa. To wit: John Muafangejo. The tourist trade has also had and continues to exert a pervasive influence in modern African art. Commerce not spirituality are at its roots -- whether with the narrative and sign painters, such as Chéri Samba, the Mammy Watists, Makonde surrealists, or originals, such as Kane Kwei, coffin-maker. The African artists who fit most comfortably within a western frame of reference are those living and working outside Africa, e.g., Uzo Egonu or Ibrahim El Salahi.


1995 | Catalogue de la collection d`oeuvres d`artistes contemporains d`Afrique et d`Océanie acquises ou conservées par l`ADEIAO / introduction by Lucette Albaret and Paul Balta. Paris: ADEIAO, 1995. [164]pp. chiefly illus. color. Cover title: Art contemporain d`Afrique et d`Océanie N7380.5.A229 AFA. OCLC 32346384.

The collection of ADEIAO [Association pour le Dévelopment des Echanges Interculturels au Musée National des Arts d`Afrique et d`Océanie] was begun in 1984 by a few spirited individuals who felt that the museum needed a more contemporary focus in its exhibitions and collections. From a series of temporary exhibitions organized from 1985, the museum acquired selected works by purchase or donation from the artist. The present illustrated catalog reproduces 116 paintings, prints, and a few sculptures, representing artists from mainly franco-phone African countries.


1996 | Guez, Nicole. L`art africain contemporain Contemporary African art. Edition 1996. Paris: Association Afrique en Création, 1996. xiii, 421pp. illus. pt. color. Text in French and English. N7380.5.G93 1992 AFA. OCLC 26984935.

Considerably expanded, this directory of African visual artists living and working in Africa and overseas gives addresses, telephone, fax numbers and indicates the artists` media e.g., painter, wood sculptor. Arranged by country. Also included are names and addresses of galleries, museums and key individuals in the field of modern African art. This second edition adds a very useful name index.

1996/97 | Contemporary art of Africa / edited by André Magnin with Jacques Soulillou. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996. 192pp. illus. pt. color, bibliog. pp. 185-186. qN7391.65.C66 1996X AFA. OCLC 31607382.

The peripatetic curators of this gallery of sixty African artists, André Magnin and Jacques Soulillou, criss-crossed the continent to seek out those creative individuals who seemed to demonstrate a faithfulness to a strength or a capacity to give substance to an insight italics theirs. Let us be quite clear on this point: the choices are Magnin`s and Soulillou`s and Jean Pogozzi`s. No more, no less. Their taste runs strongly toward the unschooled, self-taught, and visionary artists, untainted by Western influences. Never mind whether such unadulteration is possible in the later twentieth century.

In their introduction, the author-curators elaborate their views on contemporary art practice in sub-Saharan Africa, which reinforce their disdain for formal art-schooled artists. They develop a new triadic taxonomy labeled Territory, Frontier and World, which requires complicated elucidation. In effect, it carries the goals and spirits of the 1989 Magiciens de la Terre exhibition to another level. What is not stated, but is evident from the credits is that the majority of the art works are in the collection of Jean Pigozzi, who is clearly the Wizard of Oz behind this book enterprise.

For each of the sixty artists presented, there is a mini-essay, illustrations of one to several works, and a portrait of the artists. An appendix lists additional artists whose work the authors value but which did not quite make the cut for inclusion. For those artists represented this is undeniably an attractive showcase, the first time the big art publisher, Harry N. Abrams has ventured into the world of modern art.

Reviewed by Dele Jegede on H-AfrArts, August 20, 1997` by Bill Wright in Nka: journal of contemporary African art Brooklyn, NY no. 5: 70, fall 1996.

Reviewed by Elsbeth Court in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies London 3, 1997, pp. 607-608.


1997 | 1987 LaDuke, Betty. Africa: women`s art, women`s lives. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1997. xix, 187pp. illus.

Based on LaDuke`s odysseys to Africa over the last several years to meet women artists, this volume covers: wall painters in Burkina Faso, textile artists in Mali, women potters in Cameroon, Mali and Togo, bead sculptors in Cameroon, Zimbabwean stone sculptors, women of the Weya cooperative in Zimbabwe, and Eritrean painters.


1998 | Art criticism and Africa / edited by Katy Deepwell. London: Saffron Books Eastern Art Publishing, 1998. 128pp. illus. 40 b and w.illus. & 16 color. N7485.A35A78 1998 AFA. OCLC 39533826.

This book arises from the AICA conference on Art Criticism & Africa, held at the Courtauld Institute in November 1996. It was sponsored by Arts Council of England, AICA, Islamic Arts and Eastern Art Report.

Contents: Katy Deepwell, Introduction -- Olabisi Silva, Africa 95: cultural colonialism or cultural celebration -- John Picton, Yesterday`s cold mashed potatoes -- Everlyn Nicodemus, The art critic as advocate -- Ola Oloidi, Art criticism in Nigeria 1920-1996: the development of professionalism in the media and the academy -- Murray McCartney, The art critic as advocate: a Zimbabwean perspective -- Barbara Murray, Art criticism for whom?: the experience of Gallery magazine in Zimbabwe -- Tony Mhonda, The art critic as advocate -- David Koloane, Art criticism for whom? -- Colin Richards, Peripheral vision: speculations on art criticism in South Africa -- Chike Okeke, Beyond either/or: towards an art criticism of accommodation -- Fatma Ismail Afifi, The Kom Gohrab project in Cairo -- Olu Oguibe, Thoughts towards a new century -- George Shire, Art criticism of Africa outside of Africa: a reply to Olu Oguibe -- A selected bibliography Tributes to Stephen Williams and Jock Whittet.


1999 | Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield. Contemporary African art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1999. 224pp. illus. pt. color, bibliog. pp. 214-217. World of Art. OCLC 42039553.

Kasfir chose a thematic approach to tell the history of art in African from the 1950s to the 1990s. She describes the major transformation that occurred within African artistic practice as a result of the colonial incursions page 9. This postcolonial perspective recognizes that modern art practice in Africa is built upon differing traditional practices, socio-political circumstances and interventions. The major themes are popular culture and new emerging urban art, art workshops, patronage and culture brokers, art as commodity, artists` identity, art schools and national cultural identity, artists in exile and on the international circuit. North Africa is completely excluded from the discussion, but most of the well known and some lesser known art movements, art schools and workshops, and artist luminaries from sub-Saharan Africa are woven into Kasfir`s narrative. Packaged in Thames & Hudson`s World of Art series, Contemporary African art is intended primarily as classroom text.


2000 | Busca, Joëlle. L`art contemporain africain: du colonialisme au postcolonialisme. Paris: Harmattan, 2000. 237pp. bibliog. pp. 223-233. N7380.B87 2000X AFA. OCLC 47978936.

The emergence of contemporary African art onto the world art scene in the last quarter of the twentieth century is a clear and direct manifestation of globalization. African artists gained higher visibility and greater acceptance in mainstream cultural venues, according to Busca, a French art critic and independent curator. A quick review of the major exhibitions beginning with Magiciens de la Terre in 1989 reveals the proliferation of biennales and other well publicized events which featured African artists. The art establishment in France also re-organized its museum venues for African art during this period. The art market, too, woke up to the new interest of high rolling collectors in contemporary African art, such as Saatchi and Pigozzi. In retrospect, African art has come a long way from its primitivism aura of the first decade of the twentieth century to the global reach of today`s practicing artists from Africa and the diaspora.

2000 | Busca, Joëlle. Perspectives sur l`art contemporain africain. Paris: L`Harmattan, 2000. 145pp. illus. color, bibliog. pp. 141-145. N7380.B873 2000 AFA. OCLC 46683096.

The companion volume to Busca`s study see preceding entry showcases fifteen of these high visibility artists. They are: Kwesi Owusu-Ankomah Ghana Esther Mahlangu South Africa Théodore et Calixte Dakpogan Bénin Willie Bester South Africa Toma Muteba Lutumbue Democratic Republic of Congo Frédéric Bruly Bouabré Côte d`Ivoire Chéri Samba Democratic Republic of Congo Pascale Marthine Tayou Cameroon Georges Adéagbo Bénin Ouattara Côte d`Ivoire Abdoulaye Konaté Mali Romuald Hazoumé Bénin Sokari Douglas Cmap Nigeria Bili Bidjocka Cameroon and William Kentridge South Africa.


2002 | An anthology of African art: the twentieth century / edited by N`Goné Fall and Jean Loup Pivin. New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers Paris: Revue Noire Editions, African Contemporary Art, 2002. 407pp. illus. color, bibliog. pp. 402-404. qN7391.65.A5713 2002X AFA. OCLC 49942843.

Revue noire, which has been showcasing contemporary African art since 1991, now summarizes the state-of-the-art at the end of the twentieth century. This weighty tome is not really an anthology, despite the title, for it is not mere a collection of previously published Revue noire articles. Many of the artists are familiar from the pages of Revue noire, but many different artists and new perspectives are also presented. Fifty short essays covering the entire continent except North Africa are offered in a roughly chronological sequence from Territory of forms the classical canon to Migrations and Convergences the postmodern hybridity. Lavishly illustrated. A companion volume to Revue noire`s Anthology of African and Indian Ocean photography 1999.


2003 | Reading the Contemporary: by Okwui Enwezor and Olu Oguibe In the past decade contemporary African art has been featured in major exhibtions in museums, galleries, international biennials, and other forums. African cinema has established itself on the stage of world cinema, culminating in the Ouagadougou Film Festival. While African art and visual culture have become an integral part of the art history and cultural studies curricula in universities worldwide, critical readings and interpretations have remained difficult to obtain. This pioneering anthology collects twenty key essays in which major critical thinkers, scholars, and artists explore contemporary African visual culture, locating it within current cultural debates and within the context of the continent`s history. The sections of the book are Theory and Cultural Transaction, History, Location and Practice, and Negotiated Identities. Copublished with the Institute of International Visual Arts inIVA, London