Page 1

Foundations of Contemporary African Art

E. Okechukwu Odita Vitu, Soyan, Sankofa, and Ijinla


Overture

5

Preface 8

Introduction

10

Chapter 1 (Persistent Facts Appraised)

14

1.1

African Traditions

14

1.2

Beginnings of Change

1.3

African Point of View

1.4

Euro-American Point of View

1.5

Realities and Results in African Traditional Culture

1.6

Reassessment of Acculturation Theory

Contradictions With One Common Objective

African Aesthetic Heritage

Chapter 2 (Chronological Order of Art Events)

Major Role Call (1880-1990)

1880 Ibrayima Njoya Cameroon 1882 Aina Onabolu Nigeria 1888 Cuttington College

Liberia

2.5

1891 Mahmound Moukhtar

Egypt

2.6

1898 H.I. Erhabor

Nigeria

2.7

1902 Yahia Turki

Tunisia

2.8

1908 Leopold Sedar Senghor

Senegal

2.9

1908 Oku Ampofo

Ghana

2.10

1913 Gerald Sekoto

South Africa

2.11

1915 Justus, D. Akeredolu

Nigeria

2.12

1916 Akinola Lasekan

Nigeria

2.13

1918 Hatew El

Tunisia

2.14

1920 Habib Gorgui

Egypt

2.15

1921 Ben Enwonwu

Nigeria

contents


2.16

1921 Seydou Keita

Mali

2.17

1922 Kofi Antuban

Ghana

2.18

1922 Gregory Maloba

Kenya

2.19

1923 Akwete Kofi

Ghana

2.20

1924 Zoubeir Turki

Tunisia

2.21

1925 Achimota Secondary School

Ghana

2.22

1925 Lamidi Fakeye

Nigeria

2.23

1926 Michael Zondi

South Africa

2.24

1928 Felix Idubor

Nigeria

2.25

1928 Rosemary Karuga

Kenya

2.26

1930 Ibrahim El Salahi

Sudan

2.27

1931 Baya Mahieddine

Algeria

2.28

1931 Choukri Mahmoud Mesli

Algeria

2.29

1931 R. Vahjinjah Richards

Liberia

2.30

1931 Papa Ibra Tall

Senegal

2.31

1932 Gebre Kristos Desta

Ethiopia

2.32

1932 Elimo Njau

Tanzania

2.33

1932 Bruce Onobrakpeya

Nigeria

2.34

1932 Ahmed Mohammed Shibrain

Sudan

2.35

1932 Afewerk Tekle

Ethiopia

2.36

1933 Uche Okeke

Nigeria

2.37

1933 Nicolas Ondongo

Congo

2.38

1935 Jimo Akolo

Nigeria

2.39

1935 Andrew Tishioliso Motjuoadi

South Africa

2.40

1936 Francis Nnaggenda

Uganda

2.41

1936 Malangatana Valente Ngwenya

Mozambique

2.42

1936 E. Okechukwu Odita

Nigeria

2.43

1936 Rufus Ogundele

Nigeria


2.44

1936 Cyrene Mission

Zimbabwe

2.45

1936 Porch and Garden Class

Uganda

2.46

1937 Hamid Alaoui

Morocco

2.47

1937 Alexander Skunder Boghossian

Ethiopia

2.48

1937 Daniel Rakgoathe

Lesotho

2.49

1937 Winneba Teacher Training College

Ghana

2.50

1938 Muhammad Abdulhamid As Said

Libya

2.51

1939 Amir Nour

Sudan

2.52

1940 Younousse Seye

Senegal

2.53

1941 Ahmad Ibrahim Abu Su A

Libya

2.54

1941 Azaria Mbatha

South Africa

2.55

1941 Zerihun Yetmgeta

Ethiopia

2.56

1942 Falaka Armide

Ethiopia

2.57

1942 Academe Des Beaux-Art

Zaire

2.58

1942 Mslaba Zwelidumile Msgasi

South Africa

2.59

1944 Congo Academy of Folk Art

Zaire

2.60

1944 El Anatsui

Ghana

2.61

1944 Felix Eboigbe

Nigeria

2.62

1944 Rafik El Kamel

Tunisia

2.63

1944 Twins Seven-Seven

Nigeria

2.64

1945 Halim Ahmed

Sudan

2.65

1945 East Cameroon Regional Schools

Cameroon

2.66

1945 Gordon Memorial College School of Design Khartoum

Sudan

2.67

1945 Clary Nelson-Cole

Sierra Leone

2.68

1945 Theresa Musoke

Uganda

2.69

1946 Gani Odutokun

Nigeria

2.70

1946 Obiora Udechukwu

Nigeria

2.71

1947 Mor Faye

Senegal


2.72

1947 Rachid Koraichi

Algeria

2.73

1947 Father Kevin Carrol’s Workshop

Nigeria

2.74

1947 Nii Ahene Mettle-Nunoo

Ghana

2.75

1947 Achameleh Debela

Ethiopia

2.76

1947 Moses Masaya

Zimbabwe

2.77

1948 Houria Niati

Algeria

2.78

1950 Wosene Kosrof

Ethiopia

2.79

1951 Tahar Boukeroui

Algeria

2.80

1951 Ephrem Kouakou

Ivory Coast

2.81

1951 Tesfaya Tessema

Ethiopia

2.82

1951 Poto Poto School

Congo

2.83

1951 Art Dept, University of Science & Technology, Kumasi

Ghana

2.84

1952 Ekong E. Ekefreh

Nigeria

2.85

1952 Ndeleni Training College

South Africa

2.86

1952 Nigerian College of Arts, Science & Technology, Ibadan

Nigeria

2.87

1953 Tamsir Gueye

Senegal

2.88

1954 Emmanuel Aku Golloh

Ghana

2.89

1954 Sane Wade

Kenya

2.90

1955 Osi Audu

Nigeria

2.91

1955 Akwapin Six

Ghana

2.92

1955 Alpha Studio

Ethiopia

2.93

1956 Sudan Fine Art Association Khartoun

Sudan

2.94

1956 Royal College

Kenya

2.95

1956 Cape Coast Palette Club

Ghana

2.96

1956 Moseka Yogo Ambake

Congo

2.97

1957 Obiora Anidi

Nigeria

2.98

1957 Edinan Wisdom Kudowor

Ghana

2.99

1957 Ahmed Nosseir

Egypt


2.100 1957 Watts Ouattara

Ivory Coast

2.101 1958 Kwabena Ampafo-Anti

Ghana

2.102 1958 Bato Ndenga

Cameroon

2.103 1958 The Zaria Art Society

Nigeria

2.104 1958 Fine Art School of Addis Ababa

Ethiopia

2.105 1960 Mbari Writers and Artists Club, Ibadan

Nigeria

2.106 1960 Freetown Teacher Training College

Sierra Leone

2.107 1961 The Ghana Society of Artists

Ghana

2.108 1961 University of Nigeria Nsukka

Nigeria

2.109 1962 Mbari Writers and Artists Club Oshogbo

Nigeria

2.110 1962 Cameroon Cultural Association

Cameroon

2.111 1962 Cameroon Cultural Society

Cameroon

2.112 1962 Federal University of Cameroon YaoundĂŠ

Cameroon

2.113 1962 1st International Congress of African Culture

Zimbabwe

2.114 1962 Khalid Kodi

Sudan

2.115 1962 Rudzani Nemasetoni

South Africa

2.116 1963 Chemchemi Center, Niarobi

Kenya

2.117 1963 Mbari Artists and Writers Club, Enugu

Nigeria

2.118 1963 Mbari Muchen

Germany

2.119 1963 Workshop School of Rhodes National Gallery, Salisbury

Zimbabwe

2.120 1964 Community of East African Artists, Nairobi

Kenya

2.121 1964 The Society of Nigerian Artists

Nigeria

2.122 1964 United Republic Crafts Council, Dar es Salam

Tanzania

2.123 1964 Zulu Mohamed

Senegal

2.124 1964 Raphael S. Mutulikwa

Zambia

2.125 1965 Kenya Design Association

Kenya

2.126 1965 Kibo Art Gallery

Tanzania

2.127 Mid-1960’s Universal Civilization

Senegal


2.128 1966 First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar

Senegal

2.129 1966 Odili Donald Odita

Nigeria

2.130 1966 Paa Ya Paa Gallery, Nairobi

Kenya

2.131 1968 Bright Bimbong

Ghana

2.132 1968 Chris Ofili

Nigeria

2.133 1968 Renuka Pillai

Ethiopia

2.134 1970 Marcia Kure

Nigeria

2.135 1975 Crystalist School

Sudan

2.136 1977 Second World Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture Nigeria 2.137 1986 School of The One

Sudan

2.138 1989 The Eye Society, Zaria

Nigeria

2.139 1990 Laboratoire Agit-Art, Set Setal

Senegal

2.140 1992 Skoto Gallery

New York

2.141 1993 National Gallery of Art

Nigeria

2.142 1998 Contemporary Uli Art

Nigeria

2.143 2003 NÁSA (Nigerian Art Studies Association)

Nigeria

2.144 Summary

Chapter 3 (Experiencing Art Through Theory)

3.1

For What Reason

3.2

Works on Biography and Guidebook for Artists (1960-1999)

3.2.1 The Early Period (1960-1965) 3.2.2 Forrester Washington: Contemporary Artists of Africa 3.2.3 The Middle Period: 1966-1989 3.2.4 Evelyn Brown: Africa’s Contemporary Art and Artists 3.2.5 UCLA African Studies Department: African Arts 3.2.6 The More Recent Period (1990-1999) 3.2.7 Nicole Guez: Guide: l’africain contemporain 3.2.8 Kelly B. Camp and J. Stanley: Nigerian Artists: A Who’s Who and Bibliography


3.2.9 Janet Stanley: Modern African Art: A Basic Reading List 3.3

Works on Gender Issue (1991-1994)

3.3.1 Betty La Duke: Africa Through the Eye of Women Artists 3.3.2 Edward Luce-Smith: Modern Africa and Asia 3.3.3 Betty La Duke: Africa: Women’s Art, Women’s Life 3.4

Works Acknowledging European Achievements and Influences (1966–1989)

3.4.1 Frank McEwen: “Modern Painting and Sculpture” 3.4.2 Ulli Beier: Contemporary Art in Africa 3.4.3 Marshall Mount: African Art: The Years Since 1920 3.5

Works Involved In Conveying Regional Expectations of Contemporary African Art (1964-1995)

3.5.1 Hamid Said: Contemporary Art in Egypt 3.5.2 Judith Von D. Miller: Art in East Africa-A Guide to Contemporary Art 3.5.3 Sue Williamson: Resistant Art in South Africa 3.5.4 Jean Kennedy: New Currents, Ancient Rivers-Contemporary African Art in a Generation of Change 3.5.5 Whitechapel Art Gallery: Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa 3.6

Works Fascinated By What Has Endured In Contemporary African Art (Early 1970’s)

3.6.1 Jager, E. J. de: Contemporary African Art In South Africa… 3.7

Works Dealing With The Classification of Contemporary African Art (1991-2000)

3.7.1

Susan Vogel: Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art

3.7.2 Kasfir, S. Littlefield 3.8

Pivotal Terminology in Contemporary African Art

3.8.1 Vitu Art Theory 3.8.2 Soyan Art Theory 3.8.3 Sankofa Art Theory 3.8.4 Ijinla Art Theory 3.9

Across the Board Nomenclature

3.9.1 man-centered works


3.9.2 man/spirit-centered works 3.9.3 spirit-centered works 3.9.4 vimuntu: man-centered works of vitu 3.9.5 vimumuo: man/spirit-centered works of vitu 3.9.6 vimuo: spirit-centered works of vitu 3.9.7 somuntu: man-centered works of soyan 3.9.8 somumuo: man/spirit-centered works of soyan 3.9.9 somuo: spirit-centered works of soyan 3.9.10 samuntu: man-centered works of sankofa 3.9.11 samumuo: man/spirit-centered works of sankofa 3.9.12 samuo: spirit-centered works of sankofa 3.9.13 ijimuntu: man-centered works of ijinla 3.9.14 ijimumuo: man/spirit-centered works of ijinla 3.9.15 ijimuo: spirit-centered woks of ijinla 3.10

Summary

Chapter 4 (Art in Reciprocal Relation with Environment)

4.1

Vitu Art

Vimuntu (sub-style)

4.2.1 The Female Bust, anonymous artist, 1968

Liberia

4.2.2 The Maternal Giraffe, anonymous artist, 1972

Tanzania

4.2.3 The Momentous Eland, anonymous artist, 20th Century

Kenya

4.2.4 Lesotho Buffalo and Horse, anonymous artist, 1978

Lesotho

4.2.5 AppliquĂŠd Clothe, anonymous artist, 1931

Republic of Benin

4.3

Vimumuo (sub-style)

4.3.1 Queen Sheba and King Solomon, anonymous artist, 20th Century Ethiopia 4.3.2 Calabash Bowl, anonymous artist, 20th Century

Nigeria

4.3.3 Woman with Baby Weaving, J.A. Akeredolu, 1940

Nigeria

4.3.4 Batik in Blue and Black, A.S. M’punge, 1981

Kenya


4.3.5 Wallhanging, anonymous artist, 20th Century 4.4

Cameroon

Vimuo (sub-style)

4.4.1 A Set of Plates, anonymous artist, 1965

Egypt

4.4.2 Injera Basket, anonymous artist, 20th Century

Ethiopia

4.4.3 Zulu Basket, anonymous artist, 1997

South Africa

4.4.4 Oron Mask, anonymous artist, 1962

Nigeria

4.4.5 Leatherwork, anonymous artist, 20th Century

Algeria

4.5

Summary

Chapter 5 (Convergence in Art)

Soyan Art 5.2

Somuntu (sub-style)

5.2.1 Anike, Aina Onabolu, 1940 Nigeria 5.2.2 The Corner Bar (And That’s What Killed Their Nation), Henry Tayali, Late 1990’s Zambia 5.2.3 Crow, Alirwana Mugalula Mukiibi, Mid-1960’s

Uganda

5.2.4 Bitter Fruit, Ibrahim N’Diaye, 20th Century

Senegal

5.2.5 Township Musicians, A.S. Motjuoadi, 1966

South Africa

5.3

Somumuo (sub-style)

5.3.1 Bedouin Resting, Ahmad Ibrahim Abu Su A, 1968

Libya

5.3.2 Dangers of “Immitation”, Amon Kotei, 1961

Ghana

5.3.3 Bour Coumba N’Doffene Famac, Alpha Waly Diallo, 1967

Senegal

5.3.4 A Woman With Baby, Poto Kabwe, 1967

Zambia

5.3.5 Balance, Bright Bimpong, 1995

Ghana

5.3.6 Somuo (sub-style) 5.3.7 Still Life, Seth Galevo, 1963

Ghana

5.3.8 Coastal Castle, Ekow Bentil, 1950

Ghana

5.3.9 The Village Street, Yusuf Adebayo Grillo, 1972

Nigeria

5.4

Aworawo, Odi Audu

Nigeria

5.4.1 Serpent, Amir Nour

Sudan


Summary

Chapter 6 (Works of Art Fashioned Through Cultural Frames of Reference)

Sankofa Art

Samuntu (sub-style)

6.2.1 Reflection, Farid Belkahia, 1968?

Morocco

6.2.2 Women, Julian Motau, 1968

South Africa

6.2.3 Tighten Up, Obiora Anidi, 1992

Nigeria

6.2.4 Triuphant Entry, Lamidi Fakeye, 1955…Nigeria… 6.2.5 Awakening Africa, Akwete Kofi, 1960…Ghana…

Samumuo (sub-style)

6.3.1 Osun Oshogho, Bruaimoh Gbadamosi, Mid-1960’s

Nigeria

6.3.2 Tawe, Kalifa Gueye, 1978

Senegal

6.3.3 Sans Titre, Hamid Mohamed, 1987

Morocco

6.3.4 Untitled, Francis Nnaggenda, 20th Century

Uganda

6.3.5 They Are All Born in the Shadows of Poetry, Khalid Kodi, 1996

Sudan

6.4

Samuo (sub-style)

6.4.1 Ancestor, Amir Nour, 1968

Sudan

6.4.2 Ankhuaba I, Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, 1981

Ghana

6.4.3 Instruments De Musique et Vasessur Fond Jaune, Baya Mahieddine, 20th Century Algeria 6.4.4 Three Spirits, Bruce Onobrakpeya, 1965

Nigeria

6.4.5 Grandma’s Cloth IV, El Anastui, 1991

Ghana

Summary

Chapter 7 (A Synthesis of Value Systems in Art)

7.1

Ijinla Art

Ijimutu (sub-style)

7.2.1

Ecstatic Woman, Michael Zondi, 20th Century

South Africa

7.2.2 Forest of Memories, Papa Ibra Tall, 1962

Senegal

7.2.3 Uprising, Dumas Nwoko, 1962

Nigeria


7.2.4 Woman and Children, Mhlaba Dumile, between 1964 and 1969

South Africa

7.2.5 La Bambina Che Un Giorno Viene E Non Torna Pui, Bartina Lopes, 1971 Mozambique

Ijimumuo (sub-style)

7.2.6 Subterranean, Odili Donald Odita, 1997

Nigeria

7.2.7

Mozambique

Bocca Autentica Per Un Sorsa D’Aequa, Bartina Lopes, 1971

7.2.8 Njikoka: The Nigerian Unity- Panel III, E. Okechukwu Odita, 1976

Nigeria

7.2.9 Combat Racism, A. Skunder Boghossian, 1977

Ethiopia

7.3

The Last Attempt, Tahar Boukeroul, 1995

Algeria

Ijimuo (sub-style)

7.3.1

Calligraphic Abstraction, Ahmed Mohmmed Shibrain, 1960

7.4.2 Red Abstract, Gebre Kristos Desta, 1968

Sudan Ethiopia

7.4.3 Hiss-Non Visible Abstraction, Diako Patrice Boun, 20th Century Cameroon 7.4.4

…of Potent Family, Obiora Anidi, 1992

7.4.5 Shield of Genies, Khalid Kodi, 1994 7.5

Summary

Chapter 8 (Determining Factors in Contemporary African Art)

8.1

Determinants

8.1

Analysis of Work of Art

8.2

Guideline for Obtaining Artist’s Background

8.3

Artistic and Aesthetic Values

8.3.1 Ideal Vitu Art Characteristics 8.3.2 Ideal Soyan Art Characteristics 8.3.3 Ideal Sankofa Art Characteristics 8.3.4 Ideal Ijinla Art Characteristics 8.3.5 Summary 8.4

Major Issues

8.4.1 Issue I: How Do I Relate to Influences Internal to Africa 8.4.2 Issue II: How Do I Relate to Influences External to Africa

Nigeria Sudan


8.4.3 Issue III: Who Am I As A Contemporary African Artist? 8.5

MECAA Paradigms

8.5.1 MECAA Paradigm I 8.5.2 MECAA Paradigm II 8.5.3 MECAA Paradigm III 8.5.4 MECAA Paradigm IV 8.5.5 MECAA Paradigm V 8.6

The Use of Space

8.6.1 Space Expressed in Art 8.6.2 Cross-cultural Artistic Means to Place Objects in Space 8.7

Summary

Chapter 9

Conclusion

Notes

Bibliography

Acknowledgmennts

Index

Appendix A (Some Sources on Contemporary African Artists)

Appendix B (Rare Documents in Contemporary African Art)

Appendix C (The Birth of African Nationalism: Resistant Wars and Periods)

Appendix D (The Emergence of African Nations: Its Chronology) .

Appendix E (Exercise on FOCA Art Styles: Questions and Answers) Q1 313

Talle Bamazi, Poboada Belle 1, pastel on paper, 19.75 x 25.73”, 2004, Togo. The Artist Collection

Q2 314

Anonymous Artist, Tray, straw and raffia, 10 x 7”, 1994, Kenya. Dr. F. Chinyere Odita Collection

Q3 315

Z. K. Oloruntoba, The Seven Dreams of King Marapaka: Scene 1, pen and ink on paper, part of the first chapter of an unfinished book

Q4 316

Agnana Yaradal, Ansoumana Diedhiou, Tapestry, 97 x 67”, 1974, Senegal. Private Collection


Q5 317

Makudy Sall, Guidance, oil color on canvas, 34 x 50.5, 2004, Senegal. The Artist Collection

Q6 318

Anonymous Artist, Market Bound, forest thorn, 13x1.5”, 1974, Nigeria. Mr. and Mrs. C. Ujah Collection

Q7 319

Yusuf Grillo, Homeward Bound, oil color on canvas, 1959, Nigeria. Unknown Collection

Q8 320

Gamel Segani, Prison, polished stone relief, 1956, Egypt, Unknown Collection

Q9 321

Jacob Yakouba, Femme Voilee, oil color on canvas, 39 x 31”, 1992, Senegal. The Artist Collection, Photo by J.C. Troncard

Q10 322 Talle Bamazi, In Search of Wisdom, oil color on linen, 52 x 74”, 2002, Togo.The Artist Collection Q11 323 Anonymous Artist, A Scene from the life of Christ (Coptic), Ethiopia. Unknown Collection Q12 324 Bambara Jean Luc, Vision a travers Le Masque, stone, 17 x 6.5”, 2000, Burkina Faso. The Artist Collection Q13 325 Bruce Onabrakpeya, Kabiest, metal foil with epoxy and mounted on wood, 54.3 x 20”, Nigeria. Professor E. Okechukwu Odita Collection Q14 326 Anonymous Artist, Water Vessel, gourd, Nigeria. Private Collection Q15 327 Ahmed Mohammed Shibrain, Calligraphic Abstraction, pen and ink on paper, 12 x 6”, 1960, Sudan. Private Collection Q16 328 Uzoma Betsy Odita, Snow Mountain, scratch-board, 11 x 14”, 1985 (Executed at 8 years old, middle-school, in Upper Arlington High School, Columbus Ohio). Nigeria. The Artist Collection Q17 329 G.M. Pemba, Old Man, watercolor, 13 x 11”, 1940, South Africa. Private Collection Q18 330 Agnana Yaradal, Koura Thiaw, Tapestry, third edition, 54 x 43”, 1974, Senegal. Private Collection Q19 331 Makudy Sall, Preacher, mixed media on canvas, 50 x 64”, 2004, Senegal. The Artist Collection Q20 332 Makonde Artist, Family Tree, wood, 9 x 5”, 1974, Tanzania. Private Collection Q21 333 Uzoma Betsy Odita, Composition, 9 x 12”, 1981 (Executed at 4 years old, pre-school in Upper Arlington High School, Columbus Ohio).


Nigeria. The Artist Collection Q22 334 Snoussi Mustapha, Sans Titre, mixed media on canvas, 25 x 24”, 1987, Morocco. The Artist Collection Q23 335 Justus Akerodolu, Resting The Pot, forest thorn, small size, 1940, Nigeria. Private Collection Q24 336 Talle Bamazi, Untitled, oil on linen, 24 x 30”, 2002, Togo. M. Msaje Kinje E-Monono Collection Q25 337 Felix Idubor, The Crippled, Hardwood, Nigeria (same as MRC 49). Mrs. Adulee More Collection Q26 338 Anonymous Artist, Papyrus Painting, watercolor on papyrus paper, 1995, Egypt. Professor E. Okechukwu Odita Collection Q27 339 Michael Gabriel, Happy? Or Sad?, oil color on board, 11 x 7”, Ethiopia. The Artist Collection Q28 340 Talle Bamazi, Lyn, oil on linen, 31 x 39”, 2004, Togo. The Artist Collection Q29 341 Anonymous Artist, Abstract Bird, gourd, 11 x 8”, 1985, Nigeria. Professor E. Okechukwu Odita Collection Q30 342 Bertina Lopes, Danza Acrobazia, mixed media on canvas, 50 x 39”, 1971, Mozambique. The Artist Collection Q31 343 Makudy Sall, Spiritualism and Evolution, mixed media, painting on canvas, 58 x 64”, 2004, Senegal. The Artist Collection Q32 344 Uzoma Betsy, The Angry Dinosaur, pen and ink on paper, 14 x 16”, 1987 (Executed at 10 years old in Upper Arlington High School Columbus Ohio). Nigeria. The Artist Collection Answers A1

Ijimuo

A2

Vimuo

A3

Samumuo

A4

Ijimumuo

A5

Samumuo

A6

Vimumuo

A7

Somumuo


A8

Somumuo

A9

Ijimumuo

A10

Somumuo

A11

Vimumuo

A12

Ijimuntu

A13

Samuo

A14

Vimuo

A15

Ijimuo

A16

Somumuo

A17

Somuntu

A18

Ijimumuo

A19

Samunuo

A20

Vimumuo

A21

Ijimuo

A22

Samuo

A23

Vimumuo

A24

Somuntu

A25

Samuntu

A26

Vimumuo

A27

Somumuo

A28

Ijimumuo

A29

Vimuntu

A30

Ijimumuo

A31

Samumuo

A32

Somuntu

Appendix F (Involvement and Collaboration) Appendix G (The Third Eye)


The Limits of Likeness: “Contemporary African Art” and “Modern African Art”.

overture

The brave pioneer African artists we remember today, all but a few, did not struggle and die for “Modem African art,” which is a foreign tag. For that reason, we should be thankful because no foreign tag, no matter attractive its attributes or model are, is worth dying for. And according to the Exhibition Committee of Diversity In Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1997.2: The application of ‘Modem art’ has always been in use, in reference to style, in the Euro-American context, and has a specific art-historical connotation of a period style. Such ‘Modem art’ movements as Futurism, Expressionism, Dada…diverged from the realistic representation of form. It must be emphasized that the tendencies of these movements are unique products of Euro-American artistic experience, and cannot therefore be in use to distinguish ‘Contemporary African art’ with the same clear meaning and reference. However, to certain kinds of African critics and scholars, the choice of “Modem African art” over “Contemporary African art” still means more than life itself. In the minds of those Africans who are also eager to achieve foreign Euro-American status, consciously or unconsciously, the use of the term “Modem African art” counts for more than African ideas and ideals. In the past, many Africans lived and thanked their God, in full awareness that He is the reason for their being; and that compelled them to take the position that all African people should bolster African ideas and ideals in their professional practices. So today—in the 21st century—they still believe that Africans should honor African pioneer artists, men and women, who died while maintaining that glorious proposition. On the other hand, they believe that Africans should bring special shame to those who glorify foreign notions above what Africa truly represents. For such Africans are the political equivalents of status worshipers. And, unfortunately, in continental Africa, America, and western Europe today, some African men and women, as well as critics and scholars, who hold in their hands our ideals as embodied in our African heritage, are all too ready to betray those ideals for a piece of foreign recognition. Furthermore, some African critics and scholars truly believe that in the substitution of “Modem African art” for the entire “Contemporary African art” forms can be defended only at the expense of African ideas and ideals. Sadly, most of them care about neither Africa nor African legacy. They prefer to worship at the altar of foreign artistic expediency. So the question becomes: who would defend the African artistic ideas and ideals? Who would defend those who dislike a trumped-up imperfect Africa as they struggle toward achieving the African ideas and ideals and inspiring others toward the same goal? Who would deplore for the sake of fame and hope for African future those who spit in the face of African ideas and ideals? Who would dare to challenge this kind of “modernism” as well as most of their fellow Africans, if the basis for such a challenge is the maintenance of true African heritage? 23


True Africans—indeed true Africans in Diaspora—would! And those are the Africans who know that being a true African has nothing to do with only one’s birthplace or paper qualifications, but everything to do with African ideas and ideals. Besides, African heritage means nothing if it applies only to those whose opinions we blindly embrace; and African heritage is hollow if it is reduced to the travesty of the following pledge of modernism: I pledge allegiance to Africa … I pledge allegiance to Africans … I pledge allegiance to modernism. Yes, such a pledge may sound all right for children; but “Modern African art” ought to make real the renovated abstract values and ideals about Africa, as well as the status, and the glory of all those for whom it stands. As African scholars and critics strive to do their work well, status worship should be put away with other adolescent tendencies. Otherwise, we grant power to the very people who would like to promote by their own stipulations Euro-American “Modern Art” over all “present-day African art” forms. Today, the rejection or non-acknowledgement of African ideas and ideals, in pursuit of status worship, is an adolescent behavior. Intervening against them the status worshiper wins. Moreover, substituting “Modem African art” for “Contemporary African art”, like status worshiping, is a youthful accomplishment. Desecrating African ideas and ideals happens rarely among Africans, and when it does, the act is one of despair, sadness, and poverty of the spirit—an act that should be abhorred and discouraged. Furthermore, if Africans change “Contemporary African art” to agree with the tenets of the Euro-American “Modem art”, and if Africans deny African ideas and ideals in the name of modernism no matter how modest that is, then the status worshiper prevails. We grant that African heritage in the entire “Contemporary African art” forms can be affected by compromising African ideas and ideals. In a culturally diverse continent like Africa, ideas and ideals are gradually lost, often in the name of this kind of modernism. Our African heritage in “Contemporary African art”, the greatest monument in Africa’s existence as so far conceived, is less today than when most of our pioneer artists were born, and it has become less in the shadow of Euro-American “Modem art”. Great is African artistic legacy, a gift on which the whole art world looks with wonder, envy, and hope. Africans must therefore treasure it, especially during the 21st century, when we honor the pioneer African artists, men and women, who made it possible. Africans should not let it slip away— Not for safety Not for shelter, and certainly Not for a piece of modernism —E.O.O. 24


This book’s commitment to the whole art of contemporary Africa is an example which will

preface

guide and challenge the practice of African art history in schools, in art appreciation, and throughout connoisseurship. By theorizing, exercising, evaluating, and clarifying a method of history of contemporary African art that reaches to the very roots of human potential and individuality, the book will cause all African art historians to reexamine their procedures in a new light. For innovating in art historical research, pioneering in the encounter movement, and respecting organized contemporary African art study, will make a lasting impression on the profession of art history, the service of knowledge and the welfare of mankind. First, the book introduces the student to the hypothesis of African traditions and the changes that came about as a result of culture contact with noticeable implications in Africa’s human activity. The hypothesis postulates two problems. One, it must assume that observations can be ordered into a series of similars. Two, it must account for the fact that similarity or dissimilarity does not appear as an element of observation along with the noticeable qualities of the individual entities. Each problem leads to the same conclusion: the hypothesis considers what it is to explain. Second, the book distinguishes chronological order of art events in present-day Africa that generates the background knowledge of contemporary African art. Pertaining to a chronological narrative, it is a living account receiving strength from professional artists, art institutions, art educators and art movements. As such, it is based on the certain logic of examining related themes that represents different angles from which historical facts are considered. Third, the book explores art theory in contemporary African art including technical definitions within the discipline and among scholars who agree on the unexpressed emotive load of terms that is conveyed without having either to state it or defend it. Through theory it looks at what is contemporary African art and what is not; it examines diversity in contemporary African art and its implications to change in African civilization; it investigates major studies on contemporary African art dealing with views and visions of authors; and it determines new nomenclature and their propositions in contemporary African art. Credence is added to this procedure by the deduction that through theory contemporary African art can be experienced. Fourth, the book’s choice of Vitu Art, Soyan Art, Sankofa Art and Ijinla Art becomes the task of practical investigation. Types and characteristics of art, styles and sub-styles of art, and analyses of art as elements of contemporary African culture are explained through the works of known and, in a few instances, unknown African artists. The finding is clear: Systematic study is the favored approach and the flavor of it is best absorbed by practical investigation.

27


Fifth, the book examines the “big picture” of contemporary African art and discovers six across-the-board principles and their implications in contemporary African art: artist’s background guidelines, analyses of works of art, artistic and aesthetic values, major issues in contemporary African art, mathematical equations of contemporary African art (MECAA), and the use of space in contemporary African art. Together, the six principles form a common thread of application in the study of contemporary African art. Ultimately, I come to Strunk and White. It has always been of the greatest satisfaction to me that I could be associated with their declaration in the closing pages of Elements of style: If one is to write, one must believe—in the truth and worth of the scrawl, in the ability of the reader to receive and decode the message (Strunk & White, 1972. 77). Considering the particulars and findings of Foundations of Contemporary African Art, I remark in closing that I have discovered a living truth. There is no pleasure so pleasurable as the pleasure of a book clearly defined, clearly explained and clearly resolved. P. Chike Dike, Ph.D. Director General/Chief Executive, National Gallery of Art, The Federal Republic of Nigeria, Abuja, July 2003.

28


Foundations of Contemporary African (FOCA) Art primarily deals with the stylistic

introduction.

classification and analysis of vision in art. To firmly root contemporary African art in African culture, this book begins with the examination of persistent facts on African ancestral legacy and the enduring realities in contemporary African art. It arrives at three basic conclusions: firstly, that change in art comes from acculturation and that the process has frequently been perceived as operant in two directions—reciprocity in donor and recipient roles; secondly, that to make anything different from what it is, three questions must be addressed—a) what would it become if left alone?; b) what would it become during change?; and c) what would it become after the change?; and thirdly, that the implications of all of the above bear heavily on the present state of contemporary African art . FOCA Art also identifies four major art styles: 1) Vitu, formerly Bintu, art; 2) Soyan, previously Skokian, art; 3) Sankofa, early Kuntu, art; and 4) Ijinla, prematurely Awo, art. These major art styles have also some sub-styles. Emphasis on this study was on art, styles, and artists, which led to the uncovering of four basic principles: 1) that the quality of art defines the rank of the artist; 2) the quality of art exemplifies the artist’s experience; 3) the quality of art blurs the separation between the trained and self-trained artists; and, 4) the quality of art distinguishes the artist’s style in the end. For these reasons, Foundations of Contemporary African Art combines the theory and practice of art, using the preceding approach to produce a whole study. This publication has been inspired by two principal exhibitions, organized and supervised by the present writer. The first, African Art: Past and Present, a major exposition of 200 carefully selected works that was mounted in 1982 in seven exhibition locations as part of the Second Annual Symposium in the Humanities, titled “Africa and the West: The Challenge of African Humanism” at The Ohio State University. The exposition’s objectives were to present for the first time in one exhibition the works of traditional and contemporary African artists; to highlight the continuity and interdependence of styles in the works of these artists; and to promote the study of African culture in the West. The showing pursed two major themes: The Past, which depicts traditional African art with 100 Pieces, traced the African life cycle, while exploring human beginnings, socialization process, human passions, the mastery of the universe, the realm of death, and the spirit world; and, The Present, which exemplifies contemporary African art with 100 Pieces, focused on positive reactions to the contemporary African environment (Bintu, currently Vitu, Art), the apparent rejection of indigenous knowledge (Skokian, lately Soyan, Art), the complete acceptance of the established spectrum of original knowledge (Kuntu, currently Sankofa, Art), and the interdependence of different value systems (Awo, presently Ijinla, Art). The second major exhibition held in 1997 was essentially titled Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects. This exposition was unintended to attract the casua1

31


browser of art objects. While such browsing was obviously inevitable, given the pressure on time of art audiences, it was hoped that visitors to the five galleries, where the exhibition was mounted, would be able to spare some time for a serious contemplation of the 184 works displayed. In this exhibition that celebrated the African Studies Association’s 40th Annual Conference, diversity was in relation to change in contemporary African art objectively examined through Vitu art, Soyan art, Sankofa art, and Ijinla art. The realization of these two principal exhibitions required generosity and trust on the part of numerous contributors. The belief that people from many parts of the world can work together creatively, with a common commitment to traditional as well as contemporary African art and culture, reaffirmed one of the major premises of both exhibitions. However, before the two exhibitions, other controlling factors provided the earliest inspiration for the current publication: “Some Observations on Contemporary African Art,” which was a paper I presented in 1966 at the African Studies Association’s 9th Annual Conference that explored three aspects of contemporary African art—as specifically published in the Journal of New African Literature and The Arts, I. Joseph Okpaku, Ed. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1970; the 1975 Pan-African University Commission Research Award, which enabled me to do concentrated investigation into contemporary African art; the 1978 Ohio State University College of the Arts Research Award, which resulted in the establishment of the earliest major academic field in the US Graduate and Undergraduate programs in contemporary African art; and, finally, the 1980 Ohio State University College of the Arts Research Award that permitted me to conduct extended research in contemporary African art. I am fortunate and grateful for all the financial assistance I received from the various bodies. Africa has long been a continent shrouded in mystery. From western European men’s early contacts (AD 1400s) to the present day, many false prejudices and conceptions about African people, African cultures, and the African environment that assists in shaping them have become part of a common worldview of what Africa is. And up till recently, the idea of what traditional African art truly is was set aside as nothing more than primitive, its forms disproportionate, and far from the Western ideal of realism since the Italian Renaissance of AD 1400s. Many reasons can be seen to account for western European men’s inability to see through their own prejudices shown toward Africa. And while some of these prejudices seem to occur naturally, others are certainly man made. The first comes out of environmental conditions that dictate the demographic patterns within Africa. In the article, “Between the Natural and the Supernatural (Smithsonian institute, January 2002),” the migratory patterns of Ethiopian people are noted. The author states that because of environmental conditions, various ethnic groups were forced to move southward to graze their cattle. For this reason, the permanency of a people in a culture area was upset and the opportunity for certain traditional Ethiopian art forms to develop was restrained. As a spin-off, a strong African presence in visual art was unfelt as keenly as in other places, like in Nigeria, where generations had been sedentary long

32


enough to build up themselves and their art. Consequently, the populations of western Europeans, coming into the Ethiopian area, saw the potential of indigenous people’s art to be of little value. With the influx of western Europeans into Africa, especially after the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 (the base and time line of European scramble for Africa) and during colonial times (ending in the 1960s), another prejudice was formed through the by-product of the western education system. This article, “Between the Natural and Supernatural,” addresses the fact that, because a western European curriculum and set of values was enforced and taught, an indigenous aesthetic was prevented from developing. By suppressing the African eye in professional institutions, the western European was once again able to form the prejudice of an African inadequacy, by comparing what little they observed to the full European program taught in the institutions. Moreover, western European prejudices can be said to be based on something that people all over the world would probably be guilty of: Fear of the unknown. The relationships between Africa and the western European worlds have increasingly strengthened only within the last century. So, to many western Europeans, Africa is a mysterious continent. The two worlds are continuing to communicate and influence each other. African artists are seeking education and training outside of Africa, and all that the West can learn from Africans is impacting western European artists. Another reason for the prejudices is that the western European finds it hard to pinpoint exactly what is contemporary African art. The art comes in so many different forms. In the western European world, art appears easy to classify. Typically, there are mainly architecture, paintings and sculpture. But in Africa, art takes the forms of batik, tie-dyeing, paintings, sculpture and wall hangings. Complementing this diversity is the western Europeans’ typical ethnocentrisms. That is to say, they have a tendency to interpret the world according to their own views. Thus, in art, western Europeans tend to be aware of only their famous artists from the Dutch, England, France, Italy and Spain. It would never have occurred to them that the “Dark Continent” could produce valuable artists. Furthermore, the western European has managed to totally disregard the relevance of contemporary African art by trivializing it. Even though the age of colonialism is over, and the nations of Africa have gained their independence, there is still a restrain in the form of the economy. Certain contemporary African art, instead of being ignored and pushed aside as unappealing, is now marketed through the tourist industry as something kitsch. Once again, however, the western European is failing to understand the actual African art. And, now, the meaning of the pieces and the cultures they came from are lost, as the work becomes souvenir object, a commodity to own and use for prestige because of its nostalgic value. In the end, and perhaps most powerfully, the western European world can be said to have stayed removed from most contemporary African art, because it has not been lucrative. Besides, the history of western European art has revolved around the academy, where 33


privileged men and women go to train in the styles of the masters before them. For art has always been for the elite in society, the aristocracy, the wealthy merchant, and the landowner. In this respect, much of contemporary African art emerges to exist on the edges. Things that have utilitarian value, such as batik and wall hangings, in the western European eye have less credibility and intellectual capacity, and have started to lurch towards the category of craft. In contemporary African art, the everyday materials of the environment around oneself, are utilized and appreciated; but the opposite is true of the western European. What is dissimilar from the commonness of the everyday: materials that must be created, objects that have no purpose other than their artistic value, are the cornerstone of western European art. This difference in values has allowed the western European mind to disregard the African mind as wrong, backward and unsophisticated. These prejudices that have formed out of environmental, economic, social, and cultural forces are detrimental to not only the Africans’ view of themselves and their art in relation to Africa and the world, but also to the western Europeans themselves. For without these prejudices, the wealth of information concerning Africa, its arts and cultural traditions, would be more beneficial than western Europeans can know. Thankfully, because the world is fast becoming a global village, and western Europeans and Africans have progressed economically and politically into the 21st century, these noted prejudices are being washed away little by little. And it is hoped that someday, there will be no artificial lines drawn between western European artists and their African counterparts. And when that happens, there will be just artists, who are as diverse in their artistic expressions as the regions of the world from whence they come; nothing less, nothing more!

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Persistent Facts Appraised

chapter one

1.1 African Traditions Today, there is a good flow of articles, books, films, and other news items concerning the process of change in African politics, economy, sociology, religion and art. One thing appears common to all of them: that Africa is undergoing a cultural change. Since the early contact with Arabs and western Europeans, it is believed Africa began adapting herself, giving up her traditions and adopting foreign ideas, methods of work, forms of government and principles of economic organization. To what extent is this change?1 What are the features of this change? Are traditions of Africa ended with the coming of acculturation? Are they continuous with inherent change to accommodate the present and recent time? These questions are applicable not only to the politics of Africa today, but to other aspects of African traditions as well, particularly the visual art. Philip Curtin (African and the West, 1972. vii - viii) asserts: But the problem of western civilization from the African point of view was not how the west got there, but what to do about it. This question carried a whole train of additional questions in its wake: What alien values were worth adopting? What local values were particularly worthy of preservation? What short-run changes seem to be dictated as the best intermediate stage toward a long-term goal? But, in fact, Africans, intellectual or otherwise, seldom wrote down explicit answers to these questions. It is much easier to be against something than to take initiative and work creatively for a better world. For in the instances where the preceding questions were pertaining to African visual art of today, a popular injunction has been often in force. It is too early to write the history of contemporary African art. Yet, contemporary African art stands today as one of the elements of change in African traditions in terms of its concepts, styles and the history of its forms. Hamid Said, Contemporary Art in Egypt, 1964; Sue Williamson, Resistance Art in South Africa, 1990; Jean Kennedy, New Currents, Ancient Rivers-Contemporary African Artists in a Generation of Change, 1992; Irving C. Winter, Contemporary Stone Sculpture in Zimbabwe - Content and form, 1993; Kojo Fosu, Twentieth Century Art of Africa, 1993; Sidney Kasfir, Contemporary African Art, 2002 and many more have started to seriously address the issue of contemporary African art. As a visual manifestation of an important aspect of African culture, contemporary African art is then an extremely consequential object not in an aesthetic sense, but as a tool for critical inquiry, especially to the art historian. Contemporary African art, then, is eminently important for serious consideration, since it seeks to interpret African society in continuous change through the eyes of contemporary African artists. It stands to reason therefore that patterns of change in the art would perforce be similar and contemporaneous with unbroken change in other aspects of African traditions and would of necessity be motivated by a similar force.

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AFRICA NATIONS AND THEIR CAPITALS 1. Senegal — Dakar 2. Gambia — Banjul 3. Guinea Bissau — Bissau 4. Guinea — Conakry 5. Sierra Leone — Freetown 6. Liberia — Monrovia 7. Ivory Coast — Abidjan 8. Ghana — Accra 9. Togo — Lome 10. Republic of Benin — Porto Novo 11. Nigeria—Abuja 12. Cameroon — Yaounde 13. Equatorial Guinea — Bamako 14. Gabon — Libreville 15. Republic of Congo —Brazzavilie 16. Burkina Faso — Ouagadouguo 17. Democratic Republic of the Congo — Kinshasa 18. Angola — Luanda 19. Namibia — Windhoek 20. Botswana — Gabarone 21. Lesotho — Maseru 22. Swaziland — Mbabane 23. Zimbabwe — Harare 24. Madagascar — Antananarivo 25. Mozambique — Maputo 26. Zambia — Lusaka 27. Tanzania — Dar es Salaam 28. Burundi — Bujumbura 29. Rwanda — Kigali 30. Uganda — Kampala 31. Kenya — Nairobi 32. Somalia — Mogadishu 33. Ethiopia — Addis Ababa 34. Sudan — Khartoum 35. Central African Republic — Bangui 36. Chad — N’Djamena 37. Niger — Niamey 38. Mali — Bamako 39. Mauritania — Nouakchott 40. Western Sahara — El Aaiun 41. Morocco — Rabat 42. Algeria — Algiers 43. Tunisia — Tunis 44. Libya — Tripoli, Benghazi 45. Egypt — Cairo 46. Eritrea — Asmara 47. Cabinda — Cabinda 48. Ifni — Ceded to Morocco 49. Malawi — Ulonowe 50. South Africa — Pretoria

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1.2 Beginnings of Change: Ostensibly, many contemporary critics have often leveled attacks against the work of missionary and colonial administrators for the change in African traditions as well as the seeming death of traditional African art. Majority of the contemporary critics is of the nationalist and traditionalist persuasions. Still, some others have skillfully defended the work of these institutions: “Christianity…hold [s] the greatest and the only potentialities of meeting the dilemmas and challenges of modern Africa…” John Mbiti observes (1970.277). He also states: Traditional religions [pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial] must yield more and more their hold in shaping peoples values, identities and meaning in life. They have been undermined but not overthrown (.343). An injunction of caution is here given. Mbiti’s preference for the Christian religion comes from his training as a Christian minister. Still, his detailed and personal insights into traditional African religion in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Africa are invaluable in our current discourse. Among other discussions on the topic of African religion are Robin Horton, “Spiritual Beings and Elementary Particles…” 1972; D. E. Idoniboye, “The Idea of An African Philosophy: The Concept of “Spirit’’ in African Metaphysics,” 1973; I.C. Onyewuenyi, “Philosophical Re-Appraisal of African Belief in Reincarnation,” 1982; and Wyatt McGaffey, Religion and Society in Central Africa: The Bakongo of Lower Zaire, 1986.2 that Islam is iconoclastic in outlook is also another reason that opponents on both 20 sides of the issue give for its significant impact] on aspects of African tradition. The history of Africa has however recorded the successive impacts of Islam in North Africa, starting from the seventh century AD; and the fifteenth century AD beginning with the arrival of western European based, mission Christianity. Mohammedanism spread into the interior of the continent along trade routes by traveling Arab traders and artisans from northern Africa as well as the eastern coast.3 Islam was by the indigenous Fulani (Meek 1931), and Hausa (Smith 1964)4 also carried southward, along the western coast and into the interior, along trade routes. Legitimized by Portuguese maritime enterprises (around the coast from Cape Blanco to Mogadishu) that started in the mid-fifteenth century AD, Christianity entered Africa through the ports and spread into the interior by Christian missionaries. Islam and Christianity have therefore appeared to play their relative parts in the patterns of change in African traditions.5 This change has never been total as it was in Mexico or Polynesia. Rather, it is in the light of what I would like to call “continuity and interdependence” in African traditions (the past depends on the present to continue and the present relies on the past to advance in the future). G. Wesley Johnson, Jr. in “The Senegalese Urban Elite 1900-1945” (1972. 148), appears to explain a similar situation when he states: …the origniaires had a remarkably unified reaction to French (Western) culture…an elite, famous in France and generally well known in the literature as the epitome of assimilated Africans, was not in fact totally assimilated and did not desire to be. The origninaires reactions were conditioned by a

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number of factors, which limited their desire for full assimilation… Some causes of this change in African traditions are not as easy to identify as the relative impacts of Islam and Christianity, which have been the best documented due to their longevity in Africa. Islam (Lewis, Islam in Tropical Africa, 1966)6 has been practiced, to some degree, in parts of Africa since the Arab Empire was founded in 639 AD and the first Arab Moslems entered Egypt.7 By the early part of the eighth century AD, they had virtually overrun all of Africa north of the Sahara. This period of invasion brought Mediterranean civilization and influence in North Africa to a close (Julien 1956) and Islamic culture began to take over.8 The Islamic beliefs did not cross the Sahara and were unable to penetrate the Sudanese area until the twelfth century AD, when Islamic culture and religion began to obtain a significant foothold in Sudan. The Eastern region of Africa was until the eighth century9 not penetrated. By the fourteenth century AD, certain areas of both the East and West of Africa were uncultured to the Islamic way of life. Therefore, today, considerable areas of North Africa,10 the Sudan, the East Horn, and along the East Coast of Africa belong to the Moslem world as a whole and have accepted Islam as part of the traditional way of life (AT 2). There were some fractions within the Muslin religion, although certainly not as many as in Christian religion,11 as seen shortly. Most factions originated outside Africa and were imported; however, a few began in Africa. Amid sect was founded in the late nineteenth century by Ghulan Ahmad. It is still very active in West Africa, and more recently on the east coast (Fisher 1963). It is very popular because of its spirit of reform (Mbiti 1970). In North Africa, older traditions of Ifufi Islamic sects are balanced by modernizing influences. Another sect is Shi’a, an early division of Islam, represented in Africa mainly among immigrant Muslims of Indo-Pakistan origin, found mostly on the eastern coast and in South Africa. The most important group among indigenous African Muslims is the Sunni sect. Mbiti (1970.326-333) reaches certain conclusions about the encounter between traditional African religion and Islam. One is that there are some general characteristics of all encounters between African traditional religion12 and Islam. Politically, central African rulers have been more inclined to receive elements of Islamic culture and organization that are applicable to reinforce and extend their established authority. When it comes to contact between Islamic law and traditional African practice, the situation is complex. In matters where the two systems coincide, such as concerning “lawless sexual relation, theft and restitution,” they support each other. Still, in matters of “inheritance of land, livestock, property and family,” traditional guidelines are followed more often than Islamic direction. On the religious level, there are matters of crossroad and distinction between the two. The concept of God is commonly acceptable to Africans therefore the influence of Allah (Islamic word for God) is intelligible. However, like Jesus Christ, traditional Africans would have a problem placing Mohammed in a clear historical place. Jesus Christ and Mohammed are holy prophets and omnipresent in personality. They are therefore not as important to traditional Africans as their ancestors who are central in their religion of African Ancestry:

40


AT 2. Islamic Mosque, Egypt. Field photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita, 1985.

Christ, I know; Mohammed, I know; but, my Ancestors, I know more, the traditional African could have circumstantially expressed. The traditional use of mysticism and divination13 is also in Islam discovered and therefore is an area of easy adaptation. In a purely religious sense, Islam does little to add to or change drastically the religion of African Ancestry. [Indeed, in many places, Islam and the religion of African Ancestry are practiced side by side in a complementary fashion, as evident also in Islam and Tribal Art in West Africa by Rene Bravmann, 1974]. Traditional African rituals are often retained among African Muslims because they offer tested solutions to problems or provide solutions to problems outside of those with Islamic rites. Thus, Islamic faith is much more in keeping with basic values of the religion of African Ancestry. This means that Islam is more readily acceptable than Christianity (as seen below) and that Africans who embrace Islam make less of a change and remain rooted to many African traditions. Thus, the change is not as complete as the change to Christianity (as seen shortly). In the preceding summary, Mbiti has provided us with interesting insights into the change in traditional African religions because of contacts with Islam. Islamic presence may therefore be detectable in various features of African Islamic tradition, especially in the traditional art forms. Historically, Islam discourages the representation of living creatures in religious art; but it promotes elaborate ornamental designs. In Islamic areas of Africa, there can be, however, both non-representational art and that which is not non-representational. For example, the Nupe of northern Nigeria are well known for their chased brass-work that is most often covered with intricate but non-representational designs.14 Their wooden doors, also, are 41


essentially ornamental but often they include animal motifs just like those of the Dogon (AT 3) and Senufo15 of Ivory Coast. Furthermore, many other ethnic groups of Islamic Africa still have and use dance masks16. Moreover, some Muslim groups have specifically developed masquerades that are performed for Muslim holy days17 and sculpted works of al-Burag (the winged creature that took Muhammed to heaven) are very popular with West African Muslims. Traditionally, Islamic features such as the mosque and vessels used to hold offerings at funerals and other rituals are artfully African made. So, it can be said that by introducing foreign objects and some concepts of non-representational designs, new ideas are explored, and although not all art forms in Islamic Africa became non-representational, ornamentation appears to have become more important and, most likely, used far more widely. To the east African coast, where Islam did not encounter a strong pre-existing representational culture because of the preoccupation with cattle raising (Herskovits, “Culture Areas of Africa�, 1924), figure sculpture in the round nevertheless appears primarily absent from the majority of the area, and ornamental art is abundantly found: embroidery on leather and ornate decorations on shields, spears and water vessels. This discrepancy in the existence of non-representational and representational art is more likely due to early settlement patterns of the Islamic people in Africa. In Nigeria, for example, they recognized two unit areas: the city of pure Islam and the outside city consisting of infidels, the unbelievers. The traditional Africans in the outside city are unrestrained to continue their own religious practices and developed personal traditional art forms, as consequential. Therefore, there had always been two cultures existing side by side: one foreign and the other traditional to Africa. Communication with people of the city and those close to the city led to continual sharing, and aspects of Islamic culture literally traveled to the traditional African areas and could be discovered on ceramics, architecture, dress, textiles, and so on. Because of this accommodating nature of early Islamic settlement policy, African traditional art was uninhibited, thereby leaving us today with some entirely non-representational art forms as well as some decorative and highly ornamental, but often representational, items of art. A type of Christianity has been practiced in Abbysinia (now Ethiopia) longer than Islam. Its earliest subscription to African traditional art and culture was an incidental contribution made by the early Romans. Christianity first gained a foothold in parts of northern Africa where the people of Africa were in contact with the Mediterranean civilization. Its presence was especially strong in Alexandria and Carthage, where religious conflicts began and as consequential the Nicene Creed18 was by the fourth century AD formed. From the creed, the Coptic religion arose. The Coptic Church began in Abbysinia when Coptic monks of different sects, under pressure of Roman persecution, moved up the Nile River to spread their own new version of Christianity. The Church not only maintained a balance between Christian elements such as saints, the seven sacraments, and the importance of the Virgin Mary, but also retained elements from traditional African religion (Mbiti 1970. 300). There was a belief in evil forces and the power of amulets in protecting against these forces (Trimingham 1952). In Egypt, the power of the church was diminished because of the seventh and eleventh centuries invasion of Islam. Thus, the Church did not survive there as 42


AT 3 Dogon. Granary Door, wood, 15�. Mali. Cotner Collection.

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well as it did in Abbysinia. Early records show that there were about 4% Coptic followers in Egypt compared to 55% in Abbysinia (Mbiti 1970. 301). This ancient presence of Christianity in Africa did not affect, however, the continent as a whole. In spite of attempts made by early European missionaries, “.0the real modern expansion of Christianity in Africa started with freed Christian slaves who began to return to western Africa towards the end of the nineteenth century. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Christianity had increasingly large followers along the coast from Sierra Leone to Nigeria� (Mbiti.302) (AT 4). Subsequent major contributions to this expansion came in the nineteenth century with missionary activities. This coincided with the colonial expansion by major western European governments into Africa and made Africans more often to equate Christian mission with colonial rule. The spread of Christian activities has had a great effect on the way Africans view Christianity, since nearly every major sect and denomination sent missionaries to Africa. This denominationalism has caused much division and lack of cohesiveness in African Christianity (much as it has in western European Christian countries). In the first half of the twentieth century, however, Christianity expanded rapidly not only through the efforts of missionaries, but also through the efforts of African converts. This was especially the case with Africans attending lower-level mission schools. Subsequent efforts to spread Christianity, however, had not been in the realm of theology, but in areas such as higher education and medicine that are more practical. This led to some serious problems since many philosophical changes were taking place in Africa and the Church was not equipped to handle them. Finiteness of Christianity in reconciling African practical existence with church dogma was one such problem. One of the major known facts in the development of African Christianity is the establishment of two distinct movements, separatist churches or small sects that have broken off from mission churches. There are about 5,000 of these sects reported from all over Africa (Mbiti 1970). They primarily originate from Anglican, Lutheran and Protestant churches. It was estimated that one-fifth of all African Christians belonged to Independent Churches (ibid.). This practice is an attempt to make Christianity more meaningful to Africans through their own interpretations and rituals. Moreover, the division in sects of missionaries is a vivid example to motivate Africans to begin this type of church. Africans are also concerned with the great power the missionaries held and these churches are their only recourse for freedom. Some basic characteristics are common to the large number of Independent Churches. They lay great emphasis on independence from missionary control, usually in terms of organization, leadership, decision, finance and direction; and revelation and healing play important roles in these Independent Churches. The Churches also interpret the Bible very literally. Probably, this results from lack of theological training among the leaders of these sects. Their church services follow the pattern set by missionary churches, but they take more seriously aspects like singing and preaching, praying for the sick, exorcisms and

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giving of money and goods to support their leaders. Their adherence to strict Christian customs and rituals also varies widely. According to Mbiti (304-316), another major movement in African Christianity is the Mission Church. Its organizational ability is its strongest feature. It has strong ties with the historical traditions of Christianity in other countries as well as in Africa; and its wealth and power make it a force to contend. The main problem is that this church is deeply rooted in EuroAmerican culture. It has tried to break people away from their traditional life; and there is

AT 4 The Basilica of Our Lady of of Peace at Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.

little effort to make Christianity worthwhile within the framework of African traditional life. Traditions are out forced, but nothing replaced them. The Mission Church has an effect at the cultural level by means of education and health, but it never penetrated deeply into African spirituality. The church, especially in urban areas, is making efforts to be more responsive to needed changes. Still, it is apparent, to the writer, that in its present form, western European based mission Christianity can never be a major part of the African lifestyle, and that its main function should be on the level of African traditions and customs to be more effective. On the cultural level, the Christian missionaries did not understand the religion of African Ancestry and attacked it through its visible forms, the visual art. Just as in South America where they attacked sculpture production as part of their campaign against idol worship. Still, in traditional Africa, the representation of deities was greatly infrequently. The most substantial artistic result of Christianity, in Africa, was in Ethiopian Coptic neck crosses

45


(Fisher, Africa Adorned [twenty seven types illustrated] 1984) as well as in the former Portuguese Christian kingdom of Kongo, whose Christian beliefs faded completely away in 1665. Here, locally made crucifixes and church paintings in naturalistic style, bearing Christian Church ideals, were unearthed with clear acceptance of European predominance by certain kinds of western art critics. In addition, the naturalism observable in other works of Kongo people has also been tenuously attributed to European influence, especially the Mintadi figures (Allison, African Stone Sculpture, 1968. 43-58) by some western art critics. But, when the naturalism in Sahara rock art (c. 8000 BC),20 Egyptian art (3100 BC) as well as Nok art (c. 900 BC) and Ife art (c. 1200 AD)21, to mention a few, are advanced in evidence, one wonders if this style has not been from genesis a vital part of ancient and traditional African art. Thus, Christian impact may have brought about cultural changes other than directly influencing the most part of traditional forms of African art. Even where contemporary African art shows some definite signs of Christian influence, the available examples, by quality and quantity, form a narrow stratum of the art. They exhibit also such themes as Christ on a baptismal front, biblical scenes on doors and walls of churches, and the representation of Christian saints in the round in cathedrals (Mount 1973, ills. 34, 101, 178). Thus, alien impacts on African traditions, particularly the art, are a result of Islamic and Christian presence in Africa. Still, these influences are far subtle than more expected; and historically the forces behind them have generally been accommodating to African beliefs. Because of this important fact, pure forms of African traditional art22 have persisted and survived (see Tom Phillips, ed.: Africa: The Art of a Continent, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1995). In other words, a limited number of traditional African art forms have adopted certain aspects of alien beliefs and these features are identifiable. Still, it is extremely important that these features and influences, if they are significant, should be on a one-to-one basis studied, as a specific influence affecting a specific art piece, otherwise there is a tendency to make speculative sweeping generalizations. Certainly, African traditions have been a long time in developing23 and so will be a long time in changing. Although both Islam and Christianity have tried assertion through force or persecution, there has been no total change in the art. Moreover, although certain outward symbols were acceptable, the inner African spirit has come forcibly through so that the result is in certain limited cases a unique combination of both is discernable. Rather than suppressing or eliminating the African spirit, it would seem that a certain sum total of these influences have been the catalyst that fanned the flames of African creativity. However “good” these influences may be in some respects, they could also be a case of, not merely, de-traditionalizing the African mind, but tragically impoverishing its creative forces.

1.3 The African Point of View: The most important thing about “continuity and interdependence” in African traditions is not, as one might think, that they are no longer traditional. It is that they are from only one point of view, Euro-American, for obvious reasons. Specifically, there are three 46


bodies of literature in the annuals of contemporary African art: Euro-American, Arabic, and African. The Euro-American literature is most numerous and readily available. The Arabic literature exists, but it seems almost silent on the subject. Moreover, there is the African literature, which is still young and forming (AT 5). It is therefore logical that the precise comprehension of Euro-American literature on contemporary African art will permit criticism, connoisseurship and therefore promote understanding of the art. Euro-American literature is extant in three main categories: the ones written by travelers and absentee art critics; the writings by researchers, sponsored by a foundation or an academic institution; and the ones written by Euro-Americans who were, or are still, resident in Africa either as teachers, missionaries, or museum curators. The last two categories of writers are of necessity more crucial. By drawing upon comments and criticisms from contemporary Africans, their writings are becoming continually popular along these lines: on the one hand, contemporary African artists believe that the visual art requires for its life a physical continuity of institutions and audience, a forum where talent and learning converge, collide and grow old in the practice of the skill; and, not less important, it requires a supportive community sufficiently interested in advancing this appreciation. On the other hand, the artists speak of their critics in no mincing words: We believe that anyone may pitch in to say something about us …And we also think it is good for people to see our works, get involved, and to know they really care …But certain kinds of Africanists never told us that they were going to address us in disparaging points of view …We wonder what their background and qualifications are? How well they understand our works? What knowledge they brought with them to Africa? What they saw when they arrived—a void, a beginning, an already established African school or workshop? What statistical relation has their new schools, or workshops, to African art schools and art movements? Who made up the new schools? Are the new schools defunct or skeletons in the closet? Why? How are, or were, the schools organized and sponsored?24…What did they, paternalistic Africanists, give or take out of Africa? Moreover, what are they doing now: art dealers, art collectors, museum curators, or professors of art? We sculpt our sculptures, we paint our paintings, and we try to ask for fair prices; still, some of them wait feverishly for cheap handouts which they resell at prohibitive prices…These clinchers are the typical Africanists who preside over our artistic destiny. Like their kind, they are the lords of our literary life, persons who dreamed the impossible dream, persons who fought none outspoken foes - and won. (Excerpt from unpublished interviews on contemporary African artists in America, on cassette tapes, conducted by the present writer, in 1978, with a grant from the College of the Arts, The Ohio State University). In Africa, as elsewhere, thought-provoking opinions of similar professional disappointments, be as they will, are predictable. Still, nothing can be more futile than a single-minded effort to define contemporary African art or culture by cause-and effect relations that are political and social in slant. The fact remains that the presentation of African culture or art would have taken a definite path, but certainly not in its present exclusive Euro-American format: There is no African culture, which has not been affected in some way by European contact…

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AT 5 The Young Masai- In defence of his Culture, Kenya, 1995. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita.

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(Bascom and Herskovits 1970. 3). If the premise of Bascom and Herskovits is true, the following conclusion cannot be false: European contact and subsequent domination of African traditional culture are well known. Implicit in this dominance is the effect on art forms since art is a function of the culture from which it derives. In the preceding statement concerning African culture, the careful observer and art connoisseur may have captured the essence of a popular Euro-American thought. My charge is that the central doctrine of this thinking has failed to account for the difference between “what things are” and “what they ought to be.” This doctrine has failed to distinguish between the “is” and the “ought,” between fact and value, between means and ends. This somewhat, if not outrightly, intellectual fallacy25 results in a failure to bestow an unbiased direction and a sense of purpose to the appreciation of African culture. If this typical Euro-American claim is the essence of the present writer’s resolution of this inadequacy, the task of this discussion is to provide its substance. To extrapolate from this claim, African culture and therefore contemporary African art is not dominated by western European culture and art styles; only a certain aspect of the art is affected, and this is often exaggerated. That Islamic culture has a certain effect on contemporary African art, though this has never been seriously considered, is unquestionably true. Still, the overwhelming influence on contemporary African art is Africa itself: its environments, its culture and its traditions. The strategy of this discourse is therefore as follows: First, it will try to persuade the reader that any single-minded belief, its basic premise, its unquestioned assumptions about contemporary African art, or African culture, has at least one main feature: it confuses facts with values. It will argue that this doctrine is inadequate primarily because of this confusion. Second, it will briefly review the major alternative approaches to a conception of the relationships between facts and values. Finally, it will outline and treat in sequence, a new proposal for contemporary African art, new doctrine that I believe will provide an unbiased and predictable direction for the appreciation of the art. Art doctrine, like all doctrines, is not just a matter of statement to be checked out against the evidence; it must always reason on statistical accurate facts. Doctrine arises 30 because of some human need or problem; and, ideally, it functions to give purpose and direction to human endeavors. It provides a focus, a rallying point, for organized group efforts in a particular area of shared experience. Thus, in an effort to persuade the reader of the inadequacy of a single-minded doctrine, this discussion will cite facts, report on experiments, or quote authorities. Its initial critique will center on inherent contradictions, false analogies, equivocations, in short, upon the logical fallacies contained in any one single-minded doctrine. Since the notion of logical contradiction will carry a heavy burden in the discussion, it would be well to review it briefly. One recalls that the Principle of Non-contradiction states 49


that no statement can be both true and false. For example, a person is either sane or not sane. No degrees of saneness will change the law. That is, once one decides on the meaning of “sane” or fix conditions of time and place, one cannot argue both that a person is sane and not sane. This leads us back to our previous deduction: European contact and subsequent domination of African traditional culture are well known. Implicit in this dominance is the effect on art forms since art is a function of the culture from which it derives. Almost in the same breath the cultural diffuser may add, ‘and its aesthetic potential is developed in western European terms.’ The possible origin of such a construct or doctrine, I am sure, goes back to at least the early twentieth century as evidenced in Euro-American cultural anthropology.

1.4 The Euro-American Point of View: One tenet of Euro-American cultural anthropology is that of acculturation. It is definable as that process which occurs when “stronger culture comes into contact with a “weaker” culture. Historically, the basis for this dominance, particularly to EuroAmerican anthropology, has been technological and organizational superiority. This is essentially to be the case with western European contact and subsequent “domination” of African traditional culture. Implicit in this “dominance” is the effect on art forms, since art is a function of the culture from which it obtains. In Africa, as the doctrine purports, acculturation has essentially manifested in the social, religious, and political supplementation of African traditional culture by western European morals, values, and organizational structures, with minor variations depending on which western European country is involved. In some instances, the influence is to be a direct assumption. Religion is a prime example of this presumed direct influences, whereby African traditional religious practices are believable to be actively condemned and sometimes actually prohibited by Christian missionaries, usually with the complicity of colonial officials. Since most types of established doctrines have some sort of “paraphernalia” (African religion being no exception), this paraphernalia being a concrete symbol of African religious beliefs is thought to be frequently singled out by missionaries because it is something they can “get their hands on.” Likewise, certain social or political organizations, such as the West African Poro society, are generally believed not to be directly condemnable by colonial officials, but colonial justice as practiced by magistrates, commissioners, soon made Africans aware (according to the logic of this doctrine) that western European justice is justice. Thus African social, judicial and political organizations—which, like any such institutions, utilize badges of office or symbols of authority—likewise are believed shoved into the background. The effect all this has on art is that once the institution is supplanted or outrightly destroyed, those symbols of function lose their sanction, their raison d’être. Thus, the great religious statues (“idols” in missionary parlance), the masks, the “fetishes” as they call it, are believed to lose that which has inspired them, that which infuses them

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with the vital force. Likewise, political symbols—masks, staffs of office, King’s thrones—are assumed to lose their symbolic power to the more prosaic and, perhaps, more readily enforceable western European laws and judicial procedures. Even common artistic embellishments on utilitarian articles are believed replaced by the importation of western European surface designs. Thus, African traditional art appears logically fashioned to be ineffective and eventually almost totally suppressed by western European acculturation. While the actual traditional institutions that promote the art ought to have, for the most part, disappeared, the heritage, the ideals, and the conceptual framework, as embodied in the human (in this case contemporary African) mind are believed to be still extant. While certain minor aspects of traditional culture are predictable to remain, this would imply that art would also remain. This is believed to be true, in some cases; but just as these cultural tradition are minor, so usually is that art. The great shrine statues and masks are declarable to have disappeared; but the vital force that inspired them is believable to have transmigrated into the intellectual framework of contemporary African art. One may argue that the preceding case of acculturation is organized solely around the extreme viewpoint of a typical western European critic of African culture; but I insist that this is a conservative point of view for those who are familiar with the African image in most Euro-American writings or public proclamations of the early and mid-twentieth century. Conditioned by these disdainful one-way acculturation opinions, it is hardly surprising to find Sir Hugh Clifford, once Governor of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) proclaiming in 1918, among other things, that: The West African Negro has often been reproached with his failure to develop any high form of civilization. It has been pointed out “ad nauseum” that he has never sculpted a stone, painted a picture, produced a literature, or even invented any mechanical contrivance worthy of the name, all of which is perfectly true (Blackwood Advertiser, February, 1918). The prevailing concept of Christian religion and its subsequent suppression of African culture are still central in the foregoing acculturation case. So, let us briefly examine more closely their thrusts and alignments.

1.5 Realities and Results In African Traditional Culture: The acceptance of Christian religion as a dominant force over the religion of African Ancestry is widespread in most western European writings; but the accuracy of this doctrine has not been satisfactorily determined by contemporary social science. This brings us from generalities of sociology to more concrete subject of art history. It is here that one realizes the gap between historical data and the generalizations of sociology. No art historian can doubt the inadequacy of research in the field, as a basis for existing systems of cross-cultural sociological studies. The two require a close co-ordination for attempts at generalizations, which derive from paucity of statistical data, are too freely sprinkled with “probably” and “perhaps.” Based on the “Races and Religions of Man in Africa” (Hamond Map, 1975: see excerpt, 51


AT 6), it is apparent that 12% (39,056,000) of Christians live in contemporary Africa as against 57% (188,110,000) of Africans who practice the religion of African ancestry. It is acknowledgeable that in matters of life and death, or high body of laws and principles of art, a minority trait of culture would have overriding influence over a dominant one. Thus, in this instance, it is doubtful that 12% Christians can completely penetrate the culture of the dominant majority (88%). Still, would numbers matter if Christianity equaled high power in contemporary Africa? Yes. That Mohammedanism has had far more reaching effects on Africa than Christianity is recognizable from this data (31%). Records have shown that Mohammedanism in Egypt, India, and Persia has a cultured background of art, architecture, philosophy, and poetry. It has also disclosed that Arabic script has proved of practical value for writing several African languages including Hausa and Mandingo. Moreover, it has demonstrated that the absorption of Africans into the Islamic faith has been a perfunctory kind, perhaps, depending merely on the repetition of a creed. However, the majority of Africans (57%) seem to have doubted the compatibility of the religion of African Ancestry with Christian or Islamic beliefs. The reason is simple. The former has foundation on an indestructible human relationship, while the latter are firmly established on personal relationships with Christ or Mohammed. In traditional Africa, one’s ancestors were once people like oneself. Bigger and better perhaps, but essentially of the same kind. They died as one will die, returned to the immediate family when they reincarnate, and are what one will be. An ancestor is thus more intimate to the African as compared to his or her personal relationships with a universal Christ or Mohammed. Therefore, the Christian system, and to a certain degree the Moslem, fails in offering sufficient comradeship and association to one’s ancestor, so vital in African traditions. The Christian religion in Africa is synonymous with western education; as western education is analogous to academic training. In other words, when academic training is present, western education and Christian religion are simultaneously implied. Here lies the strategy for most contemporary Euro-American writers of which Mount (1973) is a good example. The major concern of his book, African Art: The Years Since 1920, is his discussion of “New Art” as a classification of contemporary African art, entirely separate from “Mission-inspired Art” and “Souvenir Art.” New art, as defined by Mount, consists of works produced for the most part by academically trained artists during the last seven decades. While he acknowledges these artists’ debt to traditional African art, although failing to determine the precise condition of their being under such an obligation, he stresses that they use western-derived techniques and art mediums. The second most important character of new art, according to Mount, is its production and patronage modeled after western, “art for arts’ sake,” practices. The majority of patrons of new African art are expatriates and large businesses, artist clubs, and governments, he says. He contends that only a small fraction of “elite” Africans are interested in collecting art. Individual patrons of art, Mount says, are primarily westerners such as businessmen, teachers, engineers and diplomats. These buyers generally take the art home with them 52


when their work in Africa is completed. Mount bemoans the resulting drain of African art from Africa; but a critic may prefer to think that there is a benefit to be gained from exposing an ever increasing audience to contemporary African art through this type of exporting. “New Art” is an exciting development in African art and one that, I believe, is stronger and more widespread than Mount would have us believe. He fails to mention explicitly nationalistic art, an important contemporary art trend in Africa. Furthermore, with his emphasis on academic or western styles, Mount neglects those contemporary artists whom one might call traditionally inclined (or still others whom a person might place outside the circle of academic artists). Mount does, however, devote Chapter 3 to “Souvenir Art”. Since Mount’s work, there are other major Euro-American writings on contemporary African art: Kennedy (1992); and Vogel’s (1991) Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art that contains contentious criteria for the arrangement of African art pieces by functional themes that are in most cases not related to the nature of the art forms, and simultaneously showing a lack of clear knowledge of what is traditional or contemporary African art, thus painstakingly blurring the two different art forms in the process. Because Mount’s book is more heavily indebted to acculturation than any of the preceding authors’ works, his distinctions are relevant to this discourse. Less important, yet central, is Mount’s consideration of “Mission-Inspired Art.” He seems favorably inclined towards establishing additional mission-sponsored and inspired art schools and workshops. Among the several reasons reflecting this inclination, one is, as he states, “…those works would, like many art objects used by traditional African religion, have a valuable instructional purpose.” Prior to examining the validity of this claim, one must first determine whether the traditional African art employed in religious practices was instructional in character, and if so, determine whether that function translates into instruction in Christian religious teaching. Furthermore, one must also examine the historical function of art as it pertains to the Christian religion, and if, in an African context, this function still promotes “art.” Generally, traditional African religion is animistic.26 That is, everything in the environment is endoweable with a vital force to a greater or lesser extent. The more powerful forces could have manifestations other than their earthly forms, or these forces could exist entirely on a spiritual essence or force rather than a physical being. To converse with or to control these powerful spirit forces, objects are developed which are at first a mental and, then, visual representation of a particular spirit; but which later evolve into the actual embodiment of that spirit. Thus, a particular mask is not merely a representation of that spirit, but is that spirit when “energized” through proper performance of rituals and enactment of the spirit-role by the wearer. Likewise, the vital force of an ancestor could be the force, and would remain such as long as proper rituals are celebrated. It can perhaps be seen, in that case, why many of these traditional religious practices did not “sit well” with Christian missionaries who probably considered them somewhat, if not outrightly, idolatrous. This fact should be kept in mind. Perhaps, paramount is the notion that each ritual in which an artistic rendition of a 53


RELIGIONS OF MAN IN AFRICA NON-CHRISTIANS

CHRISTIANS Protestant and Anglican

Eastern Orthodox

Jewish

Moslem

Taoist

Confucian

Buddhish

Hindu

Religion of African Ancestry

1,205,000

__________

188,111,000

104,297,000

28,751,000

8,349,000

1,956,000

238,000

__________

9,000

Roman Catholic

TOTAL: Christians - 39,056,000 (11.73% or 12%) Moslem - 104,297,000 (31.32% or 31%) Religion of African Ancestry - 188,111,000 (56.50% or 57%) Non-Christians - 293,860,000 (88.26% or 88%) Christians and Non-Christians - 332,916,000 AT 6 AT 6 Religions of man in Africa. Hamond Map, 1975.

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particular spirit force appeared is the actual manifestation of that spirit. Specifically, it did not come to an individual or group as an act of faith, or occur as a vision of religious ecstasy (although conveniently, this is usually the case) as is supposed to occur in Christian religious experience, that is, not a feeling within the individual, but an actual communication with the spirit. Implicit here is the idea that these art objects are immediate catalysts, that the objects’ power to motivate people is due to a momentary focus of intense energy. Therefore, also, if used predominately as instruction vehicles, would lose their “shock,” or inspirational power. Removed from the realm of the mysterious into the mundane arena of religious catechisms and illustrations of religious parables, they would have no more evocative power than that of well-executed designs on a calabash. Thus, they had to be “secret” in the sense that they could not be readily viewed for the edification of the faithful and, as such, could not be instructional in the Christian sense. The heritage of Christian art, on the other hand, would seem always governable by this principle of representation on a purely illustrative basis; no object could embody spiritual forces without any degree of idolatry entering. (An exception to this is the Roman Catholic concept of “relics”—which are supposed to embody some type of spiritual force. These relics, usually some objects associated with Christ or a Saint, are not, in the true western European sense, art objects). This aspect of strict, illustrative representation (as opposed to spiritual embodiment) was to good use put as an instructional vehicle, particularly during the Middle Ages, to teach an illiterate peasantry certain edifying or historical religious concepts. It seems that it is that illustrative function to which Mount refers in his “Mission-Inspired Art” and to which he equates the function of traditional African religious art. From a strictly promotional standpoint, mission sponsorship would be self-limiting in that the thematic content and the objective would place restrictions on the artist’s freedom of expression. This would seem to be the case for two reasons, the first of which lies in the artists’ traditional heritage, and the second exists in the fact that the objective of the art is to be educational. In examining even a specific aspect of traditional African religious art, one is immediately in awe by the sheer magnitude of variation on any one theme. Since no one could exactly say what a certain spirit looked like, although all were agreed on general traits or appearance, this enabled the artist to achieve a good deal of freedom in his depiction. Conversely, the proselytizing arms of the early Christian church (the missionaries) must perforce present their message in an art that is easily understandable to the Christian African. The relative freedom of expression extended to the western European artist executing church commission in western European society cannot exist, since the African Christian audience is not assumed to possess the same sophistication as their counterpart audience in the West. Thus, the new African artist is denied the freedom of expression his traditional precursors enjoyed—their audience was sophisticated in that they could interpret variations in the traditional context. The new African audience was not believed by the missionaries to be sophisticated enough in a Christian context—they had to be approached simply and without abstraction. In addition, since the missionaries’ objective was religious

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education through art, the art had to continue to be simple in thematic content and execution. It is the case because the artist was bound by the level of sophistication of his audience, as perceived by the missionary. As long as he creates his art solely for a narrow segment of his total society, and as long as he is prohibited from approaching that point, at which substantial cogitative effort must be expended to interpret the meaning(s) of his work, he cannot advance. One must therefore take exception the Mount’s proposition that correlates traditional religious function and contemporary Christian religious function in art. Specifically, it has been advanced that the vast majority of traditional African religious art was not instructional in function in the Christian sense. It then follows that no translation of function can occur, and further, that as long as mission-inspired art remains mission-directed art, little if any, development in thematic content or in abstraction of expression can occur. I thus feel that missions can be inspirational as far as introducing an individual to art who might never have had the opportunity, in promoting initial instruction in art, or in promoting the continuance of traditional crafts. Still, as a proponent of developing contemporary African art and artists, I strongly feel that mission inspired art has serious inherent drawbacks.

1.6 Reassessment of Acculturation Theory: 27 Mount has therefore presented (more in his academic art and less in his mission-inspired art) the provocative Euro-American hypothesis that contact with western European culture creates “hybrids,” especially when the western European culture appears to be 37 in a dominant position. Similarly, this is the central message of Malinowski’s theory of culture change so popular among certain kinds of western anthropologists who would always see Africa as only a western European theater of operation. According to Jahn (1961): Malinowski sees culture not as something static but as something that is constantly changing. The simple conception of transformation of Africa is too simple for him. It is, he believes, only on the surface that the transition produces “hybrids…” All new objects, facts and forms of life in Africa are the results of European pressure…The African, he believes, is seduced by the enticements of Western Civilization, and concepts of new forms of life. Its ultimate aim is to be ‘if not European,’ then at least a master or part master of some of the devices, possession and influences…(14). There is no need to examine here Malinowski’s racist fantasies; but suffice it to say that in the general theory of African acculturation two specific phenomena are most essential: types of contacts and situations in which acculturation occurred, especially when based on “A Memorandum for the study of Acculturation” (Herskovits, 1936). Paragraph III, A and B appear to be applicable to our discussion.

1.6.1 [A] Types of Contacts: 56


1. Contact between an entire population (of one African nation) and selected groups from another population (of a different African nation) who are brought together in closer proximity than ever before — migration, immigration, citizenship, etc. — as a result of transportation and communication. 2. Contact between an entire population (African) and selected groups from another population (Arabian or European), for example, explorers, traders, missionaries, administrators, pioneers, and so on. 3. Contact initially friendly, later hostile as Africans, Arabians, or Europeans sought to dominate Africans politically, socially, religiously, and economically. 4. Contact between groups of markedly different size (Africans, Arabians, or Europeans, a minority). 5. Contact between groups of different degrees of complexity in material or non-material aspects of culture: On the one hand, between two African nations or societies, on the other, between an African culture and a foreign culture. (One must not infer here that it is always Arabian or European culture that is more complex. Many aspects of African culture are extremely complex: theological constructs or systems, philosophical concepts, forms of artistic expression, kinship structure and other forms of social organization, economic exchange systems, and so on. The Arabians or Europeans have no monopoly either on complexity or quality of culture). 6. Contact resulting from the culture carried (by Africans, Arabians or Europeans) into the habitant of receiving (African) group. (Later results, from elements of receiving group, being brought into contact with the new culture in a new region: for example, Nigerians being educated at Fourah Bay College, or Africans being educated in the Arab world or Europe).

1.6.2 [B] Situations in which Acculturation Occurred: 1. Elements of one African culture literally forced on another African culture or were voluntarily acceptable to the culture. (For a model, technology, economic situations, like the Akan technique of goldsmithing and the use of gold as currency carried over to Ivory Coast by the Baule in about 1730 AD). 2. Elements of European (or Arabian) culture were literally forced upon Africans (religion, political institutions, social conventions), or were received voluntarily by Africans (technology, economic institutions, for example, large-scale marketing and exports). 3. Political and social equality were non-existent (in spite of such concepts as the commonwealth of African traditions, the acceptance of Islamic faith, the French “civilise,” and so on). 4. A situation occurs in which the victorious foreign group acquires the defeated group’s culture as in Egypt (counter Malinowski’s acculturation).

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5. Inequality was the rule, in varying degrees and combinations of the following situations: i. One African group politically domineering; other African group did not recognize the group’s social dominance. ii. Arabians or Europeans politically dominant; Africans did not recognize Arabian or European social dominance. iii. One African group’s political and social dominance recognized by other African groups (Benin Empire prior to 1897). iv. Arabian or European political and social dominance recognized by Africans. v. Recognition of one African group’s social importance; but lacking the action of the group’s political influence. vi. Recognition of Arabian’s or European’s social importance, but without the exercise of Arabian’s or European’s political influence. (This would appear to be rare, especially in colonial times. Independence, however, would seem to have aggravated this particular situation, especially among some educated elites, for whom the former colonialists in many cases served as role models). Whatever the situational combination, it would seem that the psychological mechanism universally operant on Africans in contact with other African, Arabian, or European cultures would be abnormal conflict, resulting from attempts to reconcile differing traditions of social behavior and different sets of social sanctions. The conflict could be minimal or maximal, depending on the individual and circumstances. Acculturation is therefore the result of two different groups or cultures that come in contact with each other, and adapt to form a new different group or culture. Since the art of a people is but one aspect, albeit an important one, of their culture, it would then necessarily follow that the art would be subject to subsequent modifications brought about by the process of acculturation. That the process in regards to art is operant in two directions (that is, reciprocity in the donor/recipient roles) can be illustrated by the impact of traditional African art forms on early twentieth century western European artists: Picasso, Modigliani, and others. Would one say that they were acculturatable based on Malinowski’s scenarios? We are, however, primarily concerned with acculturation as it affected African artists. To this end, the entire concept of the history of art comes into sharp focus: the history of art is a study of acculturation of art. Tracing the effects of historical events on the art of a particular time, or tracing the influence of one artist’s style upon another artist is in itself the acculturation of art styles. The contemporary African artist is therefore subject to the influence of his tradition and the influence of recent time. These two elements (two different cultural outlooks) blend to form a new and different style. African artists who study in the Arab world or other foreign institutions, such as those in Paris, are subject to the effects of that culture, and the modifications it brings both to their lives and to their works. African artists could also be affected in their own country by acculturation even if they choose to remain in Africa and work: African nations are relatively as accessible to each other as, for example, one state is to the other in the United States of America. Different political, economic, and cultural systems are constantly coming in contact with each other. Even

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within one African nation, different ethnic groups influence each other. All these contacts have an effect on the person producing the art, hence affecting the artwork. Alongside any or all of these is the enduring influence of the former colonial countries. An example is the French traditions still evident in the Ivory Coast, as in language and fashion. Thus in Africa, today, the individual artist faces a personal choice: acceptance, adaptation, or reaction. In other words, the African artist can choose to accept total acculturation in his art, hence losing the traditions of his past and “converting” to a foreign art forms and styles. Besides, the artist can choose adaptation by combining his tradition with new elements to produce a different art. In addition, of course, the artist can continue, by rejecting (consciously or unconsciously) any different cultural influence, to produce art in a similar style that he or she had perfected in the past.

1.7 Contradictions With One Common Objective: Returning to Mount’s position as a Euro-American writer, one finds that, naturally, there are always two sides to a coin. They may differ in character; but, more often, they end up as components of the same coin. They may appear impressive; but, similar to the “chicken or egg” question, it would always be difficult to tell which came first. This is essentially the case of Mount and certain other western European writers as like Frank McEwen (“Return to Origins: New Dimensions for African Arts,” 1968). In the article, McEwen attempts to convince his audience that western European influence throughout “sub Saharan”, if not the entire Africa, has diluted and twisted African artistic endeavors towards its own ends, and that the “infinite potential” of creation possessed by African artists has been “debased and adulterated beyond repair by the mechanical mass production of objects for the tourist trade (25).” His view is that a considerable number of contemporary African artists have prostituted themselves for European training, approval and material gain. As stated by the Editors: McEwen argues with provocative passion that painters should derive their inspiration entirely from Africa and remain uncorrupted by the techniques of Western art schools (1968.18). His thesis is thus clear: that there is no value in any artistic approachment with the West. That a “deified religious instinct, …a still psychic and visionary Africa …still remains artistically a buoyant power (25).” Furthermore, he states: “…Africa, lacking traditions, is seething with desire for expression demanding outlet (ibid).” And who should arrive on the scene other than McEwen himself to take charge of this desire, to direct it’s being “tapped and canalized”, to give an “umbrella of protection” from the vagaries of the world. In my reading of this article, McEwen’s point (and by extension, his philosophy) smacks of hypocrisy and exhibits a patronizing attitude (i.e. neo-colonial in that it speaks from a position of self-assumed superiority: it is he and his cohorts who must lead the Africans on the right path—a reiteration of the “White Man’s Burden” applied in an artistic sense). This attitude more than his thesis of no outside influence fires the controversy touched on by

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the Editors in the Introduction. Specifically, he totally condemns “airport art”, or Mount’s “souvenir art”. The fact that the production of the “art” provides a not inadequate livelihood for a great many people is immaterial to him. It puts bread on a man’s table, and it does not appear in major museums or collections, so, what then is the harm? That some inherent artistic talents are perhaps destroyed is regrettable, but artistic talent is a matter of degrees, not absolutes. Africa cannot afford to pluck out and subsidize talent on a wholesale basis. If an artist is truly talented and motivated, his/her “airport art” will reflect the artist’s talents and efforts, and that the production of such art will neither harm the artists’ talents nor deter him/her from pursuing other artistic goals. Furthermore, and herein lies McEwen’s basic hypocrisy, what essentially is the difference between turning out production art for the consumption of the masses of tourists and creating unique pieces for consumption by the economically elite of the world? McEwen decries the “Paris-New York trade axis in art” on one hand, and on the other states that “thousands of works from the Salisbury Workshop have found a place (at a price, of course) in art collections in …Europe, the Americas, and even the East (including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, London) (25).” And “hundreds of laudative press notices have appeared together with articles in leading reviews, internationally,” and his Workshop/Gallery has provided “sales…brochures, lectures, and overseas exhibitions (ibid.),” in other words, advertising on a grand scale. The point is, McEwen condemns art for monetary gain, but again and again alludes or states outrightly the commercial aspects of his Workshop. Again specifically, this point is especially abhorrent to most contemporary artists, African or otherwise, he implies an artistic elite, supported by his Gallery, who “has no curriculum and no obligatory hours of presence …come and go when they can and wish to do—when their moods are right”. Certain (obviously wealthy) patrons ease the artists’ burdens by “promotion, protecting and morally encouraging the artists (ibid)”. Had an artist spent long hours learning his or her skill, sacrificing comforts and undergoing financial hardships to obtain art training (the validity of which is immaterial here), this would affect the artist in two ways: enviously at first, but then with the realization that in essence what McEwen’s artist is, is a kept man—he produces what his patron wants (i.e. what is saleable) if he is to continue to be coddled and subsidized. With this idea in mind, we come to McEwen’s neocolonialist attitudes. He states that, under the tutelage of his Workshop, “more and more of the ancient themes, styles, and symbols come to light in a land where for several hundred years, …there has been no traditional art”. Implicit here is his selfimage as a bringer of enlightenment to the African artist; it is McEwen who will bridge this gap of centuries to imbue the African artist with these “lost” attributes. (How McEwen himself managed to preserve this heritage—and without becoming ‘tainted’ with western European values—is puzzling). That there has been “no traditional art” for “several hundred years” is patently false. Furthermore, as a result of McEwen’s beneficence, “an umbrella of protection has allowed dormant genius to revive (ibid).” Again, the colonial concept of paternalistic helps to elevate the ‘naive native’. And then we have: “our chief project(s) was to promote an art movement in a land where heretofore no local traditional art was known to exist.” Here again one has the idea of the ‘white Father’ enlightening the ‘Ignorant Native’. 60


That he (McEwen) is the arbiter of talent, he acknowledges by the fact that “hundreds of would-be artists were screened for talent”. In other words, the master decides who does and who does not possess the requisite talent (which would seem to depend on whether or not the work is readily saleable in the Salisbury Gallery). Of course, over all this, there are the charitable “Mrs. Pearce and her daughters (ibid)”, obviously wealthy Rhodesian, and hence, by inference, white, who further patronized ‘native’ artists. In the end, and perhaps the most odious of his statements, is that: Happily it is still hard to separate, in Africa, the human faculties of the arts and of religion as a combined culture, within each person, not a separate whim or organized, commercialized pastime (25). That is, let us keep the African artist as he or she was—bound totally to the spirit worlds, from where he is to draw all inspiration and thematic material. Under no circumstances, should he develop in relation to what is taking place in the world around them. Thus, one does feel it is not so much that McEwen’s thesis is controversial (which it certainly is), but that it is his delivery and the basic philosophy behind that delivery that invites heated debate. He dictates what a contemporary African artist should produce while he, himself, remains oblivious (with conscious effort, it would seem) to fundamental changes taking place in African society. It is, in essence, a slap in the face to any one who is considered a contemporary artist, no matter what his or her artistic leanings or origins. That McEwen could be termed a proponent of “airport art” on a higher level seems readily evident, except, apparently, to McEwen himself. It is a difference of getting off a tourist-class flight with a few extra dollars in one’s pocket and a vague notion of acquiring some “African art,” and getting off a private Lear Jet with an American Express Card and very definite notions as to what is “hot” in the way of African art in New York city. Both McEwen and Mount have presented a distinctive contradiction in a Euro-American approach to contemporary African art, and displayed the opposing concepts of “airport art” and “academic art” in contemporary Africa. Frank McEwen is a founder of an art workshop and a museum curator. Marshall Mount is a researcher and a professor of art history. McEwen has literally cut the head off the practicing “airport” artist and neatly kept it in position. He has condemned academic art, while supporting the directions of his commercial art workshop. On the contrary, Mount has emphasized academic or western European art styles; but neglects the traditionally motivated African contemporary artist, while bemoaning the drain of African art. Frank McEwen is thus the anti-thesis of Marshall Mount, in fact, exactly on the obverse side of the same Euro-American expedient coin, whose inscriptions of propaganda (on both sides of the coin) may well read: “brow beat” and “skillfully maneuver.” Similar to a western European general approach in the appreciation of African traditional culture, the typical Euro-American scholar projects his own values in his own terms: who are you to think that you have an independent art style? The typical Euro-American scholar would interrogate the innocent African.

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Certainly, there are many western European writers whose views are different from those of Mount and McEwen, especially when dealing with cultural change, in contemporary African art. For example E.T. de Jager, has tried to establish that what is transpiring in contemporary African art is the logical and legitimate continuation of traditional African art, and as an adjunct proof to this, to define the evolution, rationale and apparent direction of contemporary African art, and to provide some insights into the thematic expression of this art. In addition, similar attempts are made by African writers in Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa, published by Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1995. Still, absolute western European technical facilities in the making of contemporary African art, ultimately we understand, are unreal fact. If contemporary African art is not empirically analyzable, if the cause-and-effect relations are not slanted, then Africans will be satisfied.

1.8 African Aesthetic Heritage: The preceding discussions on non-absolute western European facilities in the creation of contemporary African art are reliable. They will provide an appropriate setting for African aesthetic heritage that emerges to cover a considerable range of items of beauty and taste. To attempt to present its complete phases can lead to writing a treatise. One thing is however clear, that contemporary African artists of all categories draw inspirations from this pool of aesthetic heritage which has received three historical influences, namely, African, Arabic, and European. African aesthetic heritage has revealed itself as far back as the periods of prehistoric African art. Empirically, the development of its concepts has started from realistic28 art through representational, non-representational and epitomic to conceptual. To attempt to establish the exact transitional dates for each of these aesthetic concepts would prove an impossible task. Still, world events have shown that while Plato, Aristotle and others were formulating western European aesthetic theories, immortals of traditional African art—the incompletely anonymous heroic giants whose contributions are recognized all over the art world—were active in the development of Africa’s own aesthetic ideas. i. Realistic Art: Varying degrees of realistic art style occur in three types of African art: prehistoric, historic, and western European influenced art. Semi realistic art first started in the prehistoric art of north and southern Africa. Although there may have been other older art forms that truly deserve to be described as realistic art forms, yet only rock paintings and engravings that were unearthed where rock shelters have allowed their preservation have earned this distinction. They are therefore the arrowheads of African aesthetic heritage. So rich and meaningful in style that they are destined to become aesthetic treasure, passed along with pride from generation to generation. In this prehistoric art, semi realistic portrayal of animals is very apparent. Emphasis is centered on animals rather than human figures that are often depicted small in scale. The animals are individually incised on the smooth surface of rocks and are life-like because of their association with sympathetic

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magic (AT 7.1 and AT 7.2). The psychology of the prehistoric artist was to make these big game animals appear true to life so that the animals may have their potent effect and they could serve as visible targets for the hunter’s spear. Traces of ritual mutilation evident on many of these animal images assisted archaeologists and art historians to confirm their invaluable magical and ritual connotations. In addition, the pre-historic artist was extremely skilled in the portrayal of these animals and sometimes attempted to model the contour of these images. By smoothing the surface in areas, the artists managed to suggest a modeled surface. Thus, rather than being simply a line drawing, the work gives the effect of a relief sculpture. One notable example is (in Henri Lhote’s “Art of the Maghreb.” 110): an ox that was engraved into a rock surface. During the historic era, a superior level of objective realism was in evidence. Positive attempts at this realistic style came into sharp focus in the various archaeological excavations in Africa that reveal life-like works of art. From these innumerable art works, especially sculpted pieces, art historians were able to know that realism in African aesthetics is old. This is particularly true of the Egyptian, Nok and Ife cultures. According to the Brooklyn Museum (1960. 81): One of the major contributions of Egypt to Western civilization was the early development of sculpture on a human scale with human proportions. As far back as Dynasty IV [while observing that Dynasties I-X11 constitute The First Egyptian African Era and that the entire Egyptian pyramids known to man were built during the first 7 Dynasties], the body of man was rendered in hard stone as a true image of a living model, an achievement transmitted to the West by the Greeks some two thousand years later. Around 500 BC, the Egyptians—having been tempted for millennia to apply their great skill in sculpting bodies also to a realistic rendering of faces—developed a series of portraits of individuals, which once and for all firmly established a representational style of sculpture in the Nile Valley. Unlike sporadic similar ventures in times past, this style was to endure until the art of modeling in hard stone ceased to be practiced in Egypt. The terracotta Monkey figure (AT 8) and Jamma head (AT 9) of Nok culture present us with the continual attempts of the African artist at realism. They are radiocarbon dated between 900 BC and 200 AD. The Ife bronze (AT 10) and terracotta heads (AT 11) have also been dated from about the twelfth to the fifteenth century AD (Eyo 1977.52). There is an objective attempt made by their artists to create facial representations that look life-like and have a fleshy quality. One of these busts, which were used as effigies, represents the Oni (King) of Ife and the concept of ideal beauty associated with his divine power. By utilizing striation marks, which were significant in Ife court during the period, Ife artists have artistically created an effective play of light on the surface of these objects to make them appear visually weightless. Thus, the Ife works show the stark realism which makes it difficult to believe that they were actually done in Africa at such an early date, especially when seen in comparative survey of world history and art. After a time, this kind of realistic trend appeared to have died out and did not re-emerge in Africa until the colonial period, when academic art schools were introduced. At this time,

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western European aesthetic concepts played an important and influential role in African works of art. About seventy percent of European art, taught in schools, was realistic art of a maximum degree and emphasized such concepts as: the portrayal of true to life images on either two or three-dimensional surface, which were observed directly from models in nature; representation of optical illusion of space produced by linear and atmospheric perspective, particularly in painting; representation of the solidity of three-dimensional forms on a two-dimensional surface by incorporating a single light source and modeling of form; and Bible-inspired subject matter in which the settings and models remained essentially African (AT 12). In most cases, the western European art teachers led young Africans to believe that what their traditional forebears produced was not art (AT 13 and AT 14) and that western European ideals were the epitome of artistic perfection. Fortunately, this kind of teaching was not totally successful and so the western European academic art style did not succeed in replacing other contemporary African styles. ii. Representational Art: Representational style exists also in the prehistoric art of Africa primarily in the cave paintings. It is a form of subjective naturalism in which the perception of an object represents exactly the primary qualities of the object itself (AT 15). In other words, it is the practice of depicting an object in a recognizable manner, especially the portrayal of the surface characteristics of an object as they appear to the human eye. In African cave paintings, mostly cattle, the gracefulness of animals is observable and man’s portrayal is in view coexisting with them because of the domestication of the latter. The wall paintings from Tassili are fine examples of this style. The groups of cattle grazing (AT 16) are not depicted three dimensionally; but there is no doubt that the scenes actually show cattle feeding on grass. Notwithstanding the absence of three dimensions in their representation, these artists have exhibited a good understanding of form and structure. iii. Non-representational Art: In contrast, non-representational style appears most prominently in traditional African art influenced by Islam and other traditional African decorative arts (AT 17). Here the emphasis is on surface ornamentation. In terms of the Islamic influence, for example, much is derived from the Hadiths (the entire body of a traditional account of things said or done by Muhammed or his companions, often known as the traditions of the prophet). The Hadiths imply that there is to be no representation of images in religious art. Thus, art produced by Islamic artists utilizes abstract and geometric forms. In addition, much is also derived from calligraphy, the art of writing associated with the sacred Book of Koran (AT 18). One further example of the influence of Islam is the stylization of the hand of Fatimah, Muhammed’s daughter, which originates from the belief in the evil eye in all Mediterranean countries, as also in India, Persia, and probably many other parts of Asia, as in this explanation: The people of Morocco, in particular, ascribe magic efficacy to the look of the human eye. They believe that an evil wish, either secret or expressed in words, may be transferred by the eye to a person or a thing, and then becomes a fact. When a Moor suspects somebody of looking at him, or her, with an evil eye—and if he does not mind being rude—he stretches out the five fingers of his right hand towards the eyes of the other person and says, if he speaks Arabic, ‘hamsa’ ala 64


AT 7.1 Prehistoric Rock Art. Eland Buck Western Transvaal, South Africa. Photo- Courtesy of Transvaal Museum, Pretoria

‘ainek’, which means ‘Five in your eye.’ This gesture throws back on the other person the evil power, L-bas, which has emanated from his eye. This is the explanation, which the people themselves give of the hand as a charm against the evil eye (E. Westermarch, “The Magic Origin of Moorish Designs,” Journal of the Anthropological Institute. Vol. XXXIV, 1904.211-222). In Moroccan designs, the magic number five, the five fingers always associated with the hand of Fatimah, is used29. It consists of two lines intersecting each other at right angles, with a marked center (AT 19i). By joining the extremities of the two lines that form the cross, a new design has arisen, a square (AT 19ii), which is very common on Moroccan metal and woodwork, as also on embroidery. At times double crosses appear with a common center and when joined at the extremities form two squares (AT 19x). Further elaboration on this basic form produce a maze of designs as are found very common on Moroccan carpets, rugs, tapestry, wall papers, trays, china, and so forth. IV Epitomic Art: Epitomic style is an abridged surface design incision. It is a representative, as of some greater quality, that is typical of the whole design. Thus, epitomic works of art are frequently distinguishable by a glossing over of details or an abstraction of forms. The 65


AT 7.2 Prehistoric Rock Art. Crocodile, engraving, c.a. 8000 BC, North Africa. Photo- Courtese of National Geographic Magazine.

effect is like an impression of the subject, but not a detailed description of it. Stone works of Akwanshi (South Eastern Nigeria), Zimbabwe, and Darassa (AT 20), Southern Ethiopia, are best examples30. They most often consist of shaped and decorated large rocks that are in effect dressed boulders rather than figure carvings. Their surface decorations are profuse and carefully handled; they are always on the front of the stone and centered on the face, the breasts, and the navel. This is the case because the physical features portrayed generally include eyes, nose, mouth, a protuberant navel and a beard. The nose and mouth usually show a certain amount of sculptural modeling. The other features, however, that sometimes include ears, breasts, arms, hands, and various decorations, are usually incised into the stones rather than sculpted from them. The carved decorations usually terminate at the navel; and the genitalia are never illustrated. One example from the historic era is identifiable in the Akwanshi figure (AT 21). It shows a vague or summary suggestion of a human form. The basic elements are present, but it is not exactly a representation of a human being. In the prehistoric art, also, epitomic style occurs in both cave paintings and rock engravings that depict schematic human forms. Here planned diagrammatic compositions of human beings provide superior options to both realistic and representational forms. V. Conceptual Art: Developed through the historic epoch of African art, conceptual style can be seen in the majority of traditional African works of art.31 It is characterized by the representation of abstract or spiritual concepts. Objects such as masks were extremely 66


important in traditional Africa (AT 22). These masks were fashioned to represent spirit forms and, since a spirit has no definite shape, any form in which it is fashioned must necessarily be conceptual. The correlation between the concept of masks and the concept of ancestral figures, in traditional African art, brings out the best art of the latter item involved. Here an ancestral figure (AT 23) is portrayed, as always, as a thing without the quality of being true to life. Besides, the conventional meanings attached to African traditional sculpture are such that a human representation, as an icon, are expected to reflect ultimate essences of the ancestors and so reciprocally demands frontal contemplation from the audience. With this kind of convention, therefore, one anticipates a figure frontally disposed with a center for divine dispensation. This center then takes on a sacred quality and becomes ideal. Therefore, to be central to the figure is to be in union with the divine and to be consecrated. Thus, verticality, symmetry, cylinder, proportion and frontality, I believe, are what one ought to expect when viewing traditional African sculpture. They are therefore visionary rather than practical in their representations, remarkably also the human head: Because the head is a sum total of physical, mental, emotional and social characteristics of a person in African thought, it must be mathematically commensurate in such a way (one-third or one-fourth head to body measurement) as to express the division of a whole as well as a multiplication of its unit in a human proportion32 Thus, what is entailed in African aesthetic heritage is that it started from the prehistoric times (c. 8000 BC);33 and, it is clear, that African aesthetic concepts of realistic, representational, nonrepresentational, epitomic and conceptual art are in complete evidence in the preceding discussions. Contemporary African artist could therefore use these aesthetic concepts, individually or in combinations, whenever they best suit their purpose. It is therefore incorrect for anyone to assume that Africa has no aesthetic concepts of her own or that her aesthetic concepts are entirely due to external pressure: That is what the African must remember or the typical Western culture diffuser must avoid,� the African purist would likely interject. 1 Change presents challenge, and challenge may be called opportunity turned inside out. It, therefore, provides opportunity for growth that is actually an occasion for creativity. 2 In examining traditional African religion, Mbiti approaches the subject matter with a mixture of African and western European perspectives; Horton, Idoniboye, and Onyewuenyi advance the matter from an African philosophical point of view; and MacGaffey verges upon it from a western European anthropological and sociological viewpoint. Out of these authors, MacGaffey and Mbiti take broad looks at the totality of concepts in traditional African religion, while the other three examine only some aspects of the religion. Mbiti, Idoniboye and Onyewuenyi, being African scholars, have personal experiences in traditional African religion that give them unique insights into the topic. Mbiti is also able to convey the similarity in traditional African religious concepts across the continent better than any of the

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other authors. Although he does come close to reaching the conclusion in several places in his book, the primary draw back of Mbiti’s book is that he failed to recognize the cycle of life that is very essential to traditional African religion, especially of the pre-colonial era. Still, MacGaffey is also able to draw on the work of Fu-Kian to provide similar insights. However, Macgaffey appears to rely very heavily on the work of Fu-Kian, to the extent that one could question whether the Kongo scholar and MacGaffey should not have been named coauthors of this book. 3 For a more detailed account of these movement see African History by Philip Curtin, Steven Freier, A. Leonard Thompson, and Jan Vansina, Longman Group LTD, London and New York, 1991, especially Chapter 3: “Africa North of the Forest in Early Islamic Age”; and Chapter 5: “Political culture and Political Economy in Early East Africa”. 4 “The Beginnings of Hausa Society, AD 1000-1500” (Smith, 1964) gives a good account of Hausa activities especially as agents of Mohammedanism in tropical Africa. 5 In early 1920’s, the question of diffusion entered so largely into western writings in their attempts to understand the dynamics of African culture and civilization. The existing literature on the subject was already, by mid 1930’s, formidable in quantity: Arnett (1922), Pitt-Rivers (1927), Malinowski (1929), F. Krause (1932), Westermann (1934) and G. Wagner (1936). In particular, to give a silhouette of cultural relationships Meek (1931) attempts to see the position of Fulani as agents of Muhammedanism in a Sudanese Kingdom of West Africa. Still, there was much more literature to follow. However, many of them have one thing in common: they easily degenerate into a haphazard narration of changes without recognition of their nature, intensity, and interrelationships. 6 Islam in Tropical Africa (Lewis, 1966) is an important collection of studies several of which deal with the History of Islam in West Africa. Besides, the Encyclopedia of Islam contains a mass of valuable historical material, with articles by leading scholars on the countries and peoples of the Muslim world, on the main towns on the dynasties of the countries of North Africa, together with biographies of many important men in Muslim history. 7 The seventh century A.D. invasion of North Africa was one of the series of great migrations of Arabs from the Arabian Desert. Mainly the Bedouin, the Arab invaders were made up of pastoralists, merchants and mercenaries, all strongly unified by the belief and religion of Mohammed, as stated in the Holy Koran: “La ilaha, illa ilah, muhammadu rasulu’ ilahi” that translates in English as “There is no god, but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God.” 8 There are two excellent introductory works on the geography and history of North Africa: Despois (1964) and Julien (1956). The latest editions should be consulted. Both books contain comprehensive bibliographies. McBurney (1960) is the best introduction in English to the history of North Africa. Gsell (1913-28) is one of the finest works of French historical scholarship produced in this century. It covers the history of the Maghrib (Arabic name for the countries of N.W. Africa: Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) up to the end of the first

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century B.C.; it should be supplemented by the results of recent research, details of which are given in the bibliography to the first volume of Julien’s (1956). Courtois (1955) is also one of the most important works on North African history. It is concerned with the position of the indigenous Berber people during the centuries of Roman rule. On the Byzantine period in North African history Diehl (first published in 1896) is still the outstanding work. Finally, of the history of the Muslim states of Maghrib, the second volume of Julien (1956) contains the most comprehensive account. 9 This date is based on archaeological excavations conducted by Peter Garlake and published in The Early Islamic Architecture of the East African Coast, Oxford University Press, London, 1966. 10 North Africa is a meting pot of cultures. Ever since the days when Mediterranean was the centralized point of the big world powers, North Africa has enjoyed a prime position of importance due to its strategic location. Lying on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, North Africa was the focus of Mediterranean trade. As a commercial region, traders from all over the region settled there. During the period of the Roman Empire North Africa was an important center in the empire. In fact, Alexandria in Egypt was the center of government during the reign of Alexander. In the seventh century, with the advent of the Islamic religion, the Arabs descended upon North Africa and imposed their culture upon the area to a larger extent than any other group had done previously or was to do later. 11 Among the most important works on this subject are Beetham (1967) and Hastings (1967). Both deal with Christian Churches and Missionary activities in modern Africa. 12 For a detailed discussion on traditional African Religion and its relation to Christianity and Islam, the standard work is Mbiti (1970). It contains excellent assessments of modern scholars on the subject. 13 Consult S. Triminingham, Islam In Ethiopia. Oxford/London, 1952, p. 28. 14 Werner Gillon, 1984, pp. 232-234; also consult Labelle Prussian, 1968, pp. 218-219 and David, Heathcote, 1976, pp. 53-55. 15 Basil Davidson, 1966, 1971, p. 142. 16 Rene A. Bravmann, 1983, pp. 42-45, 64-69. 17 Rene A. Bravmann in Islam and Tribal Art in West Africa, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1974, describes the relationship between Islam and many different masquerades in the Ivory Coast and Central West Ghana. Bravmann also describes the relationship between masquerades and Islam in other regions in Africa as delineated in African Islam, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 1983. 18 Nicene Creed pertains to Nicaea. It is a formal statement of the chief tenants of Christian belief from the Council of Nicaea, the first in A.D. 325 to deal with Arian heresy and the second in A.D. 787 to consider the question of veneration of images.

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The first Council of Nicaea (325), the foremost ecumenical council held by the Christian church, is best known for its formation of the Nicene Creed, the earliest authoritative statement of belief in Christian tradition. The council was convened in an attempt to settle the dispute raised by Arius over the nature of Trinity. Nearly all those who were present came from the eastern Mediterranean region. It was the decision of the council, as contained in the Nicene Creed, that God the father and God the son were of one and the same substance (consubstantial) and existing with one another eternally (coeternal) and that the Arian belief in a Christ created by and thus inferior to the father was heretical. Arius himself was shrewdly excommunicated and banished. The council was also important for its disciplinary decisions concerning the status and jurisdiction of the clergy in the early church and for establishing the date on which Easter (the resurrection of Jesus Christ) is celebrated. 19 On the history of Separatist churches in Africa, see Mbiti (1970). 20 According to Henry Lhote: “The oldest engravings in which the bubalus, elephants, rhinoceros and hippopotamus are represented are remarkably naturalistic; the elaborate care given to detail reflects a highly-developed sense and admirable knowledge of the animal depicted. No doubt hunting was the main occupation of those who were able to produce engravings of this quality; the chase, the ambush, and the setting of traps heightened their sense of observation…” (The Art of The Stone Age, by Hans-Georg Bandi, Henri Breuil, Lilo Berger-Kickchner, Henry Lhote, Erik Holm, and Adreeas Lommel, Cowns Publishers, Inc., New York, 1961, p. 111). 21 For a recent survey of Nok and Ife art consult Eyo (1977). Details of the arts and their relation to Nigeria antiquity are also faithfully explored. 22 Currently, there are many works in print relating to the subject of traditional African art. They can be classified, according to their methodology, into three categories: geographical, topical and historical, with the geographic approach as the earliest and weakest and is increasingly becoming a skeleton in the closet. Of all the works, Laude (1971) and Trowell (1954) deserve special attention. Both works are topical although Laude aims to synthesize the arts of traditional Africa. His approach, although heavily historical, also shifts into the topical category. His first chapter “Africa Lost and Regained” is historical in treatment as is chapter II, which deals with a general history of Africa’s cultures. Chapters III-VI (the main focus of the book) are both historically and topically considered. He deals with such topics as (A) the Black Artist, (B) African Society, (C) Masks, (D) Statuary. Chapter VII reverts back to the totally historical approach: “From Myth to History”. And, chapter VII concludes by stressing the situational link between art and society. One weakness of Laude’s work, as common to all works extant on the subject, is that it shifts around so much in its approach. This provides a somewhat lack of coherence in writing style as well as disorganization throughout. Also, he uses no footnoting and documentation is weak. The bibliography is useful for those who read German and/or French. On the other hand, his photographs display a good range, but they are often too small for detailed comprehension. However,

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despite the inherent weaknesses, Laude’s study is both interesting and worthwhile. It is a necessary reference in the subject of traditional African art and the Comparative Survey of World History and Art included in the concluding section is an incredible piece of research. As stated earlier, many writers on traditional African art use different approaches. Although most of them relate the art to its religious context, others have not developed sufficient theories by which to deal with this art form in terms of style. Trowell (1954) is one exception. In this work, she divides art into three main categories or styles: 1) Spirit-Regarding Art, 2) Man-regarding Art and 3) Art of Ritual Display. Spirit-Regarding Art refers to art dealing with spiritual force that is used as assistance in the life of the living members of the community. Man-Regarding Art alludes to art that has secular significance and embellishes the life of its patron, usually the King. Finally Art of Ritual Display is an attempt to link Spirit-Regarding Art and Man-regarding Art. In other words, it connects the eternal with the temporal. Spirit-Regard is associated with the preparation of the object. Trowell’s categories represent a pioneer work. She recognizes the need to study traditional African art in a systematic manner. Of the three categories, Man-Regarding Art is the most defined; the definition of the other two categories is somewhat ambivalent. Her work has however other shortcoming. She fails to mention many important objects that can be associated with her categories. For example, for the Art of Ritual Display, she could have included the costumes of masqueraders, armlet and pendants worn by the participants of the ritual, decorative calabashes used in ritual libation, statues which are placed or don the heads of dancers such as Ibeji figure, fans, rattles, and musical instruments associated with the ritual performance. In terms of Man-Regarding Art, she does not include art objects connected with the Queen Mother, objects associated with other members of the courts besides the King, art objects from the many different Kingship areas such as the regalia, for the King’s horse of the symbolic color of his costume found among the Mossi Kings, other artistic objects associated with the King such as Kasai velvet of Bakuba— introduced and developed during the reign of King Shamba Bolongongo (1600-1620), or official courtly objects such as the decorative swords and banners. In addition, some art objects are difficult to classify according to her categories. For example, the Igbo Mbari House is linked to ritual activities of annual festival, which places it among the Art of Ritual Display. Simultaneously, the creation of this House is associated with the earth goddess, Ala, which would place this structure in the category of Spirit-Regarding Art. Other objects such as the Akua’ba figure from Ghana is a charm that has a socio-psychological aspect (a new category, developed by the present writer, which is in the process of publication); it is extremely difficult to place this art form into any of Trowell’s categories. Criticisms of Trowell’s categories are also present in Eyo (1977, pp. 24-26). In this work Eyo denounces Trowell’s categories for their evolutionary overtones. He feels that her categories attempt to show an evolution in traditional African Art from the abstract nature of Spirit-Regarding Art to the more naturalistic nature of Man-Regarding Art. Such an attempt to show this type of stylistic development in traditional African art is detrimental because it suggests a comparison with the development of classical European art.

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Besides, much of traditional African art is difficult to date, pointing out one of the central problems in any attempt to completely study the art chronologically. Nevertheless, traditional African art tends to progress from naturalism to abstraction rather than in reverse (Rock Art of North Africa and South Africa are good examples in point). Thus, this criticism of Eyo relates to another problem in the work of Trowell. She deals with traditional African art solely in terms of its formal aspects and does not make a relationship between it and other cultural elements. In short, she does not deal with traditional African art within its cultural context. In terms of the illustrations she used in the book, the works tend to embellish the text rather than act as reinforcement to the text. Although there are some shortcomings in Trowell’s book, at the time of its appearance in 1954, it was an important improvement on the few French and German volumes on traditional African art. The latter works were ponderous and somewhat incomprehensible when translated. Trowell’s work, complied from class lectures at the Makerere University and data collected from various museums, is important for its seminal systematic framework and its attempt to understand traditional African art. 23 In setting out to master their own continent, Africans made a first and crucial contribution to the growth of mankind. Most physical anthropologists seem to have accepted that vital evolutionary steps, which led from near-men towards true men, were taken in Africa: in some recent words of Leakey’s that it was “the African continent which saw the emergence of the basic stock which eventually gave rise to the apes, as well as to man as we know him today”, and where “the main branch which was to end up as man broke away from these leading to apes.” Not all experts would yet agree with Leakey’s third claim for Africa’s primacy in the production of man: that “it was also in Africa that true man separated from his man-like (and now extinct) cousins, the australopithecine or ‘near-man’ of two million years ago.” But even if Africa was not in this direct sense the immediate birthplace of Homo sapiens, there is now a wide consensus for the view, as Posnansky puts it, “that Africa was in some respects the center of the Stone Age world.” One may reasonably suppose that Africans drew upon a “common fund” of Stone Age thought that was available to other ancient peoples. Yet it needs to be remembered that most of Africa was in relatively great isolation over a long period, and especially after the desiccation of the Sahara has set in seriously around 2000 B.C. This means that the great formative time of Early Iron Age growth and spread occurred when the channels of effective communication with the outside world were long since cut or much reduced. These peoples had therefore to evolve out of their own energy and genius, applying whatever they conserved of the antique fund of Stone Age thought to situations that were new and were specific. The manner of their doing so is the cultural history of Africa. For this reason, therefore, the Rock art of Sahara, which was developed approximately 6000 years (c. 8000 B.C.) before the desiccation of the Sahara, serves as one of the earliest visual evidence of African cultural history. Also, this period of Rock art seems therefore to correspond to or earlier than Natufian culture in Syria and Palestine, a culture of Mesolithic hunters, fishermen and food-gathers of approximately 8000-6000 B.C.

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24 For the two extremes in which art schools were organized by early Europeans in Africa see Summary: Chapter II, item 9. It contains precisely the nature of European art education in Africa and the specific periods of time when it took place. 25 The present writer is not alone in this assessment. Smith Smithson, Virginia Quarterly Review, in commenting on Bascom and Herskovits’ Continuity and Change in African Cultures (1959) states that it: “Presents a sweep of generalization of the acculturative process in Africa…” This statement is contained on front-back cover of the same book. This work therefore falls within the scope or quality of diffusionist’s writing of the early 1920’s (see Note 5). 26 The discussion of Animism as relevant to traditional Africa can be seen in Odita (1971: Introduction). It contains a comprehensive analysis of its essence, as embodied in the works of African traditional art, and contrasts with other world art. 27 So complex was the situation arising from European and other contacts with African institutions, and so diverse were the local problems, that a methodology was required as a guide to field workers who felt confused with the play of social, religious, and economic factors, and hardly knew where to begin the analysis. This was the situation in African Anthropology of the 1930’s which was seen only in terms of Africans and Europeans not Africans and Arabians, and not Africans and Africans. A definition of terms shows that “acculturation comprehends those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different culture come into direct and continuous contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups.” “Culture change” is a broader term including the process of acculturation, assimilation, and diffusion of traits the relationships of which processes are not constant, but, on the contrary, are highly variable. The results of acculturation are often discussed under the headings of acceptance, adaptation, and reaction. 28 Before the invention of Camera in the 17th century, the term “realism” may be accurate in association with art style. But after that time the term “naturalism” appears, more appropriately, to take its place in serious usage. However, I have chosen to retain the word here and other places, in italics, until I deal with it analytically under Soyan Art. 29 For the evolution of magic number five, as related to Fatima’s five fingers, a reference to Westermarck (1904) is in good judgment 30 The most important study of stone works in Africa is still Allison (1968). It contains most detailed accounts of the knowledge possessed by anthropologists of the nature of stone works in Africa. 31 In Segy (1975), much phenomenological approach is brought forward to explain the conceptual nature of traditional African sculpted works of art. An excellent analysis of form, from the artistic perspective, appears on the subject with references to many standard art works. However, like Trowell (1970), he has problems relating form to function and rarely puts form in its context. And, different ideas are presented without linking them together 73


which are mainly in topical approach. 32 For further detail ref. E. Okechukwu Odita “African Sculpted Figures: Their Mathematical Secrets�, Limits and Extents of International Research in Art Education, USSEA, December 1977A, p. 28. 33A point of intense controversy concerns the art of Spain and purported impact on African rock art. While a majority of writers hypothesized that Spanish rock art was older than North African rock art, thereby, accounting for Spanish influences on the art of Africa Frank Willet states: It no longer seem likely that all these manifestations of rock paintings and engravings in Europe and Africa are to be considered either contemporaneous or even necessarily to represent a cultural continuum stretching from eastern Spain to the Cape; nor is there any evidence that the art was spread from Europe southwards across Africa (Willet, 1971, p. 59).

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Chronological Order Of Art Events

chapter two

2.1 Major Role Call (1880-2003): This chapter does not claim to investigate all the names and art institutions that serve as the environment for contemporary African art. Rather it attempts to treat pivotal names and art institutions in a chronological order in various parts of the African continent. Where possible, late artists and defunct institutions are identified; but it is advisable that enthusiastic researchers in the field should consult other sources for more dates and information beyond what this book can offer. We review events in their order of occurrence because that is central in the study of the history of art. Taken collectively, all the events we have covered furnish the foundation of facts of datable history, which are examined in light of recorded accounts. First of all, it would seem that the events presented are not logically connected; but on the contrary, as the exploration of the topic unfolds, the interrelatedness of the facts will be known. Besides, the subjects we touch on merely represent different angles from which historical facts are considered, and their synthesis will emerge in the summary at the end of the chapter. For this reason, this chapter, which is devoted to the examination of historical evidence, is presented in the following order: artists, art educators, art institutions, and art societies. Artists and art educators of distinction are discussed in terms of their contributions; and art institutions and art societies are discussed in terms of their offerings. And that is why the chapter concentrates on the nature of a contribution towards a result, and the location, inception date, founder (if available), philosophy, ideology and objectives in their chronological and sequential order. However, because of inadequate sources of vital information, the historical account of the names and development of art institutions are not examined beyond 2003.34 Frequently, the development of contemporary African art in various parts of Africa is understood when viewed against any compelling events that affected Africa as a whole. Following the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, Africa was politically partitioned among European powers of the period; and she was never the same again. The colonial policies as they impacted African culture in general should be elaborated upon a bit. Some Africans were exposed to western ideologies of which education is here more relevant. Those who came directly under the acculturation of western education viewed a considerable portion of traditional African art as “fetish,�35 judged by western standards, of course. Others, and quite a number, who have somewhat been exposed to this doctrine began to define a new position for African artists,36 with a view to gaining recognition for them on the international level. It is within this context, and to counter the Eurocentric view of African art, that many Africans evolved as pioneers in contemporary African art.

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2.2 1880 Ibrayima Njoya, Cameroon: Ibrayima Njoya was born in Cameroon, which became French-speaking shortly after World War I. He grew up in an Islamic environment in Bamum Kingdom, whose capital, Foumban, later became a center of Islamic culture. The famous Sultan Njoya37, King of Bamum, gathered there a group of important Koranic scholars and artists until Foumban became the center of learning and art of the time, and it is in these surroundings that Ibrayima Njoya received his education. Later, after years of practice, he undertook several art commissions that came his way through his cousin Sultan Njoya. He traveled widely in Bamum and acquired much respect and more confidence as an artist. In 1908, the Sultan named him the principal of a newly established school at Foumbam, in which Koran, mathematics and other primary subjects were taught. In 1918, after a successful career as a teacher and artist, Sultan Njoya appointed him the Director of Construction of the Monumental Palace in Foumban. By 1920, the National Museum of Bamum, whose aim was to protect and preserve the traditional arts of Bamum, was established and Njoya was commissioned, together with another Foumban artist, Ibrayima Tobabohou, to produce original paintings for the Museum. Njoya painted thirty-five works and Tibabohou produced a few others. With a group of many talented artists, Njoya exhibited his paintings in 1927 and won first Prize. Currently, his works are in the permanent collection of Museum of Foumban and Douche as well as in European and American private collections. Njoya’s most important art works are Sultan Njoya Teaches38 First Letters of His Alphabet to Nobles that shows two rows of seated figures copying Bamun alphabets on wood tablets (MRC 24), and The Battle that depicts relatively flat figures that are crowded together in a landscape. Ibrayima Njoya differs from other Foumban artists in the organization and originality of his works and is, on that account, among the first artists who departed from strict Koran

MRC 24 Njoya 1880, pen and ink, Cameroon. Courtesy of Marshall Mount

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tradition. The Koran disavows the representations of images in religious art. The interest in representational art, introduced into the art of Bamum at this time, may therefore be traced, in part, to this conscious attempt by Ibrayima Njoya to make available, through his work, the artistic achievements of Foumban. For this, his work remains the principal source of our knowledge of Foumban art.

2.3 1882 Aina Onabolu, Nigeria: Two years before the Berlin Conference and two years after the birth of Njoya, Aina Onabolu, who later was enthroned and crowned as a Chief, was born on September 13 in Ijebu Ode of the present Osun State of Nigeria. As the son of Christian parents, he went to a church mission school. In 1900, Onabolu began working in the Marine Department as a “signalman,” which means he recorded and measured tide and boat movements in the habor. During his free time, he continued to teach himself how to paint. By 1902, his work was becoming more known and admired in his Lagos community. Thereafter, he was commissioned to paint the portraits of two colonial officers, Mr. Lawson and J.C. Vaughan. In 1903, he painted a landscape of a property owned by the director of the Public Works Department. So amazed by Onabolu’s talent, the director showed the painting to Governor William Macgregor, in Lagos, who was also very impressed. Macgregor promised to award Onabolu a scholarship to study in Europe. As misfortune may have it, Macgregor was transferred to Newfoundland before he was able to follow through on his promise. To make up for the broken promise, the subsequent Governor offered Onabolu some new watercolors and he continued to teach himself how to paint. His major themes were landscape and portraiture. Without any in-depth academic training in art, he felt the need to secure a salaried job to survive, while sustaining avid interest in painting. Onabolu then entered the clerical service in the Lagos Customs Office in 1905, but painted on commission in his free time. In 1910, he displayed his work in a booth at an agriculture show. He won a prize for his work and was offered a scholarship to study in Europe: however, he declined it for unknown reason. In 1920, he resigned from this ‘’bread and butter” job to pursue a full time career as an artist. In April of the same year, he held his first one-man painting exhibition in Lagos, which his audience and critics claimed as one of the best in West Africa. In June 1920, he went to England to study painting at St. John’s Wood Art School. At the time, many Europeans believed that Africans were only capable of producing “craft” art, which was considered to be of less conceptual and “fine” quality than the Western art style of realism. Evident in many newspaper articles about African art, this prejudice came alive in the Evening Standard of London, as early as 1920, when it declared: It would be better to foster and develop the handicrafts for which they [Africans] show a marked aptitude rather than endeavor to transplant and acclimatize a type of art [realism] that is utterly alien to the native tradition.

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Acting as a true British patriot, the deputy director of education in Nigeria, Mr. F. H. Harward also echoed: It has long been conclusively proved that the African cannot only hold his own, but also can achieve eminence in almost all the various walks of life literary, ecclesiastical, legal, medical, musical, business, etc. But it has generally been accepted that there is one barrier he cannot surmount, one door he is unable to open; that in the sphere of art he is not capable of reaching even a moderate degree of proficiency. The preceding appears not to be the end of the strain. In The Star of London, 1921, the following was written: Apparently there is a primitive art in Lagos… The only fine art is woodcarving in high relief’. These were precisely the kinds of prejudice that Onabolu faced that made him determined to prove the skeptics wrong. However, when Onabolu was satisfied with his training at St. John’s Wood Art School, he traveled to Paris and studied art in Julian Academy where he received a certificate of proficiency in Oil Painting and Fine Art. With this training, he returned to Lagos Nigeria, in 1922. On his return, he took up teaching. He taught art in Lagos secondary schools, as an itinerant instructor, particularly at the King’s College, Saint Gregory’s College, Baptist College, Igbobi High School, and Methodist Boy’s High School, where he remained until his death in 1963; three days after attending the present writer’s first solo art exhibition at AMSAC (American Society for Art and Culture), Lagos. I can still recall his voice as he advised me on the “dos and donts” of a beginning professional painter. Certainly, he had the ability to project a sense of ease and I felt a presence with him in that exhibition room. The schools in which Onabolu taught as already observed were many. Thus, after devoting seven years of his life to teaching art in Lagos schools, he however realized that he alone could not account for a mass academic art education in Lagos, much less for the whole of Nigeria. He believed in the use of persuasion in handling matters in various sectors of the Nigerian Colonial Government, using tact and pressure wherever he saw the opportunity. Convincing the Nigerian Colonial Government to recognize the teaching of art in Nigerian schools, he justified his recruitment campaign for expatriate art teachers. Thus, he was able to influence the recruitment of Kenneth C. Murray from England, in 1927, as the first expatriate teacher of art in Nigeria. Murray was later to teach art courses at Umuahia Government College of then Eastern Nigeria and subsequently laid the foundation that preceded the establishment of the Nigerian Museum of Antiquities. Onabolu’s famous works are portraits of many eminent Nigerians (MRC 25) and Colonial Officers. Among these are: Mrs. Spencer Savage (1906), a wasp-waisted lady dressed in European fashion of the period, Captain Hughes, Right Rev. Bishop Melville Jones, Dr. Scott Patterson, Mr. Omololu, Sir Harry, Right Rev. O. Oluwole (1925) which shows a seated church patriarch with his right hand on a Christian Bible, Dr. Oguntala Sapara, Mr. Hyde and Mr. F. H. Harward. 80


MRC 25 Aina Onabolu. Painting an eminent Nigerian. Harmon Foundation Collection

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His most important contribution is the introduction of academic art in Nigerian education, for he is the first documented example of an academic official, a type that existed until 1963. Even though attempting to follow strictly the laws of academic school, Onabolu expressed his own taste (see chapter six), and thus clarified a style valuable for the study of Soyan Art. It is too late to insist, but a commemorative inscription suitable for his tomb must read: “The Greatest Nigerian Pioneer of Academic Art and Art Education.”40

2.4 1888 Cuttington College, Liberia: Private institutions have shown the most concern for the promotion of contemporary African art in Africa. In 1888, Cuttington College started as a missionary outpost of the American Protestant Episcopal Church that proudly maintained its sponsorship under the National Council for many years. The institution suffered some years of drawbacks in the wake of World War I and World War II, but sprang back with new vitality in 1948. Art, in the form of picture, which was entirely a new concept to the students, was as a subject offered. In teaching this art, Cuttington College instructors used the principles and elements of design, linear and aerial perspective, and color theory. The students were encouraged and taught, first, by American teachers like Miss Cecily Delafield and later by Liberians.

2.5 1891 Mahmound Moukhtar, Egypt: In 1913, the first School of Fine Arts was in Cairo established. The “plastic” arts had undergone a long eclipse following a rigid interpretation of the Islamic religion that calls for a ban against realistic representation of the human figure. This was probably a reaction to the polytheistic religions which represented the divinities in the most bizarre forms, and probably also not to transgress upon the work of the Creator. Today, we see the sheik d’Al Azhar, the highest authority in the Islamic religion, proclaiming the representation of nature and of the creatures of Allah to be a homage paid to beauty, which is one of the attributes of God. This is a long way from the prohibitions of too zealous theologians. The long Turkish domination and systematic exploitation of Egypt by Koran injunctions has not made an artistic renaissance in Egypt any easier. However, for approximately half of the 20th century, the first generation of artists had started to study at the School of Fine Arts, of whom Moukhtar was one. Mahmound Moukhtar was probably born in 1891 and trained as a sculptor at the School of Fine Arts. He was therefore the first sculptor who boldly took up the chisel that fell from the withered hands of the last Pharonic sculptors. He created charming forms, recalling the grandeur and simplicity of the antique sculptures. His art has been like a mirror that faithfully reflected the national renaissance (MRC 26). For sure, Egypt has been the sweet plain that the Nile vigorously embraces and protects from the scorching of heat. On its banks, a rich blossoming of tall gracious priestesses, slender and peaceful animals, all forms under the ardent rays of the sun are simplified. The rhythm of life is especially harmonious, up to the point where one reaches the mountains of Aswan. Here, nature shows a shy visage. The Mediterranean winds no longer make them-selves felt. Egypt is

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MRC 26 Moukhtar. Seated Female Figure, limestone, 1929, Egypt. Private Collection

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at a threshold of Lake Nasser. During the seasons, the atmosphere is frequently clear. The prevailing climatic temperature, up to the point where the Khamsin wind blows across the sandy desert, makes an Egyptian think of the burlesque and tragic cavalcade, with the ferocious rider and the jolly horse. This characteristic image of Egypt is evident in the art of Moukhtar. In the midst of his icon procession of fellahas, of his works with calm and pure lines, an unexpected type of works emerges: the Khamsin Winds (MRC 27), the Chef Bicharine and Le Fille de Shellal (MRC 28). From a technical point of view, the work of Moukhtar reflects all the epochs of Egyptian history. Here, we see the essence of Pharonic history, the traces of Hellenistic art, the influences of western art school and the apparition of the heroic individual. They mark the rupture of a tired ancient life in the traditional frame works of national character, teachings

MRC 27 Moukhtar Kamsin Winds. limestone, 1929, Egypt, Private Collection

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MRC 28 Mahound Moukhtar. Le Fillle de Shellal (Fillal Lifting A Jog), Limestone, 1929, Egypt

and ideological evolution.

2.6 1898 H.I. Erhabor, Nigeria: H.I. Erhabor was born at Oleten Village, Benin-Nigeria, in about 1898. According to him, “The date of my birth is not certain, as it was not recorded. But events happening at the time of birth point strongly at 1898 as the year I was born…(Letter to Evelyn Brown: May 3, 196141).” He did not attend any academic art school like Onabolu, but was well qualified in the formal traditional Benin manner. Of Papa Erhabor’s nine children, one, Stephen A. Erhabor, is an artist and a sculptor like his father. Because Papa Erhabor can neither read nor write in English, the following account, below, was prepared in the form of a letter to Evelyn Brown (Ibid.) by his son M.I. Erhabor in 1961. At the time, he was working in the Electrical Engineering Department, Technical Institute Yaba Lagos, Nigeria. From the narrative cited bellow, one can learn about Erhabor’s indigenous art training in the Palace of Oba (King) of Benin, his position as a royal artist, his success as a professional artist, his commissioned art works, his part-time teaching, his fame and his contemporaries. Even now, based on his art training, it is believable why many of Papa Erhabor’s extant works show the Sankofa style: I started carving as a kid, carving hard coconut shells, when I was an “Omada” at the Oba (King) of Benin’s Palace. An “OMADA” is what you call a royal boy in waiting. I was the only one of a large

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class of artists appointed by the “Oba” to wait on him. The present “Oba” of Benin likewise kept Omadas… Still, in my days, an Omada was highly respected and was entitled to some privileges, because he belonged to the royal palace. His relatives enjoyed certain priority, because of this privilege. In fact, an Omada was an equivalent of a university student in those days. As an Omada, you came across the best of the royal artists in Benin Kingdom. It was from them that I perfected my art profession. (An Omada normally started at the age of about 7 years. He stayed in the Oba’s palace until grown and old enough to earn a living for himself). By the time I was old enough to leave, I had become popular among the royal artists as a promising sculptor. For this reason, the Oba was anxious to retain me and I remained in the palace, not as an Omada at this time, but as an employed royal artist—an envied position in my time. At the palace, I proved my worth, for, after 2 years, I was in charge of the royal artists. I did many panel-relief works for the Oba’s palace. Soon after, I left Oba’s employment and started practicing as an independent professional sculptor. Though I enjoyed some success selling sculpted works of past heroes, I still was not satisfied, and, following a hint from a fellow sculptor, I left Benin in 1927 for Lagos, the Capital of Nigeria. I completed many panel-relief pieces and free standing sculpted works and quickly came to public notice. I got contracts from important individuals, firms, churches and other private establishments. I had to work round the clock to meet customers’ demands, literally pounding at an immense pace. At daytime, I taught art in 5 schools, as a part-time teacher: Christ Church Cathedral School, Lagos; Holy Cross Catholic School, Lagos; St. John’s School, Aroloya, Lagos; St. Paul School, ‘’Breadfruit” Lagos; and Government Technical Institute Lagos. Not very long after my arrival at Lagos, I gained Nigerian Government scholarship to study art in England, along with other two prominent Nigerian artists. The scholarship was withdrawn because I could not read or write. That was a sad blow as I had been cherishing a private dream that one day I will be able to go abroad, train and establish fame. Still, I enjoyed enormous success here in Lagos, and with the Nigerian Government’s help, I was able to hold a series of successful exhibitions. My sculpted pieces sold to tourists who took them home, when they left Nigeria. I received many commissions from overseas. I employed a few assistants to prepare for the Nigerian Festival of Arts. The aim of this art festival was to discover new talents in art and to stimulate the artistic interest of the people. To this effect, prizes were awarded to best efforts. The awards ranged from gold medal to some times silver medal, but rarely certificate awards. I was frequently featured in our local magazine Nigeria, annually printed by the Nigerian Government. It essentially revealed Nigeria to tourists and foreign immigrants. Art news was included in this magazine. Since coming to public notice, I have completed many works for the Nigerian Government and many of them are today in such places as the Federal Parliament, High Courts and other Government buildings. Moreover, my works are in the Nigerian Museum; and many of them displayed for public viewing at the Nigerian Exhibition that was established as part of the Independence Celebration last October. Under Sir James Robertson, the former Governor General of Nigerian Federation, I was commissioned in 1956 by the Federal Government to creatively construct a cabinet. It was a gift to Queen Elizabeth II in the same year, during

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her official tour of Nigeria. I have worked with most of Nigeria’s best artists like Ben Enwonwu, Felix Idubor and Akinola Lasekan. My art pieces are considered by visiting artists and celebrity as original and true to life. My art works, essentially, may not be describable as a true example of modern art. Due to the background I had in art, I sculpted relics of the past. I sculpted distinguished personalities, war heroes, famous traditional rulers, and living manner of the people, always with reference to the past. I sculpted remainders of the past as vividly as possibly, making the incidents and places come alive in the minds of those who view my pieces.

2.7 1902 Yahia Turki, Tunisia: Born in the southern Island Oasis of Djerba, Yahia Turki is famous as “the father of Tunisian paintings.” He spent eight years in Paris in the circle of Marquet. Yet, he is exceptional to Tunisian painting tendencies that came out of the lively Tunisian cafes and Saloons of the 1930s. In his works, he does scenes of popular life that are painted in bright pastel colors, fresh from the box, hastily and incompletely. The bulk of his works is artless, but he is still honored, perhaps, because he is a pioneer. No one paints like him. His works were executed in simple composition, drawing and color, displaying a spontaneous understanding of his subject matter. Emphatically, his works recall the foreign “Sunday Painters,” such as of the School of Paris, but not of the Tunisian School. In other words, Turki was in all considerations excelled by a later group of younger Tunisian painters.

2.8 1906 Leopold Sedar Senghor, Senegal: Leopold Sedar Senghor (Whitechapel, Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa, flammarion, Paris-New York, 1995.88: his black-and-white portiate) is a fascinating historical figure from Senegal. His contributions, politically, culturally, and artistically cannot be denied or ignored. He is particularly noted for being a major component of a moderate “African socialism” and immensely respected Senegalese President (1960-1980). Senghor was born on October 9, 1906 in Joal-la-Portugaise, which is approximately seventy kilometers from Dakar. His father’s family was noble in blood consequently he was raised in a very wealthy, catholic family. With timely opportunities, he was able to obtain a valuable education in Catholic mission schools. He finished secondary school in 1928 and moved to Paris to further his education. In France, he would develop friendships with people that would greatly move the Senegalese cause. In 1932, he became a French citizen and served in the military. In World War II, he was captured by the German forces and held captive in a prisoner of war camp for eighteen months. His friendship with Alioune Diop nurtured the creation of an African cultural journal called Presence Africaine. This journal brought attention to the African population in Senegal and with the African people inhabiting France. Much needed attention was awarded. Senghor was certainly well respected for his intelligence and patriotism. He was continually elected

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to represent his native country, Senegal, in the French Constituent Assemblies. He also became a highly regarded professor at Ecole Natural de la France d’ Outre-Mer from 19461958. Senghor was also very active politically and when he felt he could not connect any longer with Lamine Gueye’s French socialist party (SDFIO), he created a new party called Bloc Democratique Senegalais (BDS) which was more affiliated with his beliefs. Senegal separated making it independent. In 1960, Senghor was elected the first President of Senegal, an honor that he took with great strides. He investigated African socialism at great lengths and believes that one day, the world will be one civilization, with a mixing of races, peoples, and languages. He is an advocate of unity for all, so he started at home with his who fought extremes and was always present to reconcile African own people. He admirers included King Hassan II of Morocco who commended President Senghor as being: a man of peace and moderation, Brothers. From the western European world, Pope John Paul II said: The great African who contributed in a remarkable manner to make known the dignity of the African people in the respect of the authentic traditions and the opening of the modern world (UNESCOPRESS, 1996) Such greatly respected leaders saw the humanitarian in Leopold Sadar Senghor. His concept, Negritude, which defines literary and artistic expressions of the Black African experience, can be perceived as a direct response to the French colonialism that rejected the African traditions, and defending the true African culture for preservation. Negritude emerged mostly after World War II and encompassed encouraging colonial revolts, glorifying the African past, and realizing as well as enjoying the beauty of and the meaning behind African traditions. As a poet, Senghor has been compared to the British literary genius, Walt Whitman (Oxley, 1989). His writings are rich with emotion and vibrant energy. His poems have a musical expressiveness and delivery about them in that they give more meaning to his phrases. Senghor reflecting on his works said: I have always taken care to put an idea or emotion behind my words. I have made it a habit to be suspicious of the mere music of words (Riley, 1995). In his writings, he paints pictures with words that are visual. He took great steps to ensure his audience could understand the motion of words: The image has no effect on the African unless it is rhythmical. Rhythm is consubstantial with the image. It completes it by unifying it into a single and whole sign and sense, flesh and spirit (Presence Africaine, 1956). His works are highly sophisticated and beautiful in the sense that they do tie in the African experience and allow emotions to be deeply felt, especially in Papa Ibra Tall’s Sower of Stars (MRC 29): 88


MRC 29 Senghor. Painting by Papa Ibra Tall, Sower of Stars, 101.5 x 107.8”, Edition #2, 1977, Senegal

There goes sinking a tired moon Towards its bed of stretched sea Time it is for stars and the dreaming night Senghor is undoubtedly a man with highly effective talents. As an intellect, he took measures to stabilize his country, strove toward independence for his people and worked for a greater, universal unity. As an artist, his concept of Negritude brought attention to the value of traditions, specifically African traditions in all their magnificence. And finally as a poet, he has an astounding gift to write with reverent passion and an ability to glorify the African experience. He is a man who has achieved amazing accomplishments, gained the respect of some of the most admired leaders in history, and yet, remained a man for the common people. He is a man deserving of the respect of the world population for his humanitarian approach. Ultimately from his inaugural address titled “A New art a new Nation” at the opening of Senegalese Manufactures of Decorative Arts, the message of universal civilization that Senghor sent to the world was loud and clear (Kébé, 1977.11-13):

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On a more general plane, the problem is again to create a new Art for a new Nation, very precisely to obtain the miracle of combining harmoniously technology from outside with traditional culture that is felt inside. It is self-evident that in order to create a Nation, one must first exist, that is to say that we must be animated by a common will of living together, a will born from a common geographical space but also from an identity of thought and feeling. We must then be a nation, and a nation we were long before independence was a fact, but we must find the tools to express, given the diversity of individual characters, our community of thought and feeling. In short we must find a national style and technical modern methods in line with our times. We have that national style which is a symbiosis between French imported technology and our traditional culture, which must be understood within the geographical area of the Atlantic facieses of Northern-Sudan. From that cultural area, Senegalese painting has derived a feeling for decoration and refinement as well as qualities of nobleness and elegance. Furthermore, and more deeply, the young Senegalese has taken to display plastically the dreams so vital to our people: the old stock of myths and legends forever so characteristic of Negro Art. That was expressed by Irmeline Hossman (in the first quarterly supplement to Africa magazine, dedicated to Senegal), and she concludes: “If Senegalese painting succeeds in avoiding the pitfalls of decorative orientation, which is the reverse of its qualities of elegance, hieratism and nobleness, and also avoids its tendencies toward stylization, it will deserve one of the first places in Africa.” It happens that those tenets, which may become by their excess a defect in painting, are virtues in tapestry. For the mission of tapestry is to decorate public monuments and give life to naked walls, in the words of Lurçat, to become (for blank spaces) illuminating “adornment” and “exaltation.” That calls for simplicity in design and sobriety, but also for warmth in coloring an enhancement of great collective passions. It is even truer in Africa today, while we are engaged in rebuilding our civilization to embrace great masses, while we are erecting for our new nations new monuments in line with our times, where essential strength must mix with simple greatness, as commands our eternal Africa. It is not by mere chance that I finish on those words: Eternal Africa. In inaugurating the “Manufacture Nationale de Tapisseries” which will open to artists on both sides of the Senegal River and to others from places beyond, we are coming back to Mother-Africa. For tapestry was born in Africa, originating in Egypt three thousand years before Christ. From those early times we have retained the pane as cloth and drapes, but always as an adornment. At each step, each stage of our development, we find the same phenomenon, the same process, which must be a trademark of our culture: to be rooted in Africa while remaining

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open to outside world. At the birth of this Manufacture, let us hail our Mother Africa and Universal civilization.

2.9 1908 Oku Ampofo, Ghana: Oku Ampofo was born the son of a Ghanaian Chief in Mampong, situated in Akwapim Hills. He attended Achimota College where he was exposed to the techniques of woodcarving. In 1932, he received a government scholarship to study medicine in Edinburgh. Here he continued the art of wood carving, but as a hobby. In 1940, he returned to Ghana as a qualified medical doctor. On his return, he found time in his busy schedule as a physician to do more carving in wood. In 1945, he organized, with the help of three other young artists, a group exhibition entitled “New African Art”. This show was brought to New York a few years later. He held several one-man shows in Ghana, England and Germany. In 1955 he completed To the Sky God, a monumental work in cement and terrazo. In 1960, some of his sculptures were in KUNST Gus ZENTRALAFRIKA, an exhibition that toured Germany from 1960 to 1961. With another set of his works, he came to United States under State Department Leadership Grant in summer of 1965, and a primary exhibition of his works was held at the Union Carbide Building in New York. A good number of Dr. Ampofo’s artworks have found permanent homes in both national and private collections. The Ghana Government has bought several of his pieces that include life-size statues that stand in front of Ambassador Hotel, The National Museum and Ghana Broadcasting House in Accra. A reasonable number of his works are also in American private collections. Of his many commissions, the best is To the Sky God of 1955 (MRC 30), a vertical statue that seeks an absolute beauty outside of the reach of motion, change or time. This bristling composition depicts an immortal image with face and arms extended upwards showing definite affinity with Dogon invocation Nommo (figures) in Tellem style (Robbins and Nooter, 1989.59, Pl.18). The face, which suggests a Kifwebe mask of the Basongye of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is squared-off with a bulging chin and a rectangular mouth jutting into space (René, 1968.29, Pl.IV). These complexities of traditional African art styling set the work apart from western concepts, and Ampofo is firmly entrenched in African traditions. Aku Ampofo works in both woodcarving and modeling in terrazzo fondue. Although he developed his style along the lines of African traditional art styles, he frequently combined selective naturalism with individual innovation. Of his many African sources, the best known is the Akua’ba figure motif of Ghana. His reference to African traditional art styles, however, goes as far back as the seventeenth century with his frequently professed notion to create African new forms: I found in these ancient masterpieces the emotional appeal and satisfaction which western education had failed to cultivate in me… It was as though an African had to go all the way

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MRC 30 Oku Mpofo, To The Sky God, cement an terrazo, 1955. Artist Collection. Photo- Courtesy of Marshall Mount

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to Europe in order to discover himself. By making this public statement, as the first president of the Akwapim Six, Dr. Oku Ampofo provides a contemporary explanation of his return to African origins and thus serves as one of the earliest, strong exponents of Sankofa Art.

2.10 1913 Gerard Sekoto, South Africa: There were many African artists who helped to shape Contemporary African art Movement. Some paid attention to tradition, customs, and folklore, some focused on daily life, while others concentrated on the biblical and Christian themes. Wherever the artist’s specific interest generated from, it was always the combination of styles that created this Contemporary African Art Movement. At the forefront of this movement was a painter from South Africa, Gerard Sekoto. Sekoto was born at the Lutheran Mission Station in Botshabelo in December of 1913. He came to the art world at the young age of six, when he began drawing on his brother’s slate. Thereafter, he went on to study in a formal school at the Diocesan Training College from where he graduated with a teaching certificate and taught at the Pietersbrugh Khaisco Secondary School. At the time, Sekoto spent much of his spare time painting. Eventually, he got his work in a competition where he received second prize. With this award, Sekoto was convinced it was time to leave the teaching profession and focus on his talent. He drew inspiration from his surround­ings, so he chose to travel and live in numerous neighborhoods of South Africa. Consequently, much of his works are of cities like Sophia town, District Six, and Eastwood, Pretoria. Sekoto’s paintings and drawings mostly contain subject matter taken from everyday life such as washday scenes, workmen in groups, and women talking along the streets. An unknown author for the Standard Bank Gallery states that his works are extremely important for two reasons: they form a documentary record of places that were later demolished under the apartheid regime; and they portray human conditions in a manner that shows the artist’s empathy for human suffering. Besides, Sekoto has an unusual way he used colors and has unconventional viewpoints. Much of Sekoto’s landscapes are somewhat distorted but his perspective use is clear in his works; thus, they have a propensity toward Soyan art. An example of these characteristics can be seen in Sekoto’s Street Scene. This painting was done with oil color on canvas and depicts a typical street scene of men’s daily routine. The painting contains rich shades of primarily colors that generate the feeling of heat radiating from the work. Sekoto’s Four Men and a Guitar presents almost identical result still it does not attract compelling attention like the Street Scene. Critics believe that his works are idealized perception of African life because he spent much of his career away from his African society. They consider he lost his sense *of African-ness while living in exile in Paris (MRC 31), where much of his time was spent trying

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MRC 31 Sekoto Paris Cart

to survive and not painting: he worked in nightclubs playing the piano. When he finally got the break, he gained recognition as an artist through exhibitions in Paris, Stockholm, Venice, Washington, and Senegal. It was not until very later in his life that Sekoto received full recognized as the father of South African art. And in 1989, Sekoto was awarded an honorary doctorate degree at the University of Witwatersrand. Four years later, in 1993, Sekoto died at a retirement home outside of Paris. Gerard Sekoto was given undistinguished recognition as an artist while he was blooming. It hasn’t been until recently that many of his works were exhibited at numerous galleries all over the world. Lately, Sekoto’s works from the Sowetan Collection were on display at the Standard Bank Gallery. And in South Africa on Robben Island, Gerard Sekoto was the main focus of Heritage Day.

2.11 1915 Justus, D. Akeredolu, Nigeria: Justus, D. Akeredolu was born at Owo, in Ondo State of Nigeria. He began thorn carving as a young man, when he went to school at the Owo Government School. His skill in carving the forest tree thorns led him later to set up a sculpture studio of his own. At his old Owo School, he began teaching youths (1933-1938) that would eventually spread his style, concepts and approaches, which he had developed in the early 1930s. In 1945, he visited Britain and exhibited at the Barkley Galleries, the International Art Center and London University. In 1948, twenty-four of his carvings were sent on to the Harmon Foundation, 94


MRC 32 Justus Akeredolu in his Studio, 1960, Lagos, Nigeria. Harmon Foundation Collection

New York. In 1959, he was honored by the Paramount Chief of Owo, when he was given the Chieftaincy title of “Ijanyebokun of 0wo”, meaning, a bringer of life from overseas. In 1960, he showed his works in the Nigerian Independence exhibition. Besides working in wood thorn, he carves in mahogany, ebony and iroko (MRC 32); but in whatever material that best suited his taste at the time, his sculpted figures are always “in-the-round.” His talent also goes into photography and restoration, which he still uses at great advantage as a technician at the Nigerian Department of Antiquities, Lagos Museum. Akeredolu’s monumental thorn carvings, which made him famous, are depictions of genre scenes. Because they sell at Nigeria’s leading bookstore chains, they are in high demand. Consequently, many artists, including Akeredolu’s previous students at Owo, copied him. Since the works are mass-produced, they are often anonymous in their commercialization. Besides, because they are inexpensive, the art works readily sell to the common Nigerian citizen. In the end, whereas the carvings are good in the documentation of genre scenes and the preservation of cultural history, they lack detail in many cases, especially when copied by incompetent artists. His Man Chopping Tree (MRC 33) is one of the best of his works of 1940. It is 3” high and carved from pieces of forest tree thorns, in a subtractive technique. There are two main parts to this piece: the figure and the tree. The figure is standing on a base in a half bent frozen pose with an axe in his hands (although the axe is now missing) as if he is ready to 95


MRC 33 Man chopping a tree, forest thorn, pigment, Nigeria. The artist Colllection

swing again. The tree-trunk appears to have been chopped once or twice. The open composition has a diagonal movement, seen, from the top of figure’s head to the top of the tree, including the slanting right leg of the figure. In this composition, also, the artist did not follow the wood grain; neither did he engage the use of surface design decoration, nor attempted portraiture. Furthermore, the art piece is in its original color, except where the figure was stained in brown for contrast and naturalism. Carved in the round, this piece depicts everyday traditional Nigerian life in Vitu style. Consequently, to get Akeredolu’s true feelings of Nigeria or Africa, one must look at his thorn carvings, his unique contribution to the history of contemporary African art.

2.12 1916 Akinola Lasekan, Nigeria: Akinola Lasekan was born at Owo in Nigeria. Of Yoruba ancestry, his original name was S.A Oladetimi43. In 1935, he began designing textiles that greatly expanded his interest in art. Upon deciding to pursue a career in art, he changed his name to Akinola Lasekan in 1941. The same year, he opened a studio in Lagos with Akeredolu who was by Lasekan influenced in the realistic art style. Lasekan held his first one-man exhibition in 1944; shortly after, he sold a portrait of Sir Winston Churchill for ÂŁ700.00, for the war aid charity, during World War II. In the same year, he received first prize in the All-Nigerian Book cover

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MRC 34 Lasekan 1950, Photo, The Artist Collection, Nigeria

Design competition. In 1945, he exhibited outside of Africa for the first time. A group of his paintings that depict the African experience was in showing in London. Accompanying the works to England, Lasekan took the opportunity to study commercial art in London. On his return, he worked as a book illustrator for the Church Mission Society Bookshop. One of his books, titled Nigeria, contains jokes and cartoons. It was in publication, as a comic text, when he began this job. In another book, Drawing Made Easy (1943) that has a preface by Aina Onabolu, he explored the techniques of objective life drawing and displayed his

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understanding of human anatomy. In 1947, the Harmon Foundation showed his watercolor and pen-and-ink drawings of African life. This led to a purchase, by the Foundation, of forty oil paintings of the history and legends of Nigeria. These paintings were in exhibition in New York and at Hampton Institute, Virginia, in 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964. Consequently, in just seven years, after his decision to be a full-time artist, Akinola Lasekan had established a position for himself in the art world. The fruits of Lasekan’s labor have been many (MRC 34). He has served as an administrator for the Nigerian Council for the Advancement of Art in Lagos, Nigeria. He became a Fellow of Royal Society of Art in London, in 1962. In September 1962, he was acting head of then Ben Enwonwu School of Fine Arts, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. When a permanent director was appointed in 1962/63, academic year, Lasekan remained at the University as a Lecturer in the School of Fine Arts, along with the present writer and Oseloka Osadebe (both Nigerian painters). While teaching at the Ben Enwonwu School of Fine Arts, Lasekan exhibited twice at the school. The first showed the use of Nsukka landscapes. The second presented paintings depicting the events in the life of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the chancellor of the University.

MRC 35 Young Boy. Lasekan, oil on canvas, Nigeria. The artist Collection

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MRC 36 Lasekan Painting. Photo, The Artist Collection, Nigeria

Akinola Lasekan recorded the traditions and customs of Nigeria, particularly of the Yoruba. Working with the past in his contemporary art works, he had taken over Yoruba ethnic expressions and fashioned them into the fabric of his times. The subject of his work had always been the depiction of African life. He was technically competent in all the different media, used in his work. His style is Soyan, in technique and process, while incorporating elements of the traditional. Of all his works, six portraits that used his family as models for the subject are the best. In each portrait, composition is central. The human figure is against a flat background of color arranged much like a photographer’s backdrop. The figures are Soyan style in pose. For example, five are busts and one is three quarter length; and, five are three quarter of the face and one is a front view of the head. These are elements taken from the western European technique of realism. Lasekan used local color. The paintings are bright due to the realistic depiction of the colorful Yoruba dress. This clothing, with traditional designs, includes the bright plain or printed head bandana. The one threequarter pose shows a woman with wrapped skirt tucked at the waist. The portrait of the man shows him wearing the Yoruba cap and robe. Lasekan also studied character types 99


in his work. He painted a young boy, a young girl, middle-aged woman, an old man, and old woman. In the photograph like realism of their faces, achieved through the knowledge of perspective, lighting, and modeling, Lasekan allowed human emotion to come through in facial expression and details. The young boy shows the impatience and belligerence of youth in his pouted lip and flashing eyes (MRC 35). The young women faces are smooth and have innocent smiles and lovely eyes. The middle-aged woman sits with her arms tightly crossed across her sagging breasts, her shoulders starting to droop with burden. Lasekan’s portrait of the old woman is however his strongest work of human character. Her face is wrinkled and the muscles sag with age around her eyes and neck. Her eyes are deep set and dark. They are filled with quiet wisdom and sadness of age. Lasekan captured in these six portraits the ages of man. If Lasekan’s landscapes and history paintings reveal the sensitivity to African character, with identical skill, then he, this Soyan artist, is surely one of the fathers of the 20th century contemporary Nigerian art (MRC 36). In spite of his many artistic achievements, to classify Lasekan’s major contribution is not easy. Artistic contribution is currently so complicated that a writer’s subjective attitude is not always an adequate criterion. Onabolu’s realistic works turned out to be, in some respects, more fundamental and more fruitful, especially in Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos, than Lasekan’s works. That the latter takes up a more meticulous and realistic viewpoint in his visual expression than the former, is true; and that he represents wider circles of contemporary Nigerian artists than Onabolu does, is also accurate. However, in the cartoon and illustrative expressions, he is superior to any of his contemporaries. He is so excellent in cartooning that he drew, on many occasions, the anger of the cartooned and lampooned. He was once, for example, the victim of such a circumstance. Lasekan cartooned the Nigerian Military Government for banning Nigerian political parties, especially as seen in his sensitive and piercing use of the *NCNC44 Cock emblem. He was by the Nigerian military government apprehended and jailed in Enugu for two weeks; when the present writer supervised his family, ran message shuttles between him and his relatives from Nsukka (University of Nigeria) to Enugu, 65 miles through Milken Hill road at the time, while personally supplying him with painting materials to keep him occupied and lighten his encumbrance of being imprisoned. In this manner, the Nigerian power politics of 1966 was apparent and Lasekan’s greatest artistic strength was forever transparent. Akinola Lasekan died in 1972.

2.13 1918 Hatew EI Mekki, Tunisia: Hatew EI Mekki is one of present day Tunisia’s most important artists. He came to notice in Tunisia in 1935 as a precocious seventeen years old. Born in Jakarta, he was educated in Tunis. His training was rather intermittent. He received a few years of drawing courses, a year of travel on a French scholarship in the late 1930’s, did incessant work, and had the valuable experience of earning his living for five years in Paris, as a free lance illustrator. In the early days of the Ecole de Tunis, El Mekki had a strong and original mode of expression. His active nationalism, integrity, and his greater age and experience made 100


him the natural one among the painters to speak for Tunisian painting in Tunis and abroad. He was the one who urged the younger Tunisian painters to develop a kind of painting resistant to the international style, so seductive to the young. His greatest series of paintings, which were inspired by the massacre of Sakiett Sidi Youssef, the Tunisian border village bombed by the French during the war in Algeria, echoing Ijimumuo sub-style. Shocking in their distortion of human form, the paintings are well composed. Yet, they marked an end of an era for El Mekki. He drew and painted the reality of Tunisian nationalism for more than two decades. Since 1964, he has been the unconcerned designer of handsome mosaic murals. The mosaic medium is adapted to El Mekki’s slashingly linear style and his ability to compose endlessly with a few elements, taken from the human form and geometry. His interest in mosaics, his second most significant contribution, has led indirectly to a renewal of the mosaic art, so well practiced in Tunis in ancient times.

2.14 1920 Habib Gorgui, Egypt: The Islamic conquest of the Nile Valley brought with it a marvelous architecture and a purely decorative art of arabesque. The latter replaced human representation and it preceded western abstract art of today. The current artistic renaissance in Egypt draws its strength from this ancestral activism and the productions of the young generation are always, consciously or unconsciously, influenced by it. In other words, if one puts oneself in the historic context of millennial Egypt, the renaissance of the “plastic” arts and this rapid blossoming of young talents must not astonish anyone. Professors’ Habab Gorgui and Rames Wissa Wassef carried out two very valuable experiments. They show, in an authoritative fashion, the permanence of certain activities. The first is in the domain of sculpture: the major art of the ancient Egyptians; and the second, in the sphere of tapestry. These experiments surpassed the national framework to reach the very fundamental of human legacy. Born in about 1920, Habib Gorgui concentrated on sculpture. About 1950, Gorgui brought together in his studio children and peasants from diverse regions of the country. He gave them the simplest means of expressing themselves, those that the god Khnoum used in pharonic mythology to create the first human form. He gave them clay from the silt of the Nile and left them books to read when they wanted, while though moderating them by advice and encouragement. The works that the children of eight to ten years created are of a quite astonishing “plastic” effect. One can rediscover in them several techniques. These would include the equilibrium of masses, the feeling for forms and pure lines, the simplification of planes, the monumentality of antique statuaries and, especially, the inner life that expresses itself behind closed eyes. The preceding techniques are visible on the fine ruins of hieratic sculptures that haunt the banks of the Nile, from the confines of Nubia to the banks of the Mediterranean.

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Moved by the communicative enthusiasm of his father-in-law, Ramses Wissa Wassef, Gorgui attempted the same experiment with tapestry that was an equally flourishing art in Egypt. He gathered some boys and girls in his studio at Harranieh, close to Cairo. He gave them weaving looms and basic colors made from plant extracts. The result was astonishing. These children, without the help of any model or any tapestry sketch, entertained themselves by completely covering the surfaces on which they depicted scenes of decorative richness, which showed great artistic achievement. These children came from country places and had not done any artistic study, or experiment, except in the same vein as their ancestors. One finds among them both the plasticity of the pharonic legacy and the naivete of the stirring sketches, recalling the quick simple drawing of the first Christians in Egypt. Furthermore, the decorative and arabesque feeling that was the gift of Islamic art flourished on the banks of the Nile after the conquest of Amr Ebn El-Ass. The emphasis on the two experiments that others followed is appropriate because they cast light on a new day in Egyptian artistic renaissance.

2.15 1921 Ben Enwonwu, Nigeria: Benedict Chuka Enwonwu was born of Onitsha Igbo parents in Nigeria. First, he studied art (part-time) under his father who was an artistic personality and later, he studied engineering (full-time). From the number and variety of ancestral figures and mmuo (spirit) masks produced, “Papa Enwonwu� stood out as the foremost traditional sculptor of

MRC 37 Ben Enwonwu. Photo, Hamon Foundation Collection

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Onitsha of the late ninetieth and early twentieth centuries. After training with his father, Enwonwu attended the Government College Umuahia, about 87 miles southeast of Onitsha. Here (1934) he studied art as one of the available courses under Kenneth Murray, Art Education Officer in His Majesty’s Colonial Service, who was recruited in 1927 (through Aina Onabolu’s influence) as the first expatriate art teacher in Nigeria. In 1938, through the encouragement of Kenneth Murray, Enwonwu exhibited at Zwemmer Gallery in London, in Glasgow and Royal Academy in London. From 1938 to 1945, he taught art in several Nigerian secondary schools. His first one-man show was in 1943 at Lagos, then the capital of Nigeria. Two years later, he won a scholarship to further study art in Slade School (MRC 37), London, where his already masterful technique in sculpture caught the fancy of Jacob Epstein, a British sculptor, who bought several pieces of his sculpted works. That an affinity of technique exists in the works of Jacob Epstein and Ben Enwonwu after this exposure shows to what extent Ben Enwonwu was, in the mid forties, appreciated outside Nigeria: In 1950, through informal contacts with representative of… Department of State and Officers…for the British Information Service [in U.S.], the [Harmon] Foundation was asked to take the lead in introducing the Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu. He arrived with his sculpture and paintings on a wave of enthusiasm from the art people of England where he had studied and already exhibited. He was indeed the first African artist to visit [U.S.]… Because of his success in England, the [Harmon] Foundation, as his appointed host, approached a leading museum director [in New York] and asked assistance in presenting Enwonwu and his art productions. The surprising response to its request for such art prestige cooperation came in words to the effect—‘Yes, I know Enwonwu’s work and his reputation in England. But no good art is being done in Africa today [1950], none will be done in the next fifty years, and I know exactly what I am talking about…(Brown, 1966.3).’ This 1950 experiences did suggest to all art connoisseurs the need to bring creative evidence into the area of intercultural understanding—so urgently needed everywhere in the world. From 1948 to 1970, Ben Enwonwu served as the first Nigerian Federal Art Adviser. From 1970 to 1975, he was a Professor of art at the University of Ife, Nigeria, from where he retired. Ben Enwonwu enjoys a unique position in Africa, the equivalent of England’s Poet Laureate. He asserts that no European can fully appreciate African art, which may be true since European aesthetic sensibilities are culturally conditioned.45 He had several important commissions that enabled him to produce several artworks. These include a bronze portrait statue of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (1959); a stone portrait statue of His Excellency, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (1960), destroyed during the Nigerian Civil War; Four Evangelists in the Onitsha Cathedral (1959); the life-size Risen Christ in the Protestant Chapel at Ibadan university (1960); and a bronze sculpture figure, The Water Maiden (MRC 38), sensitively projecting from the facade of the Nigerian Museum of Antiquities (1961), a copy of which was subsequently presented by the Nigerian Government through Ben Enwonwu to the United Nations Headquarters, in New York. He also did six wooden figures for the London Daily Mirror Building (1961). He illustrated several books among 103


MRC 38 Ben Enwonwu. Water Maiden, Bronze, at the Facade of National Musium of Antiquity. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

which The Brave African Huntress by Amos Tuluola, a noted Nigerian novelist. He worked in a variety of media: stone, bronze, cement, terra cotta, oil color and watercolor. But, first and foremost, he was a sculptor (MRC 39); and his professional works show a startling consistency in style because they are totally humanistic in the same manner as traditional

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MRC 39 Ben Enwonwu Sculpting. Photo- Courtesy of the Ewonwu Family

art which is still very much designated “expressive cultured.” One of the highlights of Enwowu’s career came in 1957, when the Nigerian government commissioned him to execute a bronze portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen gave him a studio in Buckingham Palace and he executed a Soyan work that was in front of the Nigerian House of Parliament positioned. It was later moved to a new location. The sculpture received much critical acclaim, although there were some negative comments, predominantly from a few British art critics, on the Africanzation of some of the Queen’s features, her lips in particular. Still on close observation, the unbiased would notice a well-crafted, thoroughly competent piece in the manner of a Victorian Park bronze. One of the milieu that honored important personages when honor was due, and then, perhaps appropriately, the sculpture may fade into obscurity, until revived by historians. There 105


appears to be no verve, no spirit that brings the figure to life in a real Nigerian memorable way, except her lips. The Queen is in layers of skirts reminiscent of the 19th century Europe, seated and draped. She is prim and correct. Head, hands, posture and clothing reflect the status and breeding of a British royalty. For all this, the image is stationary and reserved. It is a response to what the Nigerian Government of the time favored and accomplished. An interesting point is that Enwonwu’s art does not remain stifled in its close ties to academic tradition. For, rather than purposely break with African tradition for the sake of change, he remains an individual through his unique interpretation of the African past. As typified in one of his most powerful works, The Statue of Shango, his sensory experience is in this work dramatized by the intensity and luxury of shapes, texture and movement. Here, also, his intensive and unorthodox approach led him to squeeze proportions and thereby produce tensions, to create sudden contrasts in shapes and directions, and to

MRC 40 Portrait of Ben Enwowu. Photo-Courtesy of Ben Enwonwu’s Family

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provide modifications on a thematic form. Enwonwu’s greatest contribution lies however, not in inspiring many young African artists, particularly in Nigeria, to creativeness (which he certainly did), but in the area of intercultural relations. He was the first African artist to win first prize in an open international competition at Slade School, London (1945), and he was the first African artist to exhibit his works in the U.S. (1950). When nature wishes to grant a thing, she does so without avarice. Ben Enwonwu appears blessed in this regard. Ben Enwonwu died in 1994 in his patrimonial town, Onitsha (MRC 40).

2.16 1921 Seydou Keita, Mali: After World War II, the post-war period brought about a lot of social change. Photography became more popular with the indigenous people of Mali. In Bamako, however, only a small handful of people practiced photography and among the few was Seydou Keita, being one of the first photographers to emerge in Mali in 1940’s. Remarkably, camera was not introduced in Africa until 1840’s and was employed by western Europeans to document life in Africa and to send pictures back home. This may sound harmless, but many Europeans were intentionally creating stereotypes directed to hold back Africa’s people. For example, missionaries would document in pictures their attempts at “saving” indigenous Africans from what they slanted as “veneration of idols” and would display photographs back home as documentation of their “good” work for Christendom. It was not until later that these stereotypes were challenged and they began to wash away. Seydou Keita was born in 1921 in Bamako, Mali, and died in 2001 in Paris. There has not been much extant information about his life before his early beginnings in photography in 1930’s. Before his career as a photographer, he worked as apprentice in his father’s furniture workshop, which he continued to do even while practicing photography. His adventure took off when his uncle, Tiemoko, brought back a 6 x 9 Kodak Brownie camera from his trip to Senegal as a present. Keita described his first attempts at photography with this camera as skeletons, because he either accidentally shook the camera or the people would move. The pictures were typically taken of his family or apprentices of his father’s workshop. After his rough beginnings, he bought a more reliable 5 x 7 camera with glass plates in 1945, which become his favorite equipment because he enjoyed working with contact prints. In 1948, he opened his first studio that was soon to become a bustling place, where on Saturdays and days near Muslim holidays lines of people would be so extensive that one could barely get through them. It is easy to date Keita’s pictures because of the backdrops that he used from start to finish. Not having access to expensive photography equipment, his first backdrop was the bedspread from his house. Later, other backdrops included more patterned hangings as well as props. The props ranged from old radios and artificial flowers to a vestee. These props were to help create the mood or message that the customer would like to get across 107


MRC 41 Keita Photo. Courtesy of the Artist

to people who would view the portrait. The main message was to communicate a person’s status in the community and his/her desire to be seen as cosmopolitan. Consequently, Keita did not necessarily take photographs much to his own liking; his purpose was to please the customers’ sense of beauty and distinction in the portraits. In this way, Keita could not have seen himself as an artist, but simply a businessman. A unique thing about his studio was that Keita had clothes handy, for someone who

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could not afford an outfit necessary to satisfy his/her taste. His wardrobe contained three European-style suits (MRC 41), patterned traditional robes, and accessories. Women would typically like to adorn themselves with as much jewelry as possible and wear large dresses spread out to display their beauty. Men, however, would like to wear European suits accentuated by props such as drapery. Most of the photo prints, requested by customers, were made to the size of postcards for mailing in letters back home. This was more the case when a good number of Mali people had permanently relocated in cities from rural households. Pictures are tangibly gifts for friendship and love. Consequently, Keita’s portraits were not necessarily directed to large audiences but to the private domain of families and friends in the community. The location of Keita’s studio in Bamako was a great advantage, because it brought in elite class, including office clerks, shopkeepers, employees of the colonial government, and politicians. A typical sitting would frequently take an hour long, with a minimum of three photo prints per exposure. If someone would accidentally move while taking a picture, it would be a big mistake. For economic reasons, Keita took two shots only at each sitting. Until he purchased three studio lamps, he took pictures just by daylight. However, it was common for customers to want their portraits done at night time for two reasons: it made their skin appear lighter due to the artificial lighting; and they preferred late sittings because

MRC 42 Keita Photo. Courtesy of the Artist

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they mostly work during the day. Still, Keita preferred daylight pictures for natural light effects. Posing his clients was one of the skills that Keita became a master. The most common portrait formats were close-up, bust, and full-length poses; as well as seated, standing, and reclining ones with single individuals, couples, and groups. The most interesting pose was that of the reclining, most often used by women. Certain Bamako people thought that reclining poses suggested a mistress in waiting; but, in fact, Keita made it obvious by practice that that was not the case. The woman was generally posed very close to the edge of the bed so there was no inviting space for a suitor and in other poses the woman was found making tea. These leisurely poses indicated a woman’s social status rather than her being available for a suitor (MRC 42). During the course of his career, Keita produced such a large number of portraits that he was unable to identify them by names or customers. Therefore, he organized the portraits according to the pose and number of people in each picture, which was subsequently divided into gender and date and stamped with the words, “PHOTO SEYDOU KEITA,” to identify himself as the photographer. In 1963, when he became the official photographer for Mali’s newly independent government, his private career ended. He completely converted into Mali’s official photographer. He took pictures of official visits and meetings of heads of state. However, none of these photos are today available because they were government property. It was a period of public loss of his photographic productions as well as his talent, even though, during the time, his family was still running his studio in Bamako, but without his supervision. However, the studio was eventually shot down in 1977 at Keita’s retirement. Keita’s photos may have been popular at the time he was actually a studio photographer, but they were not exposed to the art world until much later. In 1991 exhibition, “Africa Explores,” at the Center for African Art in New York, Keita’s photo negatives were obtained and reproduced by enlargements so that they were not of the typical traditional postcard sizes. When Keita viewed them he was very impressed and proclaimed, in an interview with Michelle Lamuniere in the November of 2000, that: “You can’t imagine what it was like for me the first time I saw my negatives printed large-scale, no spots, clean, and perfect. I knew then that my work was really, really good (Lamuniere, 2001).” Even though there are certain kinds of critics that will not acknowledge Africa’s contribution to photography, one finds it very difficult to ignore the fact that majority of African photographers, during Keita’s time period, were self-taught or were apprentices of the selftaught. Consequently, there must be African styles of photography, which have not been tainted by western European control. Keita is an obvious example, seriously contributing to the art world unplanned: Frankly, we work in order to earn our daily bread here. When you’re the head of the household, it’s your job to make sure you can feed your family! Keita explains to Lamuniere (Ibid). Thus Seydou Keita in his own mind was just another African photographer.

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2.17 1922 Kofi Antubam, Ghana: Kofi Antubam, a painter and sculpture, was born in Opon Valley of southwestern Ghana in 1922. He is the son of an Akan paramount Chief and an accomplished African artist. As a student of the Art Department of Achimota College, a college outside Accra, capital of Ghana, Antubam graduated in 1946. In 1948, he gained a two-year scholarship to study at Goldsmith’s College of Art in London. When he returned to Ghana in 1950, he became the director of art at Achimota School, Ghana finest Secondary School. He was able to hold this position until his death in April of 1964. In addition to teaching, Kofi also wrote and gave lectures on contemporary Ghanaian art. He was also active in many organizations throughout Ghana and Europe. Antubam was more of a Soyan artist than one different in style. He had a great dislike for traditional African art, as seen below, and was not afraid to show and tell his dislike. As observed through his paintings and sculpture, he had a conventional yet often realistic style in his art. He exhibited in many local art exhibits and had several one-man showings. His one-man exhibitions were in London, Paris, Rome, Düsseldorf, and New York. Sponsored by the American Society of African Culture (AMSAC), his show in New York was from September 19-21, 1962, at the Carnegie International Center. Antubam founded and supported the Ghana Society of Artists that in 1955 had three main goals. The society organized artists, craftsmen, and art teachers in order to exchange ideas. It arranged annual exhibitions of the members’ works. Furthermore, it cooperated with government bodies, such as the Ghana Arts’ Council and foreign embassies interested in Ghanaian art. Still, this society became inactive shortly before his death in 1964. Antubam was also active in many other Ghanaian and British organizations. In addition, he presented papers for different congresses throughout his lifetime. For example, Antubam offered papers to the Congress of Negro Writers and Artists in Sorbonne in 1956 and again in Rome in 1959. He presented these papers along with Ben Enwonwu and Gerard Sekoto. Kofi Antubam was by President Kwane Nkrumah of Ghana commissioned to carry out almost all of the government artworks during his administration. For this, Antubam had to be adaptable in his art productions, while maintaining his individual creativity. He showed surprising versatility in media, subject matter and style and frequently settled for a Soyan representational art style. Several of his government commissioned works included the painted portraits of prominent Ghanaians and large murals in oil on plaster for Cocoa Farmer’s Cooperative Headquarters and the Ambassador Hotel in Accra. He also painted two murals for the United Nations buildings in Geneva. Furthermore, two of the Ghana’s National Shipping Company’s ocean liners were designed by Kofi. He decorated the interior of these ships with the Black Star Line. In addition, he designed several postal stamps issued soon after Ghana’s Independence. The Accra Museum actually collected some of his paintings, permanently

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exhibited with Ghana’s traditional art on the main floor and Asihene’s works of art. Some of his most important sculpted pieces included wood relief for Accra’s Central Library and the Main Assembly Hall in Ghana Parliament building. Kofi also sculpted in the round Ghana’s State Regalia Throne, a Sword of State and a Mace. His successful mosaic works are still in the Accra Community Center depicted. Antubam executed his famous wood relief in 1961 (for the Accra Central Library). The theme is a mother distributing books to children, surrounded by typical Ashanti symbols and objects such as linguist staff, akua’ba figure, stools, bowls and utensils. At the apex of the relief, there are four symmetrically arranged lobes, each with a circular core attached to its outline, signifying wisdom. His most ambitious commissions were two 30 feet murals painted in 1956 for Accra’s luxurious Ambassador Hotel. These murals show a mastery of western European derived compositional devices, an influence of his former schooling in London. Some of Kofi’s unique characteristics in art are separate scenes united by a single, continuous landscape with multiple perspectives and undulating ground line that leads the eye from scene to scene. Antubam arranged figures in vignettes as an astronomical circle. This device is reminiscent of the Fifteenth Century Italian paintings. Depth in composition was achieved by foreshortened objects and overturned stools clearly placed in the foreground. Kofi emphasized bright colors with an avid savor for blues and oranges. Kofi’s main approach to art is certain in his Paramount Chief and Attendant, oil painting. The outlining of parts of figures and objects is apparent with dark lines. Despite the flattering effect that this method yields, Antubam’s forms retain their mass and solidity. Descriptive details are not often included, and when they appear, are handled broadly and simply. Cap-like hair is also a characteristic element of Antubam. Although Antubam dislikes traditional African art, as seen shortly, he still incorporates much symbolism in his works in which traditional Ashanti symbols and designs are frequently refined, elaborated and stylized. He constructed primary functional objects such as lecterns, chairs and doors that are with ancient African motifs embellished. An example is the large wooden doors that Kofi designed for the Assembly Hall in the Parliament House at Accra. Completed in 1960, they contain six highly polished reliefs and elaborately scrolled wooden handles. Unlike traditional African art works, he carved the doors separately and inserted them into a framework. The detailing on the bottom and the top of the door handles are fashioned to represent welcome and wisdom in Ghana’s traditional taste. Antubam’s personal bearing toward abstract art is clearly borne out by an interview on January 13, 1962, when he states: One thing I don’t understand is abstract art. People who do those things are playing and at this stage of the development of my country there’s no need for it. All national galleries in Europe have a classical, serious art. This is no time for joker artists. My country must first establish that kind

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of art that will go into a museum to serve as an inspiration. The artist must help society to be less confused and more peaceful – abstract art does just the opposite. What the world needs is the artist who can see in chaos something likely to bring less confusion. The artist who paints confusion and melancholy is not helping…I don’t like distortion. I like beautiful women, children, etc. I am interested in basic values. Every country must first establish the renaissance, then, can fool around. Regarding Antubam’s less attraction toward traditional African art, he certainly has a clear vision of it when he declares: The art of a people changes and develops, passing through three main evolutionary stages if it is allowed to follow its natural course of growth. There is first a period of archaism featured by spontaneous expressions of disproportions and abstract symbolisms due to ill knowledge of the natural rules about things in their environment, distortions that spring from an almost fanatical belief in magic and superstition, crude execution resulting from the use of primitive implements and conservative attitudes in art. This is followed by a classical stage at which folk art gives way to creative art; a period of naturalism synthesized by serious research into and codification of existing native cultural conceptions, a search for and the use of natural rules with their resultant effect of a scientific and professional attitude in art. A third stage follows the particular people’s full realization of themselves, as a nation and the growth of their national pride. It is the time of dynamic movement and realism in art. Artists seek in all earnestness and expand in their means and method of expression by knowledge acquired from other lands. There is a general widening of scope of expression at this stage and artists become more and more conscious of the importance of perspective and the effects of romantic and atmospheric changes particularly in painting. And, the expression of three dimensions in drawing and painting ceases to be a mystery. (Excerpted from a Catalog of an art exhibition held at Accra Central Library in 1954). Furthermore, out of an unpublished and undated manuscript, Antubam still has more strong views, unfavorable, about ancient and traditional African art: Art to the Primitive man must always have a purpose, and ‘art for art’s sake’ as a slogan was unknown to him. In his drawings and paintings, if any, he only sees two dimensions. Sculpture, which becomes his principle form of expression, tends to be static and crude in execution, his tools being too simple in conception and setup for detail work… In the later years of his history even the primitive man grows out of his shell of backwardness … Not can his art, which is not an isolated phenomenon, stand still. With the rebirth came fresh knowledge and consequently changes in concepts of good and evil, beauty and ugliness. All along, however, he makes sure that he has his eye on the fact that every people develops a specific style of art by giving preferences to certain objects and forms of design. Three specific points are important from Antubam’s foregoing statements. The first is the time when he was born; second, the circumstances prevalent when he developed as an artist; and third, the how and where of his educational preparation as an artist. Being born in 1922, Antuban could not have escaped the impact of British Colonial presence in West Africa. It consists of rather large-scale attempts to undermine the productive efforts 113


of traditional and contemporary African artists. Conditioned by this large-scale attempts, it is not surprising to find Sir Hugh Clifford, then the Governor of Gold Cost (now Ghana) proclaim in 1918, among other things, that: The West African Negro has often been reproached with his failure to develop any high form of civilization. It has been pointed out “ad nauseum” that he has never sculpted a stone, painted a picture, produced a literature, or even invented any mechanical contrivance worthy of the name, all of which is perfectly true (Blackwood Advertiser, February, 1918). To implement a change based on prevailing colonial circumstances, Antubam had to aspire in 1948 to study at Goldsmith’s College of Art, London, to perhaps escape Clifford’s version of reproach. Antubam was hardly alone during this period of West African history. Similar motivating force, also generated by Sir Hugh Clifford when he shortly after became the Governor of Nigeria, directed the life and career of another West African artist, the Nigerian Aina Onabolu (1882-1963): (reference Appendix B, Document 4). The preceding accounts contribute greatly to Kofi Antubam’s all time stature as a contemporary African artist and leader of his time.

2.18 1922 Gregory Maloba, Kenya: Born in Kenya of the Malyia ethnic group, Gregory Maloba was a graduate of the School of Art at Makerere College. In 1942, he began teaching at this school; but between 1948 and 1964 he intermittently left Kenya for further studies. He studied in England at Bath Academy of the University of Bristol, from 1948 to 1950, Camberwell School of Fine Art, from 1957 to 1958, and the Royal College of Art in London, from 1963 to 1964. In 1950, he held his first solo exhibition at the British Council in Bristol. Sixteen years later (1966), he left Kampala to become the head of the Department of Design at University College, Nairobi. As a creator Maloba’s works are in stone, bronze, cement and terracotta, a sculptor rather than a painter whose favorite subject matter is portraiture. Most of his completed works are in private collections, but he has also done commissions in sculpture for the Uganda Banquet Hall, the Jingo Town Hall (Uganda) and a bank in Kampala. He executed two figures for the Commonwealth Institute in London. His bronze statue entitled Compassion was, during the occasion of Prince Margaret’s wedding, presented to her in 1960. His works are also on permanent exhibit at the Uganda Museum, the Uganda Boy Scout Headquarters, the Uganda Growers Cooperative Society, and the Imperial Institute in London. His “Petson Tombs”, an article written for Roho (no. 2, June 1962. 34) before he left for the Royal College of Art London (1963), contains one of the most complete single statements of Maloba’s artistic philosophy that: [A connoisseur] ought to look at work by artists of every race and generation if possible. Freedom for each individual to develop along his own line (whether or not it be influenced by another individual artist or school of thought)… 114


His idea that reasoned consideration of other artist’s works, which may involve acceptance or adaptation, gives to any artists’ work an adequate formal and continual quality to make it endure. In this manner, Maloba appears generally to anticipate an intradiffusion or crosscultural influence in his work. Since his favored subject matter is realistic or portrait work, he appears to be speaking in this passage of a Soyan art style, especially when seen in the light of his professional training. However, to trace a specific artist’s influence on Maloba’s work is to undertake a comparative study of the physical works of such an artist and those of Maloba. There is no substitute or shortcut.

MRC 43 Akwete Kofi. Photo- Courtesy of Harmon Foundation

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2.19 1923 Akwete Kofi, Ghana Born in Kumasi, Akwete Kofi is an Akan, where Akwete means twin. He has a twin sister who is a potter and textile designer. His father, a Presbyterian minister and part time sculptor, was his first teacher. He graduated from Kumasi Technical University and later

MRC 44 Akwete Kofi, Awakening Africa, Bronze, 1960, Ghana. The Artist Collection

taught in this institution. From 1952 to 1955, he studied in England at the Royal College of Art. Between 1959 and 1960 he studied African and Oceanic traditional art with anthropologist Paul Wingert at Columbia University. He learned cire perdue (lost wax) casting at the Sculptor’s and Ceramics Workshop in New York with a grant from the U.S. State Department. He works in wood (MRC 43), cement fondue, stone and bronze. In 1964, when he wrote a book, Sculpture in Ghana, he has been involved in research in African antiquities. The Ghana government has made a film on him at work. One of his best famous works is Awakening Africa (MRC 44). A large bronze sculpture in the round, commissioned by Ghana Government, and cast in New York by the artist in 1960, the work now stands in front of the State House of Representatives, in Accra, Ghana.

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A larger steel version of the same figure was in 1961 completed. This large bronze statue is an example of a Sankofa art, because of its relatively strict adherence to the traditional African style and representation. Specifically, the enlarged head, with representational rather than naturalistic features and two-dimensional quality, is quite reminiscent of the Ashanti Akua’ba fertility figure (African Art in American Collection by Robbins W.M and N.I. Nooter, 1989.196). The element of femininity is in the treatment of the breast that is representational and not naturalistic. The body itself is nonetheless derived from traditional wood carving styling, with limitations imposed by the wood medium involved, particularly the tree trunk or branch. The surface texture further emphasised this derivation in that it invokes the idea of a sacrificial patina developed by ritual libations poured on the figure. Furthermore, it draws much from traditional Akan funerary terracotta figures in many ways (Africa: The Art of a Continent, ed. by Tom Phillips, 1995.438): large circular eyes, arch-like eyebrows, oval mouth and neck rings; and would seem to owe its expanded three dimensionality to such terracotta works as well as to traditional wood figure carvings, particularly in the oval face which is an Ashanti symbol of beauty. Still, nothing radically new is in the work represented. An observer would notice that no necessary element of innovation and synthesis has occurred to create a new method of conveying meaning through art. Except, perhaps, the title of Awakening Africa, the message of which may be socially important to the artist. Kofi may have been commenting on the new Ghana nation that was beginning to emerge after her independence (1957). He may also have been witnessing Ghana’s international political posture that, the artist is anticipating, would enable her to awaken Africa from a possible deep slumber. These suppositions are borne out of the fact that the bronze statue is a reclining, youthful figure of a woman. Apparently, the rising of the woman, as though from profound sleep, symbolizes the emerging African nations to new positions of power and strength in the 20th Century, especially after 1960.

2.20 1924 Zoubeir Turki, Tunisia: As one of the sons of a former Turkish ruling family, Zoubeir Turki spent seven years in Sweden, some of them in art school. He returned to Tunisia in 1959. He is a full time artist, especially as he perpetually draws for a living. Analytically, his work can be divided into two modes of expression: the easel painting that he refers to as his private undertaking, and the large frescoes that he does on commission. His easel paintings, frequently done in the mat technique of fresco, are often unseen in Tunis but in several foreign museums where they are always on display. They are mainly portraits, as are his drawings, but in a style entirely different. On close observation, there is no evidence of linear quality. The typical Zoubeir Turki line that organizes a surface by means of a row of arches is all eliminated through the juxtaposition of areas of paint that are applied with the technique of a Sankofa painter. The mood of his portrait representations has something of the sadness of the just vanished royal like environment,

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with a certain hint of protest. However, he differs substantially from the usual expressionist in that he identifies closely with the subject that he portrays by a light touch of scorn. In his frescoes, one finds Zoubeir Turki as a contemplative decorator designer. His works are stiff in their smooth stillness of broad and flat earth-color tones, laid out over a protective covering of arabesque. His competence as a muralist is also evident: because he understands the limits of the medium and because he can design for a large wall. His Family Portrait of 1962 is a good case in point.

2.21 1925 Achimota Secondary School, Ghana: (Became Achimota College in 1961) Following the survey and recommendations of Dr. J.R.K. Aggrey, a famous Ghanaian scholar who was then working for the Phleps Stokes Commission in New York, Achimota Secondary School started in 1925. Dr Aggrey himself was born at Anomabu in Gold Coast (now Ghana), educated there in Methodist missions and obtained a Ph.D. at Columbia University, New York. In the intense interest around a royal visit in 1925, Achimota Secondary School was Prince of Wales College named; but this was a brief title because it was soon after became known as the Fine Arts School. The teaching of art was in 1927 first introduced, and the program exclusively designed to suit academic pencil drawing for primary elementary pupils. Two years later (1929), a new English Education Officer arrived at Achimota to change this method of art teaching from the imitative to the conceptual African approach. This teaching direction continued until in 1936, when Mr. H.V. Meyerowitz, a sculptor and teacher, arrived to build an Art Department at Achimota. In 1942, he invited the potter Michael Cardew (who later pioneered the Abuja Pottery Center in Nigeria) as well as Mr. and Mrs. Southern to join the teaching staff. Meyerowitz established a three-year arts and crafts course that included mural painting, modeling, traditional woodcarving, basketry, pottery, weaving, lettering and wood engravings. Because both the traditional African and European art was taught, Africans as well as Europeans faculty of the Fine Arts School was present. Meyerowitz died in 1937and following the war years (1939-1945), the Fine Arts School almost closed down. Realizing the work the school was doing, the British Crown Agents for the Colonies appointed Mr. J.M. MacKendrict (1946) to head the school. He revived the pre-war interests in art at Achimota. During MacKendrick’s tenure, the entire attention of the colonial educators appeared to focus on Achimota Fine Arts School. For instance, the late Chief Idah of Nigeria, a Benin sculptor, was, by the British Colonial educators, sent to Achimota to teach and demonstrate the Benin traditional method of bronze casting. Kofi Antubam (late) and Vincent Akwete Kofi (also late) were the two famous graduates of Achimota Fine Arts School. In May of 1961, this Fine Arts School became Achimota College.

2.22 1925 Lamidi Fakeye, Nigeria: 118


To speak of African art ‘par excellence’ is to speak of traditional African sculpture. It is for the most part, an expression of religious beliefs and therefore gives form to the deepest values of African culture. Unfortunately, early Christian missionaries rationalized African religious beliefs as “fetishism” or “paganism”. Therefore many of the finest traditional African sculpture were not only rejected by them, but the missionaries, also, actively encouraged and supervised the destruction of traditional African sculpture to justify Christendom. However, surviving pieces remain to establish the skills of certain kinds of African sculptors whose concern is to eternalize African cultural traditions. There is fear that sculpted traditional works are dying out in Africa. Still, a traditionalist may find peace in the works of contemporary African artists that have not lost touch with African cultural heritage. An example of one of these artists is Lamidi Fakeye, a Nigerian of Yoruba ancestry. Lamidi Fakeye worked among the Ekiti, and it is not difficult to understand his fascination with their style of art and his utilization of this style in his works. Lamidi was born in 1925 in Illa Orangun, near Oshogbo. The son of a traditional Yoruba sculptor, he began sculpting as a small child and seriously continued accordingly from 1942 to 1947. At first, he viewed sculpting as a “useless work” until 1948, when he was admitted to the Oye Ekiti art center and worked closely with Father Carroll (Mount, 1972, 1989.194-195). Father Carroll states: I found his work quite imperfect, but decided to apprentice him to Bandele (1948), son of Areogun (1880-1945) who was working for me. I was glad to meet an educated boy who had some skill as a carver and who was interested in carving as a career (Caroll, 1967). Lamidi changed somewhat between (1948 and 1951) under the combined influence of Bandele and Father Carroll. His theme had to change from secular to sacred, but his style remained the same. His figures are vivid, proportionate, and without unnecessary embellishment. Lamidi communicates with other artists through his carvings by making his works simple and clear, since ambiguity in art expression is frequently incomprehensible. After 1954, Lamidi was to execute some major works that included relief panels for three sets of double doors for the church in Ofe-Padi. The center set contains six carved panels separated by traditional Yoruba interlace design that represent scenes from the life of Christ. The panels illustrate Lamidi’s use of Yoruba and Christian concepts. The subject matter is essentially western European; but the style of composition as well as details show Yoruba traits, seen in the horizontal arrangement of figures, facial features with bulging eyes, receding chins and a slab-like beard on Joseph. Between 1962 and 1963, Lamidi studied stone and cement sculpture on a scholarship from the French government at the Cite Universite in Besancon and at the Scale des Beaux Arts in Paris. Because stone material did not favor his style, Lamidi did not continue to work in it. However, he liked the experimentation because it afforded him a chance to reflect. Before returning to Nigeria, Lamidi visited England as well as the United States of America. Lamidi Fakeye visited the United States twice (1963 and 1966) when, at a number of

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American universities, he exhibited his works and gave lectures. Lamidi states: I had a wonderful experience in the United States. A craze for African arts was more pronounced. Wherever I went, people showed real and genuine appreciation for my skill as they do for other arts of Africa. They must be a remarkably culture conscious lot to so appreciate the traditional culture of others. Still, I think this is how it should be if we wish to widen the area of understanding between all peoples. From my cross-cultural contacts, I submit that art is about the shortest possible road (Carrol, 1967). Between 1965 and 1966 his works were featured at the Commonwealth and Dakar festivals. Nonetheless, previously in 1964, the Nigerian Government made him a member of the Federal Republic. Because of his mastery of wood sculpture, a personal recollection of Lamidi’s procedure

MRC 45 Fakeye at Work, Photo- Macdonough Museum of Art, Youngstown Ohio

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MRC 46 Lamidi Fakeye. House Post, wood, Nigeria. Unknown Collection

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(at work) might be revealing, noticed in his workshop, during the exhibition: African Sculptural Tradition in 1992, at the McDonough Museum of Art, Youngstown, Ohio (MRC 45). Frequently, Lamidi evaluates the block of his wood for a few seconds and begins to sculpt in rapid blows of a wide adze. It is apparent that from the very beginning he senses the completed sculpture inside the wood. A less skilled sculptor would probably spend more time thinking than would Lamidi who could study the sculpture in progress for 20 seconds then sculpt steadily for 20 minutes. Often, he spends much time searching for the right tool, for Lamidi has a large tool kit. From his sculpture, it is clear that Lamidi is always conscious of volumetric relationships between the parts of his sculpture. His work is, at all stages, designed to ensure symmetry and clarity of definition of line and mass, which are basic criteria of Yoruba sculptural criticism at Ekiti. In this manner, Lamidi bridges the gap between traditional and contemporary African worlds. Consequently, while his style and technique are largely traditional, his completed work is none other than contemporary African Sankofa Art (MRC 46). Indeed, he regards himself as a contemporary Nigerian sculptor, rather than a Yoruba traditional caver. Lamidi’s career demonstrates, in part, certain success of Catholic Mission workshops in Nigeria. He may adopt new tools and evolves new ways of handling the tools. He maintains that an artist should retain his “selfness” all times. Lamidi has certainly combined the old and new and kept his “selfness”, while receiving meritorious recognitions at the local, national and International levels. He is contributing greatly to the continuation of the ‘par excellence’ of African art, in traditional styling. Lamidi is founder and president of the Nigerian Society of Professional Artists, and has an art gallery in Ibadan.

2.23 1926 Michael Zondi, South Africa: Michael Zondi was born on March 10, 1926 in the Greytown district of Natal. He spent his childhood at Emtulwa, a Swedish Lutheran Mission near New Hanover in Natal. He was educated at several schools in the Natal midlands, including Dundee. At Edenvale, he ran his own carpentry shop from 1945 to 1949. During this time, at the age of twenty-five, he started wood sculpting, which is still his chief medium. He has persisted in increasing his knowledge, with noticeable determination, through private study in many fields. From 1956 to 1961, he volunteered as instructor at the Edenvale Vocational Training School. In 1961, he left Edenvale and went into architecture, designing and executing the beautiful chapel at the Appelsbosh Mission Hospital in Natal. From 1963 to 1965, he was an estate manager at this Appelsbosh Mission Hospital. He still lives in Natal. Because he never received any formal art training, Zondi naturally developed his own very personal and genuine style, for which his medium, wood, is most suited. The moving force of his creation takes source from an innate urge to express and interpret human emotion and life through the human form. Therefore, his subjects are almost exclusively the human face and figure. His approach revolves around two main factors: his infinite love for his fellow human beings in their daily distressed condition, and his never-wavering belief and respect for the dignity of man. Consequently, his work is equipped with a simple but 122


MRC 46 Lamidi Fakeye. House Post, wood, Nigeria. Unknown Collection

deeply moving message. Technically, Zondi is famous for his direct and developed style. In 1961, he won a bronze medal at the Republic Day Art Exhibition. In 1962, his work appeared at an exhibition of African Artists in the Durban Art Gallery. He succeeded twice in the Art South Africa Today Exhibition: in 1963, he won third prize in the sculpture section, and in 1965, second prize. In the same year, he held his first one-man art show in the Durban Art Gallery. He represented South Africa at the Venice Bienalle the following year. His works can be found in many private and public collections in South Africa, the United States of America, Canada, 123


the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and Holland. For several churches in Sweden and South Africa, Zondi sculpted crucifixes among which is a life-size version in black-wood (MRC 47) for the Hospital Chapel at Appelsbosh in Natal.

2.24 1928 Felix Idubor, Nigeria:

MRC 48 Felix Idubor. Boy Eight, wood. The Artist Collection

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MRC 49 Felix Idubor, The Crippled, Hardwood, Nigeria. Mrs. Adulee More Collection

Born in Benin City, where at the age of twelve he had began to earn a living by woodcarving, Idubor was a member of the Benin Carvers Association that was an early group of Vitu artists in Lagos, Nigeria. As early as 1945, he established an independent art workshop where he produced mostly Vitu works until 1951, when Ben Enwonwu discovered him as a budding artist and encouraged him to give up the Vitu style of carving for more personal and creative work. In 1953, he had his first solo show, sponsored by the British Council, in Lagos, where subsequently he exhibited frequently. Several scholarships enabled him, first, to travel to Europe in 1957, second, to study at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1958, and third, to study in Germany in 1962. Shortly after his studies in Europe, he successfully sculpted The Boy Eight (MRC 48) in 1963, which reflects a typical Soyan style. Idubor’s sculpture of The Cripple (MRC 49) dates from his mature years (1965). It is a three dimensional work, sculpted from a single piece of wood, using subtractive technique. Ornamentation is minimized; the only decorative aspects arise from the pattern of surface cuts as well as the headgear and nectlace that are subdued and integrated within the form, and the only color is that of the wood itself. It is a single design motif of a human figure shown in a cross-legged sitting position with arms resting in the lap and the head erect and forward. Balance is achieved through a 125


bisymmetrical pose, re-emphasized by the weighty aspect of the head, limited by the heavy torso area and then by the hips and base that seem to anchor the figure. Through an even use of parallel cuts over arms and legs that becomes muted on the abdomen, chest and face, active surface is achieved. Repetition of circular or ovoid shaped form (in the head, nectlace, breasts, curvature of the arms and so on) provides harmony and a restful sensation to the work. Subsequently, an irregular rhythm of form on the figure’s contour introduces a strong tension. Lines are broad and somewhat mechanical in many areas, such as on the hands, legs and hips, with strong slices made to form other parts of the work. These are then contrasted by the tiny, almost rippling surface treatment that gives a more free and active sense of linear effects, even though quite subtle. Flat planes on the chest, hand and leg areas bend to form curves, and then flatten again; but the overall effect is one of motionlessness. The form is solid; yet seemingly airborne because of the ⅓ or ¼ head-length-to-body ratio. However, the elimination of superfluous hands, feet, ears, and so on, heightens the monumental quality of the figure. Thus, The Crippled is a Sankofa work, both in form and in subject matter. The artists’ portrayal is naturalistic only to the point that all elements are easily recognizable, yet he is obviously unconcerned with an objective recording. In other words, despite its spiritual strength, The Cripple is not a portrait so much as a kind of identical assemblage of remembered characteristics: the stylized treatment of the facial features, especially the eyes, recall the Nigerian antique sculpture; frontality and a large head-to-body art ratio are standard features in Sankofa works; and customary neck ornament as well as headgear serve as transhistorical reference with deep meaning in relation to African culture and folklore. These are conceptual traits, trying at once to convey the physical and spiritual values of an African theme. As with all Sankofa works, The Cripple requires one’s possession of specialized knowledge to acquire its accurate artistic and aesthetic values. Yet a clear message can be sent to viewers who have little or no African cultural background. The inner struggle of knowing that one is disabled as a lame person (captured by the elliptical irregular rhythm of form) and the outward peace with oneself in accepting the reality of being crippled (sensed by the frontal and hierarchical repetition of oval shapes in the hands, breasts, chin and above all the headgear) combine the spirituality and the realism, the mysticism and the logic that inspire, in varying degrees, all the works of Sankofa art. Thus, the work is a powerful image of nobleness in defeat, defiantly confronting the viewer with a majestic pose as she internally struggles to resist divine judgment. Felix Idubor has indeed excelled himself in this modest masterpiece.

2.25 1928 Rosemary Karuga, Kenya: Rosemary Namuli Karuga was born on June 19 in Meru, Kenya. Her mother was Kenyan and her father was Ugandan, though he worked in Kenya. Her father was a progressive person who realized the importance of educating all of his children, both sons and daughters. Thus, when he moved to Nairobi during the 1940s, Rosemary accompanied 126


him and was enrolled at a Roman Catholic school for blacks (one of only a few) called Staint Theresa’s School in Eastliegh. At Staint Theresa’s School, Karuga began to express an interest in art, though her amazing potential was by no means realized there. When her father moved back to Uganda, he took Rosemary with him and she continued her education. After her high school graduation, she became a primary school teacher. In 1950, Makerere University in Kampala (Uganda) expressed a demand for female students who would graduate and become professionals after their studies. Karuga was recommended to go by Staint Theresa’s Sisters and was subsequently somewhat handpicked to study at Margaret Trowell’s School of Fine Arts, Makerere University. She was the first Kenyan female to attend this University. She studied design, painting, and sculpture there from 1950 to 1953. When she left the University, she was a fully trained and accredited teacher, with a concentration in art. Karuga attempted to become a commercial artist, sculpting and painting items for sale; however this proved to be an unsuccessful enterprise. Thus, she gave it up and decided to completely devote herself to teaching. Moving back to Kenya in 1953, she married her husband, John, and accepted a teaching position at Tatu Primary School in Kiambu. She still had the intention of doing art on the side, though more as a hobby than a vocation. Although Karuga’s primary focus was on teaching, she received much encouragement from other artists, such as the influential Elimo Njau (who founded the Paa ya Paa Gallery), to keep up her efforts towards becoming a professional artist. In I960s she produced a number of fantastic watercolor paintings that were part of a larger East African show organized by Paa ya Paa and exhibited in New York City’s brand new Union Carbide Building. After that show in 1966, however, Karuga went “underground” for almost twenty years, leading a subsistence lifestyle in the “upcountry.” Karuga taught her pupils in the upcountry the basics of painting and drawing, occasionally dabbling with clay models. Though she considered herself a sculptor and a painter, and had developed a great interest in mosaic art (due to her studies of Byzantine art while at the University), Rosemary, nevertheless, found that materials were difficult to obtain and very expensive. As she had to be frugal and inventive, she began using scraps of paper in place of pebbles. This was the beginning of her collage work. Subsistence living had taught her to be resourceful, improvisational, and she reconciled to working with the materials she had at hand. Thus, she had to “make do,” which meant that she had to create a completely different kind of color palette, made out of the media most accessible in her rural home. Her “color wheel” initially consisted of colored papers she had at her disposal. As a result, her tan and earth tone hues came from Jimbi flour bags, her blues from Omo boxes, her greens from the wrappers of Rexonal soap, and her yellow from Brooke Bond tea bags. “Making do” meant that Karuga resorted to creating collage “paintings.” She did this not because she wanted to emulate Pablo Picasso, but because it was the only way she could “paint,” given her life’s circumstances. It was not until the mid-1980s that Karuga began to pursue her art career vigorously.

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During one of her daughter’s visits from London, Karuga was encouraged to purse her talents. Shortly thereafter, one of her students created an inspired collage of a hippo, and this became the defining moment of inspiration for Karuga to completely devote herself to collage work. Nevertheless, naive of the possibility of profiting from her work, Karuga made collages and simply left them at her house, piling up on shelves. She continued teaching until her retirement in 1986, at which time she finally became convinced of the fact that she could actually make a living as an artist. Again, persuaded by her daughter, she went to the Paa ya Paa Arts Center to visit her friend Njau. After he counseled her, and gave her advice, she began to work hard, eventually becoming an Artist-in-Residence in April 1987. In October 1987, she participated in the Women in Art in East Africa group show by Paa ya Paa Arts Centre, and in 1988 she held her first solo exhibition of collage work. There were several French artists and connoisseurs at the exhibition, and these men were greatly intrigued by Karuga’s work. They approached her and asked her to publish a book (by author Amos Tatuola) and she accepted the (high) commission. After the book’s publication in France, Karuga was an instant success. She was subsequently invited to exhibit her work at the international Francophone festival in Limoges. From that time on, she has been sculpting, painting, and doing collage work. Her work has been included in galleries in Nairobi and all over East Africa, the studio Museum of Harlem in New York, Ludwigshaffen in Germany, in England at the Commonwealth Institute, at Gallery Watatu and at The Ohio State University 1997 art exhibition Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects: accad.osu.edu/~eodita.

MRC 50 Rosemary Karuga. Market Scene, collage, 34 x 41”, 1990s, Kenya. Private Collection

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Rosemary Karuga has been a pioneering East African woman artist. Her work is brilliant and reflective of the resilience and creativity she inherently possesses. Karuga lives and works “off the beaten path,” and has always been hard to find. After spending nearly twenty years “underground,” she and her work were “resurrected” by Elimo Njau and the Paa ya Paa Gallery. Critics claim this “resurrection” was well worth the effort. When she returned to the Nairobi art scene she was honored and acknowledged as the “mother” of East African art. Even though she is now able to return to sculpture and watercolor paintings, she has not relinquished her paper color palette. Rather, she has expanded her palette, as she is able to access different kinds of paper and magazines. Thus, she is intelligent to use more subtle hues than in the past. Unlike Picasso, who used collage to convey the cacophony of the twentieth century culture, as he knew it, Karuga uses the technique to convey the cohesion of the rural world in which she lives, the beauty of African skies, and the expanse of African lands (MRC 50). At present, Karuga spends less time working (which she typically does at a work bench in her living room). As she is getting old, she suffers from high blood pressure, failing eyesight, and fatigue. Money is, as always, hard to come by. She must work to prevent herself from starving, and though she knows she would earn more money from her work in Europe

MRC 51 Ibrahim Salahi

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and America, she is basically happy and content with her work. This unsung heroine, “the uncrowned queen of East Africa’s women artists,” has thirteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

2.26 1930 Ibrahim El Salahi, Sudan: Ibrahim E1 Salahi (MRC 51), born in Om Ouran, Sudan, was educated in an Islamic culture. With his father being a teacher of theology, El Salahi had an early and thorough knowledge of Koran and Muslim theology, which later proved to be a major influence in his works. Trained at the Khartoum School, the first British sponsored art school under Jean Pierre Greenlaw, Salahi began teaching at this school in 1952, while still a student. From 1954 to 1957, he studied at the Slade School of Art in London. While in London, he spent much time at the surrounding museums where he became furthermore fascinated by Islamic art and manuscripts. This renewed interest in Islamic art gave him a fresh desire to incorporate some of its elements into his own works. Thus, his desire and interests in Islamic religion and Arabic calligraphy became the major corner stone of his art. He is famous to have said: My work has always been influenced by [Islamic] religious teaching and upbringing. I have always had it … in me – it’s something I don’t think about because I just find it there…(African Arts Magazine, Autumn 1967). The use of Arabic calligraphy, however, does not find its way to the canvas as easily. El Salahi starts by breaking down the letters into abstracted parts, and then he uses the parts in his works. On this subject, El Salahi once said: Through the abstracted rhythmic shapes of calligraphy, I have been led to visualize the presence of objects, the human figure, and a whole world of imagery (Ibid.). Although El Salahi incorporates these influences to a certain degree in his work, he does not make use of them exclusively. He shows a complete “mastery of the shapes, lines, and colors that enter his work,” as stated in African Arts Magazine, autumn 1967, elements that represent his competent training as an artist. With fellowships from the UNESCO (1962) and the Rockefeller Foundation (1964), he visited the United States traveling to San Francisco and Denver, while maintaining a studio for three months in New York. He also traveled to South America, where he visited Mexico, Peru and Brazil. He exhibited in Europe and the United States, visiting in the 60s where his paintings are in American collections, including that of the Museum of Modern Art. Particularly, about fifty of his paintings were exhibited in 1963 in Washington D.C. and later in New York by American friends of the Middle East. In addition, his paintings were included in 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, at the Sudan Pavilion; and in 1966-1968, his works were in the Smithsonian Institute Traveling Exhibition of contemporary African printmakers. Salahi uses traditional Islamic motifs and calligraphy in his works (paintings and drawings). Because his father was a teacher of Muslim theology who had organized Koran classes 130


for children, it would be easy to understand his dependency on Islamic sources and motifs. Besides, he is interested in the traditional art and crafts of Sudan such as weaving, basketry and surface decorations on house walls; all of which inspire his works46. For example, on returning from London to Sudan in 1957, El Salahi acknowledged the following: I left the Sudan and back. Then suddenly I started to look around… for things, for patterns. I have always been fascinated with patterns in local Sudanese handicrafts and what simple peasants were…carving and decorating and painting. And suddenly, I think that the beauty of it…hit me – it’s so strong. I lived with it all of my life and yet I never saw it before, until I went outside and came back, with a different outlook towards things (Ibid.). Although he has a strong Islamic background, he nevertheless has admitted non-Islamic motifs such as representational forms of human and animal figures as well as natural elements in his art. This claim of his acceptance of non-Islamic figural arts motifs relates to the misunderstood Islamic attitude to the figural arts. Although it is widely believed, documented in encyclopedias and scholarly writings, that Islam is opposed to figural arts, there does not seem to be any basis for accepting the claim. For the Koran, a book of revelation to Prophet Mohammed does not mention anything that suggests an opposition to the figural arts. It is therefore only an attitude on the part of Islamic converts after the death of Mohammed. In his time, it was a fact that the prophet, Mohammed, cleared the Ketch, in Mecca, of images and figural representations, according to Islamic sources. Still, it was true that he allowed the picture of the Virgin and Child Jesus to be undestroyed by placing his hands crosswise over the holy image. This compromise confirms that Mohammed was not opposed to the figural arts. However, in his lifetime, he made pronouncements which were later compiled into Hadith and which represented his own attitude to the arts, side by side with his new faith. It was true that he blamed artists, especially those who sculpted images. Little wonder, then, that his followers did the same later, basing it on the tradition of Prophet and the new faith. To be concise, Mohammed did not blame artists who made images for secular purposes, except only those who executed them for religious intentions. In this way, the philosophical conflicts concerning Islamic attitude to figural representations came down to us, today, in a strong version of figural arts as non-Islamic motifs. Among Salahi’s most publicized works are Allah and the Wall of Confrontation, The Embryo and Funeral and Crescent. In particular, his Funeral and Crescent (MRC 52) shows many of the characteristics of Ijinla art. In this painting, there is a funeral in progress, where the deceased is to his grave carried for funeral pyre. In other words, the Islamic culture lays their dead to rest, under a crescent shape that appears in several of El Salahi’s works. By the use of oil color on hardboard, he shows his understanding, or mastery, of that particular medium. The painting has in certain parts a textured surface. The thick paint, skillfully applied on the abstracted human figures, gives the work a sense of three dimensions, especially in the 131


MRC 52 Salahi Ibrahim. Funeral and Crescent, oil on hardboard, Sudan. Private Collection

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figures’ sunken eyes. By the use of color variation and a flat, empty background, the painting shows a characteristic tension between the foreground and background images, most typical of Sankofa and Ijinla art styles. The human figures are tone depicted in bluish gray that separates them: to a certain extent from the bleak, light brown background that represents for the most part the Sudanese terrain. Except the crescent, the fact that all the images in the painting are somewhat connected with one another, rather than entirely individually arranged, causes the work to be perceivable as a whole. The continuation of images off the canvas shows that the work is an open composition, technically devised to include the viewer’s presence. The artist’s innovation, another characteristic of Ijinla art, is conceivable in the abstracted forms of the human body: the elongated heads and the honey shape of the bodies. This representation of the human body has a tasteful quality. The boned forms and sunken, gloomy eyes add an air of despair to the work, along with the obvious feeling one might expect at a burial ceremony. The Funeral and Crescent painting shows El Salahi’s individual art style, highly representative of his Islamic culture and his environment, and characteristic of Ijinla art. Ibrahim El Salahi’s works, particularly Ijinla, seemed to follow a difficult path before finally reaching their own individual art style. As commonly accepted by Ulli Beier, his early influences - Islamic religion and Arabic calligraphy - were set-aside during his European training: Salahi went through European type art school with life class and all. Having gone through this kind of ‘mill’…[he] found that…[he] had to unlearn a great deal in order to rediscover…[his] original vision, now overlaid with many alien ideas. Although El Salahi had to overcome this obstruction, his “original vision” perforce came back to him as a model of his Islamic background and early influences.

MRC 53 Baya Mehieddine

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2.27 1931 Baya Mahieddine, Algeria: Baya Mahieddine (MRC 53) was born in Bordj el Kiffan, in eastern Algeria on the Mediterranean coast. Orphaned at the age of five, she was at first taken care of by her grandmother. In 1941, Marguerite Benhour (Camina) a French woman who fled to the French colony of Algeria to escape World War II entered her life. While working as an archivist at the Muslim Bureau of Charities in Algeria, she met Mahieddin in her village, and was intrigued by the child’s originality in clay models and designs, and offered her a room and a job as a maid in her house. Marguerite and her husband, Frank MacEwen, became Mahieddine’s adoptive parents. This family owned many illustrated books, and as she browsed through the books, looking at the drawings, Mahieddine was inspired. She began by tracing and copying the illustrations, but then realized that she should draw and paint her own thoughts rather than copying the creations of others. Around the age of eight, she began painting and drawing frequently. It amused her to leave her drawings behind in the houses she visited, hidden in closets. Her adoptive parents realized her talent and searched for the pictures she left behind and kept them. At the age of thirteen, she began painting many of her most famous works. The director of the Maeght gallery in Paris visited Algeria, and by chance noticed one of her drawings in a house that he visited. Aime Maeght discovered her talent and organized an exhibition for her in 1947, when she was only sixteen. Andre Breton, the founder of the surrealist movement, prefaced the catalog for that exhibition, writing, “Baya est reine,” meaning, “Baya is the queen.” Mahieddine became inspired after her trip to Paris, and traveled to Vallaurais several times to learn the art of sculpture. It was there that she met Picasso, whose studio was next to hers. When Baya returned to Algeria, however, her creativity was stifled by the censorship that was prevalent during colonial rule. Besides, the Islamic religion regarded figural art as a transgression, particularly portrait painting, essentially outside religious settings. Consequently, she became frustrated because she could not express herself the way she wanted. Mahieddine married an Algerian. Thereafter, she abandoned her painting to raise a family of six children. During these years, 1952 to 1963, not many details of her life were familiar. Since 1963, Baya has taken up painting again and organized numerous exhibitions in Algeria and in France. When she began painting once more, her country was free from colonial rule, and the censorship had stopped. Today, she lives in Blida, a city near Algiers, and enjoys an isolated life, absorbed in her painting and her garden. Mahieddine is a completely self-taught artist. Her portfolio includes works from the 1940s to the l990s. Her recent works are very similar in theme and style to her original paintings fifty years ago, except her recent paintings have a more rigorous composition. She has her works at more than 14 exhibitions in France, Algeria, Belgium, and the U.S., specifically including: Centre Cultural France, Algeria, Algeria Galeria, Adien Maeght, Paris, France, 1947; Bonjour Picasso, Musee Picasso, Antibes, France, 1988; Forces of Change: Artist of the Arab World, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, 1994; and

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Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects at The Ohio State University, King Art Complex, both in Columbus, Ohio, 1997. Mahieddine’s paintings are in numerous private collections and are on permanent display in many prestigious museums, including the Lauzanne Museum of Art in Switzerland where the following works are in permanent exhibit: Musical Instruments, 1966; Fish, 1976; Blue Vase with Fruits, 1984; Vase blue entre deux huppes, 1986?; Rose Peacock, Mauve Peacock, 1988; and Woman with Fish, 1988. Although Mahieddine has explored other media such as sculpture in wood, her preferred medium is gouache on paper. Gouache is a method of painting with opaque watercolors mixed with a preparation of gum. The themes of her paintings have shown little variation during her career as a painter. Women with long flowing dresses, children, birds, fish, flowers, butterflies, and harps are her favorite subjects. Her style of painting comes from the things that surround her, including music and the local villages. She uses very bright colors in all of her paintings. Her paintings have a flat background, no overlapping of figures, a two dimensional appearance and figures painted in profile. Consequently, her style is closely associated with Sankofa art style. Mahieddine’s paintings are comparable to childlike, naive, and surrealist works. However, she resents the classification of her paintings into such categories. She denies that her work is characteristic of any school or movement, and calls her style simply “Baya.” Her style appears uninfluenced from the outside world, but rather reflects her own world (MRC

MRC 54 Baya Mahieddine, Vase, Rose Aux Fruits Et Instruments, watercolor on paper. 19 x 39”, Algeria. Private Collection

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54). Because Mahieddine’s works include the same subjects and themes that came to her as a child, her paintings have been by critics censured. Baya responds that without them, her style would not be “Baya.” Her compositional images have been described as dreamlike. Unlike most children who forget their dreams as soon as they wake in the morning, Mahieddine has acute memory, enabling her to immortalize the images of her dreams in her paintings. As an adult, she also continues to depict her childhood fantasies,

MRC 55 A Berber from The Central Riff, Morocco. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

MRC 56 A Berber From The Cenrtral Riff, Morocco. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

often in colorful palette. But, because she was always sad as a child, particularly for the death of her parents, she preferred painting exultant images. For Mahieddine, painting is an escape from this melancholy that allows her to forget the difficulties in her life. She paints the things that she did not get to do in life, but would have liked to. This is best represented in her painting, Protection de la mere et de Pendant, which was featured on an Algerian stamp. It depicts a mother embracing her child, an experience taken away from her by the death of her parents. Mahieddin paints plainly because it makes her happy. Moreover, because she has never learned to read or write, art is Mahieddine’s major means of self-expression. In Mahieddine and her works, the Berber and Arab soul meet, marry, complement one another, and tear each other apart. The Barber soul is one of the oldest and most mysterious races, perhaps the only descendants (MRC 55 and MRC 56) of the CroMagnon culture. Mahieddine incorporates this culture’s musical instruments, moving and ancient in their melodies, with her limited color palette, giving her paintings a sense of

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simplistic power. Mahieddine is somewhat selfish about her works. If possible, she would prefer not to sell any of her paintings and keep them all for herself. When asked the meaning of her paintings, Mahieddine becomes bored. She frankly paints what comes to mind, and wants those who view her works to experience and interpret them in their own way. “My painting does not reflect the outside world, but of my own world within me,” Mahieddine says (Labter, 1987).

2.28 1931 Choukri Mahmoud Mesli, Algeria: Choukri Mahmoud Mesli is a Professor of art at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. In his formative years, he attended the School of Fine Arts in Algiers. Later, he studied Plastic Arts at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. He has participated in exhibitions in Algeria and in several European countries. Mesli is an active member of an art group called Aouchem. Aouchem was born thousands of years ago, on the walls of a grotto in Tassili. It has continued its existence to the present day, sometimes secretly, in accord with the fluctuations of history. The rediscovery of the authentic tradition of Algerian art that today Aouchem affirms is not only through the structure of the group’s works but also through the liveliness of the group’s use of color. The members of Aouchem ignore the contemporary art of the western world. It is for them, a question of defining the true arabesques, capable of expressing the world in which the Algerian lives. They began with the great formal themes of the Algerian past, and thereafter gathered together all the plastic elements invented by the civilizations of the Third World. As his contribution, Mesli is committed not only to renewing the great mythological themes of Algeria, but he is also passionate, being concerned with the current struggles in Africa and Asia. He was born in 1931 in TLemceu, Algeria.

2.29 1931 R. Vahnjah Richards, Liberia: Born in Liberia, Vahnjah Richards, also known by friends as “Van”, was one of four children of the Rev. David Richards, a Methodist minister. Richards began his education at the Booker T. Washington Institute in Kakata, Liberia. It was at the BT Washington Institute that Richards was first introduced to carpentry. Soon after, Richards discovered an affinity for wood and sculpting and, in 1949, conveyed this love for wood sculpture to a lifetime career. Richards continued to teach art and sculpture for eight years in Liberia before departing for the United States, to study under a scholarship. Richards began his US art study in 1957, with a grant, at The Ohio State University. Over the next few years, Richards studied and exhibited in many areas around the States of Ohio. In 1962, Richards graduated from Chicago Art Institute and return to Liberia. In Liberia, Richards realized the need for art education across the nation. In February 1965, Richards and John Thompson (a colleague artist) opened an Art Studio School in Monrovia for non-credit teaching of sculpture, painting, design and handcrafts. In June

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1965, he launched the largest arts and crafts showing in the history of Liberia. This arts and crafts exhibit, projected, was to coincide with World Crafts Day on June 12, 1965 (Brown, 1966.40). Later, Richards made available his talents to improve Liberian cultural policies and to promote Liberian art values both nationally and internationally. His sculpted works are available in high-level government offices of Liberia, including the Liberian executive mansion, for which he received national recognition by the Liberian President. According to Brown (Ibid): [Richards] shows the impact of Liberia’s ‘classical’ art in his use of its symbols for his own special modern thought as artist. Richards’ up-bring, as the child of a Methodist minister, was in Christian doctrine. Moreover, under the guidance of Boymah Buleh, a Liberian town’s man, Richards gained awareness of Liberian indigenous traditions and beliefs. His works thereafter reflect that dialectic Liberia experiences. Yeane Sangare, from the Liberian Star (August 27, 1965), points out how Richards’ artworks mirror this dual experience, but notes that Richards’ real goal is to present works that have authentic aesthetic value. Yeane Sangare explains: A full believer in Christianity, Mr. Richards does not carve with the belief that his masks or statues are to become dwelling places of an ancestor or will possess special powers over fellow men. He carves with the belief that his object may bring aesthetic enjoyment to his viewers (Ibid.). The significance of Richards’ works is his ability to create sculpture that incorporates traditional Liberian art in his own contemporary style. The primary medium of Richard’s artwork is wood, but he has also employed metal, clay and other materials indigenous to Liberia. In terms of style, Ijinla would best describe Richards’ works for synthesizing many value systems in his art. Journalist, Yeane Sangare, appears to agree with this view when he declared: His (Richards) works are a reassessment of his motherland’s philosophical belief in life, but readapted to meet the needs of a new and different way of life.

2.30 1931 Papa Ibra Tall, Senegal: Papa Ibra Tall is a Senegalese artist who attempts to inspire young Africans to remember their ancestors. He believes that the influence of western Europeans has forced many African youths to think and live as western Europeans do, forgetting their ancestral values and beliefs. He observed that: When one leaves the European schools of fine arts, one spends the next ten years of life trying to undo these learned habits…one has to do exactly the opposite of classical education (African Arts, Winter 1970.61). Papa Ibra Tall was born a Toucouleur in 1931, near Dakar (MRC 57). He was above average, in primary schooling. He was in 1947 at the top of his class. Papa Tall obtained his first degree in 1957, in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. In colonial days, young Africans

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MRC 57 Papa Ibra Tall in front of his Tapestry, 1968

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could not go far in education, for colonial administration’s fear of sharing available top jobs with African citizenry. Consequently, Tall was one of the first students who skipped college studies in Dakar to study abroad. No one could imagine that contemporary African art would attain the cultural level that it has, today. Moreover, it was almost impossible to think

MRC 58 Papa Ibra Tall. Harlem of the New Negro, oil on canvas, 25.25 x 31.25�, 1962, Senegal. Private Collection

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that Fine Art artists would make a good living. Consequently, he gained a scholarship to study the more technical aspects of art. He began his formal training in Paris in 1955, studying architecture. Western European students were Tall’s classmates. It was tough for him because all that he learned first hand about western life went against his cultural values and beliefs. He discovered that Paris school administrators did not want to encourage African students. Indeed, Papa Tall was once falsely accused of cheating. Still, he managed to study architecture for three years. After a showing in Paris, in 1959, from works he had done in his spare time while studying architecture, Papa Tall was urged by President Senghor of Senegal to become a painter. With this encouragement, he enrolled for a brief time at the Academie des Beaux Art, Paris, and returned to Dakar in 1960 to teach at the Ecole des Arts. Shortly after, he received a United States Department grant that enabled him to tour American museums; and in New York, he painted his famous Harlem of the New Negro (MRC 58). His paintings were in showing not only in Paris but also in Dakar, Rome and Moscow. Some of his paintings were in time purchased by President Senghor and by other important government officials in Senegal. Papa Ibra Tall taught at L’Ecole Des Arts in Dakar with Pierre Lods, who was the founder of the Poto Poto style school in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, which followed the laissez faire instruction. Precisely, Tall taught painting at L’Ecole Des Arts. It was divided into two sections: one section directed by N’Diaye who taught European art and the other was under Papa Ibra Tall, assisted by Lods. Like the Poto Poto School at Zaire, this section supplied materials for pupils but claimed to offer no formal teaching. In 1962, Tall opened a Department of Negro Plastic Arts in Senegal. Like Lods, he attempted to create authentic Negro art. Tall left L’Ecole Des Arts, in the mid-1960s. At this time, he began teaching tapestry as well as painting in a tapestry school in Thies, east of Dakar, named The Manufacture Nationale de Tapisseries, which he found in 1966. It had a gallery of excellent contemporary Senegalese art. The main activity at Thies was painting that was later fashioned into tapestry. By 1968, there were four designers and sixteen weavers studying and producing at the school. The course of study was five years. The students accomplished, according to their own style and inspiration, and not by following themes imposed on them. Moreover, many of the tapestries produced were design based on Papa Tall’s high quality. His conception of tapestry was in the use of collective symbols to color large surfaces. He has also illustrated the book Un Voyage du Senegal with elegant and sophisticated drawings in which contemporary Senegalese life is portrayed. Thus, Papa Tall’s works, today, appear as a whole to be created in a two dimensional arrangement: so great is the unity between his charcoal drawings of 1972, his illustrations, his oil paintings and tapestries. Papa Tall initially began the Thies School for Senegalese students to pursue artistic identity. He believes that although Senegalese have certain values, these values have been forced to be forgotten because of the western European life, particularly French, imposed on them.

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He fears that young Africans no longer have an attachment to their culture because they have been cut-off from their roots. Tall states: When I returned from Paris in 1960, I thought it was necessary to look within the people for these deeper realities and values. It is from there that the new African civilization will come (Pateux, 1974.29). While the school is unique to Senegal, it still participates in universal art scheme. Thus, contemporary Senegalese artists demonstrate today a desire to base their style on their cultural history. Like Papa Tall, many of the artists may use traditional ideas to recover their past. Although they attempt to forget western values and way of life imposed on them, certain elements are not possible to ignore. For example, some art materials that the artists used are from Western Europe imported at expensive costs, beyond the reach of Senegalese artists. Contemporary African art has often been by connoisseurs described

MRC 59 Papa Ibra Tall. Cosmic Virgile, oil on canvas, 1978, Senegal. Private Collection

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as a “stage” in African lifestyle. The art consists of references to African history, but is contemporary in the fact that it depicts modes of everyday life including those inherited from the past. One characteristic of contemporary Senegalese art is that it portrays selfrespect mixed with hope to escape present-day reality. In Papa Tall’s works, for example, rhythm, energy of the inner psyche and influence from African music and jazz, are obvious inspirational factors. Papa Tall’s works are by critics described as: […] half descriptive, half decorative, all of his compositions are rich in wavy, sinuous lines; such lines show rhythmic action in material objects… (Pateux 1974.56). In examining some of Papa Tall’s works, it is evident that the movements of lines are very similar from piece to piece. All of the samples: whether tapestries, charcoal drawings or paintings, have contours of lines that are in the middle centered. That is, they move towards the center of the work. Typical works are Virgile Cosmique (MRC 59), Peace Will Come, Forest of Memories, The Stride of the Champion, and Le Lutteur or The Wrestler.

MRC 60 Papa Ibra Tall. The Stride of the Champion, oil on masonite. The Atrist Collection

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It turns out that readers may be misled to believe that Le Lutteur or The Wrestler (Pateux 1974.27) and The Stride of the Champion (Mount, 1973.91) are two different works of art. They are nonetheless one and precisely the same work. Partly “descriptive”, partly “decorative”, all of Papa Tall’s compositions are rich in undulating, spiraling lines. Such pictorial assembly adds a rhythmic dimension, even a cosmic one, to representational forms, as can be seen in The Stride of the Champion (MRC 60) an oil painting on Masonite. The depiction of this painting is that of a heroic champion, stepping forward with arms stretched behind him with his head leaning way back in a victorious manner. In the work, one can see both broad and thin lines, and a variety of patterns making up the planes of the figure. Besides, there are rapid and slow lines, continually broken by the intersecting planes of the geometric design. In composition, the painting is open because the background extends beyond the pictorial plane, inviting audience participation, but the figure is contained within the limits of the picture, dramatizing it. It is also a two-dimensional painting with no perspective or modeling. Papa Tall has thus used a heroic subject matter in a non-western traditional style making his work to be unique and individual. Philosophically, he appears to have portrayed a specific champion: the African people’s independence and victory over foreign pressures, particularly in the arts. Certainly, Papa Ibra Tall’s works have internationally exhibited, understood by African artists and have inspired many young artists from around the world. Though Papa Tall still produces such works, one concept is outstanding in his creations. He is preoccupied with the notion of negritude. In his mind, and portrayed in his works, are some of the most important values that he learned from his ancestral past. He believes that the values of his people are such which are solely important to the people of Africa. He fears these values will be lost because of the western European influence. He hopes to restore these values and beliefs in the minds of young African artists, as well as to inspire them to want to learn more about their roots. Consequently, Papa Ibra Tall bestows confidence to the fact that, in the final analysis, regardless of all foreign interventions, Africans should decide what they want.

2.31 1932 Gebre Kristos Desta, Ethiopia: Ethiopia has produced, through the decades, artists of exceptional talent. This is particularly impressive considering that traditional art was in Ethiopia strongly in alignment with the Coptic Church and served its demands. The art was therefore largely not innovative, being mostly a reproduction of icons created by earlier generations. This limited orientation precluded any great diversity in terms of theme or style. The contemporary Ethiopian artists, having no other religious foundation on which to build, started almost from scratch. Despite the absence of a secular artistic tradition from which to learn, the contemporary Ethiopian artists are all products of their society. This is the case because it directly influences them, either positively or negatively. Many Ethiopian artists employ themes

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or motifs that, in their artworks, refer to their heritage. Artists such as Afewerk Tekle and Alexander Boghossian (Skunder), discussed later, are typical examples. Others, like Gebre Kristos Desta, turned off by the church art, have reached out to something completely different, as a means of artistic expression. Born in 1932, Gebre Kristos Desta grew up surrounded by Coptic Church art. His father was a calligrapher and manuscript illuminator. As a child, Desta watched his father reproducing the same vignettes, continually. This did not however turn him against art. In fact, he developed a great interest in art and spent much of his time reading all that he could find about art. From early in his life, he became interested in the impressionist artists, resulting from the wide range of materials that he read (Head, 1969.20). When the time came for Desta to attend college, he did not enter any art school. The reasons were twofold. The University College at Addis Ababa that Desta intended to attend did not have, at that time, an art faculty. More important, he was receiving no encouragement from his family for his interest in art. While they saw nothing wrong with it, they did not see any financial gain accruing from it. They felt that, with Ethiopia being an agricultural country, it was important for him to enter some field related to agriculture. Yielding to their pressures, he enrolled in the science school of the university with the intention of studying scientific agriculture. Desta soon realized that he could not deny his inclination and so he dropped out of college to become an artist. He later received a scholarship to study art in Cologne, Germany. There, he developed his abstract form of expression. Impetus for the style came when he met painters of expressionistic persuasion and became acquainted with the works of the Russian pioneer abstractionist, Wassily Kandisky. Desta’s works fall in two basic categories: impressionistic treatment of animate subject matter and pure abstract expressionism. His work entitled Coffee Time is a fine example of the first category. The work shows three figures seated around a table, while another table in the foreground has on it drinking vessels and a pot of coffee. The subject matter is quite real, but the treatment is far from realistic, dark lines drawn within the individual figures give the appearance of a view through x-ray lenses. The balance between light and dark tonalities is quite apparent in this work. The background of the composition is ambiguous. Part of it appears to be a wall upon which the artist has signed his name in graffiti style. The artist employs an open compositional format but draws the viewer’s eyes inward by means of the strong diagonals created by the backs of two figures. There is a tendency towards verticality, produced by the upright figure of the third individual. It effectively combines a vertical band of colors in the background behind the same figure. This verticality, counter balanced by a horizontal band of color, lies perpendicular to the vertical band. There is a sense of becoming in the work as the composition relies on optical completion on the part of the viewer. Linear perspective is apparent in the foreground. The elements radiate from a vanishing point that occurs just about at the point where the hand of the two flanking figures meet. The tables and vessels are in level of vision portrayed. There are tonal variations within the interior of the figures but they remain essentially flat. There is no attempt on the part of the 145


artist to make these figures appear three-dimensional. The artist has apparently employed elements of different styles to create a work of art, identifiable as belonging to the Ijinla art style, although it has some strong Soyan elements. The work titled The Group, still in his first category, shows a move on the part of the artist towards the conceptual, while not abandoning totally the representational style. This work depicts a group of three figures. Although there are certain suggestions of human forms, making the figures more accurately described as conceptual in style. The artist begins to place a greater emphasis on geometric and abstract forms. Human heads are caste in circles and squares, while other parts of the anatomy are ornate with these designs. There is a good balance between light and dark areas. Despite the recurring circular pattern, the composition has a tendency towards verticality. The background is undefined, appearing as a mass of colors. The figures are not a lacework by the same decorative motifs. There is no obvious linear or atmospheric perspective. The composition has some highlighted areas. Still, there does not appear to be one definite light source. The second style that Desta employs is totally conceptual art. One example is Tin Cans. This work shows the talent for innovation that the artist possesses. Here the artist combines different media, to help him make his statement. The artist unites actual metal cans with oil pigment on a hard board. The major decorative motif in this work is the continuously recurring circle. These circular patterns recur repeatedly in Desta’s work, as if they have some symbolic meaning. Desta himself denies any conscious symbolism. His interest is purely to communicate the play of form and color (Head, 1969.25). The forms are indeed interesting. The artist created such a unity between tins and the painted circles that at times it is difficult to tell them apart. Not only does the artist show a thorough understanding of his material but also he shows an understanding of external physical influences upon his work. The effect of the light that falls on the completed work becomes essentially a part of the composition. At first glance, the eyes of the viewer are inclined to dwell on the group of cans, but the momentary view spreads by means of the striations that are forcibly in alignment with the four cardinal points of his canvas. Because of the unity between the two and three-dimensional forms, fascination is created by the push and pull of the background and the foreground. The colors are painted but produced in flat areas, rather than modeled to suggest three dimensions. There is no attempt to originate any impression of depth except for that produce by the attached cans. Altogether, this is a successful work of Ijinla art. Another example of this purely conceptual art is Red Abstract. This work is striking, in painterly quality. A sense of becoming creates a lack of strong linear definition. As always, Desta has constructed a good balance between the dark and light areas of the composition. This work, as in the ‘’Tin Cans,” gives a superficial impression of being packed into a centered mass. Still, the vertical axis is emphatic. The band of light color, to the top of the canvas, suggests it. Furthermore, the artist has allowed the pigment to run, thereby causing downward thrusts of linear qualities to produce verticality. However,

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MRC 61 Desta Kristos. The Last Portfolio- Refugees, Pen and Ink on Paper. 1974. Ethiopia. Acha Debela Collection.

certain subtle horizontal brush strokes serve to counter these vertical thrusts. In the end, the highlighted areas, that do not appear possible by any one definite light source, compel the viewer to roam this asymetrica1 and open composition. The work can safely classify as Ijinla art (IJA 297). The above examples have provided a sampling of the work of Gebre Kristos Desta. His style is the result of his experience as well as his ideas and philosophies. One striking thing about his work is the fact that it is quite different from the traditional Ethiopian art (MRC 61). Frequently, he is by critics blamed for not creating work that is relevant to Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Still, he feels that art is international and must not subject itself to territorial limitations. He goes further to point out how ironic it is that the Coptic Church art that is so greatly prided by Ethiopians is actually a kind of Byzantine style (Head. 23). Desta appears to be a sensitive human being. As a painter, he has two ways to express himself artistically. Concerning meaning in his work, Desta says that his more realistic works tend to have deep meaning; but in his purely abstract compositions, there is no hidden meaning. As to his artistic objectives, they can be knowledgeable by his comments about the Haile Selassie’s prize that he received in 1965: I was given the Prize for what was considered a daring attempt to introduce modern abstract art

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into Ethiopia; so I consider the Prize as an encouragement to continue along the same radical lines (Head. 25). Late Desta also wrote poetry.

2.32 1932 Elimo Njau, Tanzania: Elimo Njau, a Chagga, was born at Kilimanjaro. As a graduate of the School of Fine Arts, Makerere College (1957), he held his first one-man showing by an African artist in Kampala. In January 1961, he exhibited his paintings in London and toured Britain, Germany and Sweden on a British Council scholarship. A lithograph by Njau has been part of Harmon Foundation exhibitions since 1962. His artistic drive created a thriving experimental art group in Demonstration Secondary School of Makerere where he taught. His pupils produced such creative works in sculpture, painting and collage that an exhibit was in showing at the Uganda Museum in February 1962. In April, the works were in exhibit at the Sorsbie Gallery in Nairobi. It opened in Munich, Germany, on Christmas Day and shown later in Frankfurt, Mannheim, Hannover and Hamburg. He taught in Demonstration Secondary School of Makerere until 1963, when he resigned and became the Assistant Director of the Sorshie Gallery (1963-1964). He took with him, to this gallery, a small group of talented young art trainees that lacked the academic base for art school. Subsequently, he headed the visual arts program at Chemchemi Cultural Center47, and founded and directed the Paa Ya Paa Art Gallery. He also established the Kibo Gallery and Workshop in Moshi, Tanzania, in June 1965. In early 1970’s, he began teaching at the University of Dar es Salaam. His most famous works are his murals in the Fort Hall Memorial Chapel, eloquent social commentaries, dedicated to victims of the Mau Mau. The mural paintings cover an entire nave wall of the church and are the largest mural series in East Africa. They portray five important episodes from the life of Christ. They are titled Nativity, Baptism of Christ, Last Supper, Agony in the Garden, and Crucifixion. The scenes are Africanized in style, yet conceived entirely in Western academic realistic tradition in terms of linear and atmospheric perspective, modulation of color as well as form. In this way, he developed into a typical Soyan artist. He is now retired and resides in Nairobi, Kenya.

2.33 1932 Bruce Onobrakpeya Nigeria: As one of the Zaria Art Society’s eleven members and a founding member of the Society of Nigerian Artists, as an art teacher, a practicing artist and illustrator, Bruce P.O. Onobrakneya has done much to promote contemporary art in Nigeria. He and his contemporaries are perhaps the first wave of “new artists” to reach national and international audiences. Critical response to their art is extremely important in influencing their subsequent work and the work of their students or admirers. Bruce Onobrakpeya (MRC 62) was born in 1932 at Agbora Oto, near Ughelli, in Bendel of Nigeria. His father was an artisan, which affected his tendency towards what Jean 148


MRC 62 Portrait of Bruce Onobrakpeya. Photo- Courtesy of Bruce Onobrakpeya.

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Kennedy calls “meticulous craftsmanship.” He attended school first in Sapele and later in Benin, where he taught high school art for four years following his graduation. In 1957, he commenced the four-year art course at the, then, Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology at Zaria (renamed Ahmadu Bello University in late 1962). He graduated in 1961 as a painter and upon graduation, received the appointment as art master for St. Gregory’s College, Lagos. Among his contemporaries at Zaria were Yusuf Grillo, Jino Akolo, Demas Nwoko, Simon Okeke, C. Uche Okeke, E. Okechukwu Odita and Oseloka Osadebe, all of whom later became famous artists in their own right. As a member of the Urhobo ethnic group, Onobrakpeya might have come under the early influence of a traditionally rich riverine artistic and mythic heritage. It is quite possible that he is by the groups in and around the Niger Delta, the Ijaw and the Igbo with whom the

MRC 63 Bruce Onobrakpeya, Godo Emami Wata, pen and ink on paper, 1976, Nigeria. The Artist Collection.

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Urhobos have close cultural affinity, more deeply influenced. The two ethnic groups, with the traditions of the Water Spirits (Owu), might seem to have given him some inspiration for his “Spirit” art themes (Three Spirits and Spirits Go II) in which there appears to be an element of fluidity. That he draws the greater portion of his artistic inspiration from the traditional aspects of Nigerian culture is evident from his own description of his efforts as: I try to speak to the present about the future and in the process choose what I wish from the past (MRC 63)… Nigerian legends, myths and religious philosophies powerfully imaginative and inspiring…(Kennedy.49). While primarily a graphic artist, working in various techniques of (linocut, etching, woodcut, etc), he also worked in both watercolor and oil. Still, his efforts in painting have been less acknowledged compared to his graphic artworks that he independently developed. Michael Crowder characterized his oil paintings as: […] surprisingly crude, his colors curiously muddy, compared with the finesse of his drawing and subtlety of colors in his graphic work (Crowder.36). He has however executed some relatively successful works in oil. Most famous is a commission for St. Paul’s Church, Ebute Metta Lagos of Nigeria, in which he depicted an African version of the Stations of the Cross in a series of twelve-eight foot by four paintings. He also painted a series of works depicting Bini and Urhobo traditions for the 1960 Independence Art Exhibition, which Crowder admits was “remarkably successful (Ibid).” His best efforts, though, seem to be his graphic works, in which he exhibits a talent for “tightness,” or cohesiveness of design and an eye for precise detail. This is observable in his linocut artworks such as the Quarrel between Ahwaire, the Tortoise, and Erhalo, the Dog (Mount, 1971.Plate 68) and The Last Suppers. This leads Crowder to judge that: […] his real talent is for the miniature, and he will certainly become an outstanding book illustrator as his work to date has shown a remarkable ability to distil the essence of a story into his pictures (Ibid.36). Some of his works, however, do not depict the more abstract aspects and qualities of life and objects than in his strictly graphic works. His efforts in Leopard in a Cornfield, an artwork in oil, reflect this claim. The same is true of his experiments with a new technique of bronzed low relief described by Marshall Mount: Since 1965, Onobrakpeya has been experimenting with bronzed relief…He sprays carved linocut blocks with bronze paint and then links in the interstices so as to stimulate painted bronze low relief sculpture…one of the reliefs, Three Spirits, combines two other major thematic concerns of the artist: nature and the spirit world…there is interest in fantasy and a lessened concern with composition and design. Forms have become much more amorphous and expressive (Ibid.136). As stated above, he is also concerned with detail, and this is noticeable in his emphasis on the use of pattern to fill any seemingly open space. Both the dog and tortoise, in “Quarrel,” have a

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series of geometric designs on their bodies. The rocks in the same work twist upwards, also with incised patterns of parallel lines, alternating in direction and angle to give an illusion of perspective. Onobrakpeya is not afraid to experiment with new techniques. His participation in various summer workshops where he worked as an equal with untrained novice artists, a situation that many established artists would strenuously avoid, justifies this claim. According to Jean Kennedy, he “sees the work of the self-trained artist objectively and as a source of inspiration. Working alongside previously untrained participants in a stimulating atmosphere, some of his finest work emerged and the experience had a liberating effect (Kennedy.49). Some of the instructors at these workshops have been artists with predominantly European background, such as Julian Beinart, Ru Van Rossen, and Denis Williams. They conceivably might have influenced Onobrakpeya to modify his conceptual process along the lines of abstract expressionism and similar “liberated” methods of expression. In any case, there is a discernible difference in art style between the two artworks of The Last Supper and Three Women and the three artworks of Three Spirit, Spirits Go II, and Leopard in a Cornfield. The precise detail of design and the realistic proportion of forms locate the style of the first group of artworks in Soyan art style. On the contrary, the conceptual, abstract, rendering of forms place the second group of artworks in Sankofa art style48. Given the metaphysical thematic content of Three Spirit and Spirits Go II, the almost unusual treatment of the spirits themselves further shows them as Sankofa/Ijinla works. Leopard in a Cornfield is clearly Ijinla, for Onobrakpeya combines traditional motifs with fresh color and compositional techniques to achieve a unique and striking synthesis. It, then, seems that Onobrakpeya works are in two distinct styles, although not mutually exclusive spheres of reference. There is insufficient data available to date any of the works as far as a sequential progression is concerned. This perhaps might have revealed an evolutionary trend in Onobrakpeya’s work. In any event, it seems on one hand that he is essentially a graphic artist, executing book illustrations and prints and experimenting with color effects in printmaking. Still, the restrictions of the media limit him. Personally, I consider his efforts in oil paintings and his experimental bronze works more spontaneous and interesting. This relative freedom would in no way prohibit these works from being useful in illustration. In fact, his Three Spirits probably best invoke the essence of a “waterspirit,” at least to my Nigerian experience. The swirling, convoluted lines that contain and delineate the spirits suggest simultaneously an amorphous yet totally an intact being— something one could readily visualize below the sea, manifesting itself in ripples, swirls and eddies. In Spirits Go II, the idea is that of an out-welling of spirit beings. Exactly what one could conceivably perceive in the dawn mists at the edge of a rainforest: the spirits issue soundlessly from the forest in a mass, blending with the fog, yet distinct, going forth to do their deeds among men. Both of these works (the first an example of his bronze” relief technique) are powerfully evocative of a supernatural essence, and are abstractedly rendered to capture this supernatural quality. On the plane of the natural, he is nonetheless powerful, at least in one particular work, Leopard in a Cornfield. Kennedy states that: 152


It captivates children as well as adults with its colorful spontaneity and amusing combinations of elements. Whimsical… incongruous…mysterious. (Kennedy.49) I feel, solely from regarding the painting (and hence perhaps out of context if the work were intended for a whimsical’ purpose, i.e. a children’s book illustration), that Kennedy’s assessment of the work’s power to captivate misses the mark completely. Out of (possible) context, and this is usually how art is by itself first encountered—so to speak— Leopard in a Cornfield appears immediately sinister and menacing. The feeling of tension is paramount in the work: the nervous, fluttering birds above the leopard; the sharp contrast between the vertical stalks; the taut horizontal body of the Leopard (the leopard “frozen” in mid-stride, his tail a composition of rigid angles, his teeth barred); and the sky ominously darkening the background. All these imaging convey elements of heightened tension. There is nothing ’’whimsical” to my mind about the work. Even the use of color promotes the feeling of tension—reds, yellows, and oranges converge in strange patterns on the Leopard’s body, and align themselves in the face to compete for emphasis on a particular area. This comes about in the focusing of terrible anxiety within the face, and one that draws obvious attention to the Leopard’s glowing, yellow eyes. The point is, though Crowder judges Onobrakpeya to be less successful in oil painting, Leopard in a Cornfield is to me the most powerful and effective work of Onobrakpeya, of a few that I have examined. Whether this is a new direction in Onobrakpeya’s work is, again, not known, since the date of the work in question is not given. That he draws from his background and strength in graphic design is, however, evident. Onobrakpeya continues to work in graphics, especially with black-and-white prints, as soon as he acquired his own printmaking press in 1967. Conceivably, he could produce the same effects in this medium as he did in Leopard in a Cornfield, because he does experiment in color etchings. The etching in Spirit Go II would seem to substantiate this supposition, although one would have to see other examples before one makes any conclusions. In any case, Onobrakpeya continues in this vein to profess his penchant for the experimental and the spontaneous. In regards to his printmaking efforts, he states: I do not produce prints just for the joy of getting many copies of an idea…concepts are sometimes enriched by accidental results. Printmaking should not be a dull routine. I like to improvise, to leave room for discoveries. This is why I ran experimental series (Kennedy.49). Whether he can achieve in his printmaking the effect of color that is successful in Leopard in a Cornfield appears doubtful, although a combination of graphic and painting techniques might prove fruitful, as indeed his Three Spirits seems to suggest. That Onobrakpeya is successful in his experiments and in his “straight” illustrative work is evident, if one examines the exhibitions in which he has participated, not to mention his various commissions. In addition to the above and apart from his St. Paul’s commission, he executed paintings for the United Fruit Company in 1957 while still a student. He exhibited textile prints in Manchester, England in 1959. He had solo showings in Ughelli in 1959 and in Lagos in 1961. Between 1977 and 1980, he exhibited prints in the U.S. through the Harmon 153


Foundation and the Phelps Stokes Fund, as well as the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition. This pursuit of his talents as a professional artist and his interest in the promotion of art, both as a teacher and art organizer, make him a definite influence on contemporary Nigerian art. Although he is certainly neither an activist nor an antagonistic artist, he is nonetheless an accomplished graphic technician who is not afraid to pursue new methods and materials in his work49. This fact, coupled with his concern for the teaching of art to young or new artists and his efforts in promoting professionalism among practicing artists, account for his influential role. Apart from several publications by Onobrapkeya himself that treated various stages of his development as a printmaker and painter, two major publications, today, stand out to inform Onobrapkeya’s achievements in life as a celebrated world artist. They are: Paul Chike Dike and Pat Oyelola, The Zaria Art Society-A New Consciousness, National Gallery Of Art, Nigeria, 1998; and Richard A. Singletary, ONOBRAKPEYA, Atlantic Lithograph, Norfolk, Virginia, 2002.

2.34 1932 Ahmed Mohammed Shibrain Sudan: Ahmed Mohammed Shibrain was educated at the Khatoum School of Fine and Applied Arts, where he graduated in 1955. The following year, 1956, he was appointed to the faculty of the school. From 1957 to 1960, he studied in London, Ibadan, Beirut, and Khartoum; and in 1964 won the UNESCO art competition. He is an accomplished painter and graphic designer and has shown his works in several exhibitions both in Africa (Nigeria, 1963, and Khartoum) as well as overseas (London, 1960), including New York (1965, World Fair Exhibition). Under the patronage of the Harmon Foundation (1965-1966), his works were also on exhibit in New York. Shibrain is a devout Muslim who combines African Arabic and Islamic motifs in his works by using Arabic calligraphy as the structure of his artistic expressions. In Calligraphic Abstraction (MRC 64), pen-and-ink, and Message 40, oil on canvas, Arabic calligraphy50 is meshed into a single overall composition that shows contrasting elements of curvilinear and rectilinear forms within areas of dark and light as well as free flowing lines. In this manner, Shibrain’s works exhibit a strict adherence to abstract representation that is both dramatic and exciting. Consequently, the greatest contribution of Ahmed Mohammed Shibrain lies in his ability to translate Arabic motifs into African visual syntax.

2.35 1932 Afewerk Tekle Ethiopia: Afewerk Tekle came to prominence as an artist in the 1950’s, after having tried mining engineering in the 1940s. A Coptic Monk was one of his early teachers. He attended the Central School of Art and the Slade School in England, and studied stained glass design in Paris. He designed windows for the military academy at Harar, did murals for the Cathedral of St. George and St. Trinity, and sculpture for the new Imperial Palace in Addis 154


MRC 64 Ahmed Shibrain. Calligraphic Abstraction, pen and ink on paper, postcard size, 1960, Sudan. Private Collection.

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MRC 65 Tekle Afwerk Ethiopian Poet, Oil on Canvas, 29.5 x 19.6”, 1966, Ethiopia.

Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. His first one-man showing was in Addis Ababa in 1954; and has exhibited his works in Europe, the U.S.A and the Soviet Union. At the time of his Netherlands exhibition in 1957, his artwork was in technique considered as having a naive, folklore quality. A prolific artist he is in many media that include pen and ink, charcoal, lithographs gouache, and oil; in addition to executing commissioned murals, stained glass windows, mosaics and sculpture, designed stamps, book jackets, playing cards, and a national costume. His subjects include landscapes, religious murals, legendary heroes, an equestrian statue of Haile Selassi’s father, and an oil portrait of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. Wide-ranging techniques in styles and subject matter he defends as a requirement of the contemporary scene, spanning from near abstraction to the academic mode of expression (MRC 65). Moreover, the style shown in the stained glass windows of the African Hall, the headquarters of United Nations Economic Mission to Africa, in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, emerges as his favorite. It features Soyan drawing, bright, vibrant color, and crisscrossing black lines, which give a superficial look of abstraction. The work, thought of by many critics, is as one of the most important commissions in Africa. The stained glass window has three units. The left segment shows a group of Africans bearing a burden in the shape of the African continent, symbolizing emancipation, surmounted by the dragon of colonialism. A skeleton whips the Africans, symbolizing evil forces attempting to prevent progress. A chain surrounds the group. Rich African rainforest lands in Flames, under a stormy sky. Also shown are children and a separated couple who have been consequently of slavery abandoned. In the right section (MRC 66), the sun is rising over the continent of Africa. People in their national dresses, from different countries, 156


MRC 66 Afwerk Tekle. African Hall, Right Window, Stained Glass, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

are watching. Atop, the skeleton is flying away, and the dragon of colonialism has been slain. Ultimately, the central section, to the nationalist, is of more special interest. Based on form and meaning, the title of the third panel, the central section (Mount, 157


1973, 172.90), could well be “Path to Africa’s Future,” of Ethiopia leading the way into the African inevitable, followed by other African nations. It parallels the theme and concept of Awakening Africa by Akwete Kofi of Ghana. On the left is a knight in medieval European armor wearing the United Nations Symbol on the upper body. He holds a sword and the scales for meting out justice. On the right is a Maasai warrior, standing with a shield and the spear for retributive justice. The regular squares of the window frame are a structured element in the composition, against which the luminous reds, yellows, and blues of the glass, strong value contrasts, and a decorative pattern of diagonal black lines function. Appearing in the popular Ethiopian color, the central figures are clad in white. The style of the figures is essentially naturalistic, although parts, particularly the faces, appear somewhat stylized. The composition is frontal. It recedes in a sequence of planes beginning with an indistinct dark foreground against which the central figures stride forward like arrowheads. In the next plane, the knight in armor stands by himself. Next, come the representatives of other African nations shown two by two, man and woman together. In the succeeding plane, a city gleams white against a plane of blue-black hills. Behind the hills, the sun rises with an irregular corona against a dark blue sky. At the top, the sky becomes red for no apparent reason within the picture plane to unify the composition in terms of color. The flags of different African nations form a brightly colored border on the east and west sides of the picture. As a nuclear family, the central couple-figures have reunited with the child who holds the father by hand. The pair of husband and wife together holds up the torch of enlightenment, their two arms shown as one, directed upward in the central vein of the window. This portion of the composition appears unresolved. There is a document visible in the lower right quadrant that is practically unidentifiable to the viewer, a type of logo, perhaps. Technically, stained glass work strung together by the use of channeled lead strips is “cames”. Glass is in either edge of strips inserted, which has a cross-section like an I-beam. The lead strips are by soldering joined together. The look of irregular, somewhat angular colored areas derives from this treatment of the material. The rectangular lines of the window frames are an architectural element; the diagonal lines, define an arbitrary part of the composition. Drawing attention to the central white-mass of the main male and female figures is the central x-shape. The woman’s hand, crossing her embroidered dress-band echoes this. Other crosses and crisscrosses lead the eye from one part of the composition to another and, in contrast with the bright stained glass, they cooperatively create a sparkling effect despite the reversal of dark lines against this bright, translucent glass. Still, the diagonal lines give a superficial likeness to cubist genre and in my conviction fail to work adequately as compositional elements. Overall, the line quality is rapid and irregular; and the impact, dramatic. The artist, evidently, felt that Ethiopia would be in the vanguard of Africa’s development. This is despite the fact that the Haile Selassi regime, only recently deposed (1976), as an

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old styled absolute monarchy, did little to improve the well being of his people, in his halfa-century political power. Certainly, Haile Salessi opposed dictatorship in the model of an invasion by Mussolini in the 1930s. Still, he can scarcely claim any other political credits. Thus, it would seem that Tekle’s vision of Ethiopia leading the way into a political future of Africa is, in the early 1960s, promising and nationalistic; but naïve and premature in the late 1970s, when Haile Selassi was deposed. The fact that the female figure is as equal partner represented, although the male figure is fashioned surpassing her in height. This could be a symbol of recognition of considerable magnitude, especially when viewed against the background of an ultra-conservative male dominated Ethiopian society. Still, it is the law of nature that two equal forces, male and female, in opposite direction may cancel each other, showing no change. But two equal forces, equal partners of male and female, in the same direction add up to produce a force twice as great as one, bringing about change with objectivity. Is this the “Path to Africa’s Future”, as envisioned by the artist? Afewerk Tekle is one of Africa’s contemporary artists who endeavored to create a vision of Africa during the post-colonial period. Certainly, he has achieved it in his own way.

2.36 1933 Uche Okeke, Nigeria: Uche Okeke was born on April 30 at Nimo-Awka of Nigeria’s Anambra State, a highly populated are of Igboland in Southern Nigeria. Igbo culture is one of strong art tradition and entrepreneurial spirit, with customs such as masquerades and Igbo tales providing rich sources of inspiration for visual artists. Uche’s father, Isaac Okonkwo Chukwuka Okeke, was a master woodworker, cabinetmaker, and furniture designer. Although he died suddenly when Uche was only ten years old, his collection of craft items, and art, undoubtedly, had an impact on the talented young boy. Uche’s mother, Monica Mgboye Okeke, a teacher and a seamstress, had a sewing and knitting workshop and would prove to be an important influence on his art through the sharing of her knowledge of uli designs and Igbo folktales. Encouraged by his mother, his early development in art was almost assured. In high school his interest in collecting Igbo folktales and writing his first poem were a common knowledge. Working as a clerk in the Department of Labor at Jos, in 1954, he privately practiced art. In 1956 he held his first group and solo exhibitions at the National Museum and Local Council Hall at Jos. He was admitted in 1957 to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (NCAST), now the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Carrying with him the experiences and influences he had acquired between 1954 and 1955 in Akinola Lasekan’s Lash Studio, Okeke arrived at Zaria in September of 1957 in high spirit. He spent 1957-1961 at NCAST, majoring in painting. He took part in countless expositions, including the Nigerian Independence Art Exhibition of 1960. He studied in Munich in 1962. He actively participated in the organization of the FESTAC’77 Art Exhibition in Lagos. Also, in 1977 he designed the tapestry for Murtala Mohammed Airport. He illustrated several books, including his own book: Tales of the Land of Death (1977) and the frontispiece of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1978). As well, in 1978 he was involved in First International 159


Symposium on Contemporary Nigerian Art and the Nigerian Artists Conference at Nsukka. For many years, he was an outstanding Professor of Art at the University of Nigeria where in 1981 he took a Sabbatical leave of absence that he finished at the University of Minnesota, USA. Throughout his career as an artist Okeke would continually commemorate his cultural heritage, while creating art that was distinctly original and assuredly contemporary. His mature art career went through five distinct stages: the Zaria, Mbari, Biafran, Uli, and Asele Periods. In each of these periods African traditional elements and significant political and personal events shaped the art he produced. Okeke’s Zaria Period, 1957-61, began when he was training at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology at Zaria in 1957. The following year he and ten other art students at the college founded the Zaria Art Society, a group dissatisfied with the “British Academy art” teaching that they were receiving. They became known as the “The Zaria

MRC 67 Uche Okeke. Girl with Flowing Hair, pen and ink, 1962. The Artist Collection.

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Art Society,” and later “Zaria Rebels,” and their philosophies and art careers would prove to be incredibly contributory in the course of contemporary Nigerian art. With Okeke as the president and E. Okechukwu Odita as the secretary, the Zaria Art Society developed and put to use the idea of a natural synthesis of European technique and indigenous, uniquely Nigerian elements. This concept of natural synthesis was instrumental in Okeke’s art of this period and would stick with him throughout his entire career. While at Zaria, he produced a number of bold, linear pen and ink drawings depicting characters or scenes from Igbo tales. He also created drawings of fantastic human and animal figures, human heads, plants, and tree bark. In addition to these drawings he also worked in gouache and linocut and made several significant oil paintings, including a large realistic depiction of his father’s funeral procession titled Burial Procession. In 1958 Okeke opened a Cultural Centre in Kafanchan that housed various artworks and publications, and would become an important place for people interested in the arts in Nigeria. In 1962, the Mbari Period (196266), he went to Munich Germany for about a year (MRC 67), where he studied mosaic and stained glass and helped restore churches that had been bombed during World War II. During Okeke’s Mbari Period he also had numerous exhibitions in Nigeria and Germany, and was actively involved in different arts organizations. In 1963 Okeke transferred his cultural center from Kafanchan to the Uwani section of Enugu. His art during his time in Enugu is characterized by an increased interest and application of uli motifs. Uli is an Igbo tradition of females painting various object-oriented, decorative line drawings on their bodies and on walls. In addition to their aesthetic aspects, uli designs have significance in certain community rituals and are closely tied to nature, with some motifs obtaining sacred qualities. Uche was first introduced to uli at a very young age both from his Igbo cultural origins and more specifically his mother, who was at one time an uli artist herself. Although exact uli designs rarely made it into Okeke’s art, the linear qualities of the drawings had a profound effect on the works he produced in this period. Along with uli designs he drew from Igbo mythology and religion, giving his work a particular spirituality. In 1965 he made a series of mostly dark oil paintings on the theme of the mystery of Igboland forest areas, as well as some social issues. This work dealt deeply with Okeke’s culture and religious belief. In 1966 and 1967, as the political situation in the country worsened, he produced linocuts depicting simple outline figures of refugees who

MRC 68 Uche Okeke. Flight of Biafra, pen and ink on paper, 1968, Nigeria. The Artist Collection.

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had been displaced from northern Nigeria. Okeke’s Biafran Period (1967-70: MRC 68) is marked by drastic changes in his life caused by dramatic social and political events, namely the Biafran war. In 1967, as war was threatening, he moved to Nimo, bringing his cultural center collection with him in order to safely store it. In 1968 he became head of the Visual Art Section, Refugees Affairs Committee, of the Biafran Directorate of Propaganda, through which he organized art exhibitions and made poster designs, magazine covers, and brochures. During this time he also wrote frequently, producing a dance drama, a play, and war poetry. In 1969 he was involved in the collection and exhibition of items of contemporary Biafran art and traditional Igbo art throughout Germany. The exhibition of these artworks at different German cities was useful not only in demonstrating to Europeans the skill of Nigerian artists, but also to bring awareness and support to the cause of the Biafran people. While in Germany he was involved in the art scene, and he produced a radio play and made monochromic gouaches for a book of his that was published in 1971 called Tales of Land of Death: Igbo Folk Tales. During the Biafran period much of the artwork that Okeke produced was stylistically similar to his earlier works, but with different content. In January of 1970 the war ended and Okeke became head of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. Okeke’s return to Nsukka marked the beginning of his Uli Period, 1971-85. This was a time of growth for Nigeria economically and for contemporary Nigerian art. The number of students graduating increased, new galleries opened up, and graphic design positions became available at new businesses in the country. During this period he created a different art program at the University of Nigeria, placing an emphasis on teaching his ideas on uli, together with those of his colleagues. The program emphasized knowledge of traditional culture, drawing and design through the two-dimensional and linear qualities of uli pattern. Drawing had always been essential to Okeke’s development as an artist, and he felt strongly about its importance. It was his belief when he proclaimed, “any visual artist who cannot draw is really for me not a visual artist” (exhibition brochure, p. 4). The content of Okeke’s own art in this period had changed from the political and social commentary that he did during the war, though his style of working did not change very much. He returned to drawing from uli tradition and also worked with Christian themes. In the early 1970s he primarily made prints using wood, linoleum, and metal. In the 1980s he produced works in gouache, watercolor, pen and ink, charcoal, and line and wash, and also published a couple of major writings on art and a number of reproductions of his art. During this period he also held numerous one-person and group exhibitions in America, Europe and Nigeria and traveled extensively. In 1986 Okeke was forced by university administration to retire from teaching at the University of Nigeria. This was based on accusations that he mismanaged research funds. He retired to his Asele Institute in Nimo, Anambra State, and began what is called Asele Period (1986-1992). He spent much time developing and running the Asele Institute, a time of only occasional artistic activity for him. Briefly, from 1986-1987, he worked to improve the teaching program at the Department of Creative Arts at the University of Port Harcourt, 162


where he was a visiting professor. In 1993, a major retrospective exhibition of Okeke’s works were by the Nsukka artists put together in Lagos for the celebration of his sixtieth birthday. He continues to write about Nigerian art and organize seminars, workshops, and art functions. The limited artwork that he has produced in this period consists mainly of gouaches that are very similar to his earlier work in gouache, with a dark, serious quality to them. Over the span of seventy-five years of life (1933-2008), Uche Okeke produced countless works of art through his Zaria, Mbari, Biafran, Uli, and Asele Periods. He has had solo and group exhibitions in Nigeria and beyond Nigerian boundaries. He has published numerous writings, and prints and held various art functions in Nigeria and the rest of the world. Arguably as important as any of this is his dedication to teaching to assist in the continuation of cultural and artistic traditions. The Zaria Artist’s ideas of a natural synthesis of European technique and indigenous elements became a theory of art that significantly affected the formation of contemporary art in Nigeria. He created works of art that were undoubtedly contemporary and influential, whiles still maintaining a strong sense of his cultural origins. From the time of his birth in 1933 to the present day, Uche Okeke has been a determined, hard-working artist whose influence has been felt, not only on contemporary Nigerian art, but also on art beyond Nigerian boundaries. Uche Okeke’s The Conflict (After Achebe), painted in 1965 (MRC 69), deserves a certain elaboration to show his skills. He depicts a scene from Chinua Achebe’s famous novel Things Fall Apart, which he fully illustrated in 1962, his Mbari Period. The Conflict was one of many paintings Okeke created dealing with social issues in Africa during the 1960s. In The Conflict egwugwu masqueraders and dancers are shown approaching a Christian church to set fire to it. A brilliant and dynamic composition is created through the depiction of active figures on the majority of the canvas. The movement that is by the composition created matched Okeke’s balancing of complimentary colors and contrasting forms. To add further emotion and action, broad powerful brushstrokes surge throughout the painting, giving it an exciting vertical accentuation. Moreover, all the emotion and expression that is created visually serves to emphasize the important concept of the work. The composition is both diagonal and swirling, creating much activity and expression. Okeke places the masqueraders in the foreground at the bottom of the picture, with the viewer being situated directly behind and slightly above them. The small, simple church is in the distance, at the top left corner of the picture. The missionary and his Igbo assistant quietly and solemnly stand guard in front of it. The horns and hairy features of the masqueraders, painted with dark colors and expressive brushstrokes, create motion that surges diagonally front the lower left corner of the frame to the upper right. The curved position of the top masquerader then leads one’s eye to the starkly contrasted diagonal created by the church’s roofline. The motion then continues around the roof‘s apex, where a Christian cross is barely visible, down to the two figures standing in front of it. These two figures are emphasized vertically, and their long arms and bodies lead the motion of the painting back into the group of masqueraders. 163


MRC 69 Uche Okeke The Conflict (After Achebe), Oil on Board, 47.6 x 35.9�, Nigeria. The Artist Collection.

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The color scheme is primarily complimentary, with oranges, browns, and similar earth tones contrasted by a few select areas of bluish-gray. The light bluish-gray color of the figure in the extreme lower right corner is boldly demarcated from the deep dark brown figure juxtaposed directly next to it. This sharp contrast in the foreground draws attention and is eloquently balanced in the background by the light bluish-gray coloring of the missionary and his assistant, as well as the darker blue-grays at the top of the frame. Furthermore, these darker blue tones successfully correlate with the dark colors of the masquerading figures in the foreground. In addition, the light orange color of the church is by a masquerader of similar color in the center balanced. Thus the composition, while remaining active and expressive, is fully tied together through the intelligent use of color. A close inspection of the painting technique utilized in the work is essential to an accurate interpretation of the work. Okeke uses broad brushstrokes to blend colors on the surface of the canvas. This is especially evident in the treatment of the masqueraders. They are hairy, horned creatures marching to burn down a church, and as such they seem to have been painted with wild enthusiasm. Visible brushstrokes enhance the eye’s movement within the composition, and give it a strong vertical emphasis. The technique used in painting these figures serves to emphasize the expression that they were already given with their body positions and depiction of costumes. With knowledge of the masqueraders’ intentions, that expression only becomes more powerful. Contrasting this turbulent expression is the quiet forms of the missionary and his assistant standing in the top right corner. They stand with long, vertical bodies painted in a softer, subtler manner than the approaching masqueraders. The contrast of these two groups of figures helps to maintain the important balance that is also seen elsewhere in the work. The Conflict (after Chinua Achebe) is as powerful and striking conceptually as it is visually. Though created as an illustration for a book, this painting has its own meaning and means of interpretation. It deals with a specific social and religious issue that was very important to Okeke and many other Africans at the time. Christianity had been introduced to Africa with colonialism and the arrival of westerners long before this painting was created in 1965. Just like traditional African religion and Islamic faith, Christianity had become an integral part of the fabric of the African continent. However, it was a common belief at the time that some Christians were overzealous and did not have enough respect for indigenous tradition. This painting was created as a social commentary on these fanatical aspects of Christianity in Africa. Okeke also did a poem on the very same subject, titled Kpaaza. He felt very strongly about the importance of his homegrown culture, and did not want to see it swallowed up by an over-enthusiastic western ideology. The depth of his feelings on the subject matter is readily evident in the expressive nature of the painting.

2.3 1933 Nicolas Ondongo, Congo Reblic: Nicolas Ondongo is one of the first pupils of Pierre Lods in the Poto Poto School of Congo Republic, born about 1933. His work was included in the exhibition collection of ART FROM CENTRAL AFRICA by Rolf Italicander in 1957. This collection traveled through the 165


MRC 70 Ondongo. Drummers, gouache on paper, 1958, Democratic Republic of Congo. Rolf Italiannder Collection.

Netherlands, Zimbabwe (former Rhodesia) and South Africa under the sponsorship of the Southern African Music society. Ondongo, like the products of the Poto Poto School, is famous for the stick-like rendering of figures in his paintings: dynamic figures of hunters, dancers, and market women, composed on a neutral background along the canvas base line. Unlike the standard traditional African sculpted figures, his stick figures (MRC 70) with thin arms and legs as well as small heads are elongated. Often he uses delicate patterns formed by the figures’ arms and legs to integrate the composition. Drums, headdress, loincloths and jewelry, frequently employed, are in contrasting colors and patterns to intensify the unrealistic effect of his paintings. His work is evocative of South African rock art that links him, as well as his Poto Poto School colleagues, to the African past.

2.36 1935 Jimo Akolo, Nigeria: Jimo Akolo (MRC 71) was born at Egbe in Kwara State (former Kabba Province), Nigeria. He descends from a family of Yoruba wood carvers, whose sculptures were in very early times buried in a common grave at Old Iloko. In his early years, he carved wood stamps at the Keffi Government College where he won numerous prizes. He later attended Bauchi Teacher Training College for a brief period and completed his education in art at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, receiving a Diploma in Fine Arts (Dip. F.A.), majoring in painting, in 1961. He continued his study of art at Hornsey College of Art, London. Moreover, he received a Masters of Science (M.S.) in Educational Media at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana in 1965 as well as a doctorate degree in Art Education from the same school, in September 1982. Akolo has exhibited extensively in Nigeria winning first prize in the Nigerian Festival of Arts and honorary mention in the Biennal at Sao Paulo Brazil, 1962; in the same year he won the National Cultural Trophy in Nigeria. The scope of his artistic activities extended to

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commissioned mural decorations for the Northern Nigeria House of Assembly (Lugard Hall), 1961-62. Since 1962, he has been participating in numerous one-man shows at the Marina

Jimoh Akolo. Self Portrait, oil on canvas, 1980. Nigeria. Unknown Collection.

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Exhibition Center, Lagos (1962); Mbari Center in Ibadan (1962); at the Commonwealth Institute of Arts, London (l964); and in Lagos (1970). His group exhibitions include those held in London, England (1965; and in Moscow (1968). Talking with Serumaga in 1968, in Nigeria, about his problems as a Nigerian artist, Akolo said (from his unpublished document): First, it is difficult to obtain your material in Nigeria as a painter. You have to order your materials from abroad. Second, you have to think of existing too, because you cannot live on what you earn as a painter in Nigeria. And of course most Nigerians don’t buy your paintings - foreign businesses and persons buy your works. On whether Africa is ready for abstract art Akolo said also: I don’t think that there should be any rules guiding artists…. They should do what they like. After all they are supposed to create. They don’t have to be told what to think. I feel that if you create something it’s left to the public to understand what you are doing. If you have to think of the public rather than of creating, you have a lot of problems. You have to think of creating, first and foremost (Ibid.). When one studies Akolo’s paintings one finds a technician challenging the natural phenomena of his material and imagination. His works are conceptual and realistic in dealing with landscapes, stones, wood and shapes; and color is abstractly presented as in his Zaria Landscape. He is sensitive to his environment that introduces his artistic stimuli to dealing with investigation in the development of his paintings. Thus, Akolo uses an intellectual and realistic vision in committing his paintings to the environmental subject matter that seriously concerns him. Accordingly, his paintings show calculation and hesitancy due to his attempts at dealing with the problem of time and his continuous study of the complexity of media and environmental subject matter. His Ramadan Festival is a good case in point. “The title has a hidden meaning,” Akolo said to the present writer in an unpublished interview. What I am trying to convey in this work is not so much of an idea, but of design - color distribution, asymmetry, and so on. The idea comes through social means, from several years of watching the Ramadan festival and making sketches (of)…symbols used. [They] are focused on the horse rider, in the center of the picture, to convey power and authority bestowed on the ‘Emir’ (Ruler). The arch shape repeated all over the painting is dominant in Islamic architecture and used to denote an Islamic festival; and the warm colors denote African warmth and humanism…The work conveys personal, national and international messages. Akolo is also forthright in his opinion about contemporary African art: Young contemporary African artists should try to master all techniques and craftsmanship so as to have the necessary medium/media to express themselves. This will mean learning about their roots, as well as about Western art, Japanese art, and so on. 168


Thus, Akolo indirectly reveals ideas concerning himself, his fellow artists and the world in general. Jimo Akolo has served on a number of Councils, including the Nigerian Arts Council and the National Council for Arts and Culture. He was a Reader of Art Education at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and is now retired.

2.37 1935 Andrew T. Motjuoadi, South Africa:

MRC 72 Andrew Motjuoadi Card Players, pencil on paper, early 1960, South Africa. Unknown Collection

Andrew Tishidiso Motjuoadi was born at Pietersburgh, South Africa. He first came to public notice on a group exhibition in Pta and Jnb during the early sixties. As a selftaught artist, Motjuoadi became quite famous for his pencil drawings. His works are very appealing because of his stubborn and confident pictorial convention and his meticulous patterning and details. His subjects and his works, endowed with atmosphere and philosophic speculation about man, greatly influenced by the Township scenes, are the prevailing ideas in his drawings. Because of his handling of texture and form, Motjuoadi gave his works more individuality in terms of quality. In 1964 he was commissioned to paint the background of Cornell Wilde’s film The Naked Prey, but he discovered that he was more successful in creating pencil drawings than painting colored backgrounds. In 1966, Motjuoadi entered three of his large drawings to the Artist of Fame and Promise

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Competition, and received an award for the Best “Non-European” Artist. Little was understood about Motjuoadi’s private life until after his death. Fortunately, a UNISA lecturer, Peter Rodd, made discoveries about the artist’s family and inquired around Motjuoadi’s background. He was trying to obtain a B.Sc. degree at the University of North, South Africa, before suffering a stroke at the end of 1967. Because of the stroke, he remained paralyzed until the time of his death on November 1968. Three examples of his works are enough to show Motjuoadi’s Soyan art excellence. The first drawing is The Kraal that was in 1967 completed. He used color inks on paper to create this piece, with strong emphatic linear and aerial perspective for the engaging expression. By this latter means of representation, a person is to observe forcibly that the farther a thing, the smaller it is to the human eyes. In other words, the house in the background is much smaller when compared to the front figures in the drawing. There is one light source coming from the left side, creating cast shadows. While heavy lines outline their entire bodies, it is also noticeable that the two female figures are true to life (i.e., feet, arms and breast). In addition, there appears to be some overlapping of elements in the far right of the work. Many details such as folds and crinkles in their shirts give the viewer, in the end, the idea of texture in their clothing. Consequently, the totality of this approach strongly confers to the work Soyan style. The second example is Township Scene completed also in pencil, in 1963. First, the figures are realistic because they are true to life. There are folds and pleats on the men’s clothing, which again gives the viewer a sense of texture in the apparels. Also, there is some kind of interaction occurring among the figures. Furthermore, there is one light source, coming from the bottom of the drawing that yields cast shadows. It is likewise interesting to note that the expressive heavy lines on the foreground give away the true notion of a dry and cracked land. Ultimately, there is strong emphatic linear and aerial perspective. All these elements of composition, like in the previous work, also favor the Township Scene with Soyan art style. The final pencil drawing is Card Players (MRC 72), completed in 1966. Its most striking feature is the pronounced facial expression of the three men that conveys their deep concentration on the card game. Their proportions look real and their cap and clothing have different patterns, showing various textures. The one light source, with cast shadows, is coming from the left side of the picture plane. The two outer figures are leaning forward and overlapping one another centrally at the lower end, while the frontal and profile views of the entire figures of the composition tend to bestow strong variety to this drawing. The preceding Andrew Motjuoadi’s pencil drawings have immense details and decorations, perhaps, indicating the time and effort he spent in creating them. It is also apparent that the works contain characteristics of Soyan art style. Still, it is distressing to realize that South Africa, and the world at large, lost this talented artist in the bloom of his youth, having only a hand full of pencil drawings to remind us of his physical existence.

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2.40 1936 Francis Nnaggenda, Uganda: Francis Nnaggenda is a good example of an Ijinla artist. As he is a blender of traditional and contemporary elements of art into a complex whole, who is still experimenting, the question remains whether he has any future in Uganda, or the whole of East Africa? This is applicable because of the extensive commercialization of art in East Africa geared towards tourists with which most artists in that part of Africa contend with, or to which they easily succumb. It is perhaps different in the case of Nnaggenda, for despite all odds, he appears determined to succeed in Ijinla art style. Nnaggenda was born in the village of Bukumi, Uganda in 1936. As a child, he drew pictures when at play and constructed toys that he used for amusement. In elementary school, he drew and painted, so it was not difficult for him, later in high school, to organize his own art class. Consequently, when Nnaggenda completed his education, he made efforts to become a professional artist. After a few abortive attempts to pursue an art career in Uganda, he left in 1963 to study abroad. He went to Germany, where he was unable to start his studies immediately due to lack of funds. Meanwhile, he worked intermittently as a beer hall musician and a sculptor’s assistant. He entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1964 and emerged, in 1967, with a designation of “Meisterschuler,” after completing the five-year course in three years. He returned to Uganda, that same year and immediately set up a small art studio outside of Kampala. He was able to create large images in the local wood of muvale lusambya and mutuba as well as palm wood, freely supplemented with odd bits of scrap metal. A towering ten feet figure that he called Blood Rain Dust is one of the art pieces of this group. The lower one sixth of this image is like a grotesque apparition with two bulging eyes, on top of which is surmounted a suggestive image of a limbless person. Starting from the lower part, the rounded shape is like a ball. The front portion is with two concentric circles adorned, almost half way across the rounded shapes. The inner circles are scrapped thereby revealing a slightly darker shade of the original appearances. A form suggesting split upper and lower lips is below the two concentric circles. Surmounted on this form is a funnel-shaped featureless structure, projecting horizontally forwards. This extends upwards, ending in a head with an elongated neck. The head is similar to that of Nigeria’s Akwanshi51 sculpted figure. The figure looks awesome not only because of its size but also because of the various forms that do not suggest a known being. Moreover, its symbolism is as forbidding as the title. It is that of a woman, standing on a bloodthirsty object resembling a cannon, with a crumpled and battered child on her back. Although the figure itself appears large and serene, it nevertheless conveys violence and transformation from whichever angle one looks at it, whether political, sociological or sexual. The approximately nine feet Remaining Charcoal in Valley of Ashes, another figure in this category, is in the National Cultural Center of Kampala. Still, for the face and the hands, this figure also resembles one of the sculpted stone pieces of Akwanshi.

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A third piece titled My Inner Trainer was completed in Germany and painstakingly transported back to Uganda by Nnaggenda. Entirely welded, this sculpture is made from found metal objects, some melted and reshaped or painted, others unaltered. This sculpture that is “beast-like” in appearance does not represent any known figure. It originates from the artist’s conscience and imagination. The larger than life size sculpture created a very strong reaction among the residents of a village, on the outskirts of Kampala, where it was taken for welding. At the Katwe welder’s shop, people gathered to see the strange sculpture and debated about its supernatural powers. This Nnaggenda’s sculpture and his other works were systematically rejected, a few weeks after the incident at the welder’s shop, by the western educated Nommo Gallery fans. These aesthetic enthusiasts

MRC 73 Francis Nnaggenda. Moolight, charcoal on paper, 1970, Uganda. Michael Tylor Collection

of the Nommo Gallery were the so-called “champions of the status quo” who were determined to initiate a “cultural renaissance” for Uganda. Still, they forgot that Africa must not and cannot afford to remain completely a carbon copy of the realistic western art style in the twentieth century. In Uganda, Nnaggenda is famous, alluded to with bewilderment and suspicion, partly because of his training in Europe and partly because of his style in sculpture. He is an 172


experimental artist who is successful in synthesizing his knowledge of world art and that of traditional African art. He is preoccupied with the relation between the individual and the mutilation of man by modern industrial society. He therefore presents in his works the new African spirit: to advance to a more complete or complex form through experimentation. Thus, in urban centers of Uganda, the progressive destruction of traditional artistic monuments, architecture and sculpture is to this artist perceptible. It is regrettable, moreover, that some Africans do not seem to obtain useful information from their rich artistic and cultural past, but appear merely to glorify it. Rather than celebrate the virtues of traditional past alone, Nnaggenda appears to grapple with the problems posed by the present-day society in a rapidly changing world. He does not ignore tradition, but seeks what is valuable in it. He strives not to exhibit a simple regeneration of the past, but always allows something new to spring. Thus, his work often reflects a new creation that to the Katwe villagers symbolizes not just a mirror but also “the soul� of Africa (MRC 73) Openly, Nnaggenda’s artistic vision appears illuminated when he discovered Africa while he was in Europe. It is an irony of course that it was in German museums that he found several traditional African works that he had never seen before in his life. Like both Akwete Kofi and El Salahi, he did not therefore permit western education to blot out his discovery. Whatever new ideas and techniques he might have acquired in Europe, he subjected to his experiments in contemporary African art. Besides sculpture, Nnaggenda also draws and paints. His paintings vary in size, medium

Portait of Malangatana V. Ngwenya.

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and intention, but, like his sculpted works, they seem to communicate the Ijinla art expression. These works range from tiny ones, which he calls Poems, to conventional size oil and gouache types, in which he incorporates materials such as flour or coffee for textural effect. Whether his work is a drawing, painting or sculpture, he seems to reveal in them ghost or demonic images. As a Catholic, he must have observed the “idols behind the altars” but contrary to his Faith traditional African sculpture so captivated him that he now uses it as the basis of his synthesis.

2.41 1936 Malangatana Valente Ngwenya, Mozambique: The history of Mozambique includes the arrival of the Portuguese, in the late fifteenth century, and their continued occupation into 1970s. The Portuguese’s interest in Mozambique is important to the understanding of Mozambique art history because it explains why no European example of art school established in this region. The Portuguese settled in Mozambique to obtain the export material resources. They were therefore not concerned with helping to develop local art by establishing art schools. In spite of the fact that many contemporary artists from the region had no formal academic training in art, their talents are recognizable and their works are famous internationally. Among such artists is the painter Malangatana Valente Ngwenya (MRC 74) who prefers to sign his works in first name and since then it has stuck. Born in Marracuene, in the Regedoria Magala on June 6, 1936, Malangatana speaks Portuguese, the language of the foreign settlers. He showed an interest in art at an early age, drawing frequently and even along sandy paths when paper was not available to him. At home, he recalls having a close relation with his mother and being interested in the decorative beadwork she created. He started school in 1942 while his father was working in the mines in South Africa. At this school in the Swiss Mission School, Malangatana was until the third grade taught by a teacher who had a great gift for drawing. After Malangatana had completed the third grade the school was closed because the teacher left. Later, in 1953, when he was older and had a job in Laurence Marques (now Maputo), he attended night school where he learned to draw with charcoal and paint in oil. In 1959, Malangatana’s career began when Pancho Guedes (a Portuguese architect and painter) provided him with a studio in Lourenco Marques and financial support. In 1962, his work was shown at Mbari Club House in Ibadan, and later at Oshogbo, all in Nigeria. He exhibited in South Africa at the Cape Town University in Lourenco Marques, and in 196263, he had a joint show in Paris and London with Ibrahim El Salahi. Malangatana is not only a painter, but he is also a musician, in a group with relatives and friends, and a poet. Regarding music and poetry as related to the visual arts, he states: “art is without a doubt a musical instrument full of messages. These are messages that the artist selects to ‘put together’ in front of humanity (Schneider, 1972.40).” He feels that the main role of the artist should be to communicate to the spectator. He describes the requirements for art as follows: 174


[…] a vibrant thing, crying to the spectator, full of heat and life that makes him cry, or creates tremors in his body. Thus, it’s worthwhile to have art, to make it, to express it as a force of our veins and with the heat of our blood. It ought to be executed with the same passion in which lovers enter in that subconscious relationship at the exact moment of possession. In this manner, we look at a statue, a painting, or we read a poem, as if hearing a guitar or an Xitende whose metal wires were forged in the ardent fire burning for centuries in the hearts of the people (Ibid. 43). Malangatana’s concern is therefore to make art a magnificent instrument of instruction. To him, stories of nude women, women with long hair and teeth. One of his earlier works, in four parts, named The Story of the Letter in the Hat (1960), concerns two lovers, a man’s wife and her illegitimate suitor. They corresponded by means of the husband’s hat, as her lover was the husband’s companion at work (panel one). Here, Malangatna executes a delightful narrative. The woman writes the letter and then puts it in the husband’s hat before he leaves (panel two). The husband arrives at work and puts the hat on the hat rack. Knowing which was the husband’s hat, the suitor takes out the letter, reads it, replies the letter, and puts it in the hat. After work, the husband goes back home and places the hat on the hat rack, when he arrives. The wife waits for some time, and when her husband is not around, takes the letter, replies to it, and puts her correspondence in the hat. This takes place frequently between two and three o’clock in the morning, when the husband is fast asleep (panel three). At seven o’clock, the husband delivers the letter to his wife’s lover. This continues for a long time. When the husband discovers the romantic plot, he commits suicide by drinking DDT (panel 4). In many of Ngwenya’s later works, the story is told directly in the title, such as A Story of a Boy in a Constant Fight for Life in Mapueli, or The Mouth of Society has Sharp Teeth. Malangatana’s constant fascination with nude women with long hair occurs in his early paintings as in his canvases of Women, Two Friends, The Temptation of the Clerk and the Inspite of Everything There is Love That Remains Around Us. The female nudes bring to mind lines from his poem titled “Woman”: Woman’s breast shall be my pillow, Woman’s eye shall open-up for me the way to heaven, Woman’s belly shall give birth to me up there (Ibid. 42). Furthermore, in an unpublished poem “African Maiden”, he writes of woman’s hair as the strings of a musical instrument played by two men”: […] this your hair strings of the Xitend strings of the Xipendane that Harossi and Tshinguele play (Ibid.) Again, in the poem mentioned above, he writes: […] When she dies I shall cut off her hair to deliver me from sin. 175


MRC 75 Malangatana. Sugar Stack in Xinavane, pen and ink, 16.75x24”, Mozambique. Unknown Collection

Woman’s hair shall be the blanket over my coffin When another artist calls me to heaven to paint me… An important image in Malangatana’s later works is teeth. Although teeth appear in his early works as in Murder and Rape, they do not occur as frequently. His use of teeth may reflect the influence on him by his mother’s traditional career as a teeth dresser. The themes he uses include love and violence. In his early and late paintings, love appears in Women and In Spite of Everything There is Love that Remains Around; and violence is communicated in his Murder and Violence. Nevertheless, the portrayal of violence in his early works is not as overt and bloody as in the later works. Still, a common thread runs through his early and late works. Images on canvas are by line characterized, stylistically rather than color; that is, line describes shapes and color informs collective expression frequently comes from the uses and customs of the people and leads to their social, mental, cultural and political evolutions (Ibid. 40). Much of Malangatana’s early works date from 1959 to 1960. His late works are however not well documented. In his early and late paintings, recurring subject matter includes contours. Lines defining forms in the later paintings are more mechanical and precise 176


than the freely drawn contours of images in the early works. In both the early and late works, also, figures are rarely structured. Precisely, there is no attempt to show the effects of light striking the surface of objects. Nor does there seem to be a concern to represent the threedimensional quality or volume of the figures. Space, in both the early and later works, is attainable by overlapping images. Furthermore, the reclining nude is compositionally a recurrent element. In the early works, it appears as the dominant figure in the Nude with Crucifix and Two Friends. While in the In spite of Everything There is Love that Remains Around, a later work, it is hardly visible in the top left corner of the picture plane. Many of the figures in the early works are represented

Malangatan. Prison, drawing, pen and ink on paper, 1965, Mozambique. Unknown Collection.

frontally and are individually placed, as in The Woman Who Cries and The Tree of Friendship. There are a limited number of figures in the composition of his early works; but in his later works, the canvas is so crowded with figures that he often depicts only their heads. These works show an equal treatment of or emphasis on images all over the picture plane as seen particularly in The Secret Voyage. This art piece is one of the last works done during 1960 177


and depicts certain dream-like qualities similar to western surrealism. In the end, although unlike other paintings dating to the same period (1960), the dream world has been a preoccupation with Malangatana. This is in his Dream of the Weeping Woman (1959) forcibly expressed, especially as assertive by the eye in the background. However, the dream-like effect of the early works yielded to caricatures in his late works. The importance of Malangatana’s contribution as a painter is that he has the ability to translate his life’s experiences into symbols which are artistically valid and which have the potential to communicate to a wide audience, even in his drawings (MRC 75). His paintings and poetry are important, not only as they relate to particular events in his life, but also in terms of the universal issue of love, violence (MRC 76), death, and mysticism which they express.

2.42 1936 E. Okechukwu Odita, Nigeria: E. Okechukwu Odita, an artist of great accomplishments, was born in Nigeria. He is one of the four children of Mr. J. C. Bluffer Odita and Uzomah Lear Nzekwu, both of Onitsha (Onica). He is married to Florence Chinyere Uwandu (Ph.D, JD, and Real Estate Broker)

MRC 77 The Odita Family Portrait. December 1995, Columbus, Ohio.

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and they have four children: Odili Donald Odita (M.F.A., Painter and Writer); Chinyere Peggy Odita (B.F.A., Heptathlon Champion-1985, World Challenge Champion: 1992, American Gladiator Champion-1992, Grand American Gladiator Champion-1994 and World Gladiator Champion, Birmingham, England-1996); Uzoma Betsy Odita (M.B.A. and JD, Harvard University Basketball Star, 1989-1991); and Chukwuemeka Eric Odita (B.A. Finance, College Restling Champion-1991) [MRC 77]. Schools attended by Okechukwu Odita include: first, Merchants of Light Secondary School, Oba-Onitsha, 1951-1955 (where his talent as an artist was first discovered by Mr. E. Ndefo of Oba-Onitsha); moreover, second, the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria, 1958-1962 (now the

MRC 78 E. Okechukwu Odita Portrait, 1963, Nigeria.

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Ahmadu Bello university), where he received Diploma in Fine Arts in June 1962. In 1963 (MRC 78), he won the United States Agency for International Development Scholarship for further studies in the U.S. In 1965, he gained the degrees of Master of Arts in Printmaking (January: MRC 79) and Master of Fine Arts in Painting (June), both from the University of Iowa. The following year 1966, he won an Aggrey Fellowship to study at the Indiana University, Bloomington, where he graduated with a Ph.D. in the history of African Art, in June 1970. In addition to gaining a reputation as a fine painter and printmaker, Odita was a lecturer in Enwowu Department of Fine Arts, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1962-63 and 19651966). He is currently a full Professor in the Department of History of Art, at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. He has had numerous publications in both the theory and practice of traditional and contemporary African art (ref. Appendix F). He may be currently

MRC 79 E. Okechukwu Odita. Opossum The 3F’s- Fear, Fight, and Flight, 18x14.5”, engraving on copper, 1965, Iowa. Private Collection.

a part time artist and a full time scholar, although he actively paints (MRC 79.1) and exhibits in artists’ group shows.

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Odita has had entries in numerous exhibitions. His earliest group showings include The Eastern Nigeria Festival of Arts, 1955, and the Nigerian Independence Celebration, 1960. Three of other exhibitions have been solo shows: one sponsored in 1962 by the American

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society for African Culture, Lagos52 and the other by the Mbari Artists and Writers Club of Enugu (Anambra State) in 196353. The last was in 1966 by the University of Nigeria, at the Continuing Education Center, Nsukka, with an impressive publication titled: The Art of E. Okechukwu Odita, written by Dr. Obiajunwa Wali54. Group exhibitions in which Odita’s works were exposed and recognized are numerous. Selected ones are: 1) Five contemporary West African Painters, New York-New York, in 1964; 2) the Pan African Arts Exhibition held during the Accra Conference of the Organization of African Unity, AccraGhana, in 1965; 3) the First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar-Senegal, in 1966; 4) the exhibition of African Artists In America organized by the African American Institute, New York-New York, in early 1977; 5) the U.S. Nationwide Traveling Exhibition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., from late 1977 to June 1980; 6) The Faculty Show Case organized by the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn 1978; 7) The Faculty Show Case organized by the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn Autumn 1979; 8) Njikoka: The Nigerian Unity, sponsored by College of the Arts, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, September-October 1980; 9) the Faculty Show Case of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn 1981; 10) the INTERART ‘81, the Seventh Biennial International Art Exhibition, organized by The International Play Group

MRC 79.1 E. Okechukwu Odita At Work In His Studio, Columbus, Ohio

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MRC 80 E. Okechukwu Odita, oil on canvas, 1962, Nigeria. Unknown Collection (Looted During the Nigerian Civil War, 1966-1970)

MRC 81 E. Okechukwu Odita. Cock and Cockerel, oil on canvas, 25 x 20”, 1962, Nigeria. Uknown Collection (Looted During The Nigerian Civil War, 1966-1970)

of New York, New York, May 19-June 4, 1981, which featured the works of artists from all over the world to reflect the international orientation of the Play Group and Crèchè; 11) African Art: Past and Present organized by the College of Humanities, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, May 3-May31, 1982; 12) Faculty Show Case of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn of 1984; 13) Faculty Show Case of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn of 1985; 14) Faculty Show Case of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn of 1986; 15) Faculty Show Case of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn of 1987; 16) Faculty Show Case of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn of 1988; 17) Faculty Show Case of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn of 1989; 18) Faculty Show Case of The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, Autumn of 1990; 19) the Ohio Contemporary Artists sponsored by Zanesville Art Center, Zanesville, Ohio, February 4-February 25, 1990; 20) Images: Dispelling The Myths, Revealing The Truth, at the Frank W. Hale, Jr., Black Cultural Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, January 14-February 25, 1990; 21) A Balance of Elements, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, February 4-Febryuary 15, 1991; 22) Plexus International Art Exhibition, Roma, Italy, 1994; 23) A Tribute To African And African American Artist, organized by The Fort Hayes Shot Tower Gallery, Columbus, Ohio, February 14-March 21, 1997; 24) The Art Exhibition of Diversity In Contemporary African Art: Causes And Effects, sponsored by the African Studies Center, The Ohio State 182


University, that celebrated the African Studies Association’s 40th Annual Conference; 25) Exhibition of The Works of The Zaire Art Society, sponsored by the National Gallery of Art, Lagos-Nigeria, November 9-November 21, 1998; and 26) Nigerian Masters in American Collections, Exhibition at the KIACA Gallery, May 6-June 25, 2006. Odita has had other important undertakings as well. He was honored with three silver medals and five first class certificates in the Eastern Nigeria Festival of Arts, 1955. Various important publications and reviews on both traditional and contemporary African art, illustrations of books, and commissioned mural paintings55 form part of Odita’s experience as an artist, teacher and scholar (Tanner, 1973.53-55). Various theories and philosophies have served an integral part in many of Odita’s artistic experiences. Several of the artist’s thoughts are a result of his observations of both traditional and contemporary life in Africa. Awareness of the many functions and problems in the African culture has helped shape his own philosophies and ideas toward his artistic creations. Odita believes that it is very important that one is familiar with the art and ideologies of traditional African as well as those of present day culture. He finds the African background an important inspiration to any contemporary African artist, and feels that western academic art influence, as a tool, would help expand the African artists’ horizon to acknowledge many different types of media and basic elements in art expression. He believes, however, that the acquired education, or skill, will not weaken an artist’s creativity or originality. Contemporary African artists, according to Odita (Ibid.), confront numerous conflicts that stand in the way of using his/her own African traditional background as inspiration and the demand of contemporary existence. The “genuine” African artist, Odita says, is: […] caught up in a ceaseless struggle to recapture the meaningful past, to state the present and predict the future…the contemporary African artist must be many sided. He must acquire as much knowledge of his past as possible…to make a lasting statement in his work (Ibid.). Odita demonstrates this philosophy in his works. He uses traditional subject matter, events and ideas, and presents them with contemporary art styles and techniques, in his paintings and printmaking. He uses “intense and vivid colorings and communicates to his audience much emotionalism and intensity” (Ibid.55). His extensive studies in the history of tradtional African art are indications of his belief in his own philosophy of establishing an identity with his traditional past. This serves as a beneficial element and thus establishes for him an ability to grasp and understand the past, while adding to the success of creating emotional depth to his work. Odita appears to have progressed through different stages of development, stylistically. In many of his beginning works, those executed in the early 1960’s, while still a student, the subject matter tends to be projected and rendered in a more realistic manner, than his later works. Subjects of Odita’s paintings and drawings that have naturalist qualities, in form and content, are human images, animals and plants (The Fulani Girl (MRC 80), Cock

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MRC 82 E. Okechukwu Odita. Portrait of An Elderly Woman, oil on hardboard, 19 x 11.5”, 1960, Nigeria. Unknown Collection (Looted During The Nigerian Civil War, 1966-1970)

MRC 83 E. Okechukwu Odita. The Agboho-mmuo Mask, oil on cavas on hardboard, 36 x 18”, 1962, Nigeria. Unknown Collection (Looted During The Nigerian Civil War, 1966-1970)

and Cockerel (MRC 81), and The Flower Pot). He chose at times to place these forms in a specific setting, although with little detail, as in his paintings of Portrait of An Elderly (MRC 82), Igbo Mmuo Mask (MRC 83), Moses and Shepherd and Cattle. He also mastered figure and portrait paintings, for example “Portrait of a Boy (Ibraham)” and “Moses (Model)” (Tanner, 1973.53-55 or Wali, 1963.43; also see Appendix B: Document 16) for text that for practical reasons does not include the cited illustrations). Odita depicts the images he creates in neither totally abstract nor complete realistic forms. Recently, however, his figures and forms have become considerably abstract and the colors more brilliant and vibrant than earlier works. His style in paintings and illustrations has advanced in technique and color usage. Figure images, painted in mid 1970s - late 1980s, are very abstract (MRC 84) and are the focus of attraction in the paintings. Although the pieces are forenamed as very abstract, the images are still recognizable as human figures (MRC 85). No background or atmospheric images are evident as in his earlier paintings, only solid blocks of color. Interaction between the figures is on a different level as well, not as “personal” and real. Shading is solid, not a blend which would create a sense of realistic depth. In all of his works, past and present, Odita engages the entire canvas spaces; and the placement of subject matter, as it comes into view, is carefully considered (MRC 86). Therefore compositionally, the images in the paintings, etchings and other works, appear well organized and delightful to view.

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MRC 84 E. Okechukwu Odita. The Echoes of DNA, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 53.5. 1999, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

MRC 85 E. Okechukwu Odita. Forms In Motion- The First Attempt, oil on canvas, 56x68”, 1988, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

It is often difficult to categorize an artist in terms of a “school of thought.” Artists are classifiable under different ideologies, depending on how a viewer understands their career and works. Due to his intensive art training, paintings executed in the artist’s early career, particularly while still a student, classify stylistically as Soyan art style. Many have a sense of perspectives three-dimensional quality, and the subject matter such as the portraits mentioned prove to be realistic in context and style. However, he has always (then and now) captured the folkloric characteristics seen in traditional African art: oversize human head, frontal and profile views, flat planes and strong silhouettes (MRC 87). The subjects that he chose to portray are African in essence or are significant in traditional African life and culture. Other art works produced during the same period in his career contain more imaginative and freer qualities, but the majority of his more recent paintings differ stylistically. These works are classifiable as Ijinla art. There is little, if any, perspective and the overall effect tends to be more creative and has a sense of inner meaning. The works are attractive to the viewer in a different manner than those works emerging out of the near realistic art style. Odita’s ideas, inspirations and stylistic qualities tend to originate from within himself, his own observations and knowledge of Africa. It appears that many of his paintings were motivated by events and situations: those that had special meaning and significance to the artist. He expresses these through his use of symbolic and thoughtful application of color as well as the depiction of forms and images. Dr. Obiajunwa Wali, in reviewing the showing of Odita’s works, sponsored by the University of Nigeria in 1966, asserts that the “Shango Priestess was inspired by the myth of the power surrounding the monarch/priest in the African traditional belief.” (The Shango Priestess (MRC 88) is an etching on copper completed in 1964 and appears as the FRONTISPIECE of Africa Is Thunder And Wonder: Contemporary Voices From African Literature, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1972, written by Barbara Nolen, with an introduction by Abioseh Nicole, former Ambassador to 185


MRC 86 E. Okechukwu Odita. The Last Supper- Okochi, oil on canvas, 56 x 68”, 1985, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

MRC 87 E. Okechukwu Odita. Njikoka Panel IV, oil on canvas, 60 x 24”, 1982, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

MRC 88 E. Okechukwu Odita. Shango Priestess, etching on copper, 18 x 14.5”, 1965, Iowa, Private Collection

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the United Nations from Sierra Leone). Odita has attempted to portray the essence and mood of this important subject. Dr. Wali also gives an example of Odita’s skillful use of color when describing the Fulani Girl: In this painting, blue and gray colors serve a symbolic purpose, signifying coolness and peacefulness, often attributed to Northern Nigerians of which the Fulani Girl is one (1966.5). Odita’s works are by art critics well received. “This brilliant artist’s canvases tingle with life… paintings done inspiringly with a purpose,” states Henry Onyedike (Nigerian Outlook 1963; ref. Appendix B: Document 12). An American admirer wrote of his exhibition in 1968: “…you are a real artist, for you teach people how to see” (Tanner, 1973.55). One critic that wrote for Nigeria Magazine, after viewing his first one-man and earliest exhibition in 1962, has a different opinion of Odita’s work. Okpu Eze (late) felt that Odita’s work was a fine example of an: …academic art…rigid crystallized approach…takes refuge in hues of color to cover up decaying structure of subject matter and stylistic dialect… (Eze, 1962). He did however include some aspects of Odita’s compositional ability and strongly believed: […] the artist has a gift of powerful subconscious planes… that would eventually, with much effort, enable him to arrive at his own creations (Ibid.). Eze’s statements focus on Odita’s first solo show, as already noted, immediately after his graduation in June of 1962. As such, some of the works in the exhibition reflected his academic training that Eze appears to have observed. Still, the response to Odita’s works has been worthy and commendable. Ultimately, towards Odita’s practical approach to art, one may consider one of his published writings in 1980, especially under the sub-titles of The Desire for Freedom of Expression, Experiment in Color Action and The Underlying Essence. In concluding the writing, Odita states: It is of my opinion … that the words of the interpreter are at best only an approximation of the artwork he or she appreciates. Everything that can be said about it, even by the artist himself, may be important, but it remains secondary or tertiary evidence. It is for this reason that an effort to see most of my original works is desirable. If after viewing … [them] the person disagrees with me, all the more better. In the process, he or she may have learned something about visual perception (Odita, 1980.14).

2.43 1936 Rufus Ogundele, Nigeria: In 1963, Rufus Ogundele emerged from the second summer art workshop at the Mbari56 Writers and Artists Club, Oshogbo, conducted by Dennis Williams, a West Indian painter and scholar. Ogundele was an actor in Duro Lapido’s theater company. Born in Oshogbo, 187


Nigeria, in 1936, he had not received any educational certificates when he attended the summer art workshop, at the Mbari Writers and Artists Club, Oshogbo (treated chronologically below in some detail). But he had worked daily at this Club until Georgiana and Ulli Beier left Nigeria in 1967, when he interrupted his informal artistic pursuit to go back to school to complete a formal education. By so doing, he was the only member of the Mbari Club visual artists at Oshogho to finish a formal education (Beier, 1968.128). Ogundele began painting at the age of fifteen. Later, his exposure to the “laissez faire” philosophy, towards the practice of visual art strictly adhered to by the proponents of the Mbari Writers and Artists Club at Oshogbo, allowed him to produce canvases of strange energy. His Ijinla paintings are large fields on which intense colors -- especially reds, yellows, and oranges -- burst out of the confines of the picture frame. He was thus able to express turbulence and wildness more through the fluid oils and large surfaces than in his graphic arts. However, his linocuts maintain the Sankofa style tendencies through frontal and individual presentation of images. Drawing his themes from the traditional Yoruba religion to which he was at youth exposed, Ogundele’s early works were fashioned with images of Ogun, the deity of Iron that protected Ironsmiths, hunters and drivers (Oyelola, 1976). It is not surprising that he feels a personal allegiance to this deity, for Ogun is the prefix of his surname.

2.44 1936 Cyrene Mission, Zimbabwe: Although it seems that the Protestant Church contributed very little to the development of art in Africa, still, the Cyrene Mission School which started as an art workshop outside Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe, has been singled out as one of the art schools founded in Africa for the development of artists. In 1936, the Church of England started operating a mission for delinquent English boys, which later was in 1939 converted into a school for African delinquent children. Consequently, the school brought together students from Malawi, Zambia, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Botswana under the directorship of the Reverend Edward Paterson. During his fourteen years at the school, Paterson claimed to adopt a lessez faire approach to art teaching, but his students’ works were unearthed to have influences of Romanesque works of Europe, to which Rev. Paterson was inclined. Nevertheless, by his encouragement and useful suggestions, a new type of art evolved known as “the Cyrene Art Style.” This style used African imagery for Christian scenes and stories from the Christian Bible that were painted on both the outside and inside walls of the chapel. The exterior scenes, taken from the New Testament, are larger than life size. The Expulsion from Paradise bears some similarity in composition to Massaccio’s fifteenth century Expulsion fresco, in the Bracacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy. All the figures used in the fresco, including Christ, are shown as Africans. The Cyrene style also incorporated such additional elements as vertical perspective and a crowded composition. The zigzag design themes, such as those found on Benin Bronzes, Bakuba Kasai velvets and in many other places in Africa were freely accepted and used. Perhaps, the best example of the Cyrene style of the Africanization of Biblical figures is the narrative 188


on the chapel wall of the Good Samaritan where Jerusalem and Jericho are fashioned as African villages. All the people, including priests, depicted are Africa’s forbidden assistance. Two of the artists trained in Cyrene Mission School who have gained international recognition are Lazarus Kumalo, a sculptor, and Sam Sango, a painter and sculptor. Lazarus Kumalo was born crippled in 1930 and attended Cyrene Mission School in 1950. In the mid-1960’s, he attended the Makerere University in Uganda for one year. His bestknown work is Mother and Child, carved in sandstone and is now in the private collection of Rowena Burrel. Sam Sango has executed many commissions in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Zambia. He is however known as a Painter better than a Sculptor, and his Mashona Legend that he executed in watercolor is considered as one of his best paintings. According to Marshal Mount (1973.26), after finishing his studies, Sango remained at the school serving as a part time instructor. Through the kind of publicity provided in the 70s by African Arts Magazine, Los Angeles, some other Cyrene School students, aside from Sam Sango and Lazarus Kumalo, might emerge as gifted and dynamic artists.

2.45 1936 Porch and Garden Class, Uganda: One of the earliest art schools in East Africa was started at the Makerere University College, Kampala Uganda. It began in 1936, as a Porch and Garden, one afternoon a week, private class that was taught by Margaret Trowell, an artist and wife of a British surgeon. She instructed the class in 1937 as compulsory hobby, at Makerere College. Later, in 1939, it received substantial government support that enabled it to train many painters and sculptors. It was responsible for establishing lasting interest and growth of contemporary art in East Africa. During its formative years, recognition of art as a university course of study was hard to come by, especially when Makerere College sought the accreditation of London University. It was only when a separate department was set up at Makerere, as the School of Fine Art, that the recognition was finally achieved. In 1957, the first diplomas in art, gained after completing a four-year course of study, were official. The course of study combined major and minor fields involving painting and drawing, sculpture and pottery, as well as textile and graphic design. History of art was a compulsory subject, for all students. In 1958, Margaret Trowell retired and Cecil Todd succeeded her as director. Though Margaret Trowell denied it, the School of Fine Arts pursued a purely academic art approach in teaching. This involved the use of archetypes (animate and inanimate ones), accuracy of drawing and modeling, employment of natural light source and the use of colors to describe form. Subject matter came from the African environment as well as Christian Bible. The bestknown students of this school are Sam Ntiro, Elimo Njau (both painters) and Gregory Maloba (sculptor), all of them Soyan artists.

2.46 1937 Hamid Alaoui, Morocco: Hamid Alaoui was born at Fez, Morocco. He is a noted artist and painter; and he is also a

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director of the Municipal School of Fine Arts, in Casablanca. In 1957, he was cited for both the “Grand Premier Prix De La Ville De Casablanca,” and, a five-year scholarship to study in Paris. From 1957 to 1964, Alaoui attended the Ecole National Superieure Des Beaux Art in Paris where he won several prizes and mentions for his paintings, sculpture, design, and composition. From 1965 to 1968, he entered the Ecole Du Louve in Paris, where he studied art history and Islamic Art. Since 1967, his artworks have appeared in over fifty exhibitions in Morocco, France, Switzerland, Germany, Yugoslavia and the United States. The present style of Hamid Alaoui results from a long and subtle evolution, which has allowed him to explore the paths of abstract art. After exhausting his creative drive in investigations of classical form, and after confining himself to the strict discipline of decorative symbolism that brought him sarcastic recognition, Alaoui again exposed the direction of his work to critical questions. The experience led him to greater achievement through purity and rigor of work. His ambition was to increase the impact of his style through extreme bareness and to attain originality and strength of work by taming the optical power of shadow; this seems to be the primary objective of Hamid Alaoui today. In service of this specific commitment, we find two effective technical procedures that are characteristic of his style: superlative contrasts and shading. The shading of form is not achieved by passing through darker and darker, or lighter and lighter, nuances; but rather through dots that get finer and finer, spreading farther and farther apart. Hamid Alaoui pays less attention to color than to light, hence his frequent stark juxtapositions of yellow and black. Still, the passages of shading link the forms to each other and give unity to the entire picture. This style is his most important contribution to contemporary Moroccan art.

2.45 1937 Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian Ethiopia: Ethiopia is a country dominated by church-related concerns. Unequivocally, the powerful Coptic Church has influence on the art of this nation. From the sixteenth century until now, there have been very few changes of subject matter, or of style, in the Coptic art of Ethiopia. Themes such as Solomon and Sheba or St. George and the Dragon are excellent examples of this art. These themes were used primarily to illuminate manuscripts, or as murals, in the churches. Artists were therefore concerned with reproducing works that furnished the needs of the church. It is only since the 60s that some artists have begun to move away from those themes and turn toward secular ones. Because they have no secular artistic tradition to which they referenced, these contemporary artists must necessarily be very innovative. Their subsequent options are twofold. They may either select contemporary themes or turn to conceptual or abstract representations. One such artist is Alexander Boghossian (MRC 89), popularly known as Skunder. This artist comes from a particularly rich cultural heritage that had tremendous impact on his work, and thus a thorough understanding of his art hinges upon some knowledge of his background. Boghossian’s paternal grandfather had emigrated from Armenia with an urgency to escape

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MRC 89 Skunder Boghossian’s Portriat

from Turkish domination. His grandfather and later his father married into the Amhara culture and so their roots became firmly established in Ethiopia. For six of the first seven years of his life, Boghossian was as a prisoner of war in Italy. This fact was significant in the artist’s development because, while his father had been away, he fostered a lively interest in art on the encouragement of an uncle. Upon his father’s return, Boghossian’s father expressed disapproval of the son’s interest in art; but this expressed censure backfired and spurred Boghossian on to become an artist. Up until the time he entered high school, Boghossian had received no formal art instruction and so he had taught himself by studying the murals, mosaics and panel paintings of churches. The first instruction that Boghossian received was from Jacques Godbout, a Canadian professor of art, at University College, in Addis Ababa. For a whole year, he missed school daily to study art with Professor Godbout: “I would leave home for high school,” he says, “but wind up at the Professor’s house instead. I had my paints there and they were so much more exciting than my [school] lessons.” Boghossian received his first art award, at 17 years old, when he was placed second in the Haile Selassie twenty-fifth anniversary exhibition. His prize was an art scholarship to study abroad at London’s St. Martain’s School of Art. He went to London (1955) and spent his first several months there, going from one school to another. Finally, he decided that the cold rains and monochromatic austere buildings, as well as the study of English, blanked out his creative thoughts. Having made that decision, he extended his stay another nine years during which he moved to

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Paris where he spent two years, becoming a student and teacher at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere under the instruction of Curt Goetz and at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts. He was the first Ethiopian painter whose work was purchased by the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris. Boghossian talked often of political and cultural influences in Paris during those years, citing Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, Chaikh Anta Diop as well as creative forces in modern Europeam art like Paule Klee. Older but not very well-known African-American painters encouraged him. One other artist, Gerard Sokoto from South Africa, introduced him to Cuban surrealist painter, Wilfredo Lam. This Paris experience created a turning point in Boshossian’s life.57 He had said that Goetz and Godbout were the only teachers from whom he learned. Godbout taught him to let the painting paint itself and Goetz helped him to discover what that meant. During his two years in Paris, he went daily to the Musee de L’Homme to view traditional African art collections, and to study the forms and their visual significance. He was already well familiar with the Coptic art of his own nation, so he was actually studying the traditional art of other African nations, especially those of the West African region. He also worked with a group of West African artists, Dumas Nwoko and Uche Okeke, in 1960 at the Mbari Writers and Artists Club, Ibadan, Nigeria. Bogossian returned to Ethiopia in 1966 and stayed until 1969 when he was invited to become artist in residence at Atlanta University, as well as resident instructor in sculpture, painting and African design at the Atlanta Center for Black Art. In 1974, he was invited to teach at Howard University where he taught until 2000 before returning to painting full-time. Boshossian’s earliest works were inspired by the traditions of Coptic art, while at the same time being an Ijinla artist. In essence, what he does is to create a synthesis of his past heritage and his present perceptions. His Self-Portrait is a good example of his early style. The Coptic influence is observable in his lack of effort toward “realism”. The work tends to be more representational and, at the same time, there is no doubt that he has captured the essence of his image. However, his treatment of the surface is not flat as in Coptic art; but rather he is being innovative in the modeling of color. The individual features of the work are emphatically Ethiopian. Intrigued by the almond eyes and triangular faces of his people, the artist took every opportunity to emphasis those details. The work is obviously that of an artist with an academic background, despite the traditional references. The composition is perfectly balanced. The folds in the garments are not rounded but are finished in angular forms. Much of the composition is fashioned in a jagged manner; and harsh lines are used to define planes and boundaries. The angularity is however not used uniformly throughout the composition as the hands are, as they curved around the book. This tendency towards angularity is apparently a favorite technique of Boghossian. Another work, The Guitar, is one in which he has made a further move towards the angular treatment of his subject. Whereas in the Self-Portrait he had used foreshortening and modeling to curve the hands, in this work the hands are purely planes. The work is more 192


removed from realism than his Self-Portrait. The elongated neck of the guitar player shows a characteristic tendency that is common in traditional African art. The work is linear with only marginal modeling of color. Boghossian completely distorts the perspective in the work, as the subject appears visible from several different eye levels simultaneously. As evidence of his knowledge about academic regulations, another work, Young Women with a Basket, may be used as an example. This work, while retaining some of the strong linear angular treatments, does show some compliance with academic criteria. There is an obvious use of linear perspective. The woman is some distance in front of the boy who is in turn some distance in front of the building that is also in front of some trees in the background. The figures are set in a landscape and the work gives the impression of an actual scene. The open compositional format helps to emphasize the impression of a study from nature. In this, as in all of his works, Boghossian referenced African culture. The facial features of the figures as well as the garments, worn by the women, are obviously Ethiopian. As is natural among artists, Boghossian introduced certain innovations in his work as he sought to find himself. During this transitory stage, his works became a combination

MRC 90 Skunder Boghssian. Yin And Yang,oil on hardboard, 1972, Ethi1opia. Mackenzie Collection

of the representational and the conceptual. There is also a play between two and threedimensional forms. One such work is L’Unite. This work is composed of two basic figures. One has an immaterial form and as such is conceptual. The other figure is more recognizable as a human figure. The face of the figure appears in his usual representational manner, but the body becomes a mass of abstract and geometric forms and areas of

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color. The multiplicity of the tonal variations affirms that there is quite a variation of hues. The entire composition unifies by a stippling effect, created by small dabs of pigment on the canvas. A tension is in existence by the innovative interaction between the structural and organizational spaces. Using an admissible combination of two and three-dimensional forms, all his succeeding works lean more and more towards this synthetic style. At the same time, however, there arises in Boghossian’s work evidence of the influence of European artists, especially the surrealists. He also begins to draw ideas from as far as the Orient. From there, he adopted the idea of Yin and Yang (MRC 90). This interest in international concepts led Boshossian to execute other works that contain universal messages. For example, in his work, Explosion of The World Egg, the dark and light figures may be making reference to the Yin and Yang idea, where the dark figure represents the

MRC 91 Skunder Boghosian. Untitled, pen and ink on paper, early 1960’s. Paris. Professor E. Okechukwu Odita Collection

female and the light figure represents the male. The dream fantasy aspect of works such as these can reflect the direct influence that the unreal may have had on the artist. As Boshossian became increasingly involved in the conceptual compositions, art critics began to criticize him for not producing works relevant to his African heritage. He responded to that by beginning to make a conscious effort to introduce African motifs into his work, A Sudden Idea, (MRC 91). In some works, he started to make obvious references to his Ethiopian heritage. For example, in 1972, he did a work titled Abba that appears to achieve exactly that purpose. In this work, Boghossian reverts to the representational

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style that he had been fond of earlier in his career. Once more, he returns to the use of bold lines. The figure appears in vignette form as it suddenly and literally disappears, just short of the border of the canvas. An arc around the head of the figure suggests a stylized halo, used in the representations of saints, in the Ethiopian Coptic art. The work is quite decorative utilizing some symbols that resemble the calligraphic writing that are found in Coptic Church manuscripts. Despite these overt Ethiopian references, there are certain subtleties in this work. There is a tension created between structural and organizational spaces. There is no separation between the background and the foreground. In addition, some of the decorative motifs used in the areas surrounding the figure also overlap the figure in some areas. Most of Boghossian’s recent works are conceptual in approach, and leaning more

MRC 92 Skunder Boghossian. Spirits Door, oil on goatskin over wood, 1961, Ethiopia. Private Collection

towards the art of West Africa than that of Ethiopia. One such work, Horns, suggests some ritual that involves masquerading. As Ethiopia has no such tradition, the inspiration must have conveniently come from other African nations, most possibly, those of West Africa. The three figures are fashioned with decorative motifs that, when interpreted, may show specific meanings. This work reveals the artist’s determination to refer to African culture, despite the fact that he is not referring to his individual or immediate Ethiopian civilization. At times, Boghossian goes to the extreme of conceptualism where it becomes impossible to identify any specific references. One such work is Spirits Door (MRC 92), in Sankofa style. In this work, he has used goatskin over wood to create forms that are more 195


reminiscent of the artfulness of the European abstract expressionists than the conceptual art of Africa. Nevertheless, this nolstalgia coldly stops here, right now. The centralized motif of an African mask, initiating the title of the painting, restores strong African cultural reference and value for the work, including the goatskin. His Yin and Yang, referred to in passing earlier, borrowing from the Orient concept of “opposites in one” for its title, is again captured in African essence. Completed in 1967 while Boghossian resided probably in Addis Ababa, this oil painting on hardboard confirms much about his role as also an Ijinla artist. The piece is filled with symbolism that comments on the world Boghossian existed within. The work is painted in an abstract way that eliminates any need for linear or atmospheric perspective. Its color scheme can at first be deceiving because it is so bold that one might think that the artist had no control over his palette, and that the colors were placed haphazardly. However, the use of color is very calculated and the blues that are applied on the right side of the canvas find a complementary aspect on the opposite side. The main figure done in blue on the right is balanced on the left by the figure with a small square shape. The yellow that consumes much of the right hand bottom does not overcome the piece because the red in the upper left hand corner, which is just as vibrant, cancels it out. The paint applied rather thinly in places, saturates the whole composition and the texture of paint accentuates the loose forms. The actual picture plane is of a medium texture that neither distracts nor takes away from the piece. The piece itself is contained by the black paint that acts as its own framing device. Boghossian’s decision to divide the composition equally in half, and place two somewhat similar yet different figures in each, seems to be an attempt at showing the uniqueness and differences of the sexes while still uniting them. The figures are actually African hair picks (or combs), which comments on African identity. The blue pick on the right side appears to be the male because it is engaged in action, and the picks on the left are non-active. This invention unpins the stereotypes of male dominance and female submission. The combination of abstraction and representation as well as the oriental concept of opposites in union used, with the African imagery, is a unique handling in Ijinla art style. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the piece is the subtlest. Once one decides that these forms are figures, they must exist within an imaginable space, some environment. The division of the picture plane not only shows the differences between sexes, but it creates a world in which they co-exist. The defining thing in this world is the sun, which sits at the top left-hand corner. It acts not just as a stage setter, but operates like a watchful eye. The idea of the eye directly references the familiar mythology of Egypt. The eye stands for the symbol of good health and a protector. The sun sitting atop designates the celestial from the human on the picture plane, and adds a sense of spirituality to the piece. The name itself, Yin and Yang, implies the artist’s intent. Yin and Yang, being the different parts of the same whole, is a model for men and women who exist as different individuals under the same celestial universe. The referencing of everyday objects like a hair pick to represent the African identity as well as the superb handling of color are what make 196


MRC 93 Daniel Rakgoathe. Trap of Conscience, linocut on paper, 1972, Lesotho. Private Collection

Boghossian an essential contributor to Ijinla art. Boghossian can therefore be an Ijinla artist. His art has developed in stages. Thus, what Boghossian is today, stylistically, is a result of his total life experience: his bi-racial classification, his Coptic background, his European and American encounters, and most important, his African-Ethiopian heritage. He died on Sunday, May 4, 2003, in his Washington DC apartment, after suffering from several aliments that had resulted in regular hospitalization in years before his death.

2.46 1937 Daniel Rakgoathe, Lesotho: One of a few artists who developed through the course at Ndaleni Art School is Daniel 197


Rakgoathe, from northern Lesotho. He developed as a muralist and graphic artist and his works contain some excellent qualities, notably, in composition and form. Very much involved with the tragic and mythological, his graphic works display a sense of mysticism. A good example is his Trap of Conscience (MRC 93), executed in Linocut in 1972. The black and white print is composed of a series of concentric circles, like a spider’s web, with few figures overlapping the circles. From the left are three naturalistic small size figures. The bottom one is found standing in bewilderment, while the upper two appear in sequence to thrust themselves high in midair with arms raised as if in grief, or about to strike something. Next to these is the major figure, dressed in traditional African attire, with head drooped as though in painful thought. Ultimately, one encounters a mummified figure, bottom right, meshed with the network, both serving as a background. The compact foreground is complete of black and white textures that occasionally lead the eye to the background. The central figure has a series of anthropomorphic shapes on the upper half, while the lower portion is composed of curvilinear shapes. The theme of the composition is humanistic. Compositional principles, as contained in the print, vary. They combine dark and light areas as well as broad and narrow ones. Although the network appears as a backdrop, there is a sense of linear perspective in the arrangement of the foreground figures as well as the graduation, from large to small, of the textured foreground. The main figure would have been unnecessarily too large, if there were no series of fine lines that split it up. Furthermore, the central dark area of the network counter-balances the free form shapes on this figure. Consequently, the dark and light areas co-exist in visual unison. Besides, there is no static area in this work. The dominant circular movement creates a combination of rapid and slow rhythms in almost alternating fashion. These rhythms have been effectively organized around broad and thin lines, the broad ones radiating from the dark central portion of the network, while the thin ones weave in and out of the broad lines. In the process, the four small figures on the background are entangled, two of them static and the rest rhythmically struggling to be free. The network obviously represents a spider’s web and the five figures stand for mankind. Because the artist is a South African and executed this work in 1972, the implication of the work revolves around the web of life in South Africa. It symbolizes the struggling (black) Africans who are transformable by a (white) force that they are finding hard to repel. Their efforts are in shreds and they appear very feeble against the force. In a cultural context, therefore, the work alludes to the African people in South Africa who are in bondage in their cultural transformation. The metamorphosis is nearly complete but the struggle is visible and real. If the web can be broken, then the dominant figure could be free, perhaps, to represent the survivors in the struggle. What needs accomplished, as suggested in the work, is to destroy this web forever. Consequently, the message of the work is threefold. It gives hope to the aspirations of the suffering Africans in South Africa’s apartheid epoch. It suggests how the unity of purpose would inevitably guide them through this distress. Moreover, it shows how they would fail, if divided in their efforts. 198


Perhaps, Rakgoathe’s hopes for the future and opportunities may be summed up in his own words. He says that in South Africa there is “much latent talent among the Africans but most of it never blooms because people are not encouraged in any way (de Jager, 1973).”

2.49 1937 Winneba Teacher Training College, Ghana: When it was exclusively set aside for the training of teachers, Winneba started as a branch of the famous Achimota College. It became autonomous in 1937, offering a three-year course for Certified Teachers who wanted to make a future career in the teaching of Arts and Crafts, as Fine and Applied Arts were called in those early days. The first head of the school was H.V. Meyerowitz who was also the first head of Achimota College. Michael Cardew, an English potter, was his assistant as were Mr. and Mrs. Southern, including his own wife, Mrs. Eva Meyerowitz. The philosophy of the pioneers that an Art School, in then Gold Coast, should not be just a copy of any other place and that it should uphold the traditional art prevalent in the country at the time. They considered it best to introduce only those aspects of western art and craft methods that would assist in developing and raising in esteem the already established indigenous culture of the country. Accordingly, the blending of two cultures (Ghanaian and European) brought out the teaching of weaving, pottery, woodcarving, textileprinting and dyeing by both indigenous and foreign methods. In 1959, Winneba became a Training College with a two-year Arts and Crafts department, thus, up-grading its status. From 1961 to 1969, the Ghanaian sculptor, Akwete Kofi headed the Art Department. It later became customary for its graduates to continue their art study at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

2.50 1938 Muhammad Abdulhamid As Said, Libya: Muhammad Abdulhamid As Said who was born in Tripoli won a three-year government scholarship to Roman Academia delle Belle Arts, Italy. On his return to Libya in 1964, he taught at the Teacher’s Training College in Tripoli until 1968, when he decided to become a commercial artist, specializing in exhibition and showroom design. His academic exercises in oil painting are extremely successful. For example, a one-man showing at the Libya Palace Hotel, in August of 1969, was distinguished by a vibrant Still Life and a Diana nude of classical grace that plays variations on a theme of de Stoel. Like many of his contemporaries, As Said prefers not to sell his work. The reason is simple. In 1960’s Libya, the desperate shortage of qualified personnel in all professions ensured that an artist, even fairly trained in another discipline, could easily find a part-time job that would allow the artist leisure time to develop his artistic talent. Consequently, he can earn a modest living and afford, in most cases, not to sell his work.

2.49 1939 Amir Nour, Sudan: Amir Nour (MRC 94) was born in Shendi, a town located between the fifth and six cataracts of River Nile, in Northern Sudan. Sudan’s population of 25 million contains over 500 ethnic

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MRC 94 Amir Nour. Portrait Photo 1974. African-American Institute, New York, Collection

groups, 40% of which are non-Muslims. Nour first studied art at the School of Fine and Applied Art in Khartoum, earning his diploma in 1957. At that time, the school of Fine and Applied Art had an avant-garde role in furthering and spreading contemporary African art. In an article on Sudanese contemporary African art, Hüther (2000) notes: Western-style art education did not begin [in Sudan] as a grand personal initiative, like Senghor’s for Senegal. Rather, it developed slowly from within the colonial systems, as a credible and popular subject, in ways similar to Ghana. Between 1959 and 1963, Nour traveled to Great Britain on a scholarship and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London University, receiving an undergraduate degree in 1962. He returned to the School of Fine and Applied Art in Khartoum to become the head of Department of Sculpture in 1963 at the age of 24 and remained there until 1965. Nour then continued his training with one year of postgraduate work at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1966. In 1969, he came to the United States of America on Rockefeller fellowship to study in the Art and Architecture Department at Yale University, where he earned a BFA and MFA. Nour has lived and worked in Chicago since 1974 and is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Truman College, where he was named Truman College’s Distinguished Professor for 2002. During his years in Chicago, Nour met Jeff Donaldson and attended several meetings of the African Commune of Bad Arts (AfroCobra). The word “Bad,” in this name, is threefold: bold, imaginative integrity, and social commitment (Tibbs, 2000). Jeff Donaldson,

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MRC 95 Amir Nour- Calabash Stainless Steel (detail)

MRC 95.1 Amir Nour. Calabash 4, Stainless Steel, 1980. In front of Police Station. Chicago. Photo by Kathy Vajda

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Wadsworth Jarrel, Barbara Jones Hogu, and others established Africobra as a unique artist’s organization in Chicago, in 1968. The group’s objectives, laid out in its 1970 manifesto written by Jeff Donaldson, were to develop a new African-American aesthetic and to commit to principles of social responsibility, local artistic involvement, and promotion of pride in Black self-identity. To fulfill the principles, certain aesthetic and artistic qualities were emphasize: the sublime image, innovative approach to rhythm, and the use of highenergy colors (Cornell University Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art: (http:/www.asrc. cornell.edu/blacknessincolor/galleries/gallery7left.htm1#afri). Avoiding the art establishment and many tenets of contemporary abstraction, AfriCobra emphasized art that its members felt was relevant to the lives and experiences of people of African descent. By focusing on bright color, symmetry, improvisation and images, and patterns derieved from African and African-American art and music, Donaldson sought to celebrate the roots of AfricanAmerican culture. Although Nour’s abstract approach to sculpture differed from AfriCobra’s artistic principles, he clearly supported their ideology and became committed to them by learning at several of the City Colleges of Chicago that predominantly support urban African-American community. Nour’s work has been shown in galleries and museums in Europe, Africa, Cuba, and the United States: including the Smithsonian Institution, the Corcoran Gallery and the National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C., Cornell University (1993), the Carnegie Institute’s Museum of Art, the Illinios State Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago (1974). Nour is featured in several textbooks and reference books including A Critical Anthology of African Art, Contemporary African Art and Artists edited by Evelyn Brown, History of Art in Africa and The Oxford Illustrated History of Western Art. Nour has had several sole art exhibitions at the African-American Institute in New York (1973), the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburg, and at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. More recently, Nour had a one-person exhibit of 15 sculptures and 18 drawings headlining the opening of the new French American Center for the Arts in Paris, in 2002. Many consider Nour’s 1968 sculpture, Ancestor, completely discussed in chapter six, his breakthrough work. A bronze sculpture 24 inches high, Ancestor won the Prize for Graphic and Plastic Arts that year in an annual contest conducted by the journal African Arts. The sculpture was praised for effectively straddling the traditional and novelty, “hinting at the forms of traditional carving while its smoothly polished lines brought another aesthetic dimension to bear upon the work (Mohed, 1971.54).” Nour has won several other awards, including the New Haven Festival of Art Prize in 1969 and the 5th Mousse, Cultural d’Asilah, Morocco Commision for Sculpture in 1983. His sculpture, Equation, is installed in front of the 4th District Police Station at 2255 East 103rd Street in Chicago. In 1996, this sculpture won him the honor of being one of only five artists featured in the International Sculpture Exposition at the Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia. The 266-foot long sculpture was airlifted to Atlanta and returned to its original site in Chicago after the games. In 1980 Nour spoke at the International Sculpture Conference in Washington, D.C. Calabash 4 (MRC 95 and 95.1: detail) was also commissioned by the city of Chicago in 1980 and consists of four

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MRC 96 Amir Nour. Grazing at Shendi, Stainless Steel, 202 pieces, 10x,5’, 1969, Sudan. The Artist Collection

hemispheres of cold-rolled steel with a matte black finish. Grazing at Shendi (MRC 96), a stainless steel sculpture composed out of 202 separate pieces, was created in 1969 while Nour was attending graduate school at Yale. Much of Nour’s imagery’s inspiration is derieved from the art, architecture, history and landscape of his native Sudan. Grazing at Shendi’s visual motivation has been described as the vast monotony of the desert broken only by herds of sheep grazing on the horizon. In an example from the Transatlantic Dialogue exhibition catalogue, Nour discussed the sense of space replicated in this work: On the other side of the river was an empty horizon sand and desert. You are overwhelmed by the space. And it is a scary type of feeling too because there is nothing there to enhance your mind. So you go back into yourself, and you think about your physical existence. As kids we used to play outside and a man would come around collecting the goats and sheep, and he would take them out of town. When you see them from the distance you don’t see details (Harris, 1999.21-22). Grazing at Shendi is probably the most discussed and published of Nour’s sculpture, appearing in several recent exhibitions as recently as 2002. Indeed, it is difficult to find a discussion of Nour’s work outside of Grazing at Shendi. Nour uses one of the most basic shapes, the half-circle in this sculpture, to create what Jean Kenedy (1992.115) calls “a sculptural complex;” but has been described less expressively by others as a series of doughnut halves. Grazing at Shendi consists of nothing but the rolling slopes of a hillside and the animals themselves. It does not evoke a pastoral scene, but it should be noted that the title itself leads us to envision this as a pastoral landscape. Thus, a viewer may not read the sculpture as such without the title. The reflections off the stainless steel recall the shimmering and harsh light of the desert, and Kennedy notes that it is the quality of light “that endows the piece with a special indigenous character (Ibid.).” Nour does not provide 203


any formula for the arrangement of the 202 steel pieces in Grazing at Shandi, so their placement is subject to a randomness (from curator to curator) and Harris in Transatlantic Dialogue: Contemporary Art In and Out of Africa exhibition catalogue (1999.22) finds that this randomness likens “the contempotaneousness to be found when herds graze.” Another work similar in costruction to Grazing at Shandi is Serpent, seven feet long and made out of stainless steel with detachable sections. Both Grazing at Shandi and Serpent can be arranged in different series of complex shapes. An article on Nour’s sculpture in African Arts notes that “the pieces allow sculpture to escape, to some extent, from its most siginificant limitations – the sense of the static…each reorganization of the pieces indicates the dynamic possibilities (Mohed, 1971.57).” Grazing at Shendi was recently featured in

MRC 97 EGYPT. The Colonnade Of The Great Temple Of Amon, 52’ h. Dynasties XVIII-XIX, Luxor

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Enwezor’s (2001) exhibition, The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa. The exhibition was designed to describe the impact of independence and liberation movements on the African continent between 1945 and 1994 on the visual arts, literature, film, photography, music, and archtecture. Its interdisciplinary strategy aimed at providing comprehensive perspective. The same sculpture was also recently part of the 2000 Transatlantic Dialogue exhibition, which was intended to explore the varied ways that African and African-American artists interpret their ideas and identies and to demonstrate that similarities of style as well as diversity of expression emerged from a shared African heritage and what its curators called an aesthetic conversation (Harris, 1999). Nour has worked in other mediums besides steel and bronze. In the late seventies, he started working with new materials like plastic resins. His sculpture, Three Domes, is constructed in molded plastic and monzini resin with the same clear and serene lines as his works in metal. Some of his earlier works from the seventies, Untitled and Scarecrow for example, were constructed in cement fondu. In a review of one of Nour’s exhibition, Hersey (1976.82) says that in all of Nour’s works, he shows “a unity of purpose and expression that reveals his African origins, although they have clearly been filtered through an artistic sensibility that has absorbed much of the teachings of such modern Western masters as Brancusi and Arp.” Critic Ulrich Clewing (2003) declares that Nour’s sculpture pieces “seem to be minimalist in style, but the special arrangement of his otherwise unpretentious object reveals very varied cultural and personal influences and associations.” These immense sculptures often spread through spaces or rooms, and the simple, cleanlined components, frequently made only by machine, seem stylistically to belong to abstract simplicity. The machine-made components and simplified style leads somewhat to a distinctively contemporary appearance, which has greatly directed the criticism of Nour’s sculpture as non-African. In an essay, in The Short Century exhibition catalogue, Chika Okeke (2001.36) states: From the very beginning, modern African artists produced more painting than sculpture, and it is painting that more eloquently expresses African modernism, despite the brilliant work of Amir Nour, Enwonwu, Vincent Kofi, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Mukhtar, and others. In the preceding passage, one wonders what “African modernism” means. Does it obtain from the principles of Euro-American modernism? If it does, then one has a problem. That the principles of Euro-American modernism produce the entire African artists’ works is untrue. What generates their works is Africa itself: environment, tradition, subject matter, and history. There is no shortcut theory. This attitude towards Nour’s sculpture as not truly African and Nour as a Western artist, due to not only his style; but education and current residence in Chicago, is no doubt responsible in part for the lack of critical writing about his work since the late 1970s. To avoid sweeping speculations, therefore, there is need for chronological, stylistic and interpretative analyses of African artists’ works in dertmining their essential features and connections. Nour’s art has been described as controlled, geometric, and metallic. Nour affirms his link to Sudanese life and tradition by

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MRC 98 IGBO- Mbari House Of Ala Mother Goddes, Proctecting The Allien. Owerri, 1940, Nigeria

demonstrating that the forms of Sudanese utilitarian objects and architecture are related to forms he creates. In defense of his style Nour proclaims: Abstracted thinking is not just a western thing. Look at Islamic art. Islamic art became abstract because of the religious taboos on worshiping [what were thought of as] idols and [pagan] statues. So Islamic art was mostly geometric shapes: it came out of calligraphy. There is nothing wrong with using technology; we need it. But the forms and shapes have to come from within the society itself, from the tradition and background we have. In Sudan, fine tuned forms such as the crescent and horns of cattle are shapes used in the architecture of Nubian house, and they are present in my sculpture Protected Gate. The dobe house with its lamps resembles a face at night. All of these elements are inspiration to me. However, technology is sweeping away tradition. So my work is an attempt to use the two. My sculpture has been critized for its abstract quality [because of] this idea that the West has a monopoly on the abstract [art]. Muslim culture tends towards abstractions, architecture and calligraphy, for example. [Traditional] African art has a cool, serene quality, as well as a hot, ferocious one. You can see this contrasted in a firespitter mask [Senufo Krobla], cool in the face and hot in the horns and teeth. Traditional sculpture often exaggerates shapes, distorts proportions for symbolic reasons. For example, the head is larger because it is the house of wisdom. I exagerate some shapes for aesthetic reasons, and use the inorganic to depict the organic (Kennedy, 1992.113) At first glance, many of Nour’s sculpture might appear to be non-representational, but they are most often abstractions of images of his childhood in Sudan. “His metallic dome shapes reflect the light like the domes of the Sudanese mosques or the calabashes polished with animal fat by the artisans he used to watch in the market (Mohed, 1974.61). The domes, arches, cattle horns, crescents and calabashes are all a part of Sudanese

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MRC 99 Ijo Artist. Duen Fobara. wood, fiber, pigment, metal, 39”, Nigeria. Private Collection

landscape and equally a part of Nour’s aesthetic concern. Shining and polished by the strong desert light, every curve is highlighted and reflected in cast shadows. His “uncluttered lines, simple volumes and smooth gleaming surfaces of his sculpture (Ibid.)” replicate his primary concern with form and the play between light and shadow. Nkurumen (Clewing, 2003), in his contribution to the Encyclopedia of Sculpture, has said that one 207


sensed in Nuor’s works “a timelessness transcending the cultural context in which they arose.” The playful rearrangement of some of Nour’s sculpture, like the Grazing at Shendi and the Serpent, often lead some critics to categorize them as installations that inspire criticism of Nour’s work as non-African or Western. Here, again, one wonders why the art of “installation” is a western European invention. Perhaps, a non-casual examination of ancient and traditional African shrines: like those of the Egptian Temple Age (1554-1305 BC) of the 18th Dynasty, the ancient Igbo Mbari houses and the Duen Forbara memorials of the Ijaw, both of Nigeria, would be clarifying. Thus, if the Greek gods of Bacchus and Hermes can originate fascinatating images in western European art, similarlarly the African shrines of the 18th Dynasty (MRC 97), Mbari Houses (MRC 98) and Duen Forbara memorials (MRC 99) can initiate the art of “installation” in contemporary African art. Any reverse thinking would be too far-fetched, or patent falsehood. Nour explains that his first step in the direction of art was with a prize in intermediate school. He was originally interested in architecture, but when he missed the opportunity to study abroad he pursed the visual arts. He sees a connection between architecture and sculpture, but explains that as a sculptor he is not “imposing living arrangements on clientel, but can deal with ideas in a freer way (Kennedy, 1992.114).” The fusion of diverse influences in Nour’s work is subtle and easily eludes us without his explanation or an explanatory title. Finally, in dicussing the kinds of memories that inspire him, Nour states: In my hometown all the houses had doors and windors painted green all, except one house. It was painted red, sort of an earthy crimson color, and I always admired that house. I can’t tell you why, but I always thought I would buy it when I grow up and become a man. There was a very old man standing in front of the house. I used to dream about the shadows of that house. I used to love the fact that it had a veranda with an arch and this tree next to it (Ibid). Grazing at Shendi, Serpent, Ancestor, and Protected Gate and most of Nour’s other works

MRC 100 Younousse Seye. Photo- Portrait, 1986. Senegal

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ultimately demonstrate that abstract forms can be imbued with memory, contours, as well as the colors of Nour’s Sudanese childhood, and that light and shadow themselves can be invested with symbolic meaning and cultural connotations.

2.50 1940 Younousse Seye, Senegal: “My philosophy of art is freedom of expression first and foremost.” --Younousse Seye [excerpt from a Video Interview with Younousse Seye by the present writer, 1990] One striking theme in the personal and artistic life of Younousse Seye (MRC 100) is the overwhelming sense of independence of mind and freedom from external influences. First, this theme is apparent in her home life. Born in Saint-Louis, Senegal, Younousse Seye, now divorced, lives with her three children in a home which she proudly remarks was purchased with her own money. Second, this theme is apparent in her religious life. Seye adheres to no specific faith but rather asserts her belief in one God and in all of His prophets of all religions. Third, this independence of mind has prevailed even in her career as an actress. Younousse Seye as an actress is perhaps most famous for her portrayal of Mety in the film Le Mandat by Sembene Ousmane. Mety is a strong-willed Muslim wife who frequently acts on her own initiative and follows her own intuition -- clearly an example of type casting! The importance of individual freedom is also apparent in Seye’s career -- she does her own marketing, handles her own finances and organizes her own exhibitions. As a self-trained artist, Seye feels no barriers to specific styles or media. She employs numerous different styles from conceptual to abstract. She also uses various media -- marble, gouache and oil on canvas, watercolors, wood, tempura, and of course, various materials for her tapestries. Seye also feels no restrictions in terms of particular themes. She draws from religious traditions and African mythology and folklore as well as contemporary political events. Seye’s confidence in her individual right to self-expression allows her to communicate her opinions on Apartheid in South Africa, hunger in Ethiopia or violence in Angola through her innovative and varied forms of art. She has even written poetry, such as this poem composed in 1982 on the subject of apartheid: Long wait We have crossed the desert of despair with the mirages of hope (Senghor. 1986). Thus Seye’s art, and even her poetry, is “inspired from within” (video interview with Younousse Seye by this writer, 1990) and attributable to a great degree to her sense of personal independence and freedom of expression.

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It is no surprise then that the most important element in Seye’s philosophy of art is freedom of expression. Art is a language that can communicate ideas when words fail. In her interview, Seye remarks that “where the poet stops, where the philosopher stops, where the intellectual stops, … it is there that the artist must begin (Ibid.).” Hence, through all of her works, Seye communicates with people. Both message and media are vitally important to Seye, and through each, Seye commits herself to the re-emergence and the reaffirmation of African cultural values. At this point, the influence of such a renewal of traditional African values in Seye’s work and its relation to the philosophy of Negritude and Sankofa art becomes pungent. Throughout his numerous political writings and collections of poetry, Leopold Sedar Senghor has fashioned the concept of Negritude into a motivating force not only for changes in African politics but also for a renewal of African arts. Senghor recognized that the inherent validity of the African heritage was into question thrown under European domination; making traditional African values to be discredited and repressed throughout colonial rule. Therefore, Senghor and others advocated a “return to the source,” or a re-rooting of Africans in their traditional cultural values (Senghor, 1965). Subsumed in this reaffirmation of African heritage is the recognition of the inherent worth of African civilization and of its value for the future. In terms of literature, Negritude involves a revival of African themes, drawing from oral traditional and African folklore. Negritude literature, then, demonstrates an awareness of traditional African civilization and seeks to perpetuate what is most valuable within it into the future. In terms of art, one could say that Sankofa art parallels the Negritude movement in literature. Sankofa art, like Negritude literature, seeks to revive African folklore and artistic forms. Just as Negritude literature draws upon African folklore for its themes, Sankofa art calls as a source of inspiration upon the themes of African oral tradition. This type of art is therefore transhistorical because it uses themes from the past and makes them relevant to the present, thereby suggesting continuity as well as interdependence between them. Seye’s art, because it exhibits many of these qualities, is classifiable as Sankofa art. Younousse Seye’s skill in creating tapestries is one of her trademarks. These tapestries are characterized by intricate patterns and details, and vivid colors and varied media. Housed in numerous public buildings her marble and wood sculpture pieces are also famous. Such public buildings include the airport at Dakar, Senegal, the BCAO (Banque Centrale d’Afrique de l’Ouest), the government meeting house of the President in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and at the University of Dakar, Senegal). Her tapestries and sculpted works, as well as her jewelry and paintings have been displayed throughout the world in numerous exhibitions. The First Pan-African Festival in Algiers, Algeria in 1969; The Contemporary African Art Festival in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977; The International Anti-Apartheid Forum in Dakar, Senegal in 1986; and Howard University in the United States, constitute her exceptional showings. Other showings like several ones in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and numerous national Senegalese Art Exhibitions in Dakar, Senegal are also significant. A complete look at all of Seye’s works would be overwhelming, so it is practical to focus on

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three paintings: La Jeune Fille (Young Girl), La Maternite (Motherhood), and Portadpora de Luz (Light-Bearer). La Jeune Fille (Young Girl), oil on canvas painting, portrays a single figure of the head and shoulders of a young African girl. Seye has incorporated cowry shells as part of the girl’s headdress as decorative motifs. Seye has also varied the technique by combining a vegetable powder with oil to create the sandy brown color. In terms of composition, the painting is unfixable by the outline of the girl’s hair causing the

MRC 101 Younousse Seye. Portadora de Luz, The Lamp Bearer, oil and collage over plywood, 1971, Senegal

eye to follow the sloping movement from the girl’s forehead, around the back of the head, to the upward curl of the hair. This upward curl creates a spiral, a form that also appears

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on the side of the girl’s head and in the jewelry at her neckline. Many of the attributes of this painting, both in thematic and stylistic characteristics, are classifiable as Sankofa art. La Maternite (Motherhood), a mother holding her child, is the main motif of this oil on canvas painting. With no decorative motifs, this work uses the same vegetable powder and oil technique as Young Girl. In terms of composition, a direction movement from the mother’s head around to the left of the baby’s head and around the bottom, to the right side, to the mother’s hand, unifies the painting. The viewer’s eye is not only by this circular motion focused, but also by the penetrating eyes of the mother whose head occupies a large portion of the canvas. Portadora de Luz (Light-Bearer), also in oil and collage over plywood, 1971, depicts a woman holding a light source of some sort (MRC 101). She is next to another figure juxtaposed, most probably the backside of a man surrounded by a background of a different color. This work involves a dominant decorative motif: the one of the cowry shells, outlining the principal figures in the painting. It would appear that Seye has used not only the regular oil and collage on plywood but also her own unique combination of vegetable powder and oil. The colors serve in this work as sources of both variety and unity. Where colors contrast and come in contact with one another -- such as the bright red background meeting the brown background -- adds to the diversity of the work. Where the same color reappears in different places of the painting -- such as the red appearing in the background and in the woman’s eyes -- creates oneness in the work. With a closer examination of the elements of composition common to each of these works and of the interpretations of these works, the importance of freedom of expression and the rediscovery of traditional African values become apparent. Seye described freedom of expression as essential to art. This tenet and Seye’s strong, dynamic character are evident in the three paintings. First, the addition of cowry shells to Young Girl and Light-Bearer is purely the artist’s innovation. Seye chose to outline the figures of Light-Bearer with cowry shells, thereby delineating clearly the forms. In both paintings, this decorative motif has deep meaning in terms of aesthetic value, while adding considerably to the artistic value as well. Another innovation on the part of the artist is the use of vegetable powder in combination with oil as a medium. Again, the idea is original and adds to the artistic value of the work. However, it has as well deeper aesthetic value meaning. Seye is also asserting her independence of artistic expression in the common subject of each of these paintings -- woman. In her work, as well as in her life as a female artist, Seye affirms the vitality of the female creative genius. Perhaps, more evident in these particular works is the Negritude character of the reaffirmation of traditional African cultural values. In Motherhood, for example, Seye has chosen a universal theme among artists in Africa -- that of a mother and child. In traditional African societies, a mother and child is a symbol of the continual of life. Wrapped up in the image of a mother are such themes as Mother Africa, procreation, Nature, and of course, the close relationship between a mother and her children. Likewise, embodied

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in the image of a child are other concepts such as reincarnation, the hope and promise for the future, youth energy, and many more. Clearly, the theme of mother and child has many connotations for the African observer. By drawing upon an idea central to traditional Africa and reformulating it in a contemporary work of art, Seye is suggesting a renewal of this idea and emphasizing its importance for the present. Thus, in the very choice of theme, Seye calls for a reaffirmation of the traditional African value in the mother and child relationship and all that it symbolizes. The cowry shells in both Young Girl and Light-Bearers have also deep meaning in traditional African societies. Formerly used for currency, the cowry shell symbolizes wealth and good fortune. As part of the headdress of the girl portrayed in Young Girl, the cowry shell indicates that the girl is coquettish and elegant. Combined with a contemporary hairstyle, Seye is clearly portraying a present day woman of high society. The cowry shell also symbolizes the process of life in a more traditional sense. The cowry shell was once full, with a living organism and inhabited the sea. Although the cowry shell contains no life form as used in jewelry or in these paintings, it calls to mind the process of life and death. Seye also articulates in her interview that the cowry shell, to bring good luck to the bearer, is acceptable in African cultures. Thus, Seye has taken an element of traditional African life and incorporated it into the headdress of an elegant contemporary young girl. Similarly, in Light-Bearer, Seye uses this traditional African element in the outlining of forms. In both of these works, Seye draws upon the past and communicates its present relevance. This high aesthetic value obliges the observer to recall elements of the African heritage. The style of expression used in all three of these works is almost purely Sankofa. For example, all three paintings portray their figures in strict frontal or profile view and have relatively little overlapping of elements, if at all. There is no natural light source and hardly a trace of form modeling. These works are exceedingly conceptual: the woman portrayed in Light-Bearer, for example, has a head that is at least one-third to one-fourth the size of her body -- a common attribute in traditional African art. Selective naturalism is also evident in the emphasis on the woman’s breasts as well as her large eyes. The women in both Young Girl and Motherhood also have large eyes and heads in proportion to the rest of their bodies. Particularly apparent in Light-Bearer is Seye strong sense of verticality and symmetry. In one sense, simplicity is the key to each of these three works. Without complex use of cast shadows, if any, color theory, and principles of perspective typical of Soyan art, Seye has produced extremely skilled works with deep meaning for the observer, thus creating a balance between artistic and aesthetic values. Just as the literature of the Negritude movement created a renewed interest in the values and cultural heritage of traditional Africa, the artistic works of Younousse Seye lend a new vitality to the art of traditional Africa. Her innovations within the framework of traditional African art forms and techniques praise traditional African art and seek to perpetuate the set of values such art has communicated for centuries. Most important, Seye’s art is a

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contemporary expression of twentieth-century African cultural values, if not the twenty-first century.

2.53 1941 Ahmad Ibrahim Abu Su A, Libya: Ahmad Ibrahim Abu Su A was born in Nalut; and moved, in 1958, to Tripoli, where he taught at a school in Gurgi. When he began to paint in oil, in 1975, his paintings were already more sophisticated than that of many other Libyan artists. Although Abu Su A admits a certain foreign influence in his work, influences on his sensibilities are demonstrably limited. A Berber of western mountains, one of his few finished sculpted works show, for example, his dependency on African Berber tradition. It depicts a despondent man crouching down, niches hewn from his sides, identical to those honeycombing the Berber barricade granaries of Oasar al Hal, Nalut, and Kabau. Beduin Resting (1968), fully discussed under Somumuo Substyle [SYA 261], appears to be his best work to date; it dominated a January 1970 exhibition at the Arab Cultural Center in Tripoli. His later watercolors of Libyan landscapes contrast with his Still Life (1969).

2.54 1941 Azaria Mbatha, South Africa: Reflections of Oneness and Cross Cultural Connections Azaria(h) Mbatha was born at Mabeka in KwaZulu, South Africa. His parents, wanting to give him a name that would hold presence, chose to call him Azariah, “which is a boy’s name, of Hebrew origin (http://wwxv27.brinkster.com/884l/story.htm, 1).” Translated, Azaria(h) means helped by God. To further emphasize their love for him and project their desires to deem him blessed, Azaria(h)’s parents spelled his name without the h: Azaria, the female form of the Hebrew name. And here, one may ask: were Azaria’s parents lacking in female offspring? Mbatha’s parents also gave him the names: Celemusa and Jabulani, variants in which God’s help and guidance is reflected. Although his mother and father were well intentioned, Azaria finds his multiple names confusing, but he is content to be called any of them (Ibid). Perhaps, this may serve as an early example of his belief in universalism. In both his personal and artistic lives, Mbatha believes in the connection and unity of all men. Precision of names, thus, only holds minimal significance. Names though varied are all names, just as men are different, but are all men. In keeping with his belief in universalism, Azaria chooses to combine influences of his traditional, rural Zulu roots, passed on to him by his mother, Christian themes, enforced by his father, and European, or specifically Swedish culture. Pulling on such a variety of influences helps guide Azaria to create works that encompass a worldly quality. He seeks to incorporate all experiences, which have become pieces of him. He then presents these experiences, with their different influences, to viewers, and in doing so encourages the idea that all men are united. Before continuing, it is important to describe the artist’s early life, so as to better 214


understand his choice in compositional schemes. Prior to his formal studies, Mbatha became sick with tuberculosis. Spending confined time at the Ceza Mission Hospital in Natal was actually a blessing, for it is here where he began to work with the linocut technique (a technique, in which linoleum is the material used for printmaking). Though it may seem to be an unusual medium, Azaria finds linoleum to be “an exciting material to work with (http://www.suntimes.co.za/1998/l0/18/lifestyle/lifeO2.htm, l).” Shortly after his recovery, in 1963, Mbatha enrolled at the Evangelical Lutheran Church Art and Craft Center in Umpumulu, Natal, at Rorke’s Drift. The center, having been formed in 1962, was a “Swedish, initiative that followed the closing of the Polly Street art Center in Johannesburg (Ibid.).” Thus, Mbatha’s Swedish influences were formed early, before his actual move to Sweden. In 1965, after only being a student for two years, Mbatha’s works were already drawing the attention of Peder Gowenius, a Swedish missionary. Gowenius promoted Azaria’s works and encouraged their sale to Jo and Jim Thorpe at the African Art Center, Durban. Although Europeans purchased Mbatha’s early works, South Africans were non-receptive and infrequently bought his art. Later, however, this changed. Now, South Africans purchase Azaria’s art as much so as Europeans. Following this promotion by Gowenius, Azaria completed his training at the center and was awarded a scholarship to attend the Konst Jack Art School in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, he focused on painting and designing tapestries, which his wife wove. A year later, in 1967, he changed both locations and mediums. Mbatha moved back to Rorke’s Drift and switched from painting to silkscreen printing. That same year Mbatha became the first South African artist to have his works displayed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It is quite an accomplishment, for a man of only twenty-six years. In 1969 Mbatha returned to Sweden to study at the University of Lund. He obtained his degree in Art History and Social Science, while working at a textile design company. Since then he has remained in Sweden as an exile, with his wife, Muriel, and their two children. Initially, the artist was concerned that the move away from his rural Zulu roots would inhibit his creative output. However, he shortly found that being distanced, rather than immersed in the culture of his homeland, “gave his art a special perspective.” This cultural shift allowed the artist a more objective outlook, for he was removed from his roots “both in space and time.” Mbatha describes his experience as an artist in exile as more than beneficial. He is noted for saying “My privilege of [being] an artist in exile is having the time to formulate earlier experiences. Collecting, arranging, revising thoughts and memories is a process going on as new impulses are felt (Http://www.durbanet.co.za/exhib/dag/hr/ cfl2.htm.).” Through this comment Azaria alludes to his combination of artistic influences. The reliving of his residence in South Africa (through memories) coincides directly with his new experiences in a fresh territory, and in turn is joined in visual forms through his art. It might be suggested that because of this melding of cultural experiences Mbatha is able to appreciate humanity in its most general sense. 215


Jill Addleson, chairman of collections at the Durban Art Gallery and responsible party for the October 1998 retrospective exhibition of Mbatha’s art has said, “We realize that Mbatha does not judge humanity in a harsh manner (Ibid.).” Visually, his appreciation and gentle handling of humanity can be seen in his “Citizenship” linocut (Ibid.9). The linocut consists of symbolic representations of human rights in three registers, which surround a large central image. This image encourages viewers to think about the idea of “us versus the other,” both the subconscious and purposeful division man places between himself and those that are outside himself, different. To have a fuller understanding of the work it is important to understand Azaria’s interpretation of citizenship. For Azaria citizenship means more than just a form of legality. Coming from a country, in which blacks were denied the status of citizenship, due to years of colonial oppression from the British and Dutch Afrikaners, citizenship manifests itself as an implication of humanity’s universalism (http://www. durbanet.co.za/exhib/dag/hr/cll2.htm, 1). To be a citizen is to share a geographical location, space, and time with those around you, based upon the supposed idea of equality and unity. I am personally attracted to this piece of work, because of its healing quality. Contrasting dark and light, while weaving them together in a narrative form, metaphorically resembles the equality of blacks and whites, through the sharing of citizenship. It is as if Mbatha seeks to celebrate the long awaited move away from the oppression of black South Africans, while saying it’s “Ok.” The pain existed and will remain, but the hoped for acknowledgement of the union of black and white, and humanity in general, is a cause for joy. Mbatha’s belief in unity amongst men is also displayed through themes outside humanity itself. In his linocut, “Revelation of St. John,” the artist creates a detailed narrative in which the beast from Revelation 13:1 is portrayed. The beast, described as having many heads and horns with crowns is meant to “represent the universal evil or destruction which transcends any particular time, place, or people (http:/!www.suntimes.co.za/1998/l0/18/ lifestyle/life02.htm, 2).” Here, Mbatha pulls on his father’s Christian influences and infuses these influences with a universal theme (bred from his cross cultural experiences). All men can cause pain and act despicably. All men have always had this capability and all men will continue to be prone to evil. The narrative nature of this work is commonly found in the majority of Mbatha’s art. This is of no surprise. During his childhood, stories of Azaria’s Zulu ancestry were passed on orally. Mbatha has taken the auditory form of story telling and produced visual representations. Amanda Jephson, author of “Aspects of Twentieth Century Black South African Art Up to 1980” believes that Mbatha and his fellow Rorke’s Drift printmakers create narratives which follow similar methods to those used by South African weavers. Both types of artists visually retell Zulu history, though their choice in materials varies. Such parallels emphasize the importance of one’s culture, which Mbatha realizes he cannot escape from artistically. Though Mbatha advocates his belief in the unity of humanity, he is unable to deny the prevalence of his personal history. The artist claims that his “subjects touch aspects of all human experience, but the idiom, the graphic form, is rooted in fihisi childhood and 216


upbringing in Zulu society and South Africa (Http://www.durbanet.co.za/exhib/dag/hr/cfl2.htm.).” This appreciation of personal origins and their interplay with the origins of others was a major theme of the Menzi Mcuhu Gallery exhibition coordinated by Marisa Frick Jordan. Mbatha’s works, which display the co-mingling of “communication and harmony” between all peoples were shown to portray man’s interaction(s) with man. Jordan describes the themes used to demonstrate these interactions as those dealing with “dialogue, reconciliation…and celebration (Ibid.).” Again, these themes reflect Mbatha’s trend towards the universality of humanity, but are more specific to speech and the sharing of emotions. In turn, it seems that the unity of manhood becomes more poignant. The sharing and revealing of self to another ties the giver and receiver of this haring together, in the idea of general manhood. All men may share dialogue, and have notions and times of festivity. Mbatha’s “The News,” part of his Reconciliation series, begun around 1967 also shows the importance of sharing through dialogue. The work is based on a TV show the artist watched in 1990. The program “indicated the wished-for dialogue between black and white South Africans had started” (www.artsmart.co.za/visual/archive/204.htm. 2000-2001.l.). It was always Azaria’s hope that the two races would be able to come together and reconcile through non-violence, dialogue. (South Africa having been colonized by the British and the Dutch was also the location of the Boer’s War, and is the homeland of once refugee Nelson Mandela. Over the years the country has been prone to bitter interactions between the South African black indigenous people, and their white counter parts). The artist, however, does not entirely limit himself to the representations of man’s unity through human forms. He also chooses to create images, in which animals are used symbolically. These images were displayed at the exhibit at the African Art Center (1998). One of the graphics shown was Mbatha’s “Jonah and the Whale.” This piece of art narrates in a linear fashion like the before mentioned “The Revelation of St. John.” Such linearity connects the story in a precise and chronological order. Undoubtedly, the Christian influence is strong, as the story is written in the Christian Bible. The denial of God’s will, the redemption and reconciliation with oneself and others, and the fear shared between men in the presence of God is apparent in the story. These ideas are also apparent in the lives of

MRC 102 Azaria Mbatha. The Ladder, Charcoal, pen and ink on paper, 11 x 8.5”, 1989, South Africa. Private Collection

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many men, again emphasizing the similarities found amongst all people. Another graphic displayed was the artist’s “The Scandinavian Lion.” In this image Mbatha uses Swedish reindeer “in place of the Nguni cattle [found in his earlier work[s] (Ibid.9).” This move from familiar animals indigenous to his homeland to those indigenous to his new home in Sweden implies the universalism of life in general. One may suggest that this complete universalism is emphasized by the work’s title. Lions are inhabitants of Africa, and are thus associated with this part of the world. Scandinavia is different in climate, topography, and foliage, so the animals found here are not often linked with lions. However, it appears that Azaria seeks to portray the reindeers as lions, not physically, but generally. This enforces his theme of universalism, for it interchanges two distinct animal species into their greater, again, more general category of animal. All beasts, though different are beasts, just as all men are men. A final example of Mbatha’s use of symbolic animals mixed with symbolic inanimate objects is found in his rare charcoal and pencil drawings. Featured are a tiger and a broken ladder, Jill Addleson describes these recurring images succinctly. She claims that the tiger, which appears passive and non-violent may at times be aggressive, like people. However, the tiger’s pacifistic depiction aims to show that people can also refrain from aggression like the tiger, “and learn to coexist peacefully (Ibid.).” Addleson goes on to explain that Broken Ladder (MRC 102) symbolizes order that has gone askew. By fixing the ladder, or restoring the idea of order in general, people may create a new order, which is “more favorable (Ibid.).” One can clearly see Azaria’s theme of universalism, though it is slightly masked. Through peaceful coexistence and combined efforts to create an order, or method of being, which benefit all, humanity at large may further their natural unification. After more than thirty years of artistic production, Mbatha is still actively creating. He has had a number of exhibits over the past few years, such as the one held in 2000-2001 at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermantzburg. Titled the “Azaria Mbatha Retrospective Exhibition,” the exhibit displayed his early linocuts, various etchings and drawings, and his most recent works (www.artsmart.co.za/visual/archive/204.htm, l). Clearly, art is life for Mbatha, for after decades of production Mbatha continues to find importance in his work. He gives his personalized meaning of creativity and reveals its necessity within his life: “Creativity is originality of thought and action. It must solve my problems, organize my daily life, past experience, and future dreams’’ (http://www.suntimes.co.za/l998/l0/l8/lifestyle/ life02.htm 5). Thus, it seems that Azaria Mbatha admittedly cannot escape from the artists’ world. It is part of his past, present and supposed future. It is his world. And, it is in this world that we as viewers are able to glimpse at the complexity of a man rooted in Zulu tradition and European values. Here, in his world, we may find ourselves believing in his ideal: a place and time, in which the unity of man is not only understood, but also practiced.

2.55 1941 Zerihun Yetmgeta, Ethiopia: By using the past to light the present, Zerihun Yetmgeta’s fame for transforming the

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traditional to the contemporary is understandable. Consequently, he has strong cultural identity with Ethiopia and the African continent as a whole. Moreover, while using contemporary techniques to break away from the customary, his artwork tells a story of African history and traditions. Zerihun Yetmgeta was born in 1941 in Addis Ababa. His parents were Orthodox Christians. His father owned a small transportation company and his mother was a homemaker. At the age of fifteen, he won the first prize in a national art competition. After completing high school, he attended the Empress Menen Handicraft School and took painting classes for one year. In 1953 Yetmgeta was admitted to the School of Fine Arts in Addis Ababa. He studied at the school until 1968, but was not considered a typical student due to his lack of interest in the courses offered. He returned to the School of Fine Arts in 1970 to take a teaching position and is still there, today, instructing. The 1974 Revolution, in Ethiopia, started a seventeen-year military takeover that turned into suppression for practicing artists. Many policies were put in place to discourage artist from having any artistic expression. However, Yetmgeta decided to remain in Ethiopia, while many of his fellow artists fled the country. His reasons for not leaving the country to study abroad strongly reveal his deep loyalty to Ethiopia. Clearly, he was aware that strict military regulations and ideologies would stop him from becoming a free Ethiopian and therefore may cause him the complete lose of artistic impulses (Silverman 1999). During the Revolution, Yetmgeta’s work drastically changed because he had less freedom: unable to go places to see and sense things in nature and almost always confined to his quarters. Consequently, his art became more figurative and ornamental. In 1991 the Revolution ended and the gain in freedom is apparent in Yetmgeta’s work that was completed following this period. He retuned to his early style, whch was much more abstract than the pieces he created during the previous seventeen years. Yetmgeta has had a few major influences during his career as an artist. His first teacher at the School of Fine Arts in Addis Ababa was Heinz Hansen (Hansen-Bahia). Hansen was a woodcut artist and was an influence on Yetmgeta’s woodcut and mixed media works. Another one of his teachers was Gebre Kristos Desta, whom Yetmgeta admired for his use of color. Alexander Boghossian (Skunder) was also one of Yetmgeta’s teachers and a great influence. They shared a studio together and Skunder gave him a strong artistic foundation. Yetmgeta took all of these influences and produced a type of self-expression. Many themes come to mind when considering Yetmgeta’s work. He depicts a strong history of Coptic/Christian religion, such as magic scrolls that combine prayers and Christian images on parchment paper used to scare away demons. His feelings on Ethiopian religion are not hopeful. Yetmgeta feels that Ethiopian religion puts people down and, at the same time, calms them down. He proclaims that it puts a chain psychologically around ones mind and that one must break through it to survive (Ibid.). His works represent magical themes and tells stories, and in spite of his negative view on Ethiopian religion, they

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sometimes tell the story of humanity. Thus, depicting traditional values and their changes is a way for Yetmgeta to express his desire to keep Ethiopian and African ethnicity alive. Yetmgeta works in many media including oil, tempera, acrylic, pen and ink, mixed media on hard board, canvas, animal skin, and wood. A series of wood relief masks were added to his works after being influenced by a mask he saw in Kenya. Ethiopian culture does not carry the tradition of masks and this made Yetmgeta more curious. He dedicated these masks to what he names the outside world, while incorporating African women and the Ethiopian sun into the composition. In the late 1980s, he started using bamboo strips as canvas. He connects them from the back using animal skin and sticks from weaving looms. Wax and Gold is a bamboo strip painting that depicts a period in Africa from 2,000 BC to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. He connects scenes from several centuries to tell stories on bamboo. Accordingly, Yetmgeta, like many African artists, has used a number of different media during his ongoing career and will probably add a few more before his profession ends. In the last thirty-two years, Yetmgeta has taken part in thirty-eight exhibitions, eighteen of which were solo shows. His first exposition was a one-man show that took place in Addis Ababa. In 1991, he represented Ethiopia in an exhibit at the Cuarta Bienal de la Habana in Cuba. Yetmgeta became recognized in 1992 when he exhibited two works at DAK’ART 92 in Senegal. Following the Show in Senegal, he won second prize in 1993 at the Kenya Art Panorama, French Cultural Center, in Nairobi. There were one hundred and ten participating artists from Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa. These exhibitions have given him national and international notoriety in the art world. Yetmgeta’s strong loyalty toward his country is reflected in the relationship he has with his family. He is married to Etagennyehu Walde and together they have five children, including three girls and two boys. His wife owns a small taxi business and sells clothing made by her friends from different parts of Africa. She hopes to open a small boutique someday. Etagennyehu recently staged a fashion show where her husband exhibited some of his works. The Yetmgeta family lives with Etagennyehu’s two sisters and two children. They are deeply rooted in Ethiopian culture. The large family serves traditional Ethiopian meals and performs coffee ceremonies with traditional costume for quests. The cohesiveness of this family is perceptible from members living in close quarters and sharing in all household duties. Yetmgeta’s studio is on the same compound as his house. It is a round building that resembles an Ethiopian church. Metal bells are connected atop the studio, like a church structure, where Yetmgeta listens to national and international music and news while at work. With a strong dedication to his family and to his country that he had sacrificed seven years’ freedom of expression during the Revolution, Yetmgeta’s passionate devotion comes forcibly through in his work. He is therefore an authentic Ethiopian whose outpouring work is a clear proof that he can stay the distance as a professional artist.

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2.56 1942 Falaka Armide, Ethiopia: Falaka Armide was born in Nazareth, Ethiopia, and attended the Atze Glaudics comprehensive high school there. He went on to study at the Fine Arts School, Addis Ababa, in 1965, under well-known art instructors like Gebre Desta, Skunder Boghossian, V. Fumo, W. Kindred, and H. Seiler. He even had two years of education in graphics art at Howard University, United States of America. Although he is well educated, Armide goes on to say: I don’t believe in paper qualifications; B.A., diplomas… I believe only in experience and talent (Editor. Daily Nation, Ethiopia, 1978). Indeed, talented he is. Armide’s earliest work was in 1967 and his pieces in woodcuts, wood reliefs, and oil paintings have earned him five one-man shows in Ethiopia in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972. His last known exhibition was at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1978. With the philosophy of Negritude, his works depict the Ethiopian traditional way of life especially that of the Ethiopian Coptic Church, custom, and biblical figures: […] In Africa, people are struggling for their freedom, Amide declares, explaining why his work is dominated by figures usually powerful horses straining and seething with rage and movement in determination to break away from some restraining force…. (Ibid.). Armide’s story telling pieces of prints have been famous to contain two, three and up to five blocks of wood. These wood print works are drawn, cut and printed, from the influences of his surroundings, culture and heritage. According to some critics, his works are influenced by one of his former teachers, the previously mentioned Skunder Boghossian, of the Fine Arts School. Another highlight of Armide’s work is his use of bold colors. Some of his pieces contain three to five colors, such as his print The Peasant. This piece incorporates yellow, green, red, subdued brown and black. The artist also uses bright green, orange, and various blues, such as in the piece The Woman and The Lion to create bold woodcuts. These two pieces, along with many more creative works, led him to win the 1971 African Arts award, given by the African Studies Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Armide uses the expression of human weariness, confusion, and striving to help promote the graphic art in Ethiopia. He states that he believes in art as a means of communication, individualism and expressionism. “You must work over a relief four or five times until you leave a bit of your soul “, Armide proclaimes (Editor, Ethiopia, 1972).

2.57 1942 Academe Des Beaux Arts, Democratic Republic of Congo: (Former Zaire)

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Academe Des Beaux Arts (Academy of Fine Arts) was in 1942 founded by Reverend Brother Marc, an artist monk from Belgium. He arrived in Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) in the middle of World War II (1941), after graduating from L’Ecole St. Luc in Belgium. His first professed mission was to save Congolese art from what he called: “mediocrity and commercial vulgarity (Lavanaux, 1956).” Starting a school (known later as Academe Des Beaux Arts) at Gombe Matadi, he taught his students in the academic manner, to give them a foundation from which to advance. The school was first named after his Alma Mater L’Ecole St. Luc, and when it was moved (1949) from Gombe Matadi to Leopoldville, by the Belgium colonial government, the name was later changed to L’Academe de Beaux Arts. At Leopoldville, Brother Marc developed another mission. It was to save the “mystic soul of the African of yesterday and to continue the rich artistic past (Ibid.).” His first classes were, however, in sculpture and after the move, and government’s financial support, the school program expanded. It incorporated three sections: painting (added in 1950) and sculpture, each lasting seven years of study, and ceramics (added in 1953) with a four-year course. In 1958, a seven-year architecture course was included in the program. An opportunity arrived in 1956 to assess Brother Marc’s professed mission in Leopoldville: that of saving the “mystic soul of the African of yesterday and to continue the rich artistic past.” Maurice Lavanaux (1956) of New York, researching traditional African Art of religious expression for the Liturgical Arts Magazine visited L’Academe des Beaux Arts. He pointed out that the western norms had unduly influenced the young Africans, and Brother Marc admitted that in the early years students were inclined to imitate western standard, but that this first tendency had considerably diminished. Brother Marc insisted that the primary aim of the school was to give the students a firm grounding in technique and then urge them to follow their own inspiration. Sensing that the situation would get out of hand, knowing that time would defend him successfully, Maurice Lavanaux wisely gave under the force of Brother Marc’s assertion. Brother Marc’s efforts stimulated the government to broaden its educational plan. In November 1964, an institute of higher education of the arts of communication was opened which was called L’Institut Superieur des Techniques et Arts de la Diffusion. This institute, under the supervision of L’Academe, was open to students of all faiths. It was the first of its kind, perhaps, in the whole of Africa. Sponsored by the government, it offered a four-year degree for the Institut Superieur d’Architecture. Art students who attended L’Academie Des Beaux Arts include Ignace Bamba, now Professor of ceramics; Edouard J.l. Gouveia; Ignace Mankana; D. Bakala; Andre Lufwa, a teacher; Benjamin Mensah, a teacher and sculptor; and Ferdinard Mbambu.

2.58 1942 Mslaba Zwelidumile Msgasi, South Africa: In 1942, Msgasi was to loyal Christian parents born in Worcester in the Cape Province of South Africa. This of course begs Jager’s question, “Christian only in name or Christian in 222


that they enjoyed a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ? (de Jagar, 1975).” Whatever the level of Msgasi’s Christianity, it is a known fact that tragedy struck his family in 1948 when, at the age of six, his mother passed away (Ibid.). Immediately following her death, the rest of Msgasi’s family moved to Cape Town. Five years later, Msgasi relocated to Johannesburg, to live with an uncle’s family (Ibid.). Judging from the intensely emotional style of his works, one would risk guessing that Msgasi’s childhood was involved with more tragedy than just the death of his mother. No one could imagine that one incident would be so traumatic that it would affect his perception of reality in the way that his paintings would seem to portray. The point is that nothing is really known about Msgasi’s life between the ages of 11 (1953) and 22 (1964). Thus, it would be interesting to examine Msgasi’s life to see if there are, perhaps, some parallels in his childhood, adolescent years, and adult years when his art was starting to develop. In 1964 Msgasi fell victim to tuberculosis and was isolate and treated in the Santa Hospital of Johannesburg, where his exceptional talent, as seen in his artworks, was first noticed. According to his biographical sketch, Msgasi was by propriators of Johannesburg Gallery 101 selected to produce works of art and to exhibit them in the gallery in 1965. In 1966, he had his first one-man exhibition. As a sculptor and graphic artist, he exhibited in London and represented South Africa at the Sao Paula Biennale in 1967. Then, in 1968 he left for Europe, never to return to South Africa. Msgasi is famous as an angry young man, because of the content of his graphic art. It deals with social problems for Africans in South Africa’s township and urban life. His drawings are intense and passionate, highly personalized outpourings of his unsheltered experience. They tend also to display dismal figures, distinguish by contortion and distortion, fashioned to erupt into violent emotion, powerful protest and indignation. Msgasi’s crayon piece Railway Accident (1966) brings to life distinctive images. First, the entire piece shows exalted instability. Every human figure, every track and railway cars are diagonal in their angles, showing no consistency whatsoever. One sees chaos and suffering. The front car, thrusting it’s self at the viewer, appears to have just disgorged a load of wild eyed, mangled, deformed African passengers, showing extreme agony. Indeed, the picture is unpleasant to perceive. Another example is his charcoal work Ogre, completed in 1965. This reminds his audience of some kind of tropical storm, with its swirling thick and wispy gusts of wind. All one can discern are a grotesque head of a beggared African with wild empty eyes, and a twisted, convulsing pair of hands and feet. Of course, according to the Editor of “Bantu Art”(Bantu September 1974.17) “…much of his work reflects an unsettled state of mind with morbid undertones.” Throughout Msgasi’s works, one theme continues to reappear, the “tragedy of man,” the African. There is such an overwhelming sense of pity and urgency in his works: figures are twisted, they border on the fantastic, and are in unexpected juxtaposition and reminiscent

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of hallucinatory experience. The greatness of Msgasi’s art resides in his ability to transcend consequences of Aparthied to create chilling images of Africans in South Africa’s township and urban life, demanding universal reflection. His unique style, in Ijinla fashioning, does penetrate the human soul.

2.59 1944 Congo Academy of Folk Art, Democratic Republic Congo: (former Zaire) Founded in Lubumbashi (formerly Elizabethville) in 1944, the Congo Academy of Folk Art was first called Le Hangar and later known as L’Academie de l’Art Populaire Congolais. It was the second Art School in French-speaking Africa. Pierre Romain Desfosses, a French painter from Brest, started the school, after he was by his chauffeur’s painting intrigued, a work produced during Desfosses absence. Defosses gave his chauffeur more materials to work with and, soon after, the chauffeur’s friends joined him, working in Desfosses’ studio. Desfosses’ philosophy of art teaching was a pioneering attitude that perhaps influenced the teaching of art in other Zaire art schools. He states: We must vigorously resist any method that tends to abolish personality in favor of the standardized aesthetic values of the white masters. Let us allow the young artist to translate only those things, which he conceives and sees most clearly (Brown, 1966. 13). According to Brown, Defosses did not suggest themes, provide models, or even advise on color, composition, or modeling. He provided a place to work and supplied necessary materials. His only rule was that the artists did not repeat themselves and encouraged them to create works based entirely on their own experiences independent of western artistic values. Because the African artists of the Desfosses School were reasonably permitted some degree of self-expression in their works, their art (although somewhat similar to Desfosses) was reported by Brown as representing the birth of a new African artistic expression. Still, another observer, Marshall Mount, felt that the only African thing about the works of Desfosses’ students was that the works were in Africa produced by Africans. It is not that they were, “in a style that fits a rather condescending western stereotype of what African paintings should be: above all, decorative, having bright colors, flat forms, and simple compositions”, executed (Mount, 1973.75). Furthermore, Mount expressed the view that Desfosses failed to understand that his students were prone to European influences such as western values in modern African life, western materials supplied and the western manner in which students were trained, especially in easel paintings, and western illustrations in Christian Bibles and in advertisements. Congo Academy of Folk Art was initially by Des fosses and later by the Belgian colonial 224


administration sustained. It held several exhibitions of the artists’ work in Europe and the United States. The school produced painters such as Pill Pill, Mulongoya, Norbert Ilunga, N’Kulu, Bela Mwenze, and Sylvester Katalla; as well as sculptors such as Aroun Kabasia. After Desfosses’ death, the school was combined with L’Academie des Beaux Arts de Metiers d’Art.

2.60 1944 El Anatsui, Ghana: In this year, El Anatsui was born in Anyako, Ghana. Still, he did not spend his childhood there, but grew up in Southeastern Ghana. He distinctly remembers influences from his father, a weaver, and other prominent people in the village of Anyako. As a child, El Anatsui did not realize his destiny to become an artist. He did not in fact comprehend this calling until he arrived at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. Once he perceived his abilities, he acquired a four-year training in art and became particularly accustomed to sculpturing. As El Anatsui’s abilities outgrew, sculpturing was no longer a challenge. He began to search for new methods to inspire him. Feeling that one of the ways to acquire this inspiration was venturing beyond the standard classroom teachings, El Anatsui discovered in the process his Ghanaian heritage. Once El Anatsui become aware of this heritage, his whole life’s philosophy fell in place. First, he traveled to a local market and found accidentally that market women displayed their wears on wooden trays. The techniques that these women employed in their trays, wood burning, greatly intrigued El Anatsui. Another technique that he stumbled upon was powersaw carving. He found this technique so interesting because of the way the chainsaw cuts straight lines in the wood. These new techniques of wood burning and chainsaw carving took El Anatsui’s inspiration and methods of work to higher levels of professionalism. Many of his art exhibitions gave eloquent testimonies to this claim. Between 1974 and 1994, El Anatsui had eighteen group and seven one-man showings. The Wooden Wall Plaques showing was in l976 and his Old and New exhibition was in early 1980s. Noticeable differences are clearly apparent in the art pieces of the two exhibitions. In the earlier art showing, he used the chain saw extensively; and in the later one, he employed the services of a motorized tool, with a pinpoint edge, like a calligraphic pen. The experiences he acquired, through the employment of the new techniques, accelerated tremendously El Anatsui’s maturity as a sculptor. During an interview with El Anatsui, Chika Okeke explains: Considered one of the great artist of his generation, Ghanaian born E1 Anatsui has consistently produced work that not only challenges our notion of contemporary art in Africa and its histories, but also the medium of sculpting as one of purely plastic, three dimensional permutation. Engaged and forthright, his work stands at that intersection of questioning what underlies vast creative possibilities of art as a system for engaging issues of history and representation. He is probably one of the few artists who are able to reproduce with immense clarity, the power of language systems as primordial forms of utterances. Through this form of incantatory speech, with sweeping 225


MRC 103 El Anatsui. Lace People, wood, 22x57”, 1992, Ghana. The Artist Collection

gestures, Anatsui assiduously works to mend the rift between what has been written about Africa and what his untiring investigations into African history has yielded and revealed in a way that gives shape and meaning into how writing of history can be both empowering and abusive (except from Anatsui’s Folder: newspaper clippings for the exihibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, in 1997– www. accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/ archive/1997-2/index). And as if to concur with Chike Okeke, El Anatusi states: […] even though such events as slavery, migration, expropriation and colonization of our people was not a terminal event. These events continue to unfold in present-day art in different aspects of life (Ibid.). Take for example Anatsui’s Lace People that he created in 1992, 22 x 57 inches, on African hardwood. The piece is divided into two equal halves (MRC 103), the left half bearing a strong sense of movement in the way the carving thrusts diagonally toward the top left corner of the picture plane. Atop the left half, deep, dark and burnt carvings have created a seeming “shadow city” full of skyscrapers. From the skyscrapers come gouged lines that look like massive roots branching out. In one small panel on the left side, under the skyscrapers, tiny circles, about one inch in diameter, have been included on a white background. The right half of the work is full, with different types of the tiny circles. There is no “shadow city” carved on it. Anatsui has also the ability to stylize and simplify things. In the near middle of the picture space, a direct, convincing impression has been made in the simplest of forms and a minimum means. The whole near middle section of the picture surface is left impressively almost empty. The sections where action takes place are indicated, precisely and with utmost sincerity, on the left and the right sides of the picture plane. Here, in the near middle, we pause and contemplate, as at a sudden emptiness, and complain that almost nothing is there to urge us on. But, the discordance is experienced as a quality of artistic 226


design. It is what is found in the pattern of aesthetics. It is just what is not found in the naked value judgment. Indeed, it is a necessary intermission before the awaited grandeur of thougt and feeling. El Anatsui is clearly a master of the art. His work with chainsaw, creating continuous patterns and images, is amazing; and he confirms this: Power saw tearing roughshod through organic pieces of wood at devastating speed, to me, constitutes a metaphor of the hassling rat racing hypertensive pace of present-day living (except from Anatsui’s Folder: newspaper clippings for the exhibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, in 1997 — ref: www. accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/ archive/1997-2/index). So, in El Anatsui’s own words (1995), the content keys us for a thought that the statement does indeed provide. Anatsui uses African hardwood, usually mahogany, afara, or iroko, to fashion a metaphor for texture, grain, color and pattern of African history. Just as the wood he uses represents Africa to him, his sculpted Lace Peaple is deeply embedded in African culture with a strong historical, spiritual, or political meaning. The skyscrapers against an intended light background seem to portray a dark city. The circles used throughout the enter picture are supposed to represent people, and Anatsui has placed some of them in a small panel leaning towards the city. Most of the circles are, however, on the left side panel and appear to be grouped together by pattern, but in no certain order. There are many different types of circles in the work, possibly representing the many different kinds of people in all of Africa. Out of all this grew a picture that, though based on current tradition through its introspective Sankofa setting and its didactic subject matter, has a strange and exciting effect. The Lace People represents the whole of Africa. On one side of the picture, the left half is an elaborate creation of carvings to form a city skyline, a developed half of Africa. The circles or “people” on the move towards the city, represent the African rat race, competing to go to and be successful in the city. But, just as Africa, this work has another half to it. The right side symbolizes the underdeveloped half of Africa. Almost barren except for people, there are no skyscrapers or big cities. This half of the work represents the rural village life in Africa. The people are grouped together by their design, possibly representing different nationalities, or maybe even families. El Anatsui is clearly a sculptor who has love of narrative, who possesses a considerable literary culture and who works, especially in the Lace People (or rather “Rat Race People”), with his mind as well as his heart. Thus, influenced by many historical events of Africa, El Anatsui is perfectly at home both with his African insights and with his advances in sculpture. It is this awareness of relationships, I feel, that has sometimes been lost in typical writings of western Europeans on contemporary African art. Anxious as they were to overthrow the hold of African inspiration and originality, they had to look for universal absolutes where none exists. 227


Consequently, they frequently talk, or write, as if a given contemporary African work of art were inherently “charged” with an obvious expressive meaning that would explode in the mind of the beholder. Still, African artistic communication is not as simplistic as throwing a hand grenade. It is nearly in all cases skin deep.

2.61 1944 Felix Eboigbe, Nigeria: Felix Eboigbe, the eldest son of a Benin Chief, was born in Nigeria. Today, he is a Nigerian sculptor whose works, throughout America, Europe and Africa, are in galleries exhibited. Still for Felix, his dream of becoming an artist was attained, not so easily. Eboigbe’s family expected their eldest son to become either a medical doctor or an engineer, but the Princess Day Catholic School that young Eboigbe attended changed this plan. While at the school library, he saw photographs of marble and wood sculpture that had a striking effect upon him. The sculpture in the photographs brought a realization to him that more than anything else he too would like to create art with his own hands. At the age of 16, and against the wishes of his parents, Eboigbe left college after three months and went to Lagos, Nigeria, to serve as an apprentice to the famous Nigerian sculptor, Ben Aye. The apprenticeship in Nigeria usually lasts five years; but Felix, gifted with natural artistic skill, learned so quickly to complete his training within three years. In 1967, Eboigbe opened his first art studio in Lagos, and soon he was invited by the Lagos University Art Department to teach all modes of sculpture in wood and marble. His work had gained a voice of its own and began to sell, and during the first three years he sold $18,000 worth of wood sculpture (paraphrased from recorded interview with Eboigbe by the present writer in Indiana, 1982). The proximity of the foreign embassies located in Lagos attracted business and a great deal of interest in Eboigbe and his unique art. At the same time, Eboigbe began drawing critical acclaim from America, and European countries. Through the efforts of the Ford Foundation, the United States Information Agency and the American Embassy, Eboigbe was to come to America invited as a teacher and resident sculptor. Of the many major universities that invited him to sculpt and teach on their campuses, Eboigbe selected Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana. In 1970, already known as one of the best sculptors in Nigeria, Eboigbe came to Indiana University as an Artist-inResidence, sponsored by the Indiana University Foundation, the Departments of AfroAmerican Affairs, and Art Education at Indiana University. One major reason Eboigbe decided to come to United States of America was to see the country where so much of his art exhibited and sold. For Eboigbe preferred medium is wood. He believes “it is alive, already a piece of sculpture,” he informed me. Eboigbe sculpts mostly in walnut, cherry, ebony and sometimes Indiana cedar. Though skilled in marble and ivory sculpture, he favors the beauty and texture of wood grains.

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MRC 104 Felix Eboigbe. Odionedon Abstracted, wlnut, 114” h., 1996, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

MRC 105 Felix Ebogbe. Oba Akpolopol, wood, 54 x 24”

MRC 106 Felix Eboigbe. Demonstrating in author’s class- Artistic Materials & Techniques, The Ohio State University, 1997. Photo by the author

I was fortunate to observe Eboigbe’s art in an exhibition in 1979. Ebigbe’s pieces were some of the finest wood sculpture I had ever seen. He handled abstraction and representational work with equal facility and all his work had a mystiqueness that was purely a personal trademark. The command of his material was most impressive and his work had a power and straight-forwardness which one could equate with artists who know exactly what they intended to do. Eboigbe’s sculpture is achieveable in two styles, abstract, or realistic sculpture depicting characters from the Benin history. He may spend from two weeks up to two years on any single piece, depending on the difficulty of the subject. Eboigbe does not sketch before beginning to sculpt. He looks at the wood and the pattern of its grain gives him a “feeling”, whether it might have a traditional African, or an abstract character. Often the subject of a piece will be obvious, such as when, according to Felix during his 1979 exhibition, “there is an African girl dancing right out of an 8-foot piece of wood.” Today, Eboigbe lives in Cincinnatti, Ohio, where he sculpts in the immense studio of his estate. Far from the young would-be artist, whose family believed he had abandoned his heritage by becoming an artist, Felix Eboigbe continues to use his artistic talents. He recreates in wood sculpture dramatic images from his African heritage for the enlightenment and pleasure of Africans, and the rest of the world, at large. When Eboigbe begins to sculpt, he uses his own handmade ebony mallets to shape the wood. The only other tools he uses are chisels and an axe. He operates hand tools to record each minute detail of traditional African physical features or dress when creating

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an original work of art. For abstract pieces, he creates mainly female figures (MRC 104), or animals. The abstract works are distinguishable by a clear rendering of shape. The realistic traditional themes, usually warriors, women and chiefs, show rigid control of line movement. In his traditional themes, Eboigbe believes detail is important not only artistically, but historically as well. Because African traditions have limited written history, events and customs of cultural significance permit transfer to each generation (orally and epic stories). Many of Eboigbe’s sculptures are physical translations of Benin legends told to him by his grandfather. He believes that with his art, he can record and preserve, in a unique and beautiful manner, the uplifting, religious and cultural history of Benin for future generations. Visitors to Eboigbe’s exhibitions often note the spiritual impression created by many of his pieces. The traditional realistic sculpted works possess a quality of emotion, whether it is the somber rigid pride of an elaborately costumed Oba Akpolopolor, Benin King (MRC 105), or the lithe, sensual motion suggested by a barefoot dancing girl. Regarding this spiritual quality, Eboighe explains that his work embodies the essence of Africa, the country and its people, from which he captures moments and moods preserving them forever in his work. Currently, Felix Eboigbe has his sculpture displayed in public and private collections throughout Europe, America, and Africa, in small towns, major universities and metropolitan museums. He has exhibited his work at the United Nations Plaza in New York City, and has been recognized for outstanding achievements in the field of art by the publication International Who’s Who in Art and Antiques. Eboigbe has brought his art to students of all ages in lecture/demonstrations presented all across the United States (MRC 106). According to Eboigbe, Ben Aye, his teacher, believed that one had to let a student be free to create his own art, then guide him. This philosophy of teaching has proven so successful that enrollment in Eboigbe’s Indiana University classes must be limited, with many students being turned away each semester because of high demand for the courses. Felix Eboigbe’s sculpture was at the Indiana University Museum, in 1970, first shown in the United States. His first solo exhibit was at the Matrix Gallery, Indiana University, in 1971. Subsequent one-man showings chronogically include the following: St. Louis, Missouri, 1971; Cleo Rogers Memorial County Library, Columbus, Indiana, 1971; North Shore Art League, North Shore, Illinois, 1972; Claflin College, Orangeburg, South Carolina, 1972; Franklin College, Franklin, Indiana, 1973; Thor Gallery, Louisville, Kentucky, 1973; South Bend Art Center, South Bend, Indiana, 1974; The Commons Art Center, Columbus, Indiana, 1974; Florida International University, Miami, Florida, 1975; Arts Exclusive, Inc., Watch Hill, Rhode Island, 1975; Vincennes University, Vincennes, Indiana, 1976; Oak Park River Forest School, Oak Park, Illinois, 1976; Deligny Galleries, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1976; Boone Grove School, Boone Grove, Indiana, 1977; First National Bank, Elkhart, Indiana, 1977; Afro-American Arts Institute, Bloomington, Indiana, 1977; The African American Institute, United Nations Plaza, New York, New York, 1977-78; Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition, Washington, D.C., 1978-80; Jasper Art Center, Jasper, Indiana, 1978; Wise 230


Middle School Art Gallery, Wise, Virginia, 1978; The Space Gallery, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1978; The Indianapolis Childrens’ Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1979; and, Art Gallery of Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 1979. Felix Eboigbe’s sculpted pieces have appeared in group exhibitions, including the following: Wooster College Exhibition, Wooster, Ohio; Black Fine Arts Festival, Illinois State University, Bloomington, Indiana; Art Education Association of Indiana, French Lick, Indiana; SouthSide Community Art Center Exhibition, Chicago, Illinois; National Black-Expo 1972, San Francisco, California; Arts Exclusive Gallery’s Exihibition, Simsbury, Connecticut; Matrix Gallery’s Exihibition, Bloomington, Indiana. Bloomington Area Arts Council’s Exibition, Bloomington, Indiana; Three Blind Mice Gallery’s Exibition, Bluffton, Indiana; Indiana

MRC 107 Felix Eboigbe. DIVA (Opera Singer), walnut, 63” h., 1996, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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Artists-in-Residence’s Exhibition, South Bend, Indiana; American Cancer Society Creativity Close-Up Exihibition, Indianapolis, Indiana; Moreover, Touring Exhibit, New York State Museums, New York. Eboigbe has lectured and exhibited in Denmark, Canada, and Switzerland, in grade schools, high schools and colleges throughout many states of the sponsoring nations. He has presented lecture/demonstrations for the North Shore Art League, Winnetka, Illinois; University of Houston’s Continuing Education Center, Houston, Texas; Black Fine Arts Festival; and Rockefeller Museum. In the capacity of Artistic Advisor, Felix Eboigbe has served the Sabo Museum, Chicago, Illinois; The Museum of Connecticut, Hartford, Connecticut; Eli Lilly Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana; The Childrens’ Museum, Indianapolis, Indiana; Indianpolis Museum of Fine Art, Indianapolis, Indiana; and Nigeria Museum, Lagos, Nigeria. Among his many honorary and monetary artistic awards, Eboigbe is highly regarded in America, Nigeria and the United Nations for his unique African sculpture. He has appeared on “Good Morning America” telecast, and has been interviewed on “Voice of America,” NBC television stations in Lagos, Nigeria; Indianapolis, Indiana (WISH-TV, WRTV-TV, WTHR-TV); Bloomington, Indiana (WTTV-TV); Louisville, Kentucky (WHAS-TV); and Miami, Florida (WPLG-TV, WTVJ-TV). Eboigbe’s affiliations include memberships in National Wood Carvers Association; National Black Artists’ Union; Southern Vermont Artists’ Association, Inc., and African Artists in America. Eboigbo’s career artworks essentially fluctuate between Sankofa (MRC 107) and Ijinla art styles (MRC 104), in a living testimony of religious and cultural history of Benin.

2.62 1944 Rafik El Kamel, Tunisia: Rafik El Kamel was born in Tunisia. He is an abstract painter, an impressionable technician, possibly of the Injinla type. El Kamel’s style is best describable as reverting from the norm, and showing the truth behind what his particular subject matter is. He has reacted against the tendencies of the art around him, and against the synthetic technicians of his time, to tell the truth. When one first glances at his art, one cannot comprehend the shapes and planes that inhabit his paintings. No one can know what the images offer and what they eventually mean. Still, upon further examination, the idea, or truth, comes alive to the audience. Initially, El Kamel expects this sort of reaction, and finds it common among the people who view his works. Rafiks El Kamel is from a town called Sidi Bou Said, an extremely religious and holy city. His abstract art is considerably inoffensive, to the village people, as the voyeuristic paintings of the rest of the artistic community. El Kamel leaves the obvious reality in his paintings to show new vision theories. The main theme of the paintings is the idea of “joining.” With his brush technique, El Kamel is able to give the illusion of the different areas 232


MRC 108. Refik El Kamel. Transfiguration III, acrylic on canvas, 75.5 x 57”,no date, Tunisia. The Artist Collection

or images joined together. These do not seemed like additions, but they lead the viewer away from the total development of the entire artistic piece. Each piece has a feeling or idea all of its own. When the pieces seem to mesh or integrated back into the painting mass, thereupon the total picture comes together. Like the city, Sidi Bou Said, with the streets and lanes, there are many different ways to travel. Comparable in his paintings, there are many different ways for ones mind to travel. Transfiguration III, 1997, Acrylic on Paper, 74.5 x 57.0”, (MRC 108), best typifies Kamel’s approach to art that is unmistaken Ijinla, a synthesis style of past, present and future forms

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as well as a blending of formal education, natural talent and experiences of the artist. A great deal of these attributes can be seen in this work; however, only their abstract aspects are obvious. In the painting, there is a configuration of shapes, structures, or organisms that were at one time connected, but now separating and reconnecting to one another. The background is dark, just like a black-gray sky at night full of stars; and the foreground is crystal, silver blue. The configuration of shapes may therefore represent the stars, but they do not look like stars as we distinguish them, at least, from below on earth.

MRC 109 Rafik El Kamel. Transfiguration II, acrylic on canvas, 75.5 x 57�, no date, Tunisia. The Artist Collection

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The shapes are two-dimensional and in great variety. Their composition is linear, active and free; but slow and continuous in nature. The motifs, reminiscent of organisms, seem to move like Amoebas that can take many forms and can reproduce themselves. Like organisms, they are moving towards each other by extending parts of their cell walls to connect to another organic shape. Transfiguration III is therefore composed of a theme that contains the being of things. Kamel may be trying here to show the process of life through the theme of diverse structures leading one to think that the piece is of divine creation. Every living thing on earth begins as a separate entity but naturally seeks to connect with another living thing for reasons of procreation, companionship and support. The point is that there is always curiosity in life and the notion to want to connect is a natural progression. The flip side of this natural process is that after a period of engagement, organisms find the need to disconnect having developed into a new and different entity. There are also natural reasons for this separation: one could be the death of the structure, and another could be the need to find a new structure to connect with. Thus, things change and they also stay the same. Consequently one is likely to perceive the motifs as organisms seemingly moving in the painting as if they were separating from one another, both processes occurring at the same time, slowly but powerfully, just like it does in real life. By skillfully creating a background that looks like the sky and the motifs, like stars, with their extended parts towards each other, Kamel has established the notion of organisms connecting and disconnecting, beyond doubt. Rafik El Kamel leaves the real in its own state only to analyze it, question it or to reevaluate it. He uses architectural forms and colors to build an anecdote of an objective ideal. More than just to look at, his paintings evoke a “make and a style� of Ijinla: Transfiguration II (MRC 109).

MRC 110 Twin Seven Seven. Portrait of Twin Seven Seven, black and white photo, 1974. AfricanAmerican Institute, New York, Collection

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2.63 1944 Twins Seven-Seven, Nigeria: Twins Seven-Seven (MRC 110), whose original name is Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale Aitoyeje was born in Ogidi Ikumu, Nigeria. According to the Twins Seven-Seven, his mother had six sets of twins that died during infancy. With her seventh set of twins, however, only one child died while the other, Twins Seven-Seven, survived. In Nigerian Yoruba culture children do not die, they only “go away” until they are born again to the mother at a later time (MundyCastle, 1972.8). This was the story with the twins. The youngster was born and died six times before he triumphed over death at the seventh birth. Consequently, at the age of six the budding artist chose the name, Ibeji Meje Meje, Twins Seven-Seven. Seven-Seven explains: My mother believes I am the same child that comes and goes away again. She has suffered so much in life that she won’t believe I am not the same child … that makes me believe more than anybody else that what my mother has said is true; I am Twins Seven-Seven (Ibid.). From birth, Seven-Seven was considered a blessing that would bring his family great pride and wealth. It was not only that he triumphed over death; however, Yoruba people believe that twins are “supernatural beings that descended from Shango, God of Thunder (Ibid.),” that brings good fortune to any such families. As a child, Seven-Seven was distinctive from other children in his village. It has been told that the boy would not play with his toys instead he would dissect the toys, examine the parts, and then reassemble them as they were, unlike ordinary childern. Moreover, though Seven-Seven was well behaved, he did not enjoy being in the classroom. He would often sneak away from school to explore the natural world around him. As he became older, both his talents for leadership and for music began to surface. Frequently, he would gather his young friends together and have them play instruments for him while he danced for them and the audience. Sometimes, he would buy food for youngsters to follow him, dancing and making music. In fact, at age sixteen, he borrowed a gramophone and went on a music and dancing tour that he titled, Twins Seven-Seven and All His Seven ways of Dancing. In addition to music and dance, fashion also interested Seven-Seven at a young age. He would create his own clothes that were frequently bold with color and bizarre in taste. In fact, it was this flare for fashion and music that opened the door to Seven-Seven’s career in art. Moreover, Seven-Seven was in Oshogbo for one herbalist, dancing to help advertise medications that the herbalist was selling through loud speakers. One evening, SevenSeven visited “Mbari Mbayo Club” and there he caught the eye of Ulli Beier, the founder of Oshogbo Art Worshop. According to Beier: Twins wore a brightly colored shirt that had the words “Seven-Seven” embroidered on the back along with slender pants decorated with bright pink buttons that ran down the side seams. Both his shirt and pants were also decorated with zigzag edges. On his feet he wore Cuban-heeled shoes and on his head, an embroidered hat with tassels…even in a colorful town like Oshogbo (Twins) caused … sensation (1968.113).

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Conversely, Beier also admits that it wasn’t Seven-Seven’s outrageous outfit that really attracted him, it was his dancing. He describes Seven-Seven’s dancing as “imaginative” and “spectacular.” Most important, Beier was intrigued by Sene-Seven’s boisterous and captivating personality. Beier offered him a permanent job at the “Mbari Mbayo Club” as an entertainer and he accepted. Seven-Seven was not long with the club when summer classes at the Oshogbo Art Workshop began. According to Beier, Seven-Seven joined the school because he had “nothing else to do (Ibid.),” but his talent in the visual arts was instantly evident. Most of the students at the Oshogbo school at the time were working with thick paints on canvas. Seven-Seven, however, preferred ink and paper. He would create highly imaginative scenes detailed with intricate and delicate line and pattern. Soon, he suitably moved to line etching that he eventually combined with great colors and varnish, bringing his visions to life. His shapes and doodles became fantastical, breathing, moving creatures. Seven-Seven’s images were truly from legacy, the mind, the spirit, and the subconscious. He derived his

MRC 111 Twin Seven Seven. The Elevant and the Jubilant Relatives, india ink and watercolor on cloth, 44X35”, 1973, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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inspirations from the self, from his dreams, and from African folklore. In fact, when asked about studying the works of other artists, Seven-Seven said: I don’t want to risk being influenced by anyone else. All I am doing is in me already. I am not going to sit down in a studio learning how to mix colors like a European painter. Even if I am commissioned to do work, I will do it the way I do (Mundy-Castle, 1972.11). The only man who ever influenced Twins was a Nigerian writer, Amos Tutuola. Tutuola was a famous Nigerian writer who was inspired by many of the same subjects that influenced Twins. The writer focused on the folklore of Yoruba people and through his writings, he recreated the oral traditions of Nigeria into a modern context. However, Seven-Seven did not follow the writer religiously, nor did he closely follow the techniques being taught at the Oshogbo school. Seven-Seven truly is his own person and in actuality, he can be considered a self-taught artist. The images that pour from him seem to flow directly from his soul. He creates both whimsical, humorous beasts as well as twisted, mutated demons. Twins works were, and still are today, extremely meticulous, intricate, and detailed (MRC 111). His consistent use of pattern and dynamic contours help make his images vibrate with life and energy. Twin’s great use of pattern may also be a reflection of his love for textiles and interest in the fashion world. Seven-Seven’s passion and talent in music and dance also continued to flourish at his time in Oshogbo. Twins Seven-Seven and his Golden Cabrettas was born and is still alive and flourishing today. In fact, in 1988, their album titled Nigerian Beat was created and is being sold worldwide (see Web site, Yahoo, under “Twins Seven-Seven). Seven-Seven and his second wife of seven (appropriately enough), Nike Olaniyi travel all over Nigeria with the Golden Cabrettas singing and dancing for audences. Seven-Seven’s most favorite fans however, are the children. Seven-Seven is as dedicated to them as they are to him. As Twins beautifully admitted one evening to his adult audence, “I play for them (the children) and you may listen (“First Word,” 1973.1).” Seven-Seven does not only encourage and inspire young adults in the musical realm, but he is also a role model and mentor for them in the visual arts. He has established The Art Man’s Gallery on the outskirts of Oshogbo. At this gallery, Seven-Seven aspires to incorporate all of his art media into the single space. He wants a studio and gallery for painting as well as an outdoor performance area for the expression of song and dance. Similar to his musical shows, The Art Man’s Gallery is constantly filled with children who eagerly watch and learn from him while he is at work on his paintings. He is excited by the eagerness of children and their company seems to inspire him. Over the years, Seven-Seven’s style has slight changes. He moved his images to plywood and has begun “sculpture-painting.” In “sculpture-painting,” Seven-Seven builds the paint up so much that the surface actually becomes a three dimensional entity. Seven-Seven has also traveled all over the world exhibiting his works. In 1972, the artist traveled to America for a solo show in New York. He also lectured at Merced and UCLA in California

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and has become popular in both the American art and music industries. Seven-Seven believes that: We are now in an artistic generation. We are doing music, art, and more, all very well honored. It can fill the long gap between black and white because artists carry communication. Seven-Seven works are able to communicate so well because his pieces are universal. While his work is a direct reflection of African folklore, it is also a reflection of all people from all cultures. The creatures in Seven-Seven’s paintings are not strangers they are the beings of all childhood imagination. These are the beasts that appeared when the lights are turned out at night, the friends that were there to play when nobody else was, and the figures that appeared in the trees, water, clouds, and houses all over the earth. In addition to the universality of his work, Seven-Seven’s personality and lifestyle can be an inspiration to people the world over. His attitude towards life is refreshing and optimistic. Most important, Seven-Seven considers his talents to be tools that he can use to improve our times. He is a painter, a musician, a dancer, a teacher, and a free spirit. His work is truly engulfing and his person, an inspiration.

2.64 1945 Halim Ahmed, Sudan: Ahmed was born in Shendi, a small town in Sudan. From 1952 to l964, he completed his elementary through secondary education at Omduman. Shortly after, 1966-1972, he studied in Poland at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Germany, where he obtained the M.A. degree in August of that year. He then returned to Sudan and was appointed to the position of a Lecturer of Graphic Design in Khartoum College of Fine and Applied Arts. At the end of 1972, however, he obtained a scholarship from the Government of Sudan to study in the United States of America for three years, and was a doctoral student in Art Education at the Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Acrylic is the most favorite art medium for Ahmed. “As acrylic dissolves and dries fast with water,” he says, “it is a very important medium for me because a lot of changes could be made in the work within a short time, while maintaining the same effect” ( from Ahmed’s Artist Statement, 1990). Ahmed, like other artists, has some thoughts on art: “I am very found of formalist aesthetics,” he said, “and I think it influences my own work as well as my perception of other artist’s work. For me,” he continued: “the formal configuration of a work of art is the most important quality of the work. All other qualities are secondary to and dependent on this very quality (Ibid.).” As if anticipating some questions from somebody, Ahmed quickly added: The most important thing to remember is that traditional African art is valued for both its symbolic significance as well as for its aesthetic qualities: as pure form with an elegant design. The appreciation of this second quality — the formal configuration in traditional African art — should encourage young contemporary African artists to pay more attention to the technical skill and creative imagination that were necessary conditions for producing these art objects. Young African artists are expected, therefore, to approach art making as an experience of search and discovery 239


into the unlimited, infinite world of form, line and color. It is also expected that young African artists will not limit themselves to imitating or copying visual patterns of traditional art. Doing so is a non-rewarding activity that damages creativity in both thinking and performance. Lastly, for a more rounded experience and development as artist, young African artists are advised to learn about the nature, values and meanings of works of art: their creation and their appreciation by others. Contemporary artists must acquaint themselves with theories of art, modern and classical, and above all with contemporary trends in art criticism (Ibid.). He was the former chairman of the Sudanese Graphic Designers Association and is now an active member of Union of Sudanese Artists; and participates as a member of the National Art Education Association.

2.65 1945 East Cameroon Regional School, Cameroon: While East Cameroon was a French colony in pre-independence days, the Western Cameroon was a former German colony mandated to the British. Both the East and West Cameroons became a united independent territory in October 1961, although the East Cameroon had earlier achieved political independence from the French in January of 1960. In 1945, however, regional schools in East Cameroon started the teaching of art. They taught such crafts as weaving, use of raffia and bookbinding from the primary schools up. This meant that, since 1945, the teaching of art was encouraged in high schools and Teachers’ Colleges throughout the East Cameroon area. Weaving and the use of raffia are predominant in this part of West Africa. Consequently, when the authorities allowed the teaching of art, the pioneering art teachers did a similar thing as accomplished by H.V. Meyerowitz and his colleagues at Winneba, in Ghana: that an Art School must not be simply a duplicate of any other educational institution and that it should sustain the traditional art prevalent in that country at the time. 1945 to 1980 covers a span of not less than thirty-five years. During this period, several students must definitely have passed through the East Cameroon Regional Schools and later must have gone to College. If the knowledge of art and craft that the students acquired in the schools was thorough enough, the effect of their students must be great in the Cameroons. Still, the fact that many of such graduates had gone to Paris and other French schools than proceeding to United States or Britain makes it almost impossible for adequate information to be gathered on the products of the schools. One thing is however certain and this is that East Cameroon Regional Schools started in the right direction and early enough to rival or compete with either Ghana, or Nigeria, in the production of graduates and contemporary African art. Today, trivial or nothing is known about East Cameroon Regional Schools, including names of former students and their impact on art in Cameroon.

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2.66 1945 Gordon Memorial College School of Design, Khartoum Sudan: (Became School of Fine and Applied Art, in 1958) In 1900, the British, under the Condominium Agreement, assumed responsibility for the educational programs in Sudan. They had to start from the scratch. The ground was prepared over the years in adult workshop schools, primary and secondary instruction, and eventually the establishment in 1934 of regional institutes for the training of grade school teachers. In 1935, the British introduced these teachers to an art program so that they could teach art right from the earliest years in the elementary schools. Jean Pierre Greenlaw, then a twenty-five-year old enthusiastic artist, was sent from England to the “model” teacher training institution at Bakht er Rubs, which was about two hundred miles south of Khartoum. Though Greenlaw was titled a “handwork officer”, he worked mainly on art as he stated that: I labored for eight years to insert art education into the official curriculum that would start with the six-year olds and go on up through elementary school ages. This trudged along in a desultory fashion for a while, but it finally caught on and it still persists. Art is in lower schools taught all over the Sudan (Greenlaw, 1958.109). Greenlaw was reputed to have single-handedly started the Sudan school in painting, sculpture, ceramics and design. In 1945, Greenlaw went to Gordon Memorial College, in Khartoum, to start an Art School that he called the School of Design, in line with his objective: I thought of it [art] as a return to native traditions. I thought of art as something very much bigger than painting and sculpture. I considered the Islamic non-representational art in the Sudan to be a pure design. This is seen in the mud buildings and the applied art with hieratic symbolic patterns of great complexity and put on everything. This design in daily living seemed utterly ignored in the teaching of art in African schools. I wanted to see a rediscovery and a rebirth of the basic principles of all art—which seemed so possible in the Sudan (Ibid.) By appealing to his students, Greenlaw made them build a small display house on the grounds of Khartoum’s University College. The students wedged their own clay, tested it and twelve of the students erected the building. They designed and installed Gothic stained glass windows according to their study in Egypt. By the time Greenlaw was leaving Khartoum in 1951, several of his former students had already completed their art studies abroad and were on the staff of Gordon Memorial College School of Design. Before long, the school transferred to the Khartoum Technical Institute and put under the supervision of the Ministry of Education. Its main function was to supply qualified art teachers for Sudan’s increasing number of elementary and secondary schools. Consequently, by 1956, when Sudan became an independent nation, the former students of Gordon Memorial College School of Design (who were then graduates) had completely taken over from the British. 241


In 1958, after a broader and more intensive curriculum was introduced, the name of the school was changed to the School of Fine and Applied Arts. The four-year course of study in the school comprised drawing, design, modeling, and history of art during the first year. This led to specialization in one of the six areas: painting,

MRC 112 Clary Nelson-Cole. Nelson-Cole and Wife, black and white photo, 1975, Sierra Leone

sculpture, calligraphy, graphic design, ceramics or textile design. The objective of this course of study was clear in the words of Ibrahim El Salahi, the head of the Department of Painting: Now we search for and interpret our past with confidence. We hope that a new spirit of art with its own special flavor and color will emerge and reveal the beauty of meanings long forgotten and wrapped in fear and mystery (El Salahi, public address 1958). With Ahmed Mohammed Shibrain as an instructor of graphic design, the progress that the School of Fine and Applied Arts in Khartoum made was remarkable. Both Salahi and Shibrain contributed significantly to developing Sudanese artists of today. Greenlaw’s effort has indeed influenced the development of art in the Sudan and it is noteworthy that many artists have continued to create original works of art peculiar to this part of Africa.

2.67 1945 Clary Nelson-Cole, Sierra Leone: Today, I address myself as an artist to more personal concerns, and can honestly say that my works tell the story of my life: my joy, my fears, my sorrow and my happiness. My art is me and I am my art,” states Clary Nelson-Cole (“The Art of Clary Nelson-Cole”. 9: Nelson242


Coles’ Document for the exhibition African Art: Past and Present, The Ohio State University, 1982). Cole (MRC 112), one of Africa’s leading contemporary artists, was born in Sierra Leone in 1945. A theme in Cole’s work is motherhood and children: The birth of my son, Clary Jr. resulted in many changes in my prints and drawings. Instead of going out into the streets and fields to look for subject matter, I turned my attention towards my wife…My

MRC 113 Clary Nelson-Cole Painting in his Studio, 1975, Sierra Lenone, The Artist Collection

favorite piece is contained in this body of work, For Juliet: Homage To Expectant Mothers. The composition draws my eyes throughout the picture perfectly (Ibid.8). Clary Nelson-Cole whose original name is Clarence Babatunde Aina Cole studied at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. Winning the university prize for his mural Poetry in Motion and a silver medal for his painting The Beggars, Cole’s talent began to show. He earned a Bachelor of Arts; and graduating with honors in 1967 from Ahmadu Bello University, Cole went to work for the Federal Ministry of Communications in Lagos, Nigeria. He also taught art at the Federal Government College in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria. Cole clarifies: I first saw the light in the ancient city of Sokoto, deep in the northern states of Nigeria where I taught and painted for two years. Here the light was stronger and the setting more perfect. In three 243


months in this ancient city, a land full of warmth, of sunshine, heat, love and golden sands mixed with brownish rocks, I turned into a sun worshipper (Ibid.). Thus, in Sokoto, Cole was as his works were to exhibit all over Africa increasingly remarkable. Cole decided to continue his education in the United States at the University of Illinois. He graduated from the University of Illinois with Masters in Fine Arts. In the few years he spent at the University of Illinois, he proved his artistic skills and took his place as an up and

MRC 114 Nelson-Cole. Untitled, mixt media, Sierra Leone

coming African artist in American. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1973, Cole gained a position at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, as an assistant art professor. He taught from 19731978 at the University of Wisconsin showing his works throughout the United States and all of Europe. In 1975, approximately fifty of his works were exhibited in the very prestigious 244


London African Centre in England. In 1976-1977 Professor Larmouth, from the University of Wisconsin, nominated Cole for the Excellence in Scholarship award and stated: “His productivity (MRC 113)…has been nothing short of exceptional and has drawn national and international attention” (Ibid). In 1978, he was called in to exhibit his work in the distinguished Norwegian International

MRC 115 Nelson-Cole. “Letting the world look through him”, Sunday May 9, 1976, page 1 of Green Bay PressGazette- Close Up on Television and the Arts. Photo by Orvell Peterson

MRC 116 Nelson-Cole Drummers, oil on canvas, Sierra Leone. The Artist Collection

MRC 117 Clary Nelson-Cole. Nelson-Cole in his studio, 1976, Sierra Leone

Print Biannale at Fredrikstad, Norway. This exhibition was only the fourth of its kind and included the works of artists from sixty-three countries. Three prints of Cole’s Mother and Child Reunion sold during the event and another print was for a one-year traveling exhibition chosen by the Norwegian State Gallery. Cole was the three-time winner of the Northeast Wisconsin Art Annual of Neville Public Museum. In 1974, Cole exhibited in more than 20 nationa1/international shows and in 1975 the number jumped to 40 exhibitions. In 1976 the number was an amazing 60 acceptances. Cole has his own style that could account for his wide audience. When asked whose work had influenced him the most Cole stated: “No influence at all purely my own style: Nothing, like an influence” (Ibid). His use of organic shapes with his knowledge of printmaking, and photography intermixing, creates pieces of art that capture your eyes and mind (MRC 114). He works with a number of media, all combining, to give the desired effects. His works almost are Ijinla in style, but there is much more meaning within them. When a critic was talking about Cole’s work, he stated: It is difficult to pin him down to any of the more conventional schools of painting. His works express rare Black individuality and style that is entirely his own (Ibid). 245


Cole’s composition is with movement that pulls the eye one way and then the other filled, but never quite lets attention slip from the painting. His use of organic shapes within a defined geometric space takes the mind to a different world then brings it back to reality (MRC 115). This dualism has a deeper meaning. Cole’s Quanta MECAA is definitely “form x synthesis,” the Ijinla art style. Evidence of innovation, high level of technical skill, veiled deep meaning and knowledge of composition is part of all Cole’s art style (MRC 116), Out of Sierra Leone came an artist of international caliber. Having exhibited the world over and earning numerous awards in the process, Clary Nelson-Cole’s work is acceptable and will continue to be acceptable long after his time (MRC 117). His skill is undeniable and will last the test of time. Clary Nelson-Cole is one of the world’s best contemporary artists.

2.68 1947 Theresa Musoke, Uganda: East Africa’s history of tribalism, colonialism, nationalism, and, more recently, women’s determination to take charge of their own lives are all components of Musoke’s personal story. She is a significant pacesetter and role model, considered by art educator Elsbeth Court the most significant black woman painter in East Africa (LaDuke, 1991.69). Theresa Musoke was born in Kampala the fifth of nineteen children. Her father, Simon Musoke, was a Sasa indigenous Chief who converted to Christianity and considered education to be synonymous with progress. Under this influence, most of his children went on to become university educated. Theresa spent her primary years at a Catholic boarding school, where she was exposed to western European academic art. Traditional culture may not have given this diversity of experience that prompted Musoke to experiment with techniques and materials. She accelerated her interest and education in the arts through attendance at the Margaret Trowell School of Fine Art. At age seventeen, she won a prize for “Christmas Card” competition, sponsored by the Uganda Development Corporation. In 1965, she was awarded the Margaret Trowell Painting Prize and had a one-person

MRC 118 Theresa Musoke. Birds, oil on canvas, size and date unavailable, Gallery Watatu, Nairobi, Kenya

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exhibit at the Uganda Museum of Art. It was during this exhibition, that Jonathan Kingdon, a Makerere University professor, reviewed her work, pointing out some unique qualities of her early work that are apparent even twenty-five years later: She returns to us that vision that most of us lost at an early age…before we learned the arrogant he that everything that creeps upon earth wherever there is life, has been given unto us for meat… If anyone wants proof that a woman can have a special view of life and can do things that men cannot, Theresa’s unique sensitivity and vision are here and we may be thankful in a materialistically functional world for a reminder of gentler things (LaDuke, 1991.72). Theresa Musoke continued her postgraduate work at the Makerere University (19651966); the Royal College of London (1966-1968); and the Graduate School of Fine Art and Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania (1969-1973). Her work at the University of Pennsylvania was done after becoming a single parent of son, Kenneth, in 1968. Musoke’s paintings range in style from abstract to detailed realism. She is most known for her abstract, almost mystical depictions of African animals. She often dyes the cloth prior to painting with several colors of stain and allows the staining process to suggest the image that she then defines with oil or acrylic paints. At times, she reverses the process by lightly defining an image prior to over-dyeing it with another stain. This practice sometimes “kills something” as Musoke explains but, “the artist is challenged to bring up something new, which is always a magical part of the process (Ibid.74).” Theresa has studied animals, watching them carefully in their natural environments, or within game parks. Her animal paintings have a fluid, mystical feel (MRC 118). They are set within an abstract emotion; however, they are realistically portrayed because of her studies in western European realistic techniques. She is equally skilled when painting the human form. In 1986 through 1987, she did a series of paintings with a theme of family planning. Between 1963 and 1987, Kenya’s population grew from 8.5 million to over 20 million. Because schools in Kenya are mostly affiliated with a religious denomination, family planning is a difficult conversation. However, Musoke’s paintings are aimed at educating the young on family planning in which one of her paintings was selected for a 1986 calendar (Ibid.76). In her personal life, Musoke admits: “Women do have a tough time, because there is no system for child support. Always it is the woman who carries the burden.” She sarcastically added: “Some women think they have to get married…and attach themselves to these creatures who are no good. They think their worth can only be recognized if they are recognized as Mrs. So and So!” We also discussed many issues related to women, especially as “women single-handedly run about twenty-five percent of the total households in Kenya…and do fifty percent of the agricultural work (Ibid.77: La Duke is however a feminist, which tends in most cases to color her views and her selective discussions on African women artists: her thrusts, in chapter three of this book, completely bear out this claim).”

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Theresa Musoke has taught in various schools, for a variety of age groups. They include, in part: Torro Girls School, Mount Saint Mary’s School, the Margaret Trowell Fine Art School, Kenyatta University, Nairobi University, Kestre Manor School, and the International School. Her main reason to teach, besides the reward in working with children, was the economic freedom it allowed while raising her son alone. Musoke’s independence is critically important to her, and she expresses her sense of the East African notion of uhuru, or freedom, through her individual desire to paint and live as she wishes. “Holding onto my freedom is my greatest accomplishment,” Musoke proudly stated. “I don’t have to depend on anyone; I’m not tied down. With my freedom, I can travel and work when and where I want (Ibid.79).” This viewpoint of humanism and freedom is apparent in Musoke’s works. The colors harmoniously merge in flowing movements. Brush strokes are of constant motion; fluid to her subjects’ souls. The finished works appear simple, yet significant. It is obvious she has formal training in the arts, but an African presence is unmistakable in her works: “I keep on painting while I’m thinking inside (Ibid.80).”

MRC 119 Gani Odutokun. Friendly Whispers at Sunset, oil on board, 20 x 27”, 1980, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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2.69 1946 Gani Odutokun, Nigeria: In February of 1995, the world lost not only a genius contemporary artist, and arguably also one of the most influential artists in Nigeria. At a time of the tragic car accident, the artist was both leader of the renowned Fine Arts Department at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, and Vice President of the Society of Nigerian Artists. This man, who touched many of today’s contemporary African artists through his works and teachings, was Gani Odutokun. Though his mortal time has ended, his legacy and his work live on. Gani Odutokun was born on the ninth of August 1946 in Ghana. His parents, both Nigerians, had been lured to Ghana by this nation’s lucrative coca business. He lived comfortably through his earlier years, yet he was a child when tragedy befell his family. Odutokun’s mother died at the same time as the government of Ghana ruled to nationalize the cocoa industry, thereby annihilating individual businesses like his father’s commerce in cocoa. The family was then forced to return to Nigeria where Odutokun attended school. After graduating and working as a clerk at the Nigerian Breweries, he went on to the University of Nigeria. His studies there were cut short by the death of his father. The above-mentioned events in his life, to this point, were to become an integral part of his artwork. The economic strife, forced relocation, and ultimate death of his parents led to sympathy for the dispossessed that surfaced a year later when he attended the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, majoring in Fine Arts and learning western style of realism in his classes. He quickly became involved in the history of Zaria Art Society (1958 to 1961), several years before his time at the Ahmadu Bello University. Members of the Zaria Art Society had attended the same institution, at the time called Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria (for detail see: 1958 Zaria Art Society, below: Dike, Chike and Pat Oyelola, The Zaria Art Society: New Consciousness, National Gallery of Art, Lagos, 1998, 294 pages). This group of artists pursued academic education at Zaria, but also made art works outside of class. The group revived the knowledge and practices of traditional Nigerian art. They brought the past forward so that it was a new and progressive step, not simply a copy of the past. The group called the approach Natural Synthesis. Under this school of thought, Odutokun grew as an artist and began to carve out a personal style. It was at this time that he developed an original technique that he would later call Accident and Design (MRC 119). The Zaria Art Society was the seed from which many new art monements emerged; one became known as The Eye Society (for detail see: 1989 The Eye Society, below). It developed from a culmination of ideas set forth by Odutokun and his peers, Jerry Buhari, Matt Ehizele, Jacob Jari and Tonie Okpe. The Eye manifesto proclaimed freedom for all artists; one should not be considered by one culture or ignore the influences of other cultures. To ignore outside influences is to perpetuate narrow-mindedness and to limit the pool from which to draw inspiration. The Eye Society was a reaction to threats to the development of visual arts caused by financial strains in Nigeria. The artists, along with the rest of Nigeria, suffered on account of the 1980’s economic crash. To sell art works, artists tailored their subject matter and style to the market as opposed to creating meaningful art. This trend

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MRC 120 Gani Odutoku Orphans, chalk and pastel on paper, 19 x 5”, 1977, Nigeria

MRC 121 Gani Odutokun. Bioform, oil on canvas, 35 x 24”, 1994, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

MRC 122 Gani Odutokun, The Butterfly that wanted to turn Yellow, oil on canvas, 23 x 35”, 1994, Nigeria, The Artist Collection

MRC 123 Gani Odutokun. Quest for Cosmic Harmony, oil on canvas, 34 x 23”, 1994, Nigeria. Artist Collection

created a shift towards copying ancient and traditional Nigerian art, purely for western consumption. The result was a fake art that relied on the criterion of western stereotypes of “tribal” and “primitive” African art. Odutokun and The Eye Society rose in opposition to this meaningless work. Instead

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of crafting commercial reproductions of supposed ancient and traditional African art, members of the society set out to document and analyze the history of the arts, artists, and works of Nigeria. They unearthed the history of meaningful arts. The Zaria Art Society

MRC 124 Gani Odtokun. Columns and Partitions, oil on canvas, 33 x 43”, 1994 Nigeria. The Artist Collection

and The Eye Society influenced Odutokun throughout his life. His dedication to African history and culture and his open-minded approach to foreign influences grew from the ideologies he encountered in the preceding art movements, especially the Zaria Art Society. Odutokun’s body of works is a spectacular synthesis of all the parts in his life. He is an Ijinla artist (www.accad.osu.edu/~eodita), and through this style he relays his experiences as a member of his surroundings, his views on the status and politics of Nigeria and all of Africa, and his love and understanding of humans. The result is a limitless realm in which to work. Sometimes he models a figure into a realistic form, other times he renders a perfectly flat figure. Sometimes no figure is present, line, form, and color become the subject matter. Always his heritage shines through; always his environment surfaces. Sometimes paint is used as paint to create lines and flat fields of color; it is not used to trick the eye into believing a scene is “real.” One can see the brushstroke unmasked on the canvas, bold and without apology. Without apology is also how Odutokun presents his concepts. In Orphans (MRC 120), he sympathetically portrays abandoned children, a tragic scene from life. He hopes to bring the plight of these children into public view as something not to be ignored. In another work, Dialog with Mona Lisa, Odutokun depicts the famous lady carving African-style sculpture while the sculpture, in turn, paints her. In this work, he implies interconnectedness between the art of Africa and that of Europe. Odutokun’s last series, before his untimely death, dealt with racial strive in Africa. His works in this group include

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Bioform (MRC 121), The Butterfly that Wanted to turn Yellow (MRC 122), Quest for Cosmic Harmony (MRC 123), and Columns and Partitions that has a special place in this discussion. These works are free and stunning as if to suggest a move towards a better place, though not without a reference or a memory of the past. It is fitting that these were to be among his last works. The subject matter of Columns and Partitions (MRC 124), oil on canvas, 1994, is an abstracted scene depicting the social climate in Nigeria. Nigeria won independence from Britain in 1960, still the presence of prejudice remained. Indigenous Nigerians were forced to suffer inequalities and were delegated to the lower class. In this work, the ethnic groups were socially and economically partitioned so that interaction and advancement were kept to a minimum. The visual freedom of the flowing paint behind the main subject exhibits a stark contrast to the rigid black pillars dividing the space and offers a second, more, subtle motif. The characteristic of this painting that distinguishes it from other works is Odutokun’s painting technique, his legendary Accident and Design. This process begins when Odutokun pours liquid oil colors onto a canvas allowing some portions to flow naturally while he controls and manipulates other streams. Despite his very different style, his theme is similar to other political commentary works in Nigeria. Furthermore, the work speaks universally of the injustices, oppressions, and disparities between classes, races, and groups. Columns and Partitions has so much to offer at each level of meaning both figurative and literal. At first glance one would notice the vivid color patterns and abstract forms that merge to create Columns and Partitions. Looking closer at the forms one can determine that the work is entirely abstract as opposed to naturalistic, and that the three vertical figures are not modeled. Instead, the figures are rendered two‑dimensionally. The piece retains a sense of a three‑dimensional space, despite this flatness, by employing the use of linear and atmospheric perspective. The black figures appear to recede into space as they get smaller and smaller. The artist’s keen sense of composition makes the two-and-three­dimensional transformation work in the painting. Next, one begins to notice the plane of the painting. One figure seems to extend vertically beyond the picture plane in an open, uncontained manner. All three of them do however break the horizontal plane, more or less. The light source is not external. Instead the forms are lit from within, giving off an aura of light. It is obvious that Odutokun has a mastery of the principles of color theory from his Soyan style schooling. He chooses primary colors (red, yellow, blue) with a range of values. The background tends to be less intense, highlighting the super‑saturation of color in the three vertical figures. Colors are pure except when they flow into one another to create oranges, purples, and blue‑greens. The paints are applied thickly, however most of their texture is smooth and even. The thickness of the medium renders it opaque, but the addition of white pigment gives selected areas a

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luminous glow. Strong active lines set off weaker subdued lines. Odutokun pushes varieties of continuous and broken lines as counterpoints to each other. There are many differing thickness ranging from the broad vertical stripes to the narrow ripples in the background, from the wide pools of color to the tiny spatters that dapple the bottom portion of the canvas. Some lines drop rapidly off the canvas with strongly charged verticals, others meander slowly in curvaceous patterns. All of the lines, differences aside, exhibit a free, non‑mechanical movement as if floating in space. The distinctive use of artistic and aesthetic elements in Odutokun’s work form a basis from which to begin to understand it’s meanings. The major theme of the three abstracted black columns is captured with unity, variety, balance, proportion, and rhythm. The overall unity stems from the consistent use of three abstract forms, and the use of a limited color scheme of primary colors. The variety exists in the mark making, the individual characteristics of each line, and the differing proportions of the abstracted shapes. The piece achieves balance with both form and color. The main forms are near the center of the piece, shifted slightly to the left because the largest column that holds the most visual weight is to the right. The red color pool on one side also serves to balance subtleness of red paint on the other side of the picture plane. The blue is similarly balanced with a stripe‑like portion that counteracts the pull of the blue column. The colors underpin the patterning of the “accidentally designed” background that almost looks like a tie‑dye pattern or a portal through space from a science fiction movie. The horizontal, space proportions of Columns and Partitions are quite varied from left to right, creating visual excitement. In the end, the rhythm of the three figures changes as the eye chooses a path across the picture plane following angles and lengths of each figure’s compositional element. Columns and Partitions represents people and their condition of social interactions in Nigeria. Under British colonial rule, Nigerians were treated as inferior, but even after independence the inferior label and stereotypes remained. The cultural climate was strictly divided when Odutokun was painting, and thus it became an issue in his work. The “partitions” separated ethnic groups and social classes, both physically and economically, because each dominant group rejected the other. Partitioning creates a feeling of confinement and limits the freedoms of all people. It stifles community potential and each individual within it; both the oppressor and the oppressed lose. Odutokun manages to comment on this highly political climate in Nigeria without being too obvious, or too close‑minded to acknowledge both sides of the struggle. The message is also universal and can be poignantly understood in any part of the globe where oppression occurs. Even in the United States, home of the free, this confinement along the lines of race, gender, and sexual orientation exists. Whenever an Ohio citizen with Muslim features is profiled in an airport, whenever a gay male is denied a job on the basis of his preference, whenever a businesswoman hits a glass ceiling, then these people

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understand only too well the message set forth by Odutokun. At the most delicate level, a viewer might notice the hopefulness of Columns and Partitions. Odutokun states the social and political climate, but he also offers an escape from the confinements. The thick black columns dividing the space appear to be breaking down. The red-highlighted column has already been broken through and colors are allowed to run into the once forbidden area. The large blue tinted column appears to be under attack

MRC 125 Obiora Udechukwu, Self Portrait, ball pen, 12 x 9’, 1968, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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from the colors around it. It seems to have sections eaten away, and perhaps a small leak at the bottom. Odutokun suggests that the walls are not as stable as they once were and that the strict divisions may soon collapse. He offers hope that one day the Columns and Partitions may be nothing more than a memory. That oppression and ignorance may one day fall to the wayside, and all people may live, as they should, as a single race of humans. Odutokun’s influence is not gone with his passage. His book, Decades of Vision: Essays on Contemporary Nigerian Art, that lay partially incomplete at the time of his death, is in the process of completion by his peers who share his hopes of conveying the aspirations of contemporary Nigeria’s artists, people, and divergent cultures. The work of Odutokun as well as his thoughts will live on for the benefit of the next generation of artists. A retrospective of his work and works from artists whom he mentored opened on January of 2000 in London. His paintings from his early and late career hung with paintings by Mu’azu Mohammed Sani, Ayo Aina, Lami Bature Nuhu, and curator Jacob Jari. Sculptors like Babatunde Babalola and Lasisi also cite Odutokun as chief influence and entered their works in the retrospective along with his paintings. The show toured many cities and across many continents in the year of its travel, spreading Odutoku’s reach to even more artists throughout the world (Andrews, http://www. worldrevolution.org/Newstext.asp?ID=-905568424). Truly, Gani Odutokun is one of the great artists and teachers of the contemporary arts, not just of African contemporary art, but the arts of the world. His works allow interpretation on multiple levels that can be as specific as his own personal experience or as vast as universal human nature. He is a master of esthetic with the ability to make opposing styles and unite them into something more powerful than either one style alone. With simple paint

MRC 126 Obiora Udechukwu. Man of Giant Testicle, ball pen, 298x88mm, 1966. The Artist Collection.

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Odutokun manages to span the gaps between cultures; the art created in Nigeria is no less relevant to someone indigenous to the United States, United Kingdom, or anywhere else that the human experience can touch. He highlights the differences and the similarities that we all share as humans.

2.70 1946 Obiora Udechukwu, Nigeria: Obiora Udechukwu (MRC 125) was born at Onitsha, a bustling commercial riverside town on the lower Niger of Nigeria. He studied for only one year at Ahmadu Bello University (1965-1966) before the outbreak of Nigerian Civil War in 1967, widely known as the Biafran and Nigerian War. He was a bona fide soldier and fought on the Biafran side from 1967 to 1970 when the war ended. Thereafter he attended University of Nigeria at Nsukka, Nigeria, where he earned degrees of Bachelor of Arts (1972) and Master of Fine Arts (1977). Available list of Udechukwu’s art exhibitions documents eighty-seven group showings from 1967 to present; and seventeen solo displays after 1975. The nature of his works can be accounted for in three major primary phases: before the Nigerian Civil War (1963-1966), during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) and after the Nigerian Civil War (1971-1992). His works beyond 1992 more or less show conservatory of his last phase. Udechukwu’s, Man of Giant Testicles, ball pen, 11.7 x 3.5”, (MRC 126), is typical of the

MRC 127 Obiora Udechukwu. Uncontrollable Grief, gouache on paper, 218x172mm, 1970, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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first phase. His style at this stage (1963-1966) is primarily representational and romantic, frequently showing the balance between imagination and draftsmanship. As clearly evident in Man of Giant Testicles 1966, the linear tradition of Uli is already present and developing, apparently, long before he became a student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (19711977), and before he met Uche Okeke at Nsukka, the leader of the Uli group of The Poetics of Line. His early experiment in Uli tradition is of interest because it helps to clarify a certain fundamental. The student of contemporary African art, for instance, is constantly brought up against the problem of influence through teacher-student relationship. Olusegun Byron and Ogbonnya Nwagbara (late) were, as early as 1964, Udechukwu’s mentors at Mbari Art Center, Enugu, but they did not practice Uli linear tradition. Instead, they taught him to see things somewhat in the realistic tradition that affected most of his works at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1965 to 1966. Thus, the influence of Uche Okeke on Obiora Udechukwu at Nsukka in the linear tradition of Uli from 1971 to 1977 has

MRC 128 Obiora Udechukwu. Still Life with Spray, oil on board, 755 x 610mm, 1971, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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become fashionable of late as a witness to the master and student link. Udechukwu, as seen shortly, resisted Uche Okeke’s essentially frontal and static style in favor of a floating linear and romantic style; consequently, the two have little in common in terms of their understanding and use of Uli linear tradition. His second phase (1967-1970) is characterized by themes of pogrom, brought on by the Nigerian Civil War. With such themes employed, his works display essentially dramatic evaluations and criticisms of the war that constitute his numerous chilling works of massacre by no means psychologically simple. Where such themes exist in his paintings, the use of color is very limited and in essence somber, accounting for the effect of war on his economy of means. Consequently, in Udechukwu’s paintings images become assimilated into the schemata of sever, linear draftsmanship, hardly poetic, as typified by his Uncontrollable Grief, gouache on paper, 8.6 x 6.8”, 1970 (MRC 127). One finds here, in the excitement of the war, a woman in grief over her slaughtered child. Confronted with the task of copying the image of man, Udechukwu was quite satisfied to build it up from Uli linear tradition he could handle so well, especially in the stomach area of the figure. The solution in the Uncontrollable Grief is so ingenious as to arouse our admiration. It is creative,

MRC 129 Obiora Udechukwu. Woman, pen and ink on paper, 11x8.5”, 1998, Nigeria. The Artist Collection.

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not because it differs from the presumed realistic rendering of human form but because it copes with the challenge of the unfamiliar pogrom in a surprising way. Udechukwu handles the mother’s form as he handles his medium, with complete assurance in creating from it the symbolic image of a woman in monstrous sorrow, completely transformed into a phantom through tremor. The source of this preference is clear. Udechukwu prefers suggestion to representation and one has to adjust one’s expectations to enable the appreciation of Uncontrollable Grief. Udechukwu’s critics have had a very positive and passionate reaction to his work, especially the images of the Nigerian Civil War. To quote Gani Odutokun (late): Obiora displays a great capacity to freeze the tragedies of the war years on a two-dimensional surface. To me, most of the works of this period are not just historical documents but are also intellectual and aesthetically edifying enough to be recognized as monuments to that national tragedy (Odutokun, 1993.9). With the Nigerian Civil War behind him, Udechukwu’s third phase, 1971-1992, shows works of genre themes of inspired innovation. In his paintings, such as the 1971 Still Life with Spray (MRC 128), Mai Ruwa (1980) and Spirit In Ascent (1992), color is bold, bright and warm. In them, also, we notice the constant interaction between narrative intent and pictorial stylization. To ask which came first, the idea of suggestion, or the means of representation, may therefore seem a rather idle exercise. Apart from his paintings, Udechukwu treaded this creative path in other ways among them is the employment of linear means already present in his Man of Giant Testicales of 1966. He explored how to fashion his form with more expressive linear content. There appears to be none of his works of the third phase so representative of this exploration than his Woman (MRC 129). By taking advantage of a free-floating figure, more or less in isolation, Udechukwu arouse the impression of a sleeping beauty, even though we miss the lifelike image of this sensuous lady. Here, we watch how the linear tradition of Uli, in all its glory, runs its course: soft, reaching and poetic. Still, our impression of a sleeping beauty is quickly changed by the presence of a sign. An Igbo Nsibidi symbol appears atop the figure, in the abstract head area, where it helps, as a major decorative motif, to explain the condition of the work. According to MacGregor (1909.213, fig. 5), it is the sign of “Quarrel between husband and wife. This is indicated by the pillow being between them.” Thus, our current impression of Udechukwu’s figure is no longer the sleeping beauty, sensuous in its fashioning, but a Woman in pain following disagreement. However, if we explored the big idea, it may well be a Woman in pain resulting from an amoral love affair of either her husband or her own, implicitly or logically portrayed, respectively, leading to the quarrel. I do not want to claim that the existence of the Nsibidi sign alone can suffice to explain the perfection of the linear tradition of Uli. In Uli linear tradition, for instance, the development of lines did not lead to the same consequences, but then Uli tradition lacked Udechukwu’s innovation in his use of Nsibidi symbol as integeral part of, not attachment to, the Woman. If one may apply the scholastic distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions, 259


my hypothesis would be that Udechukwu’s freedom of narrative is as necessary as is his acquired Nsibidi symbol to open the way for the advancement of Uli linear tradition. In other words, Udechukwu approached his Woman with a different mind-set and therefore saw it with different eyes. His choice of a major Igbo Nsibidi symbol that not only explains the state of the work, but also personalizes it in a synthetic technique, makes his Woman different from any other artwork in existence, anywhere, particularly in the area of pure linear image making. Consequently, we see Udechukwu’s Woman, for the first time, as a precursor to contemporary Uli art style. Udechukwu therefore differentiates himself from the rest of The Poetics of Line, the Nsukka Group who practice more or less the technique of Uli linear tradition. What is decisive here is clearly “art style.” The style of a representation cannot be divorced from its formation. Thus, the Nsukka group’s inspiration to explore the technique of Uli linear tradition is a major step forward and a noble respect for history, but its present trial result is a far cry from what constitutes a true contemporary Uli art style. “Where is the beef,” one might ask The Poetics of Line? The instinctive need of Udechukwu to perceive objects, symbols and figures intuitively as part of human totality, rather than in opposition to it, is the key to all his greatest examples of paintings and drawings. This is a quality that will manage to survive even in the most determined onslaughts by a variety of unknown pressures.

2.71 1947 Mor Faye, Senegal: Over the years, art has gone through many diverse transitions. Contemporary African art has similarly followed the same pattern. The art has been impacted by Islamic and European cultures, as well as being under the debate whether Negritude movement has characterized its forms. In this debate one would find artists on all sides. However, some artists stood alone. Mor Faye is one such artist.

MRC 130 Mor Faye. Untitled, goauche on paper, 20x26”, 1982, Senegal. Private Collection

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Faye was born in Senegal on March 26, 1947. He attended classes at the National School of Arts in Senegal, Fine Arts Section. There, he was honored to receive the Maison des Art, Prix de Peinture, Priz de Decoration and Priz de Modelage. Through these presti­gious awards it becomes apparent that he was a talented artist. To support himself after college, he accepted several teaching jobs in various colleges. Moreover, he has exhibited widely. From Contemporary Plastic Arts, in Senegal, to Ife Art Festival, in Nigeria, as well as of course the showing at French Cultural Centre in Dakar, not discounting the shows in Rome, Paris, and New York. Still, with these different exhibitions, Faye’s art was somewhat very controversial. During his lifetime, the president of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor, had called for the movement of “Negritude.” This was a movement where African artists were supposed to focus on ancestral heritage and base their art upon it. Frequently, it meant the rejection of western European academic art principles. But unfortunately for Faye, by some standards, he did not fit into the movement of Negritude; he had much interest in the European art and its styles. Moreover, he was very intrigued by eroti­cism and therefore failed to be a member of Senegalese art association. With all of these factors, he was not what may be called a “practitioner” of Negritude. Since his art did not fit the official Senegalese structure, he stopped exhibiting his art. He had to continue teaching at colleges, to make a living. Even though Faye was not showing his work anymore, he would still stay up every night to paint. However, after some time he was frustrated with the ubiquitous Negritude attitude of Senegal and went to the steps of the presi­dential palace. Here, he denounced President Leopold Sedar Senghor and his movement of Negritude. Faye was instantly arrested and sentenced to a mental hospital. Still, this didn’t seem to bother him too much, because it gave him the chance to paint all day and all night without worry of housing or food. Nonetheless, the mental hospital was also the place of his untimely death, dieing of malaria at the age of 37. After Faye’s death, his art began to catch the public’s eye. It became pretty popular and acquired the respect that it ultimately deserved. All of a sudden, Faye was being dubbed the “Vincent Van Gogh of Africa.” People became fascinated with the magnetic amplitude and wide‑spectrum radiance of his pictures, and his mastery and synthesis of styles. Furthermore, the public was intrigued by the similarities between Faye and some of the great masters, like Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, John Miro, and many other world artists. Another point that surfaced in Faye’s art was that he saw a problem and solved it through his painting. He was an artist of his own style and form, but at the same time was able to reveal cross-cultural influences. Faye’s Untitled (MRC 130) is a case in point. It is Goauche on Paper, 26 x 20,” 1982. One who knows a little about contemporary African art cannot look at this piece without immediately recognizing it as today’s African/Islamic art. Apparent artistic and aesthetic values combine to reveal the work’s significance. There are two bird-like forms incorporated in the abstract writing, the smaller one in white and the bigger in yellow. The entire writing, including the fill-in white spaces, is placed over a dark green 261


background. Within the African context, one sees Faye’s selection of colors as evidence of his understanding of African/Islamic culture. The yellow and green colors accent the life-giving values of the Muslim religion in Africa: abundant sunlight and lack of abundant vegetation in the Sahara Desert. The bird-like forms are rendered in such a fashion that they do not falsely imitate God’s creation, as dictated by the Holy Koran. The writing means little by itself because it is somewhat in generic writing style of the Holy Koran, describable as calligraphic abstaction. Still, when separated from the Koran, the writing, including the bird-like forms, implies that God can manifest himself in His creation as well as in nature and that man can live in accord with God’s will if man follows Mohammed’s holly word. Glenn O’Brien believes that Faye had a wonderful knowledge of the world, as well as the knowledge of ancestral Africa, so it is O’Brien’s belief that “Mor Faye was the real Negritude Movement (except from Faye’s Folder: newspaper clippings for the exhibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 1997 — ref: www. accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/1997-2/index).” Faye was rejected from the Negritude Movement. He was a protester who encouraged the use of western European art styles. He was also the artist who went insane, denounced president Sedar Senghor at his doorstep and went to asylum. Furthermore, certain kinds of art critics are now comparing him with some of the greatest painters in European history. Still Faye produced a work, the Untitled, which promoted the Negritude Movement. Certainly Faye’s professional account is complex; and so much controversy sur­rounds his short life. Still, he will go down in history, through his art and dedication, as one of the Senegal’s activist artists. Therefore, to place him in historical perspective, his life’s work needs to be studied, comprehensively.

2.72 1947 Rachid Koraichi, Algeria: Rachid Koraichi is a complex, contemporary African calligrapher whose Ijinla works have multinational appeal. The artistic and aesthetic values in his works are deeply rooted in his multicultural Algerian heritage, while at the same time they demonstrate a current awareness of contemporary African art scene. He is one of the new generation of Algerian artists who is determined to change the organization of the structure of the new art in Algeria and to open all types of Islamic calligraphy, to certain extent like Sudanese Shibrain Ahmed, and work within the African context. Like many other Algerian artists, scholars and writers who were forced into exile by the recent Islamic fundamentalist threat in the country, he had to flee to the Medina of Tunis in Tunisia and now he lives and practices his art in Paris (Awadat, 2000). Koraichi, along with other Algerian intellectuals, is involved in defending the civil liberties of the Algerian people from the state of siege that has been created by violent confrontation between the militant Muslim fundamentalists and the Algerian military that is in alliance with the corrupt ruling class. Because he is an avid advocate for democracy and human rights in Algeria, Koraichi’s artistic expressions have a political implication but do not overshadow the

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aesthetic and artistic qualities of his works. Born in 1947 to a Sufi family in Ain Beida, Algeria, Rachid Koraichi’s fascination with signs and symbols came as a natural inclination. He has been immersed in writing, illuminated pages, Calligraphy reeds, parchment paper, traditional ink, clay and wood as well as other materials to write on since early childhood. His formal artistic training began in Algeria at the Higher Institute of Fine Arts. Soon after, he went to Paris and earned diplomas at the Superior National School of Arts, the National School of Decorative Arts, and the School of Urban Studies.

MRC 131 Richard Koraichi, Calligraphic Abstraction, iron, paint, 2001, Algeria. Private Collection

Koraichi sees in calligraphy a force that is capable of developing an inventive powerful language. The alphabets and symbols in his work range from Arabic to Berber and Tuareg’s Tifinagh characters, magical squares, to talismanic numbers. He also uses imaginary Chinese and Japanese ideograms, all of which Africanized. His list of signs and symbols covers a period of time earlier than the beginning of the Judaic-Christian and Islamic religions. He refers to signs and symbols as the “alphabet of memory” that transcends time, converging the sacred and the profane that allows the “secular objects to become liturgical instruments of a time” (Hassan: Web site). Koraichi has experimented with a variety of media and techniques in his fascination for script and signs. He has used paper silk, ceramic, bronze, steel, tapestry, scroll, and banner meshing signs and symbols in their surfaces. By employing all these media he has freed himself from the limit of the canvas. To keep distraction from the important messages that are embedded in his work, he avoids the use of color in his graphic 263


creations. In addition, he prefers the dramatic contrasts of black and white, blue and gold, especially in his monochromatic engraved black steel. In a banner for UNESCO he used gold calligraphy to symbolize for Africa the “principle of solidity, of human security and the principle of happiness (Khabit: Web site).” He employs the use of calligraphy in an abstract symbolic manner, turning his alphabets into aesthetic and ideological artwork. He superimposes recent political writings and poetry on a ground of talismanic messages, circles, and symbols. No matter what alphabet the message is, his work is an elegant statement of beauty and an ideological act that becomes a humanistic reference that is readable by anyone. There are many references and visible influences in Koraichi’s work, almost all of which are completely African. His iron sculpture (MRC 131) is a good example in which traditional Chiwara Dance Mask of Mali’s Bamana is found atop a centralized eye apertures over a calligraphic design that ends with humanoid legs in dynamic posture, characteristically representing an animated chiwara masquerader at performance. The platform on which the mask rests abstractly represents the Chiwara Mask’s costume, thus, the African provanace of the Calligraphic Abstract has been determined. Essentially, Koraichi takes pride in collaborating with Algerian artisans with great artistry such as ironsmiths and potters for the work. Also, he works in partnership with dyers and weavers for his series of silkscreen banners (Awadat, 2000). Starting from the hank of silk, through the process of dying the cloth in indigo and all the way to spinning and weaving the banners on loom. He prepares the precise graphics that he wants on the banners by painting them gold acrylic paint to rigidify the space for the patterns that the artisans will embroider. This process for him is a re-routing of technique into another form of creativeness of which the Calligraphic Abstract is one. Rachid Koraichi exhibited his first works in 1970 and has had works in various museums and foundations around the world. Public collections of his works are in the Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of African Art and Oceania in Paris, Museum of Modern Art in Cairo, and the Vesti Corporation in Boston just to name a few (Lostia: Web site). Some of his recent showings were the “Meeting in Casblanca” in 2000 at the Gallery Al Manar with Farid Belkahia and a personal exposure in 1999 of Clay Letters, which was shown at the Galerie Isma, the Embassy of France in Algiers, Algeris, Galerie Gorgie, and at the French Institute in Tunis. He had a major exhibition of his work in 2001 at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. The showing was titled “Beirut’s Peom and Path of Roses.” The exhibit featured two collections, the first was a tribute to the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish with a series of 42 new prints based on his epic “Beirut” that was written during the 1982 Israeli siege. The second exhibition was another set of 42 prints based on Darwishs’s “A Nation in Exile” (Awadat: Web site). Kroaichi’s engravings have the quality to bridge between civilizations. He has discovered that each word is already inwardly chosen before being said or written (Khatibi: Wed site). The calligrapher’s hand aspires for every word to represent the trace of a physical action. Calligraphy separates language from its immediate significance so that it can “realize 264


poetics in its most radical act; it is rooted precisely at the point where the word is a painting, a graphic form full of desire and energy” (Awadat: Web site). Consequently, his work has far reaching meanings and is presented in a manner that is “simple, to the extent that it is accessible to a non-Islamic audience” according to the art critic Nic Dawes (Dawes: Web site). Through this poetic artwork Koraichi is able to send his message to the viewer in an aesthetic anthem that is an enchanting beautiful illusion of the world can be and hopefully one day will be.

2.73 1947 Father Kevin Carroll’s Workshop, Nigeria: In 1947, Father Kevin Carroll came to Nigeria, commissioned by his religious society (African Missions), to set up an art workshop in Oye Ekiti in a daring effort to capture and nurture traditional Yoruba carving skills. Father Carroll used the apprentice method of training under real Yoruba traditional sculptors, whose tools are axes, a sharp adze, a sharp knife and some chisels. Asked about his method of approach as a western European in teaching the traditional Yoruba sculptors to produce religious sculpture, Carroll explained that he often told sculptors in general what was required, the substance discussed, and every one made useful suggestions. For example, he disputed with them whether the Virgin Mary would be complete with a head-tie (gale, as called in Yoruba language). After they had come to a finish, more technical details as composition, relating the work to its surroundings and similar things reexamined, a decision was with the sculptor taken. When the work was complete, or in progress, mistakes that were obvious, like forearm bent in the middle and a thumb on the wrong side of a hand were criticized. In his book, Yoruba Religious Carving Pagan and Christian Sculpture in Nigeria and Dahomey, Carroll treated in a very detailed fashion all activities having to do with his art workshop. For example, he speaks of the styles used by Areogun (1880-1954) who was the father of Bandele (1915-19?), a skillful Nigerian traditional sculptor whose style of woodsculpting was considered inferior to that of his old father. The last work produced by Areogun before his death is now with the Nigerian Museum in Lagos. Corroll employed Bandele in his workshop in Oye Ekiti. Subseqently, he hired Lamadi Fakeye as an apprentice under Bandele in 1948. Fakeye’s style considered unpolished at the beginning of his career, especially at the workshop, learnt the art of sculpting so well that he became a master sculptor, according to Kevin Carroll. Still, earlier than his Kevin Carroll’s workshop experience, testimony to Lamidi Fakeye’s competence as a sculptor was borne out of several factors. Lamidi, who later emerged as the best well-known product of Kevin Carroll’s workshop, was already sculpting in traditional Yoruba style before he met Bandele, a method that he had learnt at Ila Orangun, his hometown before 1948. Here, he produced works for some cults as well as some families. Earlier, 19421947, Fakeye sculpted several works, including Ibeji (twin figures), under the supervision of his father, a famous Yoruba master scupltor. Fakeye’s regime commissions includes:

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the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Assembly of Western Nigerian Government (1953), the sculpted Posts at the Gate of Idena at Ife (1953), the Door of the Catholic Cathedral in Ibadan (1954), as well as many other artworks that he had executed for the Nigerian Government during Independence Celebration in 1960. In an attempt to assess Kevin Carroll’s Workshop, it is proper to ask whether other artists apart from Lamidi Fakeye trained there. If not, could a single student make up a school? It is very difficult for one to rate Kevin Carroll’s success in the training of traditional Yoruba sculptors who worked with him. No other successful student appeared to have graduated from the popularized Father Kevin Carroll’s Workshop. What Kevin Carroll did was to use traditional Yoruba sculptors who needed patronage for the production of works for the Catholic Church in Nigeria, instead of ordering for the church artworks from Europe and elsewhere. Besides, sculpting Christian themes in Yoruba style would by association encourage Catholic evangelical work of converting non-christian Yorubas. Moreover, the fact that Bandele had to leave the workshop for several years was due to the low monetary reward he received for all his labor that was worth, perhaps, a great deal more. Indeed, the Catholic Church did much evangelical work in both elementary and secondary education in Nigeria, but when it comes to the often-acclaimed development of art their effort, if any, is grossly exaggerated. For example, Fakeye received most of his commissions from the Nigerian government and other private sources, as previously noted. There is no proof, as yet, that Fakeye could not have become the master sculptor that he is now without briefly going through Kevin Carroll’s Workshop. There was every possibility that he could have learnt the traditional art of carving from other sources in Yoruba country. One thing is however certain: Kevin Carroll had influenced Fakaye to change his theme from secular to the western European sacred in a few of his works. Nevertheless, Fakeye’s original style of sculpting remained intact. Even Fakeye’s 1962 French Government scholarship to study stone and cement sculpture at the University of Besancon and L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, in Paris, did not affect his style that he stoutly maintained throughout his career. As a stated originator of Fakeye’s ability as a sculptor, Father Carroll will always remain famous.

2.74 1947 Nii Ahene Mettle-Nunoo, Ghana: Mettle-Nunoo was born in the capital city of Ghana, Accra, where he started elementary education. Between 1968 and 1970, he studied French at the Institute of Languages and the Goethe Institute both in Accra. During these periods, he showed and proved that he had a great talent for art. In the early years of his art, the Museum of Ghana termed his works “ethnographic.” The reason was that all his works showed self-expression, and he himself admits that his works show his religious beliefs and understanding. He has adopted the name “Aklabatsa” for his style in the artistic field. According to Mettle-Nunoo, “Aklabatsa” takes its root from the socio-religious philosophy of African culture and art. With the concept of the African social,

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religious, and cultural life, he began to be self-taught in painting and graphics. Still, after showing increased artistic talents, he came to the United States of America in the early 1970s and studied at the Pan-American Art School in New York City. He later studied etching under Bob Blackburn and Peter Hale, and lithography under Nancy Malloy. In addition to this, he attended some evening classes in and around New York City to update his talents. For a while, he pursued a dual career as freelance artist, and an administrator for the Brooklyn Museum. Today, he is a permanent resident of Saint Criox, Virgin Island.

MRC 132 Nii Mettle-Nunoo, Mediums, multi-medinm on Canvas, 42 x 24�, 1974-1977, Ghana. The Artist Collection

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Mettle-Nunoo has taken part in national and international art exhibitions and won a number of prizes and awards. A few of these exhibitions are: Black Expo72 Exhibition in San Francisco, California; International Exhibition, the University of Nuremberg, Germany; “Harlem Exhibit”; First Third-World Art Festival, New York, 1974; and the Union Carbide Artists 1977. In addition to these, he has been invited to exhibit his works in several places: World Trade Center in New York City, 1977; Roosevelt Public Library in Long Island, 1978; and St. John University, also, in Long Island. His awards include: Graphic Art Award, 1974; American Veterans Society of Artists, New York City; and the 11th Annual Atlantic City National Arts/Crafts Show, New Jersey. He is in U.S. recognized as a professional artist and has a number of publications and critical reviews on art to his credit. He is affiliated to a number of professional bodies including: International Council of Museums; American Association of Museums (AAWI); National Arts Consortium; and Wensi Academy of Arts and Sciences, New York City. Mettle-Nunoo studied several techniques of art in over twenty schools across the globe. He has also become an accomplished printmaker and sculptor. His etchings, a linocut, entitled Ascendancy and an embossed hierarchical arrangement named Royalty are substantial additions to his technical accomplishments. In art, his forms are on the varied shapes of African masks, for example his Meduims (MRC 132), and other types of traditional African based subject matter. The colors in his etchings are generally subdued browns, greens, violets and reds. By contrast, his paintings glow with passionately powerful tones of bright red, gold, and green. The titles of his works such as Metamorphic Images, Clairvoyance, and Ancestral Watch offer valuable insights into the mysteriously subjective world of his vividly expressive vision. Besides, as a dedicated explorer of the unusual, Mettle-Nunoo likes to combine various media in a single work. For example, in Nimba Bridge, he joined together acrylic paints and goldleaf on the canvas. In Twin Puberty and Initiation the composition is made of assorted dyes, collage elements and pastel chalk colors. Mettle-Nunoo has been painting and printmaking for the past 25 years and has had some thoughts about his art: Fundamentally my art is as Aklabatsa known; it reflects my religious beliefs and understanding. Aklabasta takes its roots from the socio-religious philosophy of African culture and art. It is in line with African concept of life. I am just a role player, a linguist in a contemporary forum, interpreting the masterful creations of my predecessors. Any other expression is just accidental. The Museum of Ghana termed my work ethnographic. It was in the early 1960s and I barely knew what I was doing let alone to worry about meanings in anthropology. I just wanted to develop my own way of self-expression, like Kofi Ghanaba (Guy Warren of Ghana) and the late Kofi Antuban, just a little niche of my own (excerpts from Mettle-Nunoo’s Folder: Artist’s Statement for the exhibition: African Art: Past and Present, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1982).

2.75 1947 Achameleh Debela, Ethiopia: 268


Achameleh Debela, affectionately known as Acha, was born in Ethiopia. He studied at the School of Fine Arts in Addis Ababa from where he received his diploma with honors and was conferred B.F.A. with honors at the Amadu Bello University, Zaria, in Nigeria. Travelling on to Baltimore in the US, Debela was appointed curator at Morgan State University and later became an instructor in the Department of Fine Arts in 1978, teaching photography, design and color, drawing and painting. He received a Master of Arts degree in History of Museology from the Morgan State University, a M.A. in Fine Arts from the Hoffberger Graduate School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art, and holds, also, Ph. D in

MRC 133 Acha Debela. Portfolio Drawing #14, pen and ink on paper, 11x8”, 1988, Ethiopia. The Artist Collection

Art Education from the Ohio State University. Acha Debela has been a consultant for the Walter Art Gallery’s exhibition: “The AfroAmerican Art of the Suriname Rain Forest” and has been appointed faculty member of the Arts Department - University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. Since 1966, Debela has held several exhibitions in United States of America, Nigeria and Ethiopia. His one-man showings embrace An African Nostalgia, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, 1967; Department of Fine Arts Exhibition, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, 1970; United States Information Service Library, Kaduna, Nigeria, 1971 and 1972; Acha

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MRC 134 Acha Debela. The News, mixed media on canvas, 24x17”, 1978, Ethiopia. The Artist Collection

MRC 135 Acha Debela. Mother and Child,oil on canvas,47x24”,1979, Ethiopia. The Artist Collection

Debela, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland, 1975; and the Recent Paintings by Acha Debela, the Enoch Pratt Central Library, Baltimore, Maryland, October, 1980. His major group exhibitions include: Africa Creates 1972, Union Carbide, New York City, 1972; Ethiopian Artists in America Exhibition, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1973; World Wide Black Expo – ’73; Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, Maryland Regional Exhibition, Baltimore, l974; Black Art, Towson State College, Towson, Maryland, 1975; East Meets West, Bowie State College Art Gallery, 1976; African Artists In America, AfricanAmerican Institute, New York, 1977; National Center of Afro-American Artists Exhibition, Roxbury, Massachusetts, July-August 1978; African Artists In America, Smithsonian Institute Travelling Exhibition Service, 1978-1980; Santa Fe Community College Exhibition, Gainesville, Florida, November-December, 1979; International Talent at Maryland Institute, World Trade Center, Baltimore, Maryland, November, 1980; Sixteen Artist, The Decker Gallery, Maryland Institute College of Art, 1981; and African Art: Past and Present, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, May 1982. Debela has traveled extensively outside the US to hold art exhibitions, to be a guest speaker, or participate in art workshops in places like Canada, Europe and Leeward Islands. His art media include pen-and-ink drawing, sand art/relief, oil painting, etching and woodcut. He believes that artists should learn a great deal of their immediate surroundings and try to portray the same through their works. Young African artists should relate their works to political, social and religious life of their people. 270


MRC 136 Acha Debela. I Accused, oil on canvas, 48x24�, 1980, Ethiopia. The Artist Collection

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In discussing his art in “A Statement On The Occasion Of The Opening Of The One-Man Faculty Exhibition,” March 8, 1982 at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Debela said: My works may be describable as art with content. It is to be clear that content is the main character of the information or message; it is primarily what is being expressed directly or obliquely (MRC 133). However, it is not detached from form as a visual communication. The messages are with purpose composed: to tell, express, explain, direct, inspire or affect (MRC 134). Therefore, the use of composition and other visual elements are as an interpretive means used. Meaning lies in “the eye of the beholder,” and as much, in the way I have presented or created the works. In short, form is affected by content, content is affected by form, and the end result of the visual experience lies in the interaction of the two. In fact, to be clear one can be unseparated from the other. My perception of form and content, as they are reflected in the style or manner of expression of my works, is influenced basically by my past and present experiences, my knowledge for whatever worth, my emotions, and my expectations (MRC 135). As an artist, I believe that what is going on in the social, political and psychological environment today is crucial to everything we do or express visually. In other words, if the world and the environment were at rest, if the human experience and the human condition were without mystery, and without suffering as well as joy, the need for art would cease to exist. But, this is not the case; therefore, as an artist, I attempt to reflect my experience and express it in the best possible manner, so as to communicate with my audiences. Art, among other things, creates values. One that I have focused on is the value that lead to my choice of art with content and that value is the value of humanity--a value which I am learning about every single day; a value that I fight for and hope to continue in the struggle to manifest for the maintenance as well as the achievement of true humanity, however fragmentive a contribution I may be able to give. I am aware of the fact that it has, for some time, been fashionable to frown on art that implies a message, particularly when it involves an element of sociopolitical propaganda MRC 136). I am also aware of the fact that a great deal of protest and related art has been inferior in quality. The fact remains that the highest stratum of socially conscious art is not subject to this criticism. Even though it is not to be taken as an end by itself, I believe that professional competence is a precondition to artistic achievement. Another observation which I would like to mention is the fact that contentless art has gained major critical acceptance as a 20th century phenomenon, especially where emphasis in recent years has been “painting about painting,” “painting for painting’s sake” and numerous variations of the same concept. Many of these works are valuable, aesthetically pleasing, and highly craftsmanlike and they are undeniably a major contribution to modern art. Contentless art has, however, encouraged a view that treats form as the only critical consideration, and as such, art criticism has become so formally oriented that content considerations have largely faded into insignificance. In some circles, the mere mention of content is regarded as heretical. The irony also is that some works of 272


art, which are important for their content, tend to be viewed in formal terms alone, resulting in the emergence of a repressively narrow meaning that removes the work of art from its historical and social context. Finally, I would like to say that employing social content in my work, I know that I have expressed my feelings, thoughts, and visions truthfully. I also feel that I am communicating in the language that I have come to know more. I believe that content art or social conscious art encourages a more comprehensive understanding of the complex realities of human life. The critical element always encourages the viewer, herself/himself, to evaluate these social and political realities more objectively. The engaged posture of social conscious art also stimulates ethical controversy and resolution, which, if I may conclude by saying, is in itself an admirable effect in a world that is often pervasively indifferent (unpaged and unpublished document, March 8, 1982, here quoted with Debela’s permission).

2.76 1947 Moses Masaya, Zimbabwe: Moses Masaya is a self-trained Zimbabwe sculptor. He has frequently shown himself to be a master at creating folklore‑rich, humanistic‑flavored works. Interested in rural Shona life and concerned with its continued survival, resulting from the rapid urban­ization of the Shona people and their complete turning away from traditional ways, his creations dredge up deep, mystical memories to awaken the ancient spirits of Zimbabwe. Man and Spirit World are in splendor brought together through rites and ritual, archaic and primordial. Through interconnected form and function, we like the Zimbabweans are transported from this world, back to our origins and time immemorial where access is granted to the sacred. Moses Masaya was born in Nyanga, Zimbabwe, in 1947. Little is recorded of his early years, except for the fact that in 1958, at the age of eleven, he received informal train­ing from the master Shona sculptor and fellow Nyangra resident Joram Mariga. From the age of 23 to 27, he again received more informal training at the Vukutu Art Foundation in Harare. Masaya’s life’s work can be classified as Sankofa style, blending aesthetic and artistic values equally. As the artist has said: “[My work] shows the interaction of the spiritual realm with the natural world (Winter-Irving, 1993.99-100),” that is, the closeness of man and spirit. This is further captured in his work in two ways: it implicitly recalls the ancient stone figures and other stone‑carving traditions of the Great Zimbabwe archaeological period in Zimbabwe history; and it explicitly depicts the enacting of sacred rites, the theme of the work. Masaya also professed that his work is “concerned with the observation of life in rural Shona (Ibid.).” From this, it can be inferred that the work also makes comments on the relation between beliefs suited to the rural ways and those appropriate for urban ways; and it seems as if the artist’s sincerity of beliefs could lead the viewer to question similar attitudes in his or her own world. Moreover, the work speaks of the length of sadness and the short life of joy ‑ how sorry remains with us and joy fades away all too quickly; and that 273


sadness is a more pro­found experience than joy. Moses Masaya is still a practicing artist with the Tengenenge Sculpture Community near Harare, Zimbabwe. He has never dated his works and has always shown great skill in his sculpting. His piece, Beer for the Spirits, is very moving. The artist depicts here a devotee engaged in the rite of offering “beer” to ancestors. This affirmation of traditional African (Shona) rite, based on the Religion of African Ancestry, reconfirms the artist’s interest in African culture and the execution is done with great humanism. His piece presents the audience with polemics of interpretations: JOY and SORROW REAL and UNREAL NATURAL and SPIRITUAL SECULAR and SACRED It is the blurring of interpretations that the work is empowered and Moses Masaya shows its true mastery. The following is a list of the artist’s shows and exhibitions as of 1991: Exhibitions: Works selected for the Annual Exhibition of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe: 1968, 1970, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1988. Two‑person‑Shows: 1988 Standard Chartered Gallery, John Boyne House and Harare (with Normal Shamuyarira). Selected Group Exhibits: 1970 Sculpture Contemporaine des Shonas d’Africa, Musee Rodin, Paris. 1975 South African Association of Arts Gallery, Johannesburg, and MSIA Gallery, Durban. 1981 Retrospective Exhibition of Shona Sculpture, Zimbabwe House, London.

2.77 1948 Houria Niati, Algeria: Houria Niati was born in Khemis Miliana, a small town near Algiers in Algeria. She is a Muslim woman of Arabic Berber heritage. Niati spent part of her childhood under French colonial occupation and, at the age of 12, was briefly under arrest for writing anti-colonial graffiti and taking part in a demonstration against the French presence in Algeria (Hassan, 1997b.10). She attended the Algerian National School of Tixeraine and in 1969 earned a diploma in community work, specializing in visual arts and music. She was furthermore trained as a singer in the Andalusian Sha’bi and Rai traditions. In 1979, she moved to London where she studied drawing at the Camden Art Center and obtained a degree in Fine Arts from the Croydon College of Art (Hassan, 1997a; Niati, 1998). Houria Niati’s works exhibit many characteristics of Ijinia art style: sufficient knowledge of the principles of design, proficient awareness of traditional African styles as well as Islamic decorative

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elements, strong evidence of individual innovation, and a sense of becoming or blossoming (with regard to the representation of women). Niati’s philosophy appears to combine her personal history of political involvement and awareness, and her understanding of the history and polities implicated in art representation. Also, her ongoing practice of criticism and negation of certain traditions of female imagery, both the typical “male” in general and the French colonial in particular (Oguibe, 1997b.7), brings her study of truth to a high relief. She may be described as a Feminists artist interested in dismantling western European notions of North African women as well as expressing concern over the deterioration of women’s rights in Algeria due to the Islamic fundamentalist movement (Hassan, 1997b.14). Highly conceptual in approach, she works in an installation format, open combination of synthesizers, sound recordings, special lighting effects and personal performances (poetry reading, songs) to create a theatrical atmosphere that involves sound, body, movement and color (Hassan, 1997b.15). Her intellectual influences, in addition to her artistic training, include Simone de Beauvoir, the French existential philosopher and feminist (with whom she corresponded) and Edward Said, the author of the groundbreaking work Orientalism from 1978 (Enwezor, 1996.87). De Beauvoir initially directed Niati to the work of Eugene Delacroix, especially his famous painting of 1834, The Women of Algiers. Attempting to refashion the women as symbols of defiance and resistance, Niati’s installation No to the Torture (discussed below) and her series of paintings, titled Commentary on the Women of Algiers, are both responses to Delacroix (Hassan, 1997b.10,13). Edward Said, with his discussion of Orientalism that promoted western European hegemonic practices and an ideology that justified imperialism, provided a theoretical background for Niati’s artistic examination of exploitative French colonialist imagery of North African women (Enwezor, 1996.87). True to the Ijinla art style, Niati has been influenced by a comprehensive variety of artistic traditions. In addition to styles and motifs from her own heritage, including Egyptian hieroglyphics and the ancient cave painters from Tassilli-n-‘Ajjir in Algeria, she also employs African decorative elements and mask-like figures. Furthermore, she admits to being influenced by certain Euro-American art movements, including Post-Impressionism, Surrealism and specific high modernists, such as Cy Twombly. Part of her artistic philosophy and style comes from the claim of her right to freely examine traditions other than her own (Hassan, 1997b.14). Niati has participated in one-person as well as group exhibitions in England, France and the United States. Her solo showings include the following: the Delirium, Africa Center, London (No date given); the 1987’s Maison de la Culture, Courbevoie, France; the 1990’s Rochan Gallery and the Small Mansion Art Center Gallery, London; and the 1990’s Cartwright Hall Museum, Bradford, England. Group exhibitions in which Hiati participated are many, including the 1984’s Into the Open at the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, Nottingham and Newcastle, England; the 1986’s International Art Fair, Olympia, England; the 1988’s showing at Kaufa Gallery, London; the 1991’s Four x 4: Installation by Sixteen

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Artists in Four Galleries at the Harris Museum, Preston, England; the 1994’s Forces of Change: Artists of the Arab World, initiated by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., that later traveled to other cities in the U.S.; the 1995’s Four x 4 (1991 exhibit shown in modified form) at the Zora Neale Hurston Museum, Orlando Florida; and the 1997’s Crossing: Time Movement at the Contemporary Art Museum, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida. Niati is still a practicing artist, working and living in London. Niati’s installation piece, No to the Torture, was on soundtrack from 1982 to 1883. This installlation, based on Delacroix’s painting The Women of Algiers, consists of paintings, drawings, soundtracks and a series of photographs. The showing included a performance of song and dance introduced by the artist at the opening (Hassan, 1997b.10). Delacroix’s painting provided a point of departure for Niati as she created a dialogue with western European images that portray North African women as exotic, erotic and submissive (Enwezor, 1996.87). Furthermore, Niati plays upon the controversial issue of the “veil’, within Algerian-French history. Just as Delacroix’s painting was motivated by the western European desire to invade and violate the privacy of Algerian families by entering the “harem,” French officials during the colonial period performed a ceremonial “unveiling” of Algerian women in 1958. While Delacroix’s work is rich in “realistic” details by depicting the Algerian women in their quarters, Niati’s piece places the women in poses comparable to the Delacroix piece. Still, her Algerian women are completely naked, stripped of their clothes and jewelry, while their faces are misshapen and shown behind prison-like bars (Hassan, 1997b.12). In effect, Niati exposes Delacroix’s vision as fantasy encouraged by Orientalist myth and repositions the women as symbols of defiance. Besides, Niati’s position as an artist, rather than object of the gaze, challenges the distant “otherness” often associated with Muslim North African women, even today. Her latest work of art, discussed in articles and reviews of the installation, Bringing Water from the Fountain, has nothing romantic about it. First created in 1991, this work encompassed a soundtrack of female voices and outburst, several large painted jars, plaster molds on the floor depicting bare feet, paintings on canvas and paper as well as old photographs on the gallery wall. The photographs specifically recalled the style of French colonial postcards of Algeria, which depicted semi-nude Algerian women carrying water jars. These postcards not only presented a false image of happy go lucky Arab women on their trip to the fountain (which was, in reality, a tedious and strenuous activity). They also served as a trick for pornography, because the Algerian women were often with breasts exposed depicted and complemented by the curvaceous shape of the pitcher. Not only were their bodies exploited still women’s plight within society was glossed over in the interest of providing a romantic image of colonial Algeria (Oguibe, 1997.68). In the installation, also, Niati addresses the preceding issues in three parts. First, by exhibiting rough drawings that opposed the Orientalist, colonial sheen. Second, by displaying real water pitchers that reveal, due to their size and weight, the impossibility of enjoying oneself or being a smiling maiden when required to transport such loads. Third, and finally, by 276


drawing images of women directly on the pitchers to reveal that the interest of the postcard buyers was not in the woman but in her body alone (Ibid. 68). Because of the mixed media nature of Niati’s installations, it is hard to discern a stylistic development during the period of these works. While Niati is consistent in her use of a spontaneous, layered painting style and rough drawing technique, the other components of the installation changed according to the subject addressed. In addition, both No to the Torture and Bringing Water from the Fountain incorporate soundtracks or live performance of poetry and song. Niati appears to be comfortable with the installation format, as it allows her to use all of her talents in a single piece. Her artistic development will probably depend largely on her evolving theoretical understanding of feminist concerns and issues of representation and power. Niati has made a few comments that contribute to an understanding of both of her works and her position as an artist. Regarding Bringing Water from the Fountain, Niati explains: I would like to pay tribute to those women who give their lives for their families. To get water from the sources is a daily hard work…I remember our own folk songs that praise the beauty of the girl who brings water from the fountain, but there is nothing romantic about it (Hassan, 1997b.13). This statement reveals not just the French colonialist exploitation of women alone that is here relevant but any instance where typical males obsessed and romanticized females in an oppressive manner. With reference to her experience of working in Europe, Niati clarifies: I speak with a French accent, and in Europe some got confused about how to classify me, but I am not French, I am Algerian and an African (Hassan, 1997b.143). Thus, while Niati has chosen, for political reasons, to fix her identity as Algerian and African, she does not limit her artistic investigations and influences to only Algerian or African sources. Critical reception to Niati’s appears to have been positive, over the years. For example, Salah Hassan, speaking of her installations, remarked: In these performances, Niati brings together the visually and verbally expressive elements of her culture and makes them relevant to contemporary issues and concerns (Hassan, 1997b.14). This statement emphasizes her position as an Ijinla artist, with an interest in reflecting upon the past: Algerian-African and Moslem, while incorporating foreign influences along with individual, innovative styles and thematic concerns. Critic Okwui Enwezor and Octavio Zaya speak to the effectiveness of Niati’s installations with the comment that: Niati’s work brings a palpable disgust towards the distorted French colonialist images of Algerian women as exotic possessions, erotic subjects and submissive creatures (Enwezor, 1996.87). Using fresh juxtapositions of old images and personal interpretations of the themes, Niati brings a physical presence to the issue of Orientalism that might diminish by merely reading a text. Olu 277


Oguibe credits Niati as being one of the few African women artists who provides a gender perspective in their work and acknowledges her contribution to “the identification of the correlations between colonial desire and power, and male hegemony within the space of image making” (Oguibe, 1997.67). Clearly, Niati is addressing issues that are not only relevant but are still developing. This is the case, because her critique is not limited to 19th century Orientalist paintings or colonialist postcards, but applies equally to the current Algerian situation of maledominated post-independence leadership and the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. What I find most compelling about Niati’s work is not a single piece, but rather the way she has chosen to examine and critique both “high” art representations of Algerian women (Delacroix) and mass culture images as well (postcards). Her work reveals that oppressive attitudes and ideologies cut across class and cultural borders and that, while the Delacroix may be a more subtle, more skillfully executed Orientalist image, its underlying message is contained within the cheap postcards as well. Still, I believe, Niati has challenges. To move beyond Said’s concept of Orientalism (which has been much discussed and modified since 1978) and into the ever-complex issues of her Diaspora existence and the changing situation in Algeria as well as other Islamic African nations.

2.78 1950 Wosene Kosrof, Ethiopia: Kosrof is an Ethiopian artist who is genuinely concerned in portraying the African experience that with great enthusiasm is explicit in his work. Wosene was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. From the characteristics of his work to his strong Nationalist beliefs, he is a true Ethiopian in every sense of the word. Kosrof finished his secondary education in 1966. Soon after, he went on to graduate from the School of Fine Arts of Addis Ababa in 1972, winning several awards such as a distinction in painting. He later became a painting and designing instructor at the school. More recent, he successfully completed a Master of Fine Arts Degree in 1980, at Howard University, with a major in painting and sculpture. According to Kosrof’s biographical sketch, the inspirations in his paintings are motivated from the causes and effects of the Ethiopian Revolution. He believes that he exemplifies this social protest in works, like Woman, that he says: […] represent the securing of self-determination for the Ethiopian women and the society securing the government for the masses (from Kosrof’s Folder: newspaper clippings for the exihibition African Art: Past and Present, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 1982). An article by Adjoa Jackson (Cultural Spotlight, April 1977) gives a reason why Kosrof paints in such a manner: He believes that the nationalism that evolved in the 1960’s encouraged African artists to create new images and concepts in their art that were formerly suppressed by the old colonial

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government (Ibid). Kosrof is also influenced by religion. There are clear Coptic Church influences such as large, rounded eyes on the human figure and Islamic crescent shapes in his works. According to a Washington Post article, (Kosrof’s newspaper clippings), the most important and obvious religious influence is the use of Amharic calligraphy to reinforce his beliefs in religious tradition. The article also states that the artist, obviously, is influenced by his studies in calligraphy and early Coptic monuments. Historical and Social aspects of Ethiopian culture also effected Wosene Korsrof. He has a

MRC 137 Wosene Korsrof. Wesene with Brush and Pallette, backing his Painting. Ethiopia

definite symbolic expression of the current state of Ethiopia through the use of traditional elements. An article by Mohamed Aziza states: “The themes of his paintings are inspired by historical events (the Crowning of Theodros) or by pre-historical legends (the Dragon and Peace-bringing Hero)” (Ibid.). Kosrof’s executed historical events typify therefore his interest in maintaining cultural heritage. Wosene Kosrof also exemplifies his contact with the world beyond Africa through the incorporation of Eastern and Western African symbols, Afro-American visual art and Jazz graffiti to make social statements. The best example of this is in his work is Amharic Calligraphy. Kosrof states: …the idea is a street writing (graffiti) where a slogan, usually presented in a free form writing, but passes their message to the viewer (excerpt from Kosrof’s Folder: newspaper clippings for the Exihibition African Art: Past and Present, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 1982).

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He also states that his brushstrokes and use of color further reinforce his use of traditional and modern techniques. In the same work, he says he uses gray to show the oppression

MRC 138 Wosene. Introspection, mixed media on canvas, 31 ½ x 50 ½

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of the people, yellow to indicate agricultural significance, and red to shoot “fire” and to symbolize bloodshed. Kosrof is universal in terms of the number and locations of his exhibitions. As of 1982, Kosrof has held six one-man shows, five two-man shows, and thirteen group showings, which are one-man shows, including National Exhibition Center, Lottery Hall, Ethiopia, 1970 Gallery Belvedere, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1973; German Cultural Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1974; and MFA Thesis exhibitions, Howard University College of Fine Arts, Washington, DC, USA, 1980. Two-man shows embrace Addis Ababa Hilton, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1973; Hall de L’Information, Menelik, Afras&Isas, Djibouti, East Africa, 1975; Alliance Francaise, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1977; and Gallery Paa Ya Paa, Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa, 1978. Group shows consist of The School of Fine Arts, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1970; United States Information Service, (U.S.I.S.), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1971; “Africa Creates ‘72”, New York, NY, USA, 1972; “Young Artists ‘73” 3rd International Art Exhibition, Union Carbide Hall, New York, NY, USA, 1973; French Cultural Insitute, Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa, 1975; German Cultural Institute, Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa, 1976; “Contemporary Ethiopian Artists”, City Hall, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1977; “African Contemporary Artists”, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA 1978; “Four African Artists”, Elan Gallery, Bethedsa, MD, USA, 1980; African Art: Past And Past, The Ohio State University, Ohio, 1982. Wosene is still a full-time painter (MRC 137). Although no reason was given in publications as to why he continues to paint, one can make assumptions by studying the method of his paintings. I believe that he feels the need to continue representing African culture and social protest to shape a historical reference for future generations. I also believe there are no stages of development (at least not in the limited number of works that I have seen), such that all are ununified by common characteristics, including the calligraphic writings and his mediums. Korsrof’s compositions are highly abstracted. The lines, scripts, and colors are mutely painted on pieces that are somewhat long (as in his work Introspection (MRC 138). The “eyes” of forms are painted in dark colors and resemble traditional types of eyes used in some East African Coptic Church works, drawn and painted as the last compositional elements. Another interesting characteristic of Kosrof’s works is his use of sheepskin as a canvas. Abby Wasserman Rayman of the Montgomery Journal states: […] he uses the skin’s taut, shiny surface and irregular borders which are right for these paintings, in which traditional Ethiopian motifs are arranged cubistically in a kind of cultural mural (Ibid.). These characteristics make Kosrof distinctive. Admirers generously agree with his objectives since the truth and sincerity of the artist is apparent. Even the possible critics of Kosrof’s art must agree that the artist is successful in

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conveying a social message. As the Washington Post article states, “his choice of subject matter is highly political and despite its subtlety, packs a wallop that makes much current American Art seem almost effete by comparison (Ibid.).” The artist’s philosophy is mainly concerned with using art as a preservation mechanism for tradition. Kosrof believes that, in his works, he places himself in the shoes of a true Ethiopian and only that. He also created the idea that the traditional Ethiopian painter is contemporary and abstract in his own right. I believe his crowded forms represent the scurry of urbanization and change. He also leads the audience through the works by use of Amharic calligraphy. His uses of color resemble that of old paintings whose texture is fading away due to age, thus equating color with harmony. Both the color and the calligraphy reinforce each other. Freqently, he surrounds his forms with calligraphy, as in Introspection, in his attempt to give new meaning to old art forms to create a definite visual impact. That Kosrof is globally revered as an influential artist is for good reasons. The intricacy of his compositions give the viewer the chance to experience a stratified piece that deals not with aesthetic properties of many forms of art, but also with political and social distress in an African frame of mind. The more artistic facets of his work definitely lend an air of importance, for not only is the viewer looking at representations of conflict brought on Africa and usually Ethiopian people, but they get to look at a representation that deals primarily with an African philosophy as concerned with these issues. Kosrof’s Introspection, 31½ x 50½”, 1980, is a piece that examines the Italian occupation

MRC 139 Wesene Korsrof. Vegetable Market, acrylic on linen, 19.5 x 20,5”, 2003, Ethiopia. The Artist Collection

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of Ethiopia during the Second World War. It uses dark colors to duplicate the tone of the occupation and represents the injustices done towards the people with circular movements that seek to point out the indomitable spirit of the people. By using pastel, spray and acrylic on canvas, Kosrof starts the viewer in a particular African frame of mind. The central image is that of a human figure that is enclosed mostly within a box, representing Italian occupation. Kosrof’s distinguishing Amharic calligraphic characters is present, beginning at the top right and working its way down to the edge of the painting. He often notes that his calligraphic characters are not meant for interpretation as language, but more so as an aesthetic element of the work. From an African mindset, Introspection symbolically translates as foreshadowing of rain. The color blue, specifically dark blue, tends to conjure images of rain to come and also presents a dichotomy. The duality of the rain image comes from the knowledge that rain presents a chance to refurbish life; however, rain accompanied by lightening tends to lead to disaster. It is within the second ideology that Kosrof presents his painting. The blue tint, originating from the lower left corner, lies at the bottom of the soldier’s image; and the brown shade appearing on top and bottom of the painting, locates on the soldier’s head and just below him. The layering of the painting thus becomes very important. On top is the soldier in control, beneath him the brown shading, similar to stained blood, with white triangles that represent Ethiopia’s land and people; and another brown shading on the soldier’s head portrays him as a person of hot blood, or a person who has someone’s blood on his head. That the blue comes from the bottom shows it to be the root of the chaos above. In this way Kosrof represents the awful rain of Italian occupation. From a historical perspective, the subject matter of this piece is offensively pertinent. Italy’s occupation of Ethiopia represents one of the worst instances of oppression in modern times. Soldiers were allowed free reign of citizens and typically chose to exercise their power in a rather unthinkable manner. The painting represents the control with a large box that encloses a black cloud. It shows the audience that without this black box the wellbeing of the country would be much pleasanter image. In the end, Introspection represents a dreadful intellectual work that ought to be viewed with historical context in mind. It is aesthetically interesting and very artistically significant. Wosene Kosrof clearly shows his ability with this piece and also allows people outside of the piece’s context to interpret problems and feelings previously unknown to them. Eventually, Introspection, in its superb Ijinla art style, is the most powerful accomplishment possible. Because Kosrof’s works are abstracted, one cannot help but assume his themes are all self-influenced in terms of interpretation. Kosrof commands the viewer to recognize the social, religious, political, and historical influences incorporated into his works. If he is influenced at all, it is most likely that of religion or social factors. As mentioned previously, he employs natural mediums, Coptic influences, and calligraphy to strengthen his beliefs in tradition. However, since the time of Introspection, his works, still abstract, have changed 283


considerably from political to abstract genre themes where crowded forms represent the bustle of urbanization and change, the most effective being The Vagetable Market (MRC 139). Nowhere has this idea of abstract genre themes been so clearly expressed than in Wosene’s 2003 Artist’s Statement: The Color of Words (http://www.spiritsinstone.com/ wosene/aboutwos.html): My ongoing series The Color of Words uses the graceful lines and sensuous forms of Amharic calligraphy to create a visual poetry. Amharic is one of the major modern languages of Ethiopia and one of the few languages native to Africa that has a written system. I have been working with Amharic calligraphy for more than twenty-five years and am the first contemporary Ethiopean artist to explore and use the aesthetic dimentions of the language in abstract painting. In the early days of my career, my works were much more decorative and played strongly within the confines of two-dimentionality. But, over the years, by exploring the lines and shapes of the language in my works, the characters taught me of their volume and substance, their beauty, their textures, their graceful movements, and of the many ways they are expressive - beyond the conventional meanings of words. In my current works, I take apart the symbols and study their shapes and lines. I distort, exaggerate and stretch them, then reshape them into whole new forms – and a whole new language of visual expression. They are in everything I see. They are beautiful women, graceful archtecture and colorful textiles. They are sensuous and erotic: they breathe in the quiet space of the canvas (MRC 139); they dance to rhythms of drums and echo the improvisations of African-American jazz. They are both human and spirit and mimic African masks and woodcarvings. They are celebrations and rituals: birth, life and death.

2.79 1951 Tahar Boukeroui, Algeria: Tahar Boukeroui was born in the Kabyle region, a stronghold of ethnic Berbers from which he is a descendant. He moved to Algiers at the age of 10. As a young child, he was genuinely interested in art. His teachers recognized his talents in high school and encouraged him to proceed to an art school instead of a university. He therefore went to L’Ecole des Beaux Art in Algiers. Tahar was exposed to many art styles, while at this highly acclaimed school in Algiers. Among the different styles he studied was the style of Mohamed Racim, a master of Islamic miniature. Later, Tahar was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Tehran in Iran, where he studied with Mahmoud Farshian, a Persian miniaturist. His desire to study at Tehran went beyond the fact that this institution was the best school for that type of art. He wanted to break away from the Parisian, or western European model of art that he was exposed to at Beaux Arts. Tahar has acknowledged this fact: Everyone goes to modern art very fast without understanding the objective… Students begin to paint without understanding abstraction. I wanted something new and unique and I wanted a 284


unique style (excerpt from Boukeroui’s Folder: newspaper clippings in French for the Exhibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 1997 www. accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/1997-2/index). Tahar wanted to study something fresh; he wanted to do something unusual; so, first, he went to western European realistic art. This something, also, had to separate him from traditional Islamic art, which Tahar described as “stilted with no shadow and light and no movement.” Still, he found a way to combine the two styles: two-dimensional Islamic and three-dimensional western European art. He took some elements from Islamic traditional art and developed it, in a new way, with a new theme, so that his work would be unlabeled Islamic miniature. His philosophy is that art is something an artist creates, not learnt. He believes that a painter has to be able to create something new if he, or she, wants to be ahead of his time. Tahar Boukeroui took his new style to L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, and educated the administrators: that the school needed to break out of its western European style. He also instructed them that they had to accept a new approach, and be willing to do research. At first, L’Ecole des Beaux Arts was not willing to accept Tahar’s vision. For years he was from the Algerian art world ostracized because of his unorthodox style “that brings personal content, political commentary and emotion to a tradition more accustomed to glorifying God and royalty (Ibid).” He exhibited more and more of his works, gaining recognition and acclaim from German and Parisian critics. Consequently, the School of Arts changed its stand and agreed to investigate what he was doing with his new style. Eventually, the school established a new art department for Tahar to direct. For the next ten years, Tahar’s miniatures and paintings were in the permanent collections

MRC 140 Tahar Bourkeroui. Disintegration, 24 x 36”, acrylic on masonite, 1996, Algeria. The Artist Collection

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of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Algiers. In addition, the administrations of the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the National Museum of History and the Office of the Prefecture of Bouira purchased his artworks. He had ceramic wall frescoes in numerous public places: the airport of Boufarik, the Ville of Algiers and the National Museum of History. In addition, he was commissioned for more than 30 Algerian postage stamps, and was made the design director at Algeria’s largest and oldest newspaper, El Moudjahid. He became the most prestigious artist in Algeria. In the early 1990’s, problems erupted in Algeria as Islamic-Fundamentalists and the Algerian Government battled for power. By the end of 1992, the Fundamentalists began massacring journalists and foreigners. In 1993, the Intelligentsias were targeted, teachers, artists, writers, and journalists. In fear of his life, Boukeroui and his family fled Algeria on April 14, 1994, leaving everything behind, his extended family, his friends, and most important, his reputation. Tahar is an alchemist, a master at creating something new and unique from the old. In Algeria, he took the traditional art of Persian miniatures, added his own vision and

MRC 141 Tahar Bourkeroui. The Last Attempt, acrylic on clayboard, 18 x 24”,1995, Algeria.

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contemporary touch, and created a style that is neither classic Islamic nor western European type. The challenge is whether Tahar will be able to find a niche in the American art scene or not. In Algeria, his paintings sold for the equivalent of $5,000 or $7,000 American dollars. The paintings sold in America go for $5,000 and less. Tahar’s style, a dramatic breakaway from the classic Islamic art style, is more towards Ijinla style than the other three art styles of Vitu, Soyan and Sankofa. According to artist William Hays: Boukeroui’s use of swirling background is something you never see in traditional Islamic art. Within those swirls, he incorporates writings and tiny pictures (Ibid: Boukeroui’s Folder). Tahar Boukeroui’s paintings also allude to more universal themes, such as history as well as sex. Continuing, Hays says: Tahar brings a lot of passion and integrity to the content. The craftsmanship in the borders of his paintings is beyond the physical capability of most artists. The level of technical skill is so far beyond the work of artists I see (Ibid). Tahar proclaims his artwork a dream, his dreams. He declares that the unique backgrounds of his paintings, for the 1997 Ohio State University exposition, tell a story as important as that of the central figures: the “whirlpool of motion around his characters often depicts mad nature swirling around him.” Because Tahar paints from a different cultural context and from an agonizing personal history, his work may yet to find an immediate audience in the United States.

MRC 142 Tahar Boukeroui. The Dream, acrylic on canvas, 23 x 35”,1995, Algeria. The Artist Collection

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Take for example Tahar’s Disintegration (MRC 140), acrylic on masonite, 24 x 36”, 1996, that conveys the human condition in its weakest hour. It expresses the reality of human existence through a surreal manifestation. The outstretched figure of a man in distress fills the entire canvas. The magnificent being appears torn from himself, at sides with himself, causing him to experience mental disillusions, as Tahar renders him through a physical manifestation. The masculine figure appears to dissolve before our very eyes. His limbs disintegrate into the atmosphere surrounding him. Where Tahar’s blues, purples, whites, and reds complimented one another in his other paintings, here they only dispute one another adding to the sheer chaos and urgency of the situation. The red seems more violent as it radiates from the man’s fiery hair and courses through his veins. Both the purple and blue work together to convey the absolute anarchy the figure comes to terms with, willingly or unwillingly. The excited movement of color and the figure’s expressive gesture, no doubt reflect on the certain immediacy of his condition. Interestingly, in the midst of chaos and disorder, the distraught figure rests against a backdrop of a perfectly mapped out grid. This grid maybe in fact the only sense of structure and order this painting has to offer. Tahar’s other painting, for example, The Last Attempt (MRC 141) and Disintergration, both utilize horizontal and vertical lines. The Last Attempt depicts subtle lines, converging to form a 90-degree right angle. These horizontal

MRC 143 Ephrem Kouakou. #267DE

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and vertical lines of The Last Attempt are also applied to grip and bind the figure in its challenge to escape. The Disintegration by far is the most explosive painting of Boukeroui’s preceding works. It clearly delivers the image of a being so overwhelmed by the external forces surrounding him that he results in a form of internal combustion. He appears to be posed by a spirit not his own and held captive by its seduction. It seems as though the human spirit has lost its battle as we imagine complete disintegration to be the end result. An element in Tahar’s work that allows him great fulfillment and achievement is his valor. He invests so much of himself into his paintings. It is the ultimate sacrifice that only the finest artists make. As a true artist Tahar creates Disintegration with his mind and spirit, and as a man he battles his demons like the rest of us. This allows for his work to be incredibly accessible to his audience, and this combined with his unmatched talent will ensure him further success. Tahar’s exploration of the human spirit is not always as explosively revealed as in the Disintegration, where the dissolving male figure is placed in an ethereal atmosphere, composed of the same material as the atmosphere that confines him. In his Untitled, 1995, acrylic on canvas, 23 x 35” (MRC 142), Tahar’s whirlwind of predominantly blue and red flow frantically around the female figure, as the same colors move more controlled within the contours of her body. In this particular painting, wisps of color radiate from the figure as a result of revealing the human spirit. The figure converges so convincingly with ethereal vacuum that it becomes increasingly difficult to separate her from it. Her red fiery waves

MRC 144 Ephrem Kouakou. Mysteries of Life, pen and ink on paper, 7 x 9”, 1992, Ivory Coast. The Artist Collection

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of hair act as a part of the funneling of energy around her. Her feet too dissolve into the atmosphere as though the color is draining out from her body and running down onto the canvas around her. The figure bends over in a gesture of self-reliance and intense contemplation. She remains rather dormant as the atmosphere behind her pulsate with fury. Interestingly, different from the preceding Disintegration and The Last Attempt, Tahar demonstrates the intensity of the human spirit, parallel to that of natural forces of earth, appears to take precedence over the figure. Imagery similar to a tidal wave, tornado, and volcano seem to coexist and churn fearlessly around her, still her state remains unchanged. This illusionistic play created between the figure and the background suggests the artist’s loyalty to examining the facets of human spirit: they can be as calm as the waveless sea or as fierce as the worst hurricane. Tahar Boukeroui currently resides in Brattleboro, Vermont, with his wife, Patricia, and his three children, Leila, Yazid, and Brahim.

2.80 1951 Ephrem Kouakou, Ivory Coast: Ephrem Kouakou was born in Toumodi, central Ivory Coast. Originating from descendents of the African Queen Pokou, he is a Baoulie (current Baule), the branch of Akan group, people of the noble birth of Ghana. Kouakou (MRC 143) began painting in Toumodi at the age of eight. His earliest paintings of masks were not well received by his father, also an artist, or by members of the Akan community in Ivory Coast who believed that Kouakou’s images were manifestations of witchcraft. As a member of the Akan community, Kouakou participated in the initiation rites guided by elder Akan men for the selection of young leaders. The initiation rites included communication with the dead, forcasting harvest and agricultural cycles, offerings to the river spirit, and decision‑making for the Akan court of justice that convened under the sacred “Tree of Palabre.” These rites of passage enabled Kouakou to experience deep spiritual life of the Akan people. Persistent in his desire to express himself through his gift of drawing, sculpting and painting, Kouakou traveled to France in 1981 to study at the School of Fine Arts. This self-­imposed exile, as dubbed by Akan elders, was unacceptable to Akan people who considered participating in the world outside of their closed society profane. From 1981 to 1985, Kouakou studied in several reknowned Fine Arts schools: Angers, Aix‑en‑Provence, and Nice, culminating in his final year of study in Paris. It was in Nice that Kouakou met Antoni Clave who encouraged him to continue in his style of painting, very similar to Sankofa style, which advanced traditional Akan symbols and proverbs, taking them to a high, fascinating contemporary pinnacle. The Akan spirituality pervades Kouakou’s paintings with rich images and history of the Baoulie. Fertility, brotherhood, the strength and power of the woman, passion for life,

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understanding rites and rituals, and reflection on inward journey that every man must make during his lifetime (MRC 144) are important themes in Kouakou’s works. Thus, Kouakou’s goal as a painter is to clarify forcefully the sacred treasures of the Akan people to the world at large.

2.81 1951 Tesfaye Tessema, Ethiopia: Tesfaye Tessema, born on May 5, 1951 in Ethiopia, began his career, as an artist, at the School of Fine Arts in Addis Ababa where he also graduated as one of the youngest in his class. He was later a student at Howard University, US, and attended school at the Smithsonian Institute where he studied photography. Tesfaye has a unique art experience and training. In 1965, he participated in a summer art teaching program in Ethiopia. In 1971, he was in the employment of the Ethiopian airlines as a mechanical artist. He became program director, in 1974, at the Southwest neighborhood program in Washington, DC. In 1975, he was employed as a Graphic Designer for the film “The Harvest” at Howard University. In late 1970’s, he became a Muralist and Graphic Assistant at the Museum of African art, also, in Washington DC. His primary responsibilities include: the designing and execution of an N’Debele Wall Mural, assisting in brochure layouts, displaying designs as well as working as an Assistant Exhibit Insulator. During this period, many Ethiopian artists in America were unknown. They struggled, just as many other artists of East African Nationalities in United States. At the time, also, there were approximately seven major practicing Ethiopian artists, including Tessema, who later had a break through as professional artists in US. Tessema participated in many different exhibitions. They include the Expo of “67”, Opus 2 Gallery and the 1975 gallery of art at Morgan State. He also participated in the 1976 Salute to Black Artists, M.F.A. Thesis Show in Washington DC, the 1977 Bicentennial Exhibition, and the 1982 exposition of African Art: Past and Present, at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Tessema painted impressive murals at the Fine Art School, Ethiopia; Southwest community Park, Washington DC; and the Museum of African Art, also, in Washington DC. His works symbolize looking into his self as well as looking out at the world. Inspired by aspects of everyday living, the works were the seasons, new surroundings and new events. Tessema’s works have a considerable sensitivity. He feels that art should reflect the present, while reminding us of the past to depict the future. Tessema’s most favorite art media are oil and acrylic. Some of his most famous pieces are in a series titled My Window. The size of one of them that I acquired is 22 x 28”. Completed between 1979 and 1980, acrylic was used for the painting. Some of the characteristics of this work that helped to convey Tessema’s main idea are arc, crest, mountains, and rhythmic patterns shown by color. He used warm

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MRC 145 E. Thango. Composition, oil on canvas, 31 x 39”,1959, Democratic Republic of Congo. Unknown Collection

colors to create sensuousness. The work transmits a message that appears to have a collective consciousness; thus, assigning the notion: anything we feel is universal. Tessema plans to return to Ethiopia and travel the country with interest to understand his people’s culture, their values, while working with the citizenry. From such an adventure, he will become more familiar with Ethiopia’s pattern of life. This commitment and determination will enable him to achieve his goals of becoming one of the best contributors in the field of contemporary Ethiopia art.

2.82 1951 Poto-Poto School, Congo Republic: Founded in June 1951 in the Poto-Poto African quarter of Brazzaville, and officially known as the Centre d’art Africaine, the Poto-Poto School was begun by Pierre Lods, a French mathematician and amateur painter. As a term, Poto-Poto refers to “mud recently churned by a herd of elephant”. It suggests therefore a befitting description of the ten painters who made up the school; because, as Brown states, ‘‘they [the artists] literally got into painting with both feet” (Brown, 1966.12). The idea of the School inauguration began when Lods realized the desire of Africans to become artists. As the story goes, his house help, Ossali, who literally opened the doors to the formation of the school, did not report for work for a few days. To ascertain the reason for his absence from duty, Lods went to Ossali’s home and found him painting away on an old nautical chart of Oubangui with tubes of paint and brushes taken from Lods’ home. Lods was delighted with the painting and Ossali, and subsequently his friends and relatives, became Lods’ pupils. 292


Regarding his method of instruction, Lods claims: “I left them to work on their own, without schedule or guidance. My part was to provide the material—paper, paints, brushes—but I left them to work out their own techniques (Mount, 1973.85).” However, Lods did offer technical assistance, especially when the students were working in oils, so that their paintings would last longer. He further observes: “I surround my students with traditional African objects and, in the ground, I grew a large variety of native plants. I also tried to organize festivities and parties. And that has been the extent of the teaching (Ibid.85).” Sometimes Lods and his students read African proverbs that he had collected, or African legends and poems. Lods believed that the works executed by the students were essentially African in inspiration. He also allowed students to influence one another. Each artist seemed to be adept in several different styles. The school’s most popular style is the stick-like rendering of figures against flat background. The figures’ stylings were found all over Congo area imitated and, perhaps, in East Africa too, where they sold as airport art. Figures that show abstract torsos by stylized masklike heads with intense reds, greens, and blues represent another of the school’s styles as is covering an entire picture plane with stylized masks and vivid colors. Another consists of richly colored, varied, abstract shapes overspreading the picture space area with occasionally recognizable masks is one practiced exclusively by the painter E. Thango (MRC 145). After an early exhibition of the students’ works, the school became widely known in Congo and abroad. Lods directed the school until 1961, when he left to teach at the Ecole des Arts in Senegal upon President Senghor’s request. His successor was Madame Edith Gandelin, who continued his policies and taught sculpture, a new addition to the training program. Gandelin, a former weaving pupil of Raymond Duncan in Paris, planned a section in weaving for African girls. She had also an electric kiln installed in the studio for enameling. Artists who attended the Poto-Poto school include: Jacques Zigoma, E. Thango, Ondongo, Ossali, Albert Bandila, Rene Bokoko, Toussaint Dekoto, Paul Elenga, Raphael Mounkala, Daniel Ngavoyka, and Philips Ouassa.

2.83 1951 Art Department, University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana: The University of Science and Technology Kumasi has a Department of Art with a long and complicated history. It began in 1936 at Achimota College. Under the direction of H.V. Meyerowltz, a program for art study started at the Achimota College’s Secondary School and its Teacher Training College, especially for those who wished to specialize in art as a career. Because prospective art teachers must have additional art education, an advanced art study started in 1951. It was a three-year arts and crafts course and included mural painting, modeling and traditional woodcarving, basketry, pottery, weaving, lettering, and wood engraving. Ten years later (1961), the Kumasi College of Technology became the Kwame Nkrumah 293


University of Science and Technology in which the School of Fine Arts, now complete, was by the Ghana Government inaugurated. It had a full four-year course with a fifth year, if desired, to explore a specific interest area in art.

2.84 1952 Ekong E. Ekefreh, Nigeria: Ekong E. Ekefreh, a French award-winning artist, was born in Akwa-lbom State of Nigeria. Although Ekefreh never attended any formal art school, he produced artwork that earned the admiration of many collectors. Ekefreh’s inspirations toward art started at the age of ten, influenced by his father, Mr. Emanuel Ekefreh, who was an artist, a sculptor. When Ekong Ekefreh started drawing images of animals and objects of the environment, many people in the locality recognized his works. Consequently, at the age of twelve, the leaders in his community requested him to paint images on the walls of their town hall. Because he was successful with the images, he continued to develop his skills, visited neighborhood museums and read various art books. Ndiya Central School was the only education Ekefreh received at the primary level. In spite of this, he eventually earned a diploma in Advance English Language and Bookkeeping. Later in life, Ekefreh resigned from government service as Office Assistant to paint. “He has since shaped out an image for himself through the many works of art he has produced (Akpan, 1989. 1).” Ekefreh’s father died when his work was acceptable for exhibition at the Thirteenth Jazz

MRC 146 Ekong Ekefreh. Courage, oil on canvas, 21x16”, 1989, Nigeria. Unknown Collection

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Festival of France in 1988. This piece “brought great glory to his dear country, Nigeria, and Africa as a whole (Ibid.1).” According to Akpan, also, he is a widely published artist, “His works have gained tremendous publicity in both national and international newspapers, magazines and journals.” Four of his paintings: Courage, 1989; Ekpo Masquerade, 1989; Our Cultural Heritage, 1989; and A Girl With Two Suitors, 1989, will serve shortly to testify his true talent. In all of Ekefreh’s paintings, color scheme is noticeably similar. He uses a mixture of red, orange and yellow to create paintings that look as warm as fire. The colors are keen and exceptionally outstanding. However, without the thick, black outline surrounding each of the colorful forms, the paintings would not be as effective. Thus, the color black contrasts the bright colors and the dark outlines differenciate the deformed, white eyes of the faces in his paintings. Together, the black and white neutral colors are striking, as the portrayed eyes appear to be staring forever at the viewer. Another similarity is in his use of comparable images. All of his paintings contain disfigured forms and faces. According to Obingwu, “Ekefreh works are in the traditional motif of a mask because it is the symbol of (traditional) African art (Obingwu, date?).” “Being a self-trained artist, he visualizes his works in his peculiar perspective and the results are usually the products of Ekefreh’s visions (Akpan, 1989.1).” According to Akpan, in the Marketing Department of EDKA Limited, Nigeria, Ekefreh’s artworks have appeared in many exhibitions. Inclusive of the showings are the following: the German Cultural Centre Exhibition, Lagos, Nigeria, 1985; the French Cultural Centre Exposition, Lagos, Nigeria, 1985; the Second Cosmopolitan Arts Exhibition, Los Angeles, California, 1986; the Nigerian Television Authority, Channel 10 Lagos, 1987; the ChampDe-Mars Square Gallery, Angouleme, France, 1988; and the BEST OVERALL AWARD WINNER of the French Revolution Bicentinary Celebration, France, 1989. He was in 1990 comissioned to develop and execute the designs for STAG BUS. The images of this piece are famous for their piercing stare, with a subtle resolve to be penetrated. Together with color mixture and disfigured images, complex rhythm is evident in every

MRC 147 Ekong Ekefreh. A Girl with Two Suitors, oil on canvas, 21 x 16”, 1989, Nigeria. Unknown Collection

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Ekefreh’s paintings. The detailed patterns, involving many shapes and lines, keep the eye moving from form to form over the entire canvas area. Consequently each of his paintings never seems to bore. The viewer continually finds new shapes and forms. In the painting Courage, 21 x 16”, oil on canvas, 1989 (MRC 146), a face with grotesque facial features dominates the center of the painting. Surrounding this face are mainly interwoven intricate patterns that serve as a grilled backdrop, giving the painting a strong sense of flatness. This distinctive humanoid face is skillfully superimposed on a flat animal form with quarterback and four stylized legs painted in white and a pair of horns, on the opposite direction and beyond this face, painted in red. With this last feature, the image of a ram is introduced: a male sheep with horns as apparatus for battering, especially in offensive situations. Its presence in the painting, therefore, carries the idea of survival, even in the face of danger. By relating the white areas of the painting, the ram’s quarterback and the humanoid eyes, the observer would come to the conclusion that the artist sees courage as enabling one to face difficulty, threat, or pain, with firmness and without fear, especially acting in accordance with one’s convictions, in spite of criticism. Thus Ekefreh appears to believe that courage is required in any unsettling situations, no matter what, where, when, or how, even in his courage. In the painting Ekpo Masquerade, oil on canvas, 21 x 17”, 1989 (Odita, 1990.4, Catalog No.1), there are three heads, frightening because there is a combination of large and small eyes on each of the heads. One of the heads has also an extended arm holding a huge sword-like stick. The three heads appear united to form one body. In this collective form, Ekefreh may be attempting to impressively symbolize the spirit of ancestors, divine among the lbibio of Nigeria. Our Cultural Heritage or Nung Uso, oil on canvas, 1989 (Odita, 1990.12, Catalog No.8), is the largest of the four paintings. It is oil on canvas, 65 X 35” in size. There are many faces in this painting with quite a number of complex rhythms because the viewer’s eye continually moves from point to point; still, there is so much to see. Although the depicted eyes in this work are blue, contrasting the white eyes in the previous pieces, it seems as if the numerous eyes are simultaneously staring at the viewer. The painting appears mysterious, yet it would be representative of Ibibio’s cultural values to which the legacy belongs. Similarly, A Girl with Two Suitors, oil on canvas, 21 X 16”, 1989 (MRC 147), has numerous faces with three centeralized in the painting. What is more, there are two other smaller faces in the upper corners of the paintings. Though it is initially hard to determine in the painting exactly which one is the face of the girl and those of the two suitors. Still, two of the faces are found somewhat joined by a band of curved lines. It is common for an Ibibio father to arrange a husband for his daughter, while the girl also has someone in mind. This dilemma is here by Ekefreh satirized and the crisis is enevitable. The two faces that are joined are those of the girl and the man she requests to marry; however, because of her fathers’ desire, she is forced to accept the man she is standing next to, largest and centralized on her left. Discount the breasts that appear on this man’s chest; they are

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abstractly the girl’s who freely gives her body and soul to her favorite. She weeps, her suitor laments, and her mother, next to the suitor, is bewildered. Trying to locate the father? Search no more. He is snuggling at the top left corner, just behind her daughter. His face is determined, his eyes set and fierce, and the entire atmosphere charged with conflicting emotions of pain. Ideally, it would be beneficial to talk to Ekefreh, one-on-one, to understand his paintings entirely. Although he never had any formal training in Fine Arts, he has successfully earned for himself the title “a born artist” because he is naturally gifted. Certainly, Ekefreh has a spectacular and unique style of painting with a traditional sheltered essence and penetrating nostalgia. However, unlike the Soyan artist, he does not concern himself with such technical concepts as linear perspective, sfumato and chiaroscuro. He just paints instinctively in an exciting Ijinla art style.

2.85 1952 Ndaleni Training College, South Africa: The Ndaleni Training College for Bantu teachers had a section called the Ndaleni Art School, which was the only school specifically established for Africans interested in the arts. The latter started in Natal in 1952 with the objective to raise the standard of art teaching in African primary schools. It was located in a converted shed found on a hill outside of Richmond.

MRC 148 Painting Majors at Zaria-From left, Uche Okeke, E. Okechukwu Odita, Dumas Nwoko, Bolaji Bangboye, Oseloka Osadebe, and Jimoh Akolo, 1961

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Subsidized by the government, the Ndaleni Art School had specific requirements: students may come from any part of South Africa, they must qualify as teachers: they may be fresh out of teachers’ college or may be heads of families with several years of school positions, and they were not to be selected on the basis of their art merit. Their decision to become students was sufficient recommendation. The Ndaleni Art School operated year-round. The method of instruction during the beginning stages encouraged originality in students. Later, in their training, basic essential techniques of art were taught to the students. To compensate for the non-salaried teaching staff, the government provided student bursaries -- fifteen of them totalling $112 each -- along with a salary for the Director artist. Usually only students who received bursaries attended the school; therefore, the enrollment was always small. Furthermore, students had teaching jobs at the school upon completion of their studies. Peter Bell, the artist in charge of the school until 1964, appeared to have instilled in his students a universal art philosophy: that art is indistinguishable from life yet it enhances the entire life. His basic plan, therefore, was to get students involved in purposeful exploration and adventure. He was successful. Lorna Pierson, his successor, exercised the same principles of art education. Artists who attended Ndaleni Art School include the following: Abedneso Dlamini, Absolom Eichab, Naphtal Gumede, Francis Halata, George Kubheka, Samson Macd, Mandla Mahlobo, Jacob Masike, Horatio Mavuso, Mercy Mlahlwa, Eric Ngcobo, Aurelia Nibe, Daniel Radgoathe, Cyprian Ramosine, Solomon Kgwadi, Kgozimane Sedibane, Aubridge Takane, and Samuel Zondi.

2.86 1952 Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology Ibadan, Nigeria: (Became Ahmadu Bello University in 1962) Founded in 1952, Nigeria’s first Art School was originally located in and was part of the Department of Education of the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Ibadan. In 1955, the department was to its present site at Zaria, in northern Nigeria, transferred; and became a separate school of the Nigerian College of Art, Science and Technology that was renamed the Ahmadu Bello University in September of 1962. The Department of Fine Arts offered a four-year art program that was by an additional one-year education program supplemented for prospective teachers. Before the 1962/1963 academic year courses and examinations were moderated by the Goldsmith College, London University. The department specialized in three major fields of study: painting (MRC 148), sculpture, and commercial design, which included graphic and textile design. Art history was instructed in all four years, but there was a poor assimilation of the understanding of western European art history. Besides, there was a complete lack of knowledge and history of Nigerian and African art and culture in the course offerings, because none was

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instructed. The students began their study with a two-year general course in which they surveyed the major art fields and developed skill and creativity in a range of media. In the final two years, they specialized in one of the three major fields of (painting, sculpture and commercial design) study. A thesis, which was usually concerned with some aspect of art history, was required of every graduating student. Initially, the Art Department, Nigerian College of Science and Technology, was set up as a Diploma program and affiliated with London University. However, after 1962, it became independent as Ahmadu Bello University and granted its own degrees. Although the Department of Fine Arts is located in the northern region of Nigeria, there were few students from the north attending it. The lack of northern students’ interest may be due to two causes: that the students from the north were not sufficiently trained in fine art at the time to qualify and that the traditional Islamic religious prohibition against representational art was at the period widespread. Given the fact that one of the main fields of study in the Department of Fine Arts was commercial design, Nigerians thought that Zaria students would fill positions in national commercial and design centers retained previously by expatriates. This objective was achieved. Thus, commercial designers were required to produce information packages and display materials for manufactured goods and for expanded government services. Lecturers in the Department of Fine Arts, Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria (1955-1962), include: Mr. Clifford Frith, head and a leading British painter; Mr. Eric Taylor, graphic artist; and Mrs. Etso Ugbodaga Ngu, painter and lecturer in art (1955-59). Art students who attended Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology Zaria have exhibited widely—in Europe, the United States of America and South America. Some have become teachers and others have been engaged in various professional duties. The list of students is extensive and include: J.A. Agbabiaka, painter; Jimo Bole Akolo, painter and Reader in Ahmadu Bello University’s Education Department; Bolaji Bamgboye, painter and art teacher; T. Adebanjo Fasui, painter and former Art Education Officer at King’s College as well as former Nigerian Art Adviser; Yusuf Adebanjo Grillo, painter and former head of the Art Department at Yaba College of Technology; Demas N. Nwoko, painter and former lecturer at Ibadan university; E. Okechukwu Odita, painter and printmaker, former lecturer in art, University of Nigeria Nsukka, former head of Art Department, College of Education, Owerri, Nigeria, now Professor of history of African art, at The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, USA; Uche Okeke, a painter and illustrator and former head of Art Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; late Simon Okeke, a sculptor and Nigerian Museum Curator, Jos Museum; Godfrey A. Okiki, a former medical illustrator and now a commercial designer and printer; Bruce P.O. Onobrakpeya, a teacher, painter and printmaker; J.K. Osakwe, a painter and former teacher in Government College Ibadan; J. Kayode Oyewole, a graphic artist, employed in the School Unit of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation; Philip Akintude Salu, a commercial designer and former art teacher at a Boy High School; G.O. Talabi, a painter and former director of art at a Teacher

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Training College in former Western Nigeria; and the late Solomon Wangboje, a sculptor and graphic designer, with a Ph.D. in Art Education from New York University. He was also the previous Head of the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, and a Dean at the University of Benin.

2.87 1953 Tamsir Gueye, Senegal: Tamsir Gueye was born in Bil, about 80 miles outside of Dakar, Senegal. Before the colonization of Senegal by France, Bil was a place of Islamic training and learning. Gueye’s family stayed in Bil for one year, then moved to the city of Meece, where they remained for about a year, and ultimately relocated to the city of Thies. It was at Thies that Gueye started to develop his artistic talents. Although his parents got him professional training in certain crafts, they never wanted him to become an artist, much as he wanted to be. Because of this circumstance, he had to run away from home. At the time, he stayed with an Uncle, a policeman, at Colac. Here another policeman saw Gueye’s works. The latter introduced Gueye to the assistant governor who saw his art and appreciated it. Because of this exposure, Gueye was admitted to the Institute d’Arts in Dakar. Gueye was 32 years old, in 1985, of the Wal ethnic group and a Muslim. He had been through the Islamic education. Still, he admits that he did not learn much in Islamic education and proceeded to a French school in Dakar for ten years. Earlier, Gueye recalled doing drawings in the sand. When he reached the primary school, a slate and a piece of chalk were given to him to do his drawings. It was, however, not until later in school that he got a piece of paper to work with. He also recalled being very good in literature and other subjects, but as time progressed, he was famished for drawing. Thus, his interest in drawing grew in detriment of the other subjects. When he reached the final stages of primary school, his talent was so strong that he abandoned the school to pursue his artistic talents. In 1972, he gained admission to the Institute d’Arts in Dakar, a performing school for artists. There, he did one year of tests after which he was acceptable for four years of course work. Graduating from l’Ecole of Art in 1976, he held his first exhibition at the Cultural Center in Radar, Senegal. All of his works sold out before the opening of the showing. Then in 1977, in Centri, a town north of Senegal, the same situation happened. Following that, the director of that school asked him to stay on, and supplied him with the necessary materials and equipment so he could continue painting. He spent 5 years here before returning to the Village des Artists, in Senegal. Because of certain unpleasant incidents that occurred in the Village des Artists, he ultimately moved to his own place, to work on his own, where he used part of the house as workshop. Gueye kept an archive of his early drawings. Still, at no time did he think that there would be an audience devoting their time to his art. He always approached his drawings in a spontaneous manner. Eventually, this spontaneous approach led him to become very popular. He observed, in a recorded interview by the present writer (1985), that after seeing

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a car in the street, he would pick up pieces of wood, or things that he would find, and in an instance make that car. Also, after seeing a movie, he would come home, take clay and sculpt the actor or actress. He also recalled painting murals on the walls of his city of Bil. From these small beginnings, he became famous as “the artist” of the city of Bil. Except for traveling to Gambia, Gueye has never been outside of Senegal to study art. He believes that most of the artists, like himself, come from the community, and they have the same reference work like him. Today, he is earning his living and supporting himself, completely from his art. He is able to do this mostly from the collectors who come from Europe, U.S., and around the world to see and buy his work, especially through his showings in Dakar. He feels that in Africa it is often difficult to live on ones art. Not only is it hard for the average Senegalese to understand contemporary art, but also it is difficult economically for them to afford to purchase it. Because Senegal itself is a developing country, the buying power of the people is very limited. This situation is unlike in the US, or Europe, where the possibility of reproduction exists, allowing art works to sell for much less. There was one experience that Gueye recalled when he was able to make reproductions of his work, and in this context the duplicates completely sold out, making him very popular with the people of Senegal. Although Gueye himself has traveled less outside of his country, many of his works have journeyed all over the world. With the collaboration of the Museum of France and the Senegalese Government in 1974, many of his works under contemporary Senegalese art have been sent to Europe, China, America, Japan, and other parts of the world. He has lost track of several hundreds of his works, because most of the people who bought them did not give him their addresses. Consequently, it is hard for him to say where most of his works are currently located. However, he does have addresses of the collectors of his work in Luxembourg, Europe, Germany, and a few other places. For Gueye to think soundly, he feels that he has to be in a solitary environment. That is why he spends most of his spare time in retreat in his house. Other times he may visit friends, read, listen to music, or discuss his work. His life’s objective is to be a professional artist, and he has decided to do all that he possibly can to achieve that goal, the ultimate end that he is so strongly committed to. He feels that there is something pushing him to that end, but sees it as a spiritual thing. At present, Gueye does not belong to any professional organization. His experience in Senegal is that artists’ talents are exploitable, and flattering their ego with dishonesty. He would rather just stick to his work and not be bothered with the professional organizations because it brings to him considerable problems. He did once join an organization right after graduating from school. This was the “Village des les Artists.” There were many parties and hanky-panky going on and he felt that they hindranced his artistic production. Overall, Gueye’s inspiration comes from the African mask. Still, he attempts accordingly to adopt it to contemporary trends. He believes that traditional African art is spiritual and

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MRC 149 Tamsir Guaye. The Marabu, pen and Arabic ink and crayon on paper, 22 x 17�, 1976, Senegal. Professor E. Okechukwu Odita Collection

that this aspect of it can essentially be constant. He sees himself as a spiritual man and he perceives his source of inspiration as daily from the divine. There are others who worked in this creative process, such as painters of landscape and abstract themes. Still, he sees his work as one with spiritual dimensions. Of course, the forms he worked with are from daily life, but the spirit of creation is something that comes from within him. He has particular steps that he goes through, especially when it comes to his drawings.

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First, he makes a small sketch to convince the buyer before he does the big drawing. There are certain times when he does not go through this process, but proceeds directly

MRC 150 Tamsir Gueye. The Music, pen and Arabic ink and crayon on paper, 16 x 22�, 1976, Senegal. Professor E. Okechukwu Odita Collection

to a large sheet of paper to create it. There are times also when he visits the village of Bil, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, and he has an inspiration. This can be a moment of sadness or joy, or a moment that something just comes to his mind. At that time, he takes out his notebook and makes notes. As soon as he arrives back at his studio, he starts straight on paper, on the big board. First, he puts down the major forms of inspiration, and then later work out the details. He has an inspiration that comes in the form of an open idea. He translates this concept into color and adds more details into the final piece. He sees this as his “three step� process: inspiration, painted sketch and final painting. This final painting for him does not and usually is not the end, because he feels that a section of the piece can be another work. So, he feels a work is never finished. Still, everything that he feels is perfect: compositional elements, added or subtracted frequently in art, are uninterrupted process. This continuous course is also part of his quest for perfection, something rarely achieved in life. In terms of other media, he is presently having some of his works woven into tapestries. Besides oil painting, he also works with Chinese ink and gauche. Later, he feels that he would like to get into sculpture, because in his childhood many of his works were sculpted forms. But, for practical purposes, he is presently working on the canvas.

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MRC 151 Tarmsir Gueye. The Torch is Past, watercolor on paper, 32 x 47”, 1979–1983, Senegal. Professor E. Okechukwu Odita Collection

MRC 152 Tamsire Gueye. Gueye Poses in front of his Mural Painting that is in progress at his residenence, 1985, Senegal. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

Given the above facts that Gueye had mentioned in the video interview, one could conclude that Gueye and his art fit into the category of Ijinla style. Moreover, Gueye’s style generally is describeable as one that is very stylized, spiritual, and symbolic. The symbols range from personal motifs, traditional African motifs and Muslim motifs; but sometimes all of them merge in one painting. The motifs also range from conceptual to naturalistic in form and are extremely ethereal in nature. In the end, linearity appears to be the most important functional element seen in all of Gueye’s works. Gueye’s first piece that quickly comes to mind is The Marabu (MRC 149), pen and Arabic ink and crayon, 14 x 20”, completed when he came out of training in 1976. Inspired by Islamic faith, the work is about a Muslim man in a religious bearing. The piece, executed mostly in flat black and white forms, with red and yellow shading surrounding the figure, is highly stylized and full of symbolism. Gueye has taken the frontal and conceptual aspects of the traditional African art styling and has merged with it different religious concepts, those of the Muslim religion, to attain a unique and personal style. This image is very symmetrical, compositionally well organized, and uses a strong tension in the union of structural and organizational space. All of these show his keen understanding of the formal elements of drawing and painting. The second work, The Music (MRC 150), pen and Arabic ink and crayon, 12.5 x 19”, is very similar to the first and must have come from a series of paintings done at that time in 1976. This piece, too, is made-up of black and white forms that use considerable amount of red color in the space surrounding the main figure. Gueye appears to use this color to unify contents of the work. In this painting, a man is playing some sort of flute. The sound is apparently escaping from its end, uniting all elements of the surrounding world and drawing them towards him. This introduction of the sense of music gives the painting an added dimension. It allows the figure to come alive; and although rigid in pose, its apparent movement is graceful and effortless. The more recent paintings of Gueye are fashioned in supplementary colors, in a kind of pointillist technique. These paintings, despite stylization, in comparison to the two earlier 304


ones, seem to be more personalized with dream like images that address major life issues. The third painting, The Torch is Past, watercolor on paper, 32 x 47”, 1979-1983 (MRC 151), represents a mother and child facing each other as if sharing their souls, the mother representatively passing on the genetic material. All the forms are connected in some way through the use of lines that appears continually to direct ones eye around the painting. The figures, attached to elements of the planet earth: sun, sea and terrain are in natural earth tones painted as if inseparable, the overall forms creating a very impressive abstract design. Finally, there is the painting that Gueye was working on while the video interview was recorded (MRC 152). Although a commissioned mural work, this painting is very similar in style to the last piece, above, for it is done in similar pointillist painting style and creates an overall abstract design that contains highly symbolic forms. Easily recognizable are the conceptualized profile views of two heads, one on each side of the canvas, looking towards each other. If this similarity is accurate, Gueye has taken elements of the two faces as well as the sun, concentrating on them in more detailed fashion, just like he had described in the interview. Given the five examples of Gueye’s work, one can easily see how he would fit into the category of Ijinla artists. He is an individual innovator, who, familiar with African, European and Islamic principles of art, uses his knowledge to combine essential parts into a whole. His works are therefore difficult to comprehend, because they involve a considerable amount of artistic and aesthetic values. The person who knows this more is Tamsir Gueye.

2.88 1954 Emmanuel Anku Golloh, Ghana: Throughout history and around the world, the art of Africa has been continually misjudged, misunderstood, and under represented. Often times, one cannot help but imagine traditional masks and figures when the phrase “African art” arises. However, this is indeed a false perception as many of us continue to overlook the wonderful talents of today’s African artists. They take pride in the past, but at the same time employ present day tools that help them blend traditional and non-traditional art forms. These men and women bring about change, a change that brings closer the past and present. One such contemporary African artist who captures the past in his works is Emmuel Anku Golloh. Golloh was born in Akuse (a former trade center) in the eastern region of Ghana in 1954. He began his primary education at the Presby Schools, Ada, from 1961 to 1970; and then attended the Ada Secondary School until 1975. He continued his studies in 1976 at the College of Art, University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, and obtained in 1982 the Bachelor of Arts degree in drawing, painting, and graphic design. He also earned the Post-graduate Diploma in Art Education in 1983. Later in 1992, Golloh came to The Ohio State University to obtain a Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Art Education. Golloh has held a number of positions in his life. He was a member of the Arts Council of Ghana (I984) and in-charge of the National Art Collections. Furthermore, he was an art tutor at

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the Holy Trinity Cathedral Secondary School, a teacher at Ada Secondary School and a judge in many art competitions, including membership in the National Planning Committee of the National Beauty Pageant of Ghana. In addition, Golloh is the recipient of many awards, which include Artist of the Year Award, Ada Secondary School, Graduate School Leadership Award and Graduate Teaching Assistant at The Ohio State University. Ghana’s Anku Golloh has held ten exhibitions nationally and internationally up to 1988. Since 1988, an exact number is unknown; however, Golloh has undoubtedly remained active in the art scene. His exhibitions include BBC Golden Jubilee Art Exhibition, London (1982); Group Exhibition, sponsored by the American Information Center in Accra (I984); Group Exhibition IFA Gallery, Bonn, West Germany (I 987); and his exhibitions at The Goethe Instititute in Accra (1988). His most recent exhibitions include: Ghanaian artists in Moscow (June 1991); Africa Meets Africa at The Ohio State University (1994); and A Celebration of African American History at Thiel College in Pennsylvania (I996). From July I-August 24, 1996, he held a one-exhibition of paintings with the title, “Revisit,” in the U.S. To Golloh, art is the ultimate vehicle of communication with all people, regardless of their race, age or sex. It is a means, assisting the artist to communicate the past, present and future through art. He states: As an African, I consider art an inseparable entity of human existence. I have always said that anyone who does not appreciate art is spiritually dead (Golloh, 1996.5). Making art is Golloh’s life long pursuit. He embraces what is around him, his experiences, as well as his observations and molds them into meaningful paintings. The purpose of his choice in naturalism is to allow the observer to contemplate and define the piece for himself. Golloh’s interest in exploring Ghana’s cultural heritage could be due to the influence of Kobina Bucknor, a Ghanaia artist, who experimented with traditional African art’s abstraction. Art critic John Duke, in reviewing his exhibition at the Goethe Institute in Ghana, 1988, proclaimed that if there was an artist who had not lost his roots, it was Anku Golloh. In some of his works, Golloh uses a palette knife to apply acrylic paints. He uses also other media such as oil color and watercolor, including pictorial batiks. His choice of color is usually bright to depict the vibrant environment of tropical Ghana. Decorative motifs have also found their way into some of Anku’s works like “Allegiance.” One such motif is adinkra, a traditional form of writing of the Akan people of Ghana, extant in geometric forms and patterns. Presently, it can be inferred that Golloh has completed his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and is either still in U.S. or has traveled back to his homeland, Ghana, to reunite with his family. However, no matter where Golloh decided to reside, one expects that he will continue as a practicing artist, contributing to the pool of contemporary African art. Golloh explains: Since I got on to the threshold of art as a career about twenty years ago, there has not been any single day that I have not been involved in a creative activity, be it dance, music, advertising, 306


making of batiks, tie and dye, sign-writing, and silkscreen printing. Art making has become my life long activity, as well as a profession… When we look around us everything we see comes out of a creative thought. From the mountains and rivers, trees, trinkets, clothes, shoes, automobiles and the magnificent architecture we live in, art perpetuates it all (Golloh, 1996.5).

2.89 1954 Sane Wadu, Kenya: As a unique, self-taught artist, from Kenya, Sane Wadu has recently appeared on the artistic scene in Africa, since the mid-1980s. He has in this short period managed to gain an influential position in Kenya’s contemporary art scene and has become inspirational to many young artists. Sane Wadu was born Wadu Mbugua, in 1954, in the village of Nyathuna that is rural in Kenya’s Central Province, near Nairobi. In 1976, he graduated from Githumu High School and became a high school teacher. With the exception of a brief intervening period, working in the civil service for the Judicial Department in 1981, he was a teacher until 1984 when he resigned and became completely faithful to painting. Initially, as a promising painter, Wadu used house paints on plastic bags. Shortly thereafter, he bought over four yards of canvas, four meters to be precise, for painting that frustrated his wife. Convinced that her husband had gone wild, becoming too extravagant for the man and wife limited income, she tailored the unprepared canvas as a suit for him. In turn, Wadu got angry and used the suit for several paintings, his original purpose. That suit was not the only clothing he painted. Thereafter, the villagers began to refer to Wade as the “insane.” Wearing his painted suit and carrying his painted bags, Wadu angrily left his village for the Gallery Watatu in Nairobi. Shortly after in 1985, Wadu’s paintings were exhibited to the public in a one-man show. It was at that time that Wadu chose the name “Sane.” Clearly dropping his surname, Mbugua, he took the designation Sane Wadu in retaliation against the label, “insane.” Since 1985, Wadu has participated in numerous exhibitions. In 1986, Wadu’s paintings were in a private exhibition at the Brooks Adobe Art Center in Santa Barbara, California. Also, he has exhibited in New York’s Soho, London’s Whitechaple Gallery, Sweden’s Malmo Konstall and other showings in Germany, Cote d’Ivoire, and Japan. In 1999, he participated along with 21 other artists in the Second Wasanii International Artists Project, at the Elsamere Field Study Center, in Naivasha. Previously in 1998, Wadu began construction of a new house in Naivasha that he wanted “downstairs…devoted to struggling artists who need a place to work” (S.L.G., The World & I, 1998). Wadu’s talents are many. He also writes poetry, novels, and plays. When he began painting, he included poetry as a part of the painting that he painted on a pair of trousers. He also helped to inspire and encourage others interested in devoting themselves to painting. Sane Wadu devoted himself to painting. He succeeded, through the assistance of Ruth Schaffner at the Gallery Watatu, to gain National and International recognisitions for his

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talent and the ability to assist and encourage other Kenya artists. He has managed to come a long way from being the “insane” artist, mocked by villagers, to the successful “Sane” person that he is today.

2.90 1955 Osi Audu, Nigeria: Born on River Niger in Abraka, Nigeria, Osi Audu is one of the more predominant artists to come from this particular region of the world. Osi comes from a family of a father who was a policeman and a mother who was a trader and later an army caterer. His grandfather was a strong Muslim who accounts for his surname as Audu. Little else is known about his parents and other family members before his time, because between 1940’s and 1950’s employable and enterprising Nigerian citizens were very mobile. It was a period before the Nigerian Independence from the British and the nationalists were particularly active. With the coming of Osi’s life, came some substantial changes in many aspects of Nigerian existence. In particular, the changes affected the ways that young Nigerians viewed the world, and most important, the way they looked at art. Osi got his start from his father who was domicile in Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria, where he enjoyed drawing as a hobby at an early age. He attended primary school and Eko High School, all in Lagos, the latter he graduated from in 1974. Eko High School is a catholic school and it greatly rubbed off on Osi to the point that when he graduated from the school, he wanted to become a priest. Consequently, he attended a seminary in the

MRC 153 Osi Audu. I Have a Landscape in My Head, pastel-graphite on paper, 30x22”, 1992, Nigeria. The Artist Collection.

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Dominican community of Ibadan. After spending two years at this seminary, Osi dropped out in 1976 and proceeded to the University of Ife where he gained admission as a student. While at the University of Ife, Osi first began in the field of Medicine but was not happy with the way that the field worked. So in 1977 he decided to study Fine Arts, majoring in painting, while at the same time taking cognate courses in drawing, pottery, sculpture, and art history. In drawing classes, students were required to sketch very fast, thus paying less attention to detail. This was how Osi developed abstract art forms that later became a predominant factor in his works. In 1980, he graduated with Bachelor of Fine Arts. Immediately after graduation, Osi did his national service youth corps of Nigeria. Here, he put together his first one-man art exhibition at the Alliance of Francaise with great success, especially in terms of publicity. This exposure connected him with the late Dr. Solomon Wangboje who invited Osi to become his graduate assistant at the University of Benin, where he gained a scholarship to the University of Georgia for a Masters degree. At the University of George, he was as a painter trained to express himself in colors that he liked very much. He began to draw in a pure natural form, constantly reaching out for a universal form of art, but different in all aspects. This brought him renown through several exhibitions that he was involved in at the University of Georgia. From 1984 to 1985, Osi has participated in twenty-two group showings; and from 1982 to 1997, he had successful twelve one-man exhibitions, the latest at the Gallery Goethe 53, Munich, Germany. Currently, Osi is a practicing artist in London, England, where he is raising his family. He claims that he is happy to be in London because of his art style, but plans to move back to Nigeria when the time is right. Critic Olu Oguibe thought of his early works as engaged with relentless obsession for the human figure, the enchantment of light, and the frequently abandoned presence of the shadow. That Osi’s paintings, moreover, violated the density of form, investigating instead the unthinkable weightlessness of reality. In contrast, another critic of Osi’s works claimed that his most recent pieces concentrated on the idea of change that the artist strongly depicted in human face (ref. Osi’s Folder: unpaged, undated and unpublished document for the exihibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1997—www. accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/1997-2/index). Consequently, the corporal and the incorporal seem to compass Audu’s works. Certainly, most of Osi Audu’s works have the same overall characteristics that show uncovered essentials. Several of his art pieces are drawings that are at times a combination of abstract and human elements. Still, in totality, majority of his work is in black and white that he feels are basic neutral colors to art, and to the world, at large. Typical of Audu’s works is I Have A Landscape In My Head (MRC 153), pastel-graphite on paper, 30 x 22”, 1992, consisting of one prominent head-figure set in a black and white open composition. It has no eyes or nose. Instead, in their place, are three buildings in white outlines, meant to represent something. The piece is in frontal pose and visually symmetrical,

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involving regular and irregular rhythms of the head-figure and the buildings, respectively. Because there is a flat background, an enlarged head, but no external light source with matching cast shadows and no overlapping of compositional elements, this work is in complete Sankofa art style. Major decorative element is the buildings inside the person’s head. Consequently, this piece represents perception: an individual who wishes, perhaps, to see more out of life, or remember past achievements that is a landscape in his mind.

2.91 1955 Akwapim Six, Ghana: As a society for practicing artists, Akwapim Six started in 1955; and has remained active since its inception. The group’s title refers to the original six foundation members living on the Akwapim ridge that encompasses seventeen towns north of Accra, in Ghana. The foundation members are: J.D. Okai, Art Tutor, Training College, Aburi; O. Bartimeus, Regional secretary Art Council of Ghana, Koforidua; O. Dartey, College of Technology, Kumasi; Aguei Henaku, Department of Zoology, Legon; J.C. Okyere, Winneba Training College, Winneba; and Dr. Oku Ampofo from Mampong Akwapim, the founder of the group. Membership has gone beyond the original six members to a large organization of Ghanaian artists. The Akwapin Six is one of the private artwork-sponsoring groups in West Africa. Its aims are to organize conferences of artists, craftsmen, and art teachers. With this in mind, it anticipates exchanging ideas, arranging exhibitions of members’ art works, accommodating mutual criticism, studying, and cooperating with government bodies, like the Ghana Arts Council and some foreign embassies, that are interested in Ghana art. The society has been a motivating force behind the success of many Ghanaian artists, with similar opportunity for other artists yet unborn.

2.92 1955 Alpha Studio, Ethiopia: Alpha Studio is a private enterprise set up by Afewerk Tekle, the Ethiopian artist. He established the studio in 1955 with the full support of the late His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selasse (the King of Kings and the Lion of Judah). Tekle admitted pupils whom he trained in the studio. With a large production in his workshop, he was able to influence not only those who came to his studio, but he is said to have an impressive personality that left a feeling of respect and admiration for him. These traits in Tekle deserve emulation for he has proved by his productivity and charming disposition that an artist can project the much-talked about “African Personality.” Tekle is well-placed to teach young artists in his Alpha Studio because he is versatile in a variety of media, subject matters, and styles; he has served as a “court” artist to the Emperor of Ethiopia, thus establishing recognition by the government; and, he has trained, traveled, lectured, and widely exhibited his works both locally as well as abroad.

2.93 1956 Sudan Fine Art Association Khartoum, 310


Sudan: As part of the art education program for the people, as well as a showcase for artists, the Sudan Fine Art Association started in Khartoum in 1956. It brought together people of a common interest—painters, who are in the majority, sculptors, potters, designers, architects and photographers. They maintain high standards and finest achievements. Apart from introducing paintings, prints, sculpture and other works from Africa and elsewhere to give Sudanese a broader view of art in other parts of the world, the Association organized traveling exhibitions for its own members. However, based on a lukewarm response, it would seem that the Sudan public generally, in spite of its exposure to the abstract designs of Islam, was unprepared to accept nonrepresentational art. According to a member of the Association, in an undated, unpaged and unpublished document in the Association’s archives, Sudan: There is an effort by the contemporary artists to meet the people of Sudan halfway and build a bridge of understanding. We tackle the ordinary subjects most familiar to the Sudanese and use traditional forms, colors, and patterns the people have in simple crafts and designs. Gradually, the painters and others will shift to more modern art expressions. We artists are making a very sincere effort to help the people understand and appreciate what art is all about. At the same time we are not “watering down” our art principles. These are but a few of the Sudan Fine Art Association’s contributions. Important members of the Association include: Belle Yousif Ahmed E., founding member; Ibrahimel Dosougi (Dosogi); Gaddal Speed AYoub E, secretary of the Association; Yousif Taha Ibrahim; and Mohammed Omer Khalil.

2.94 1956 Royal College Nairobi, Kenya: (Became University College of Nairobi in 1964) The present day University College of Nairobi started as a technical school in 1956. It offered a few art courses: graphics, decorative design, and some painting. The College went by the name Royal College until 1964 when it became the University College of Nairobi. The first exhibit of works, by the staff and students, held at the Sorsbie Gallery in mid-1963, was uninspired to those who attended. One local publication, The Reporter, extolled the College for bringing the works to the public’s attention but called the paintings and life drawings “anemic—devoid of the blood and guts of Africa (Editorial, The Reporter, 1962.1).” Although the graphic art works in the same exhibit showed excellent skill and an earnest attempt at experimentation in the execution, they were completely regarded as European because of their decorative qualities. The Reporter felt that the Art Department at University College of Nairobi should encourage its students to draw inspiration from decorative motifs found in African objects and basketry rather than from European decorative arts. In other words, the Royal College never quite decided the direction in art it should take. However, it considered an Industrial Arts curriculum in mid-60s, as an effort in bringing

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the artist in direct contact with the engineer and the industrialist to design making and packaging materials needed for commercial use. The curriculum in Industrial Art was planned by Selby Mvusi, a South African artist and an art faculty member, since January 1965. It needed the support of African industries so that job opportunities could be available to artists. Unfortunately, no further information regarding the progress of the Royal College of Nairobi in Industrial Art is available. There is likewise no knowledge about Kenya artists who were educated in this institution, between 1956 and 1964, its beginning and end.

2.95 1956 Cape Coast Palette Club, Ghana: Like the Akwapim Six, the Cape Coast Palette Club is famous for its efforts toward creating art awareness in Ghana. Cape Coast Palette Club was in 1958 inaugurated by E. Addo-Osafo. He is a graphic designer and book illustrator. In this association, artists have broad conversations on art and exchanged technical information. They plan, foster, encourage and promote a common interest especially in annual art exhibitions. The Ghana Government, through the Ghana Art Council, at one time, made serious attempts to consolidate the Akwapim Six, the Cape Coast Palette Club, and the Ghana Society of Artists into one functioning body. This procedure would allow them to share more effectively the facilities of the Ghana Art Council. But the endeavors failed because of irreconcilable differences in guiding principles among the art organizations.

2.96 1956 Moseka Yogo Ambake, Democratic Republic of Congo: The aesthetic vision and professional goals of Moseka Yogo Ambake is a unique feature among African artists. Stylistically, Ambake considers herself as a humanistic painter, whose thematic concerns include people as well as nature. Her mixed media images reveal aspects of her Congolese heritage, exposure to a broad worldview and awareness of diverse aesthetic systems. Ambake also explores feminist themes. She proclaimed: The perfect happiness on earth is to be 100% female. To be beautiful, tempting, seductive, lovely, and sexy… is to be a mother too. To be, like Mother Nature, an independent creator in the largest sense of the word (excerpt from Ambake’s Folder: newspaper clippings for the Exihibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 1997–www. accad.osu. edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/1997-2/index). She was born in Kinshasa Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1956. In reading her name, Moseka is the traditional name for the “first daughter of a family” and Ambake denotes “death understands me”, indicating that the child being born will have to confront difficulties in the adventure of life. Ambake an “eternal lady” indomitable, independent, scarcely uncontrollable and hardly influenced by others than by her second husband, was raised by her mother who also was extremely strong and independent. Her mother and her grandmother were Ngombe 312


MRC 154 Moseka Ambake. Le Femme et La Chien, oil on canvas, 31x39”, 1996, Democtratic Republic of Congo.The Artist Collection

women, mothers of the waterland, real flesh and blood Gamin wata living a life without masculine domination. Perhaps, this substantiates why Ambake did not marry the father of her first son. At that time, she preferred to work and support herself and her son Pierre. However, she later married Thiery Dartois and had three children, two girls and another boy Maxime. The girls’ names, Bernice and Maud, also portray “The female strength” character. The influence of art on Ambake’s life started when she met Thiery, a European interior designer and architect who became also the Director of a design consultant in Kinshasa. She began by drawing on the walls of her house, painting interior scenes of couches, cushions and a variety of people. Her creativity was nurtured by the supply of paints and canvases from Thiery and from the formal art education she got. She also studied privately with a renowned watercolor artist and professor of art, Theo Verwilghen, at the Academy of fine Arts, Kinshasa. Her work can be described as being mostly Ijinla and infrequently Soyan in art style, the former because of her resourcefulness, mixed motifs and unique ideas, and the latter 313


because of her western European techniques of realism and African subject matter. She now lives in the rustic village of Linkebeek in Brussels with her four children and husband. Though living in Brussels, Ambake rediscovers her African roots in Matonge, the Zairian quarter in Brussels where she directs “case di Moseka”, a decoration shop and open workshop. Here, she has on display her paintings, designed articles made out of wood created by her husband, African drapery, tableware, candlesticks, lamps and so on. She has painted incessantly and has reached beyond her studio exhibit and achieved national and international recognition. Her first exhibition was in 1986, in Kin-la-belle, at the gallery of Louis Van Bever. This exhibition led to several others in Kinshasa between 1986 and 1991. In addition, she had an exhibition in South Africa in 1991. In 1992, she had another exhibition in France, Netherlands and Belgium. In 1993, 1996 and 1997, she had several exhibitions in Belgium. In 1994, in particular, she had one showing in Germany, two in Belgium, and in 1995, she had one in U.K, one in Netherlands and another in Belgium. Ambake’s philosophy is to be her-self and not to transport the image of stereotypes often linked to the African myth. She states: I adore painters with a personal unacademic technique, following their own illogical artistic chimeras, phantasms and figments of the imagination (excerpt from Ambake’s Folder: newspaper clippings for the Exhibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 1997). Admirers of her work claim that classification of Ambake’s work may be an act of cultural racism and underestimation of the richness of her work. Her paintings are instinctive, with strong Congolese traditions: natural, human and inborn. Expressing such deep personal creativity, she is stylistically independent and yet classifiable. One of Ambake’s works (MRC 154), La Femme et La Chien (The Woman and Mr. Dog), typifies her as a strong African feminist with interesting views and abilities to display her feelings through art. The piece is oil on canvas painting, 31 x 39”, and completed in 1996. It portrays a naked woman with her buttocks facing a dog. Behind the woman and the dog, the landscape appears to be a beach, with large palm tree-like leaves and sandy ground. The sky that is rendered in blue has a softened yellow appearance in the center, giving further reference to the idea of a beach setting, while the yellow cast provides the emergence of a new day’s sunlight over water. La Femme et La Chine is an open composition that allows the viewer a part in the scene. With the majority of light focused on the buttocks area, the dog’s attention, the remaining light grows dimmer as the eye travels across the woman’s body. Although one can see her face contorted in passion, with her extreme grip on the palm leave in her hand, the woman’s face is the dimmest area. The forms are rendered in rational proportions. Still, their cast shadows are not consistent with realistic representation of the Soyan art style. In fact there is only one cast shadow evident in the picture, and it is located by the dog’s tail. These artistic facilities employed in the painting, among other things, make La Femme et La

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Chien a prototype of Ijinla art expression. Ambake appreciates the ability for women to be independent of men and to hold their own weight. In the La Femme et La Chien, she represents a woman as a seductress, a sensualist, abandoned, exuberant, tender, remembering one lover and anticipating the next, sometimes a whore, but always a mother. In the piece, as described earlier, a woman is positioned on the ground with her rear end in the air and her hands and knees on the ground. Here, the woman can be characterized as seductive. She is lying there naked tempting the dog. Ambake is fond of the Bantu folklore tradition where every individual who disrupts a relationship of love because of jealousy, trickery, or violence is seen as a monster or an animal. It is for that reason that Ambake often represents men as pigs, dogs, or as little mischievous birds. In the picture, the dog depicts a man watching the tenderness of the woman, and the sensual figure of her position. Thus, the leaves, the naked woman, and the dog all symbolize life. Possibly the budding nature of the leaves, and the sexual pretext of the dog and the woman all accept the reproduction of all living things. Ambake has successfully employed the Ijinla art style to convey the meaning of her views toward men and woman. La Femme et La Chien is therefore a prime example of her use of symbolic figures to create deep meaning that is always apparent. While critics may not agree with Ambake’s thoughts on the age old man versus woman, they can not disregard the high technical skill, strong African reference, and refreshing individual innovation that she has brought in conveying her beliefs on canvas. While La Femme et La Chien emphasizes a feminist social commentary, her La Femme Qui Pleure Pour le Ruanda (Woman Crying for Rwanda, Mixed Media/Collage, 27.5 x 19.6”, 1994) gains impetus from political auspices. Here, Ambake combines tremendous artistic skill with overwhelming empathy for the human condition in this work. As with all creations of art, it is at times necessary to consider the significance of life issues through an artist’s viewpoint. The psychological impact of any given work is determined by the artist’s ability to depict the depth of emotional connections concerning such issues. Experience and creativity innately intertwine and evidence for that premise is validated here. A gifted African artist through a seeming “chaotic” menagerie of stylistic technique has often depicted disorder in any African country at war, at a given time. Thus, command of the African repertoire is extremely important for an artist’s creative ability to extend into a progressive “re-thinking” of that war. In La Femme Qui Pleure Pour le Ruanda, the stylized central figure of a woman controls the viewer’s attention. Her elongated, emphasized features and prominent size command empathy. She is clearly very distraught and as the viewer’s eye travels to the surrounding areas of activity the observer understands why. This “symbolic” figure, representative of mankind, weeps for the human degradation and despair that flourished in Rwanda. Her stylization further supports the fact that she is inanimate and unable to change reality. But, 315


the human spirit lives in the hope she embodies. Chaos is further perpetuated by the contrasts among the so many styles in this painting/ collage. The little image of a child at lower left is a photograph, superimposed on the canvas plane. It is interesting that the artist placed it in the “protective care” of the woman. This child is suffering like the others, the only difference being that the other figures are pure paint drawings that reveal less live than he. Perhaps, they are past victims of which the infant on lower right, rendered in similar technique, becomes a representative. The infant, blood flowing out in “umbilical cord” fashion, epitomizes the tragic waste of human life. The wounded child at the upper left has yet to know if he would suffer the same fate as many, many others. Those who have not been harmed, physically but certainly psychologically are represented by the older child carrying the baby. The capacity for compassion is part of all of us, especially the very young. These children are priceless; but political agendas quite often do not give them any value. The values of a few determine the lives of many. Huddled, starving children and cultural dignity are swept away by powers eager to have their way. Unfortunately, in Africa this pattern of abuse has surfaced again and again. The superficial, once more politically motivated “aids” depicted by the parachute drop, clearly represents the absolute neglect given these humanitarian issues world-wide. Propagandistic displays of this kind are all that are needed to promote emotional well-being to the remainder of a race devoid of empathy for its’ own people. Mosaka Yogo Ambake, not as a feminist male basher, not as a determined strong one, but in the work breaks down to identify with all of us concerning the evils of war and human despair. Consequently, in the end, Ambake is telling us through her extraordinary composition that she is not completely what we presume of her.

2.97 1957 Obiora Anidi, Nigeria: Obiora Anidi was born on January 17, 1957 at Enugu, Nigeria. He attended St. Patrick’s primary school, the Colliery Comprehensive Secondary School and finally The Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, for sculpture. Anidi’s art is in a state of constant change. His philosophy is one of a humble man who has chosen patience with the discoveries and achievements in his art. Earlier works from his career (either student works or shortly after being a student) were primarily political satires or strongly related to social and political issues. According to Anidi’s artist statement, he said: Primarily…I tried to concentrate my search on the ills of our society, politics and the culture of our people (excerpt from Anidi’s Folder: document for the Exihibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 1997). These issues are strong in content and rich with emotions, as are expressed in his work.

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Later works dealt with what Anidi referred to as a “social malaise,” but achieved in a much more personal way. The works he tendered are physical interpretations of dreams he had. Anidi said that, “I look at life now with nostalgia.” And he believed that, “In times of depression one can look back to cherish its values and virtues (Ibid.).” These are what Anidi passed on as dreams. These dreams are subsequently resolved and executed in physical forms. This process of engaging in self-exploration begins to articulate a kind of healing and resolving of these issues for Anidi. The choice of materials he works with is of great interest. From his days as a student at The Institute of Management and Technology, he has been experimenting with materials that are quite unconventional, especially in contemporary African Art. He has mastered the techniques of casting, sculpting, and molding cement to achieve a quality reminiscent of solid lumps of stone. By using a quite difficult technique of modeling, most of his works are fashioned in cement on metal armatures. This process lends itself to achieving strong

MRC 155 Obiora Anidi. …Of The Past, marble-cement-metal, 26” h. 1992, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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concave and convex forms that most characterizes Anidi’s models. Other works vary dramatically, in content and material. Anidi uses wire to literally sketch in space, and develop a composition of lines and shapes of harmonious creation. Where different materials have been combined in their production, the works are much more formal than others. Anidi has exhibited internationally and is continuing his artistic endeavors at The Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, as a sculpture teacher in the Department of Art Education. His showings are as follows: Group Exhibitions: 1982 Enugu, Nigeria; 1983 Ibadan, Nigeria; 1985 Lagos, Nigeria and Jamaica; 1986 Nsukka and Lagos, Nigeria and Bayreuth; 1987 Lagos, Nigeria; 1988 Lagos, Nigeria, New York-New York and ColumbusOhio, USA. Moreover, Solo Exhibitions include 1984 Lagos, Nigeria; and 1985 Lagos, Nigeria. Besides, his works are in private and public collections, both in Nigeria and internationally. As an African artist, Obiora Anidi can classify as an Ijinla sculptor. Thus, Anidi’s works sustain significant characteristics of Ijinla art style: the importance of the overall design, strong evidence of the artist’s innovation, indication of a high level of technical skill, distinctness of formal and/or informal academic instruction, and deep meaning and purpose veiled in art. In 1994, Anidi was part of a group showing at the Skoto Gallery of Contemporary African Art in New York City. A review by Okwui Enwezor found in African Profiles International (Enwezor, 1994) addresses the piece named …Of Potent Family (considerably discussed in chapter seven of this book). Enwezor argues in the African Profiles International that this piece speaks strongly of the theme of renewal, of nostalgia as well. The form is figurative with large areas of marking, in some kind of language or symbols that are indecipherable. Enwezor describes Anidi’s work as follows: The world of allusion’s phenomena and time are deployed as humanizing synthesis of experience. That far sound in the distances not the drum echo of nostalgia, rather we are returning with the artist to the world of his dreams, thoughts and hope; the seen and unseen; foreseen and unforeseen (Enwezor 1994.38). Anidi’s work …Of Potent Family appears therefore successful in communicating his ideas clearly to his peers and critics. Another reviewer deals more with the formal issues of the same piece …Of Potent Family, Haig David-West, the critic, describes Anidi’s work as: [A] masculine feminine duality in triadic synthesis with a bud child birthed by an elaborate orbicular leaf blade (David-West, 1996.72). Use of structural and organizational space is also referred to as quite important to this piece. What particular time of day the piece is seem also significant as it plays on the structural and organizational space of the work with caste shadows and the interplay of 318


lights. Obiora Anidi represents contemporary African Art in a pure sense. Although he is academically educated in his country and therefore exposed to western techniques of realism, still his works are exceedingly conceptual in approach with pleasing innovation in the context of form and material. Consequently, Obiora Anidi fits quite well into a profile typical of the Ijinla artist. Proficiency in material and technique is the greatest foundation on which Anidi has built to achieve works of impenetrable content and form (MRC 155).

2.98 1957 Edinan Wisdom Kudowor, Ghana: Edinam Wisdom Kudowor, popularly known as the Wiz, was born on September 19, 1957 in Takoradi, Ghana. His education began at the age of five. His primary and middle school education was at the Korle Gonno Catholic Boys School located in Accra, capital of Ghana,

MRC 156 Edinan Kudowor. I Wait, acylic on board, 40 x 32�, 1994, Ghana. The Artist Collection

and his secondary education was at the Keta Secondary School in Keta. From 1975 to 1981, he attended the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. At the end of this time, he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Honors, with First Class in Painting. He also gained the Mobil Award for best student in his painting class. One can readily designate him more as a Sankofa artist whose art reflects virtual African 319


culture, and the everlasting search for its fulfillment and identity. He has had a number of exhibitions, twenty-four in all. He had two in 1984, one in 1986 and 1988, two in 1989, three in 1993, two in 1994, and eight in 1995 (three of which were in the U.S.A.). These were group showings. His one-man exhibitions were however in 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1994. He is still a practicing artist with a business and residential address located in Accra. His works are very original. He uses dots “…(which express) vibrant activity and pure energy with elements, both contemporary and traditional,” according to Wiz on his art (Glover, 1994.4). This use of dots derives from African traditional beadworks. He places them in different dimensions to exemplify his expression of the African essence. His “structure and rhythm of both representational and abstract African symbols…are reference points”, according to Wiz, “from which (he) visualizes a whole world of imagery (Ibid.).” Besides, most of his works are deep-rooted in the Africa past. The past to the Wiz is symbolic in this way: “… it represents a lot of inspiration that manifests in forms and presentations that have come to be personal icons” (excerpt from Wiz’s unpublished “theme and inspiration”). In other words, he replicates the past and looks to the present from Africa’s life rhythm, drawing inspiration from it. Many admirers of Wiz exist who testify to what they think about his art. Larry Otoo (a painter) described Wiz’s art as “the symbolic imagery … (which) portray a living character synonymous with the personality of the artist himself, who cannot be forgotten once encountered” (Glover, 1994.6). Amon Kotei, a Ghanaian painter, acknowledged that Wiz’s “time consuming and laborious work with the dots (Kotie 1992.2)” express his likeness of it. In addition, Professor Ablade Glover (also a painter) describes Wiz’s work: “(Wiz’s work) enables him to fly from traditional into contemporary themes with agility in design and superb colour dexterity. These reflect flashes of genius (Glover, 1994.2).” Finally, in complementary note, Kofi Setordji confirmed that “a successful artist shows his real emotions and does not try to be someone else; this is what Wiz is all about (Ibid.).” Still, Wiz himself has something to say about his art. “Each time I show my works, I prefer them to be viewed as attempts to satisfy my whims, first and foremost, and then to caress the aesthetic expectations of anyone who cares to look (Kotei, 1992.3).” In other words, he wants audience to view his works from the outside (artistic value) and then look also at it from the inside (aesthetic value). Wiz’s art portrays traditional elements with a contemporary twist. Many of his extant paintings have African men and women dressed in traditional garb. They have headbands with a few of them banging on drums. The meticulous detail of the artist’s works is unique and beautiful. All of his available works are exquisite and greatly precise, particularly the three completed in 1994. The first titled Calabash Dance shows four Africans dressed in traditional clothing and all of them have hair combed straight out. The painting is alive with people dancing passionately and creating a “psychedelic” effect with stimulating energy. The second,

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named Drum Swing has five Africans dressed in traditional clothes. They each have an assortment of drums that they are playing. Some drums are larger and one can almost hear their rhythms as the animated dance progressed. Ultimately, the third, I Wait, acrylic on board, 40 x 32”, 1994 (MRC 156), appears to be the best of the three works. In this painting, the posture of the figure well describes the title: she is looking into the far distance and appears to be waiting for something to happen. In a typical bearing of waiting,

MRC 157 Ahmed Nosseir. The Train, oil on canvas, 43 x 47”, 1992. The Artist Collection

her right hand supports her chin and the other hand rests on a basket in front of her. She is dressed in a typical African garment, called “Accra” in West Africa, with traditional hair wrap and gold jewelry around her neck. The background elements are not very clear, but it seems as if it represents a tempestuous sky with the sun high on the left corner of the canvas. The middle ground is also an active sea or ocean and the foreground is a sandy beach where the figure sits with her legs wide apart. Typical characteristics of Soyan art are replete: realistic use of colors, strong sense of posed model, direct light source with corresponding cast shadows, strong sense of threedimensional form, and accurate representation of body features. Certain elements are however beyond the principles of Soyan art: oversized legs, the flare of her hair, and hallo-

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like rays of the sun. These Soyan contrary elements are aesthetic values that give meaning and assist in clarifying the picture: overwhelming legs indicate the endless boring time of the young woman’s waiting; the stormy wind of the sea or ocean makes her hair spread out in form that compositionally balance the visual weight of the sun; and the hallow-like rays of the sun dominate, filtering the tempestuous landscape. Still, the young woman is waiting! For her husband, relative, or friend? Wiz has placed her directly on the foreground, making her image very big, and inviting the viewer to walk into her world. He has used two most vivid colors: blue for the background and orange/red clothing for the main figure. So, the figure pups out as the primary focus of the work: I Wait. The young contemporary woman is essentially waiting to be accompanied home at the end of an open market, most evidently a stormy day, in Africa. Wiz is a one of a kind artist. He symbolizes Africa in a most exciting way and brings to life its civilization.

2.99 1957 Ahmed Nosseir, Egypt: Nosseir was born in Cairo, Egypt, and currently lives and works in Argentina. After receiving a diploma in 1985 from the School of Fine Arts in Cairo, Nosseir was awarded a French Government scholarship to study at the School of Fine Arts in Paris. He was in this institution from 1988 to 1990. While in Paris, he was also a studio assistant to Atelier Professor Pierre Mathey. During and after his studies in Paris, Nosseir participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Egypt, United States and Argentina. Nosseir’s earliest works were simple figurative drawings, in black and white, relating to his own mythological universe (EI Dine, 1990). Later, around 1988, he developed the theme of myth and dreams of the artist, with many of the works displaying an “ambiance funeraire” (Ibid.). Impacts on his art style include the Catalan painter Joan Miro, German Expressionism and Armenian painting from the 1950’s. By 1990, his works began to show some optimism; many being small‑format watercolors marked by their “happy marriage of colors” (Ibid.). It was during this period that Nosseir traveled to Bariloche (in Argentina) and subsequently became fascinated with the beauty of nature. In his watercolors, the “monsters” of his earlier work were transformed from figurative to abstraction (Ibid.). It is helpful to consider the preceding stylistic evolution of Nosseir when approaching his 1992 painting The Train (MRC 157), oil color on canvas, 43 x 47”. This piece can be roughly divided into four bands of color: the top layer is blue, the next green, the third is primarily yellow but is encroached upon by the bottom color, red. On the bands of color one finds several somewhat representational drawings, outlines in black paint. Directly in the center of the piece (in yellow), one finds a spiraled form that could be interpreted simultaneously as a coiled snake or a sun motif. To the right of the “sun” motif is a monstrous figure with, arguably, a human head wearing a 322


fez. This head is attached to what might be interpreted as two arms, with hands stretched out in opposite directions, or two animal­-like legs. Further to the right is an ambiguous stick‑like figure. To the left of the larger figure and just below the “sun” is a child‑like drawing of a train, to which is attached, as if it were a helium balloon on a string, a floating oval motif that might be described as a mummy’s head. Below, in the red band of color, is a loose sketch of what might be an animal head or a mask that appears to have eyes on both front and back. In the green band, facing toward to large figure, is a long fish. Finally, in the upper blue band, there are several criss-crosses of black line, perhaps indicating stars. Brushwork on the color bands is uneven, creating mottled color with some areas darker than others. Some of the black lines are quite bold and thick, while others are thin and more difficult to make out. Parts of the train are filled in with black, while portions of the large figure, within the face and neck areas, appear as smudged, indistinct edges or spots. The nose and mouth of the large monstrous figure are light in color, and its mouth is open, creating a grimacing expression. The figures are rendered in such a manner that they appear two‑dimensional, and there is limited sense of linear or aerial perspective. The bands of color, while they may indicate a progression from sky to earth, appear as stacked and do not suggest a true recession into space. The foreground and background are not separated by a middle ground, and the symbols, similarly, do not suggest a realistic

MRC 158 Ahmed Nosseir. Figures And A Tree, oil on canvas, 44 x 48”, 1992. The Artist Collection

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MRC 159 Ahmed Nosseir. Hunting Time, oil on canvas, 40 x 48”, 1992. The Artist Collection

environment. The painting is fairly symmetrical, in typical Egyptian fashion centered by the “sun” motif and balanced on either side by the large figure to the right and the train with attached head on the left. When evaluated according to the four styles of contemporary African art, this piece seems in the bare to correspond most closely to both the Sankofa and Ijinla categories. Among the Sankofa characteristics: this piece is compatible to a conceptual rather than a realistic approach in the rendering of forms, the main figure has a frontal orientation, there is individual spacing of elements with minimum overlapping, there is no external light source, the background appears flat, the piece contains rigid compositional elements with no concern for movement and it reveals strong principles of symmetry and balance. Within the Ijinla category: the painting appears to contain deep meaning (discussed below), reveals the artist’s training and awareness of other painting traditions, suggests a sense of becoming or mystical quality, and shows strong evidence of the artist’s innovation.

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Given the history of this particular artist, it is possible that the figures and symbols in the piece are of a highly personal nature and cannot be interpreted based upon traditional African or Egyptian symbolism. One could envision the large figure as a reference to the Sphinx and the floating head as reference to Egyptian mummies. The hat on the large figure may suggest a fez, which is a headpiece frequently associated with North Africa. The train is moving away from the large figure such that, if interpreted as an Egyptian reference, may symbolize the artist’s travels outside of his home land. In fact, it could be argued that the train is the “body” attached to the large head, a body that is being pulled apart internally. Since Nosseir has been influenced by the German Expressionists, who often depicted figures in contorted, impossible positions in an effort to express their inner turmoil and pain, perhaps Nosseir is interested in portraying a sense of internal “oppositions.” Along this thread, the floating head of a mummy might indicate that part of Egypt travels with the artist, even though a somewhat macabre part that of a disembodied preserved head. A further contrast may be seen between the blue and green section and the lower yellow and red section. The blue and green might refer to the fertile natural beauty that he encountered in Argentina, as opposed to the harsh desert areas of Egypt. The blue and green colors are comforting to the viewer, while the red and yellow are somewhat startling and aggressive. This work by Nosseir also seems to reflect his interest in Joan Miro, who is known for his abstract imagery. As described by Peter Seiz, Miro too “placed calligraphic signs at random but with an intuitive sense of composition, arriving at primordial symbols” (Seiz, 1981.241). Regarding his interest in 1950’s American painting, Nosseir’s work could reflect an awareness of the work of Mark Rothko and his paintings with large areas of color juxtaposed against one another. Furthermore, upon first viewing, one is reminded of the work of Jean‑Michel Basquiat, especially his images that include grotesque renderings of human figures. However, these reflections or reminders must not be taken out of context. Other than what they are, suggestions, they do not bring about any Nosseir’s direct encounters with Joan Miro, Mark Rothko and Jean‑Michel Basquiat, not even with their works because no such history exists. In spite of Nosseir’s French training and choice to live in Argentina, Nosseir can still be described as a bonafide African artist. Because of the several Egyptian references and the painting’s correspondence with many Sankofa and Ijinla characteristics, this piece is clearly African. Furthermore, Nosseir could be described as a bonafide African artist. It is therefore safe to say that, in most cases, The Train is typical of Ijinla art, but one could maintain that it is difficult to discern the full meaning of many obviously African elements within the piece. It is also conclusive that Nosseir’s work, The Train, reveals more characteristics that point to his African origin, especially when compared to other examples of his work such as Two Figures and A Tree (MRC 158), Mysterious Dream, and Hunting Time (MRC 159).

2.100 1957 Watts Ouattara, Ivory Coast: Watts Ouattara was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. As a painter, he incorporates mixed media and sculptural elements in his artwork. Characterized by symmetrically balanced

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compositions, which combine contemporary and traditional African motifs, Ouattara’s art results in strong visual expressions that have universal appeal, as well as a distinctive attraction for people of African descent in the Diaspora. Ouattara was raised in a family that spoke Bamana, Senufo, and French. His early education, at the age of seven, included initiation into Senufo traditional practices and a French European high school studies in Abidjan. In an interview with Thomas McEvilley (1993.72), Ouattara stated that: “his father was a shaman whose practice was based on African religion with the widest possible scope.” His father was also trained as a surgeon in Western medicine. However, he left Abidjan at the age of nineteen and went to live in Paris where he studied art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Ouattara lived in Paris for eleven years and his first exhibition was highly successful in France in 1986. In 1988, Ouattara met artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The two became close friends, Basquiat being instrumental in promoting Ouattara’s work in New York that led to Ouattara’s participation in New York’s group show in 1988 and a solo exhibition in 1989. Thereafter, Ouattara moved to New York as a full time practicing artist who has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. Solo shows since 1986 include: Centre Cultural de La Rochelle/France (1986); Marilyn Butler Gallery/Los Angeles (1989); Vrej Baghoomian/ New York (1989, 90 and 92); Galerie Boulakia/Paris (1990 and 93); Akira Ikeda Gallery/ Nagoya (1990); University Art Museum/Berkley CA (1994); Gagosian Gallery/New York (1995); The Kemper Museum/Kansas City (1996); Baldwin Gallery/Aspen CO (1998); Maggazzino d’Arte Moderna/Rome (1999); Leo Koenig Gallery/New York (2002). Joint exhibitions since 1985 include: Musee National des Arts Africains et Oceaniens/Paris (1985); Images of Death in Contemporary Art, Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art/Milwaukee (1990); Syncretism: The Art of the XX Century; The Alternative Museum/ New York; African Explores: New and Renewed Forms in the 20th Century; The New Museum of Contemporary Art/New York (1991); Biennale di Venezia (1993); Museum of Contemporary African Art/New York (1994); Un Altre Pais; Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno/Las Palmas, and Fundacion La Caixa/Palma de Malloraca and La Virreina Expositiones/Barcelona (1995); Setagaya Art Museum/Tokyo: Chiba Museum of Art/ Japan (1997); Fukui Fine Arts Museum; Kurashiki Art City Museum; Museum Atorion/Akita (1998); Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art/New York; The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994; PS. 1, Contemporary Art Center/Long Island City, NY (2002). Ouattara’s work incorporates Senufo and other African motifs with western European art techniques. In the book: Reading the Contemporary, African Art from Theory to the Market Place, edited by Olu Oguibe and Okwui Enwezor (1999.268-269), Ouattara’s work is described as follows: He aims to examine the boundaries of the secular and the religious, alchemy and science, magic and empiricism, popular culture and canonical African classicism; above all, to examine the fundamental questions posed by the dichotomy between tradition and modernity, between Western and non-Western representation. Ouattara’s work seems as if it has been wrung out 326


and turned inside out, then reinvested with a vast array of expressive and subversive signs. In his monumental assemblages, he ranges freely through disparate cultural landscapes and milieux, seamlessly applying a composite representation of various signs and iconographies from the Iberian Peninsula to Mexico, from Byzantine to Gondar, from Egypt to Mali, Pop to Expressionism, pop culture to pan-Africanism, high modernism to postmodernism. For example, many of Ouattara’s pieces include a selection of artifacts that combine visual culture images borrowed from social contexts as diverse as his traveling experiences. His work appears abstract at times, combining Africa’s cubism with realistic subject matter such as crosses, drums, Nike shoe prints and Ethiopian Ahmaric calligraphic writing. His medium frequently includes acrylics, wood, sand, posters, and record album covers mixed with art techniques such as printing, collage, and painting. An investigation of Ouattara’s work, so far, reveals artwork with colors that emerge out of earth painted hues ranging from oranges and browns to sky and watercolor blues and whites. His use of line is deliberate and controlled despite the abstracted, expressionistic quality of his work. Because of Ouattara’s use of collage and printing techniques, the texture in his works sometimes appears layered and profuse and his art pieces are generally large ranging in sizes up to 116 x 100”. Due to Ouattara’s close relationship with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, many critics are quick to write that Ouattara’s art has been influenced by Basquiat’s works. Both artists employ the use of iconographic signs and symbols. However, Basquiat was known for his graffiti influenced style of paintings. Ouattara’s work, on the other hand, appears more academic art in style. In an interview with Thomas McEvilley, Ouattara stated that: he likes the work of Marcel Duchamp and that his work relates to that of Jackson Pollock. It is difficult to look at Ouattars’s work and find any one artist that has directly influenced it. On the whole, Ouattara’s art seems more slanted by his own life experiences, upbringing, and education, rather than that of any one artist or a group of artists. In fact, one finds it hard to characterize his art. Typically, Ouattara’s work could be described as abstract narratives with iconographic symbols from traditional African sources and images from contemporary popular culture, leaning toward Ijinla art style There appears to be a mixed reaction to Ouattara’s art. However, the general consensus is that his work is widely accepted and will continue to be included in contemporary African art. For an exhibition at The Leo Koenig Gallery in New York that included six of his paintings, Walter Robinson (2002) states in the Artnet website magazine: Predominantly done in sunny orange and brown, with sand and dirt mixed into the paint, Ouattara’s pictures are dotted with gnomic symbols and shapes. His paintings are better than ever, especially with the heightened attention being paid to Africa as a site of contemporary art production. Conversely, in response to the 2002 Whitney Biennial, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in which Ouattara was invited to participate, Nate Chinen (http://www.citypaper.net/ articles/2002-04-04/art.shtml) expressed a general dissatisfaction with the show as a whole and comments: “The prevalent conviction of this show is that of a decidedly juvenile 327


MRC 160 Watts Ouattara. Tre Tancce of the Shaman, Mixed Media, Date and Size Unavailable), Ivory Coast. The Artist Collection

MRC 161 Watts Ouattara. Les Maitres Fous (The Crazy Masters, Mixed Media, 120 x 157”, 1994. The Artist Collection

MRC 162 Watts Ouattara. Dark Star, Mixed Media onTarpolin, 40 x 61.7”, 1992, Ivory Coast. The Artist Collection

strain.” In addition, Chinen articulates: “Ouattara’s assemblages convey thoughtless appropriation.” Chinen’s overall impression of artists’ exhibition in the Whitney Biennial, however, appears to be biased as he further states that the exhibition “favors entertainment value over cultural or intellectual worth.” Roberta Smith, writing for the New York Times on the web (2002) comments on Ouattara’s work in both the Whitney Biennial and at the Leo Koenig Gallery, explains that:

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Ouattara Watts, a native of the Ivory Coast based in New York, shares Mr. Gauthier’s flair for scavenging. His works can emphasize his African roots, as in his ponderous, Schnabelesque paintings in the Whitney Biennial, or international-style elegance, like the buoyant abstractions now at Leo Koenig in SoHo. Originally intended for “Documenta XI” this summer, the efforts at Koenig may be too cheerful for such a big arena. Their twisting propeller shapes, reminiscent of George Condo’s work, are in electric oranges balanced by earth tones, with occasional additions of textiles and scrawled words. Mr. Watts is definitely better when his touch is lighter and less forced. In a past exhibition catalog from the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, Associate curator Dana Self (1996) comments on Ouattara’s work: While elements of Western art-historical formalism partially describe Ouattara’s work-abstract expressionism, cubism, and the graffiti-like works of Jean-Michel Basquiat (who supported Ouattara’s work), the emblematic images and figures in his work become guideposts with which we negotiate the paintings multiple and potential meanings. Because Ouattara prefers that the viewer ‘free associate’ rather than ask him to define the paintings, our examination of the cultural contexts out of which Ouattara’s work emerges allows us to imagine how the plural experiences of the Diaspora, colonialism, and post-colonialism all converge in the paintings… Seemingly disjointed figures and objects mingle in Ouattara’s paintings, and fluidly mediate the dominant and subordinate positions inside and outside of perceived cultural or geographical boundaries. Regardless of what critics say, Ouattara’s work has by and large been able to withstand the test of time and will continue to play an important role in the development and understanding of contemporary African art by Africans and the African Diaspora. Ouattara’s own philosophical views resist the labeling of his works. Yet, close inspection of his art reveals a spiritual and physical connection to his early years in the Ivory Coast (MRC 160) and the knowledge of one who has traveled extensively and understands the commonness of the human condition (MRC 161). Of his own life and work Ouattara (1996) makes the following comments, published by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art website for a past exhibition catalogue of his work: My vision is not based on a country or a continent, it’s beyond geography or what you see on a map, it‘s much more than that. I hope people will understand that it’s more geography. Even though I localize it to make it understood better, it’s wider than that. It refers to the cosmos (MRC 162). Ouattara continues: Presently in Africa, people are connected to technology, but they also participate in sorcery, making fetishes. But they also watch television, listen to the radio. My life is very much the same way. I cannot say that I went to the spiritual school and limit myself to talking only about that experience. My experience good or bad also involves western style education, which cannot be ignored. I try to make a synthesis of both experiences. The French connection in Quattara’s work cannot be overlooked in framing his

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philosophical concept. Considering that Ouattara spent several years studying, living and working in France, and that the Ivory Coast was once a colony of France, one would have

MRC 163 Kwabena Ampofo-anti. Ankhuaba V, Mixed Media, Mainly Wood, 31.5 x 8�, 1980/81, Ghana. The Artist Collection

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to be assumed or proclaim that the impact of French culture on his life and work has played an important role in Ouattara’s development.

2.101 1958 Kwabena Ampofo-Anti, Ghana: Ampofo-Anti was born in Ghana. He graduated from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, and University of Ghana, Legon, with B.A. (Fine Arts) and M.A. (African Studies), respectively. After his first degree, he worked as an art instructor with Children’s Art Workshop at South Legon, for about five years. He later became a Research Assistant (Visual Arts) at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana in Legon. Here, his work included collecting and mounting of exhibits of art, photography and artifact. After teaching in Presbyterian Secondary School (a high school) in Accra, for two years, he went to the United States of America and became a visiting lecturer. Places he lectured include Merrit College, Oakland, California; San Francisco State University; and St. Patrick’s Foster Home, Oakland, California. In addition to being a visiting lecturer, he was an Art Instructor, Fullmore Fell Group Home, San Francisco, California (1976-77), and Teaching Assistant in ceramics at Montgomery College, Takoma Park, Maryland (1979-80). Finally, he became a visiting lecturer and a student at Howard University, Washington, D.C. (1980-82), where he earned the degree of Master of Fine Arts. As a professional artist Ampofo-Anti has held several exhibitions in U.S.A.: New York, Washington D.C., Maryland and California; Germany; Nigeria; and his home country Ghana. His one-man exhibitions include the ones held at: Ghana, April l974; Takoma Park, Maryland, September 1979; and Howard University, Washington D.C., February 1982. His two-man showings include: Two-Man Exhibition, Community Folk Art Gallery, Syracuse; and New York, in January 1980. Ampofo-Anti’s group expositions are several and they encompass: University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, June 1972; Akwapin Six Exhibition, Ghana, December 1973; Akwapin Six Exhibition, Ghana, April l974; Greater Accra Exhibition of Paintings, Ghana, August 1975; Contemporary Art of Ghana, Munich, Germany, May 1976; Charles L. Turner Gallery, San Francisco, California, January 1977; The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., Travel Exhibition on African Art, 1978-80; Ceramics Workshop, Mount Rainer Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., October, 1980; and, African Art: Past and Present, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1982. Ampofo-Anti’s commissioned works embrace: Interior Paintings of Mensah Sarabh Hall Loggia, University of Ghana, September l974; Interior Designs for Volta Hall Discotheque, University of Ghana, January 1975; Cover Design for Transitions/Chindaba (African Literary Magazine) March 1976; Brochure for Black Studies Department, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, January 1977; Calendar for World Health Organization, Accra, Ghana, January 1978; Ceramic Workshop, Mt. Reno Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., November, 1980; and Cover Design for Omowe Journal, Washington, D.C., March 1981. Ampofo-Anti is a talented artist and has worked with printmaking, painting and ceramic media. He claims not to have any favorite medium, but he tries to integrate two-and-three331


dimensional elements in his works, and tries to achieve stylistic Sankofa unity (MRC 163). He believes in the antiquity of the African culture and takes inspiration from his own word “Ankhuaba,” which is a symbol of life and beauty. He stated that, through his works, he endeavors to understand the wisdom of his ancestors. In the end, he advised that: All African artists, particularly the young, will need a broader understanding of African history, art, and culture. An in-depth knowledge of African culture helps create a strong artistic and spiritual

MRC 164 Bato Ndenga. Synthesis Bantu Number I, mirois, bois, 12 x 54”, 1995, Cameroon. The Artist Collection

base and contributes to a clearer visual statement…to represent the totality of the African in space and time (excerpt from Ampofo-Anti Folder: Artist’s Statement for the Exhibition African Art: Past and Present, The Oho State University, Columbus, Ohio 1982). Consequently, part of the most important responsibility of the African artist, he seems to say, is “to represent the entirety of the African in space and time (Ibid.).” The contemporary African artist is accordingly under a trust.

2.102 1958 Bato Ndenga, Cameroon: Bato Ndenga was born in Cameroon. He lives and works currently in St. Euenne, France. Throughout his life, Ndenga has had a very strong impact on present-day African Art. He is describable as contemporary and eclectic. Ndenga has the ability to integrate literature and painting in his early and current works. Thus, his works have developed as his life has continued. Some of Bato Ndenga’s works include large-scale portraits of his close friends and family. He would have them pose in his studio by a window. His reason for painting in this manner was to become more intimate with his subjects. Ndenga attempted to show the spirit of the people he painted in very personal ways. Considering he never endeavored to sentimentalize these people, his ability to depict humans with real feelings and emotions

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is remarkable. This type of art style allowed him to return to figuration that made him quite popular. For many years, before Ndenga painted large-scale portraits, his style of art was more abstract. His art would involve much of the written word, covering it with text such as poems, notes to friends, cryptic wording, and even different forms of mark making. As time went on, he distanced himself from abstract art by focusing on a more formal style of art. A text called “Pygmy” was given by Ndenga to refer to the emerging narrative of the artist’s own making. This text is readable in different ways, so it has the ability to interpret in different ways, also. The ideas combine personal and communal as well as materiality and transcendence. Ndenga’s technique of blending ideas allows us to understand why he would pose his subjects near a window, rather than any other area of his studio, where two environments intertwine: the outside and the inside worlds as always meet at the window. His paintings show how people react when confronted with both components, simultaneously. One interesting piece is Ndenga’s Synthese Bantu Number 1: Mirois, Bois (MRC 164), 12 x 54”, 1995. This artwork combines a triangle with many mirrors of different shapes, sizes, angles, and a Chistian Cross in the middle. When one looks objectively at this piece, one would understand Ndenga’s reason for using the elements the way he did, why he chose the placements and forms in this work. The initial idea of standing in front of an art piece and seeing different reflections of oneself would cause one to wonder. Subsequently, one would think of how each of the mirrors could represent different persons in different ways; and together they would simultaneously reflect multiple images of various people. This

MRC 165 Zaria Art Society, Some Members, 1958-1961. Nigeria. Front Left, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Simon Okeke, Uche Okeke, Back Right, Oseloka Osadebe, Dumas Nwoko and E. Okechukwu Odita. Courtesy of Uche Okeke

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thought compels one to think of why an artist would technically proceed in this manner. With further consideration, however, one would arrive at the conclusion that Ndenga is attempting to make a public statement concerning death and burial, accessing it partially through the Christian Cross motif and mainly through the notion of Egyptian pyramid. Consequently, this work can be by different audiences contemplated in different ways, at the same time. One thing is nonetheless consistent. The work, in its simplicity and freshness, subscribes entirely to the Sankofa art style of representation. Bato Ndenga continues to create and exhibit his works. The most recent large exhibition that Ndenga participated in was in 1995, in New York. In this exhibition, one could see the main themes of his works, the anguish and voluptuousness as well as the ecstasy of the figures represented, all depicted in Sankofa art style. His emphasis here is deep meaning in relation to traditional African folklore: tales and myths. Thus, his conceptual ideas are points of convergence rather than realistic ones. Bato Ndenga’s talents are obvious. His style and technique are distinct as well as unique; and his contributions to contemporary African art will continue as his career carries through.

2.103 1958 The Zaria Art Society, Nigeria: (Also known as The Zaria Eleven)

MRC 166 E. Okechukwu Odita. Forage Time, concrete, life size, 1962, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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The Zaria Art Society formally “The First Nigerian Art Society” started in the 1958-1959 academic year, at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (N.C.A.S.T), Zaria (renamed Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1962). The idea of an Art Society developed during the 1957-1958 academic year, when the oldest two of the original eleven members became students of the Department of Fine Arts, Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria. There was simply not enough kindred-spirits to establish an art society at that time. It was not until the succeeding academic year 1958-1959 that the “The First Nigerian Art Society” started in earnest with Simon Okeke and Uche Okeke serving as president and secretary respectively. It was later renamed The Zaria Art Society. On Sunday 8, 1959 Simon Okeke resigned as president and Uche Okeke became the president and W.A. Olasebikan the continuing secretary of The Zaria Art Society. At the end of June 1959, W.A. Olasebikan withdrew as a member of The Zaria Art Society. From September 1959 to June 1961, Uche Okeke and E. Okechukwu Odita served as president and executive secretary respectively. In June of 1961, when most of the original members graduated from Zaria, The Zaria Art Society almost became defunct. From September 1961 to June 1962, The Zaria Eleven, referring to the eleven original members, was a name retrospectively chosen by the continuing members of The Zaria Art Society: Ogbonna Nwagbara [late], E. Okechukwu Odita, I.M. Omagie/Omigie [late] and Oseloka Osadebe, who, except I.M Omagie/Omigie, graduated in June 1962. E. Okechukwu Odita and Ogbonna Nwagbara were the president and executive secretary, respectively, from September 1961 to June 1962, after which The Zaria Eleven became non-operational. One of the achievements of The Zaria Eleven that The Zaria Art Society was unable to accomplish, from September 1958 - June 1960, was in the area of members’ group art exhibition. The Zaria Eleven had two shows sponsored by the British Council: one in February 1962, at Zaria, and the other in May 1962, at Kaduna. Both exhibitions were well attended by the public and well received by the Nigerian local and national press. The Zaria Art Society original members (MRC 165), their specializations and their years of membership are as follows: F.I.N. Ekeada, Graphic Art (1958-1959); William Olasebikan [late], Painting (1958-59); Yusuf Grillo, Painting (1958-59 and 1960-61); Simon Okeke [late], Sculpture (1958-1960); Uche Okeke, Painting (1958-1961); Dumas Nwoko, Painting (19581961); Bruce Onobrakpeya, Painting (1958-1961); E. Okechukwu Odita, Painting (19581961); Oseloka Osadebe, Painting (1958-1961); Ogbonna Nwagbara [late], Graphic Art (1960-1961); and I.M. Omagie/Omigie [late], Graphic Art (1960-1961), the only female artist in the group. There were some basic problems in the Department of Fine Arts that members of The Zaria Art Society were more aware of. No courses were offered in the history of traditional African art or in contemporary African art, and courses in Nigeria cultural traditions were a pipe dream. Almost all members of the faculty of Department of Fine Arts were British, none of them knowledgeable in the preceding subject areas. The Fine Arts’ education of the late 1950’s was thus purely the teaching and making of art (MRC 166). Members 335


of The Zaria Art Society did however supplement the “missing knowledge” in weekly meetings. In their deliberations, they questioned the relevance of Fine Arts education in Nigeria without a matching exposure to Nigerian or African cultural history, particularly in a formal classroom setting. In an article for one of the society’s newsletter, Odita compared the situation in 1961 to that of “acquiring a motion-picture theater without a film projector facility.” The members were dubbed The Zaria Rebels, by Kojo Foso in his book, Twentieth Century Art of Africa (1986, 1996), for their demands for Nigerian or African art education in the curriculum (see also Dr. Chike Dike and Dr. Pat Oyelola’s publication, The Zaria Art Society: A New Consciousness (1998) for further studies on this society). Their dream was to preserve, in their works, the best of the Nigerian or African past. Once smitten by this African-centered urge of the sixties, members of The Zaria Art Society were forever changed. For a member like Odita, it actively set off his relentless quest for knowledge in the history of African art, much more than any members of The Zaria Art Society could at that time have imagined and in the process, he became a pioneer. In June of 1961, when many members of The Zaria Art Society had graduated, its remaining members of The Zaria Eleven continued to function until 1962. The dispersal of The Zaria Art Society original members all over Nigeria played an important role in raising awareness of contemporary art in Nigeria. They worked and are still enterprising lecturers, teachers, illustrators of newspapers and television artists, industrial designers, and art critics. These new art professionals live respectable, honored lives (Whitechapel, 1995.195196). The members of The Zaria Art Society were therefore, and are still, in the vanguard of the struggle for cultural independence. Without The Zaria Art Society and The Zaria Eleven, Nigeria could not have had the contemporary African background that it now possesses in art.

2.98 1958 Fine Arts School of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Ethiopia, as one of the largest nations in Africa, has a special charm. It has a brilliant history of art achievement unlike that found in many African nations, and it dates from more than fifteen centuries ago. The art is mainly associated with the nation’s Coptic Church, ever since its establishment in 330 A.D. Strongly controlled by white-turbaned Coptic Priests, some 200,000 of them in Ethiopia’s 22 million people, the art included illuminated manuscripts and murals such as the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon as well as Saint George and the Dragon. These murals are today translated over and over again into vignettes of Ethiopian folk art, where they appear in a sort of “comic strip,” in tiny succession and mainly done in a very precise rectangular format, as mass produced art. Thus, Ethiopia has a strong Coptic Church art tradition that would have been almost impossible for a distinct contemporary art to emerge without an art school such as the Fine Arts School in Addis Ababa. The Fine Arts School of Addis Ababa was in 1958 inaugurated. It offers a five-year program

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with specialization in painting, sculpture, graphic and commercial design, industrial design, lettering, history of art, and teacher training courses. History of world art is emphasized in the curriculum. Four years are devoted to painting, sculpture, and architecture of Europe and one year to non-European art. Skunder Boghossian [late] taught in the school before he eventually came to his last position at Howard University. Another important artist and teacher of painting in the School of Fine Arts was the late Gebre Kristos Desta who was one of the earliest exponents of abstract art in Ethiopia.

2.105 1960 Mbari Writers and Artists Club Ibadan, Nigeria: Mbari is an Igbo word meaning “creations.â€? The act of creating and, especially, the prolongation of the lineage among the Igbo people of Nigeria are in high esteem exceptional. It is therefore not surprising to find the Igbo building what is known as Mbari house for their deities. The Mbari house is frequently fashioned with larger than life size, sun-baked, clay statues that represent the deities and characters from legends, as well as animals and people engaged in their day-to-day tasks. Ala, the earth goddess, Amadioha, the god of thunder and other secondary deities, as well as Dibea, the traditional Igbo Doctor, are usually represented. The walls of Mbari Houses are decorated with abstract design motifs, symbolic of creation and meaningful to the people. Erecting the Mbari House is therefore a major undertaking that involves many members of the community over a long time. Calamitous occurrences such as famine, disease, and premature deaths are interpretable as signs of displeasure of the deities; and the people are summoned to build an Mbari House as a sacrifice to ensure the future well being of the community. With this background, it is therefore easy to understand why the first Artists and Writers Club in Ibadan should take the name Mbari that means creation58. It was highly desirable that the club that would bring together creative mind for artistic contributions gain establishment toward the development of the newly independent Nigeria. In a report on Mbari Writers and Artists Club Ibadan, Nigeria, Ezekiel Mphahlele writes: In March 1961, Mbari Writers and Artists Club, which was founded in Ibadan at the end of 1960, asked Congress (Congress for Cultural Freedom, Paris) to help it acquire premises, which could house an African library, a reading cum art exhibition room and an open-air theatre. Such a centre was intended to be a meeting place for people interested in writing and the arts, who could sit in a reading room and chat or use the reference library or watch a Play etc‌Part of an eating room, and Mbari centre opened with an art exhibition in July 1961 (Mphalele, 1962. 17). This was after Ulli Beier had seen the amazing result of the Summer School, pioneered in Lourenco Marques, in Mozambique, by Pancho Suedes and his South African friend Julian Beinart. He thereafter invited them to run the first Summer Art Workshop at Ibadan.

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Founding members included Chinua Achebe, J.P. Clark, Cyprian Ekwensi, S. Fagunwa, Gabriel Okara, late Christopher Okigbo, Wole Soyinka, and Mphahlele (originally from South Africa) attained the first President of the Mbari Club in 1961, coinciding with the virtual end of the Zaria Art Society at Zaria. In his book, Contemporary Art in Africa, 1968, Ulli Beier explained how Julian Beinart assisted by Dennis Williams organized another workshop in Ibadan in 1962. The purpose was “to shock people out of their conventional attitudes, to make them understand the mechanics of painting and to teach them to see form dissociated from Literary content and worn out imagery” (Beier, 1968.46). Beier claimed that Julian achieved his aim in a number of ways by making the students work in unconventional media and treating art with healthy respect. The fact that Julian achieved fascinating results is not what is important here. What is essential is that the Mbari Club of Ibadan created a favorable atmosphere and working condition. Moreover, in conjunction with the University of Ibadan, not only were students drawn into it as artists and writers but, also, several talented Ibadan University English graduate students were active members. They were in a few years able to evolve a dynamic African literature by using the Mbari Club as their leap board. For several years, Mbari Writers and Artists Club had a vital impact on Nigerian intellectual life. It also provided a social rallying point for many active, creative Nigerians. The Club sponsored music and dance recitals as well as plays by leading Nigerian writers. The following Nigerian painters exhibited at Mbari Ibadan: Demas Nwoko and Uche Okeke; other Africans include Ibrahim Salahi (Sudan), Malangatana Ngwenya (Mozambique); the late Skunder Boghossian (an Ethiopian living in Paris); and the African-American, Jacob Lawrence. The first two were responsible for decorating the Mbari-Ibadan Club center. A number of other art exhibitions were later held. They included exhibitions of sculpture, in August of 1962, by the late Ghanaian sculptor, Vincent Kofi. The club’s policy was to exhibit the work of young, relatively unknown Nigerian artists and to bring the work of other African and European artists to Nigeria. Apart from exhibiting works of art, Mbari Publications was another venture in Mbari’s program intended to make its presence felt beyond the borders of Nigeria. The publishing enterprise was meant to stimulate writing in Africa which need not try to meet some of the unreasonable commercial demands of big publishing houses overseas, but was at the same time be just as good. Its publications include the African Songs by Leon Demas (translation from the French); Sons of a Goat (verse play) by J.P. Clark; A Walk in the Night (novelette) by Alex La Guma; as well as two volumes of Poems, one by J.P. Clark and the other by Christopher Okigbo. In theatre, Wole Soyinka’s 1960 Masks group performed two plays on a double bill in 1962. These were his Brother Jero and John Pepper Clark’s Song of a Goat. The Mbari Writers’ and Artists’ Club was heavily subsidized by the Congress For Cultural Freedom (a quarterly grant of £500) and later by the Farfield Foundation of New York.

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In 1962, the Merrill Foundation of New York made a grant of $10,000 to the Club. The Nigerian Government through the University of Ibadan made a substantial contribution to the Club. The Mbari Club is located in Ibadan, in the supermarket quarter of the largest African city, South of the Sahara, and a conglomeration of the rich Yoruba culture. It is surrounded by street traders and record shops, the throng of people being overwhelming. Thus the Mbari represents the physical presence of cultural freedom in Africa. It also shows how necessary it is, while Mbari is a projection of a dream and a definite vision, to approach African culture without subordination. This means that a well-conceived cultural center will emerge as an expression of needs of any particular community. It will also become the focal point of its creative and intellectual urges, and an exhibit of the fulfillment of such urges, as emphatic as in the original Mbari Houses of the Igbo people of Nigeria.

2.106 1960 Freetown Teacher Training College, Sierra Leone: In mid-twentieth century, the only Teacher’s College in Freetown with emphasis on art was the Freetown Training College for Teachers (F.T.C.T.). Originally, it was at Tower Hill in Freetown situated; but in June of 1963, it was relocate to its permanent site at Goderich, eighteen miles away from Freetown. The college was in early 1960 started. It trained students for the Teachers’ Advanced Certificate, the highest teaching certificate for non-degreed teachers given in Sierra Leone at the time. In addition, the college was responsible for the Teacher’s Certificate that was lower than the T.A.C. It trained specialists in various branches of learning such as Domestic Science, Music, and Art and Crafts, the latter department being headed by P.M. Karemo. The training for any specialist course was three years. The graduates received a specialist qualification equivalent to the Teacher’s Advanced Certificate. Regarding the Art and Craft area, the syllabus covered all aspects of art. As always, technique was so critically emphasized that qualifying students could in turn cope with teaching the subject in elementary and secondary schools. The history and the appreciation of art were unimportant; but local crafts, sculpture, ceramics, and pictorial art of painting were subjects of high priority. Thus, Sierra Leone was in the early 1960s somewhat lagging behind other West African nations in the training of artists and in the development of art. Eight students, in the 1960s who became well-known to have passed through this college with specialization in art are: John H. Vand; Arthur Kappia; Roland Serry; Max Gabel; Sagbandi; Songo; Cobeen; and Sulaimani.

2.107 1961 The Ghana Society of Artists, Ghana: Until the end of 1960, Ghana had no art galleries and exhibition opportunities were limited. Thus, it became the responsibility of The Ghana Institute of Art and Culture to arrange for art display schemes in hotels, libraries and other public buildings. It fostered, encouraged

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and promoted traditional art in particular and all art in general on a nationwide basis and encouraged studio clubs and artist associations such as The Ghana Society of Artists. This society is a voluntary organization that is associated with the Institute and partially subsidized by it. The society started in 1961. The following artists have exhibited at least once with The Ghana Society of Artists: Seth Galevo (member), L.O. Obuobisa, Grace Salome Kwami, M.K. Vodzogbe and Debra Wiafe Kwame.

2.108 1961 The University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nigeria: The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, located in then Eastern Nigeria, was the first academic institution to begin with a self-granting degree program in Nigeria. It adapted the official plan of United States land grant colleges, specifically Michigan State University. Although the United States A.I.D. has given some assistance to the Continuing Education Center at Nsukka, the Nigerian government is responsible for most of the university’s financial support. The University of Nigeria’s Art School, at the time named Ben Enwonwu College of Fine Arts, opened in 1961 with four students. The following academic year (1962-63), the school

MRC 167 Jimoh Buraimoh. Alafin & Chiefs 9/40, linocut, 22 x 18’, 1968, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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MRC 168 Jimoh Buriamoh. Protection, bead in oil color over plywood, size unknown, 1980, Nigeria

increased its enrollment of students to more than forty. Course of study involved two years of drawing, painting and design, and two years of specialization in painting, sculpture and design. The curriculum also included courses offered in foreign languages, literature, social and natural sciences, and the humanities for the first two years while art history: traditional and contemporary African art, aesthetics and art education were covered in the final year. In addition to art, other academic areas of specialization were at the time started at Nsukka. The available courses were in agriculture, natural science, engineering and education. In all, thirty colleges and departments attempted to meet the needs of the common man rather than those of the elite. As Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who developed the experiment, pledged “To Restore the Dignity of Man� with the establishment of a widespread University of Nigeria. He was strongly motivated by the reality that the British manner of education had not achieved that objective. Hence, for the first time in Nigeria, vocational training emphasized professionalism, regardless of the type of work involved. Important faculty members of the Ben Enwonwu School of Fine Arts include the late Akinola Lasekan (1915-1972), a painter, textile designer, cartoonist and book illustrator who was the acting Head of Department in 1961; P.D. Abaye, a sculptor; E. Okechukwu

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Odita, a painter; Oseloka O. Osadebe, a painter; and Robert J. Pfister, an American who succeeded Lasekan as the Head of Department in 1962. Graduates of the School of Fine Arts, Nsukka, are numerous, including Anthony Morah, a graphic designer, who received a Ph.D. in Art Education in 1979 at the University of Iowa; Babatunde Lawal, a graphic artist who holds a Ph.D., in the History of African Art from Indiana University and was the former Dean of the College of Arts, University of Ife; O. Azuna, a textile designer and lecturer at the College of Technology, Enugu; O. Udechukwu, a painter and a lecturer, at Nsukka Art Department; and B. Nwabiani, a painter and lecturer at College of Technology, Enugu.

2.109 1962 Mbari Writers and Artists Club Oshogbo, Nigeria: Due to the success in the activities of Mbari Club at Ibadan, Duro Ladipo, a Yoruba composer and actor, organized and started the Mbari Writers Club at Oshogbo. According to Ulli Beier, What is important here is that its existence (Mbari Club Ibadan) prompted Duro Ladipo, A Yoruba composer, to start a similar club in Oshogbo. Ladipo was a primary school teacher with a great talent for music. For years, he had been composing little songs and hymns for the church. In 1961, a longer, more ambitious choral work, which he called an ‘Easter Cantata” was performed with success in the Anglican All Saints Church of Oshogbo, but subsequently a long controversy ensued because some of the church elders objected to Ladipo’s use of drums (Beier, 1968.101-102). The establishment of the Mbari Club at Oshogbo in 1962 attracted many of the local population who inspiringly called it “Mbari Mbayo” meaning “when I see it I will be happy.” It specialized in African folk arts than the other Nigerian Mbari Club centers. Duro Ladipo put at the disposal of the club, his father’s compound, and the club members converted an old bar into an art gallery and built a simple stage in the backyard. With only about four hundred dollars spent, the stage was set for Duro Ladipo’s play. Two of Ladipo’s plays were later well received in Europe and America. A summer workshop was in 1963 started to which Denis Williams, a painter was as a teacher invited. The students were jobless school dropouts who were very eager to learn. The first discoveries of artists at Oshogbo were Jacob Afolabi, a painter and printmaker, and Rufus Ogundele who were both actors with Duro Ladipo. Later, other artists like Twin Seven Seven, Afolabi Ogundele, Muraiana Oyelami, Adebisi Fabumi and Jimo Buraimoh were unearthed. Jimo Buraimoh, a painter and mosaicist who has also been serving as electrician for the Mbari Oshogbo theater company, is said to be the most recent Oshogbo artist to come to prominence (MRC 167). He commenced his artistic activities in 1964 with Ulli and Georgina Beier, but it was not until after they left Nigeria that he started to have commissions. The first of the commissions was a mosaic for India Loom House, Lagos in 1967, followed in 1968 by mosaics for the Ikoyi Hotel in Lagos and the conference Hall, University of Ibadan. 342


Jimo Buriamoh is perhaps more known among the Oshogbo artists (MRC 168) due to these commissions. Still, there are other artists of note. Asiru Olatunde is a documenter of Yoruba religious and genre activities who has undertaken to work with Christian themes for church doors at Oshogbo and Ilesha. His sculpture in metal can be found in many commercial Banks in Oyo, now, Ondo and Kwara States of Nigeria. Adebisi Akanji’s cement sculpture that is a screen for the Esso service station at Oshogbo is another example of the artist’s work prevalent in that part of Nigeria. Through the sales of these and various other artists’ works, Mbari Oshogbo is widely known. Mbari Writers and Artists Club of Oshogbo did not train many writers as Mbari of Ibadan did. Still, it brought together a group of dynamic young artists who have left a strong ‘foot print’ in the history of contemporary African art. Today, contemporary African artists’ record of what the people of Africa have achieved under “modern” conditions is an expression of a relationship with the world. This is of vital importance because many African artists have the strong urge to give shape to ideas, forces and values which otherwise would be formless. With the attainment of political independence by the various Africa countries, the rebirth of earlier customs is assisting the continent in unfolding a richer freedom and selfreliance. Creative concepts of the Igbo Mbari Houses are typical old customs that seems contradictory during the colonial era.

2.110 1962 Cameroon Cultural Association, Cameroon: In September 1962, Cameroon Cultural Association started. Its general aim was to promote cultural activities in Cameroon. Thus, to bring integrity, vision and education into the lives of the masses, the association grew from the basic needs of the nation. Through its audio-visual materials, paintings, sculpted works were exhibited; instructional classes, study trips and libraries were also set up. Since its beginnings, the Association has provided facilities for contemporary Cameroonians to learn about art while living closer to the village environment and traditions of its own people. The Cameroon Cultural Association succeeded through its many programs in attracting large groups of people to give its new ideas strong local roots, while bringing the old and new together.

2.111 1962 Cameroon Cultural Society, Cameroon: Cameroon Cultural Society started, just like the Cameroon Cultural Association, in the month of September 1962. But unlike the Cameroon Cultural Association, its program was designed to project Cameroon’s culture outside its frontiers by organizing the participation of the country in the different cultural manifestations of the African Diaspora. Inversely, it was to make Cameroon more sensitive to the different shades of thought in the African world. The Cameroon Cultural society was a branch organization of the International Society of 343


African Culture that had its headquarters in Paris in 1966. While the International Society of African Culture emphasized the feeling of belonging to Africa, the Cameroon Cultural Society stressed pride for those who did creative contemporary work and who were aware of the accomplishments in the arts of their forebears.

2.112 1962 Federal University of Cameroon Yaounde, Cameroon: In the capital of Cameroon, Yaounde, the Federal University of Cameroon (or Universite´ Fe´derale du Cameroon) started in 1962. Since Cameroon’s independence, there appeared to have been a campaign to incorporate art into the educational system. Regional schools in East Cameroon, for example, had indeed offered classes in weaving in raffia technique and bookbinding since 1945. Conversely, the West Cameroon schools pursued the integration of cultural matters into the school program and thereby served as a model for all Cameroon schools. Shortly before 1962, efforts were already alive in the city to bring the public into contact with the cultural arts. In Yaounde, there was the French Cultural Center, where exhibits and classes in painting were held and the works of Cameroon artist like Abossola, as well as African crafts had been presented. Because of the activities of several other cultural organizations in Cameroon, national culture seemed to have already penetrated masses of people. They responded heartily to the various efforts made to reach them and willingly retained the hope that any creative program in Cameroon will receive public support. By the end of 1963, the University of Cameroon had 518 students. Records beyond 1963 are unavailable to this writer at the publication of this book. Efforts will be made in the future to update current information.

2.113 1962 The 1st International Congress of African Culture Salisbury, Zimbabwe: In the summer of 1962, the First International Congress of African Culture took place at the Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia). It was sponsored by the Society of African Culture (Societe Africaine de Culture-SAC) and represented the first Festival of Arts in Africa. It later pointed the way to the First World Festival of Negro Arts that took place in Dakar, Senegal, in April of 1966. The First International Congress of African Culture emphasized African and Neo-African art and music and their influence on twentieth century culture. During the Festival, works of art from three continents and twenty-four countries, representing traditional as well as contemporary African art, were included in the showing. Discussions and seminars, led by museum, gallery, and art school officials were held. All the activities were on the Festival main theme centered. The reports of the success and value of the Festival were unfavorable. Although experts in the arts from several foreign countries, including the U.S., participated, Africans were 344


MRC 169 Khalid Kodi. Shield of Genies, acrylic on paper, 38 x 45�, 1994, Sudan. The Artist Collection

in poor attendance. Contemporary African artists who attended were dissatisfied with the discussions held during the Festival; they felt that the discussions were more directed by ethnological matters rather than by current affairs. Although the participants considered the exhibits to be of the highest quality, nevertheless, the African artists felt that it was a complete failure to bring contemporary African artists into rapport with their ancestral arts. Thus, the efforts of the Rhodes National Gallery and the society of African culture were unacceptable. From the comments made by the artists regarding the Festival, it appears that they were not included in its planning stages. Moreover, the Festival seems to have been run and dominated by Western Europeans, or rather by the Western philosophy of how African artist should investigate the art of their own heritage. Perhaps, if ideas were solicited and active participation of contemporary African artists sought after by the planning committee, the Festival may have been more beneficial to the contemporary African artists. Although the effort of the First International Congress of African Culture had ended in failure, at least, lessons had been learnt which were to be of immense assistance in later Festivals of African Arts and Culture.

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2.114 1962 Khalid Kodi, Sudan: Kodi was born in Jazira, Sudan. He grew up in the city of Wad Madani, where he showed much interest in music and the visual arts. With support from both his teachers and family, he studied art at the Khartoum Polytechnic College of Fine and Applied Arts where he received B.F.A. in 1987. In 1993, he earned M.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston. Not only is he an accomplished painter, he is also a sculptor, illustrator, and graphic designer. He has held teaching positions at the National Council for Arts and Letters in Khartoum, the Massachusetts College of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Community Art Center in Boston, the Museum of the National Center of African American Artists in Boston, and the Art Institute in Boston. Kodi is considered an Ijinla artist. His style, abstract expressionist, is a balance of Sudanese heritage and western modernist conventions. For instance, his ASRAR exhibition deals with not only the genital surgeries that took place in Sudan, but also with the 40 year Civil War that had taken place also in Sudan. Many of his works are political statements, greatly influenced by conditions in his country. Although, according to Kodi, his influences had come from whatever he sees and observes. Kodi has had many exhibitions, both group and solo. From his biographical sketch, he had 11 solo showings. Some of these shows have taken place in Gazira University in Sudan; Tehraga Hall in Egypt; Medani Estudio in Madrid; and Renaissance Art and Design Gallery in Boston. His solo exhibitions displayed a variety of recent works, as well as special theme series. For example, a solo show in Boston in 1992 was titled The Nubian Legacy in Contemporary Art, and another solo exhibition in Boston in 1996 was called 1001 Nights. His 19 group shows took place in cities like Adu Dhabi; U.A.E., Bombay; Boston; Madrid; Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Burlington, Vermont. In addition to those shows, Kodi’s works are in both private and public collections: Abu Dhabi; Khartoum; Alexandria (Egypt); Boston; and Burlington, to mention a few. Critics are praiseworthy of Kodi’s art works for his mixture of political issues and dream-like expression (MRC 169). Enchanting! Narrative Flow! Considerable Talent! Strong Emotional Statement! These are some of the laudable remarks from Kodi’s critics. There was an instance though when Kodi’s works were not well received. In 2000, at a show at Vassar College, Kodi displayed pieces depicting starving children in Sudan. Many members of the viewing audience were angry and felt that the works were inappropriate for the setting. In spite of this reaction to his work, Kodi would like to see more politics in art. He would feel that art is a good medium to express one’s opinion, to convey to the world the different situations in different parts of the world (ref. resources from Kodi’s Folder: unpaged and undated document for the Exhibition Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, at The Ohio State University in 1997 — ref. web site: accad.osu.edu/~eodita/ aeafrart/archive/1997-2/index).

2.115 1962 Rudzani Nemasetoni, South Africa: 346


Rudzani Nemasetoni was born on April 20, 1962, in Soweto. The 1976 Soweto student uprising ended his formal education at the age of fourteen, leading him to study painting and drawing under Bill Ainslie at the Johannesburg Art Foundation, South Africa, from 1983-1985. A scholarship brought him to New York in 1991 where he obtained the degree, Bachelors of Fine Arts. Later, studying at Hunter College, New York, for four year, he achieved the Masters in Fine Arts degree in Painting. Rudzani Nemasetoni has an interesting outlook towards art. He states: My work addressed the paradoxical, social and political conditions that reflect my experience

MRC 170 Rudzani Nemasetoni. Apartheid Scrolls, etching/aquatint, 16 x 14�, 1995, South Africa. The Artist Collection

growing up in South Africa under apartheid. My main theme deals with the contradictory use of aesthetics, as was used by the oppressive bureaucratic apparatus of the apartheid government. It also deals with the contradictions of the pass laws and the passport system of the country (excerpt from Nemasetoni’s Folder: unpaged and undated document for the Exhibition Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, at The Ohio State University in 1997-www.accad. osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/1997-2/index).

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This is an expression of his philosophy of art. From the years 1985-1995, he was involved in seven group exhibitions. He also has collections of art in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.; the studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Robert Blackburn Printing Workshop, also in New York. He has also received many awards for his art such as the Pollock Krasmer Foundation grant, the studio Museum in Harlem; Artist in Residence Fellowship; and the African Arts Fund Fellowship. His first art piece, in 1985, was in a group exhibition of “Fifteen Distinguished Artists” in Johannesburg, South Africa. And the most recent showing of one of his works was in 1995, at the Wright Gallery in New York, the title of which is Corn Landscapes: Urban Testaments. Nemasetoni’s art can be described as an ongoing experience. It did not come easy for him because he had to deal with many apartheid policies, mostly because of the color of his skin. The Apartheid system, similar to United States’ Jim Crow laws, did not allow blacks and whites to use the same facilities and issued the use of identification papers or passbook. The passbook disabled the blacks the freedom to move freely throughout South Africa. Still, he did not passionately react against everybody of the opposite color. In fact, one of his friends who also came from South Africa was Sholto Ainslie, a white South African. Both of them relocated to America around the same time and actually lived together for a short time. This shows the character of Nemasetoni. He did not hold grudges. Shoto Ainslie realized this, too, and stated: […] because with many blacks [ in South Africa] there’s always been an underlying tension, even if you’re friends. But, I feel he [Nemasetoni] accepts me and understands me (Ibid.). It is apparent that unpleasant things have happened to Nemasetoni, but he has overcome them to produce engaging works of art. His main art preference is photo etching. A series of small etchings that he produced and shown in the Studio Museum in Harlem, in New York, contains a moving etching of him and his father. Nemasetoni’s photo-etched prints interpret the way in which artistic and aesthetic values interpenetrate the system of passbook in South Africa. By displaying the passbook with artistic and aesthetic intent, the document falls under scrutiny: A person can read several articles on Apartheid and never really understand its effects, but a visual example usually sparks empathy (excerpt from Nemasetoni’s Folder: unpaged and undated document for the Exhibition Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, at The Ohio State University in 1997–www.accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/19972/index) While Apartheid has officially ended, South African people still struggle with its legacy in their quest for democracy. Nemasetoni’s photo-etched prints of the passbook, however, have ties with the photo-documentary tradition in the sense that the prints of the passbook pages bear witness to a historical phenomenon, they record a fact and provide the audience with evidence of social oppression.

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Nemasetoni’s The Apartheid Scrolls represent pages from a well-worn 30-year old passbook of his father, pages 32-33, are here shown (MRC 170). It is completed in etching/ aquatint, 16 x 14”, in 1995. The pages bear a striking resemblance to ancient parchment or scrolls of fragments. Thus, they are invaluable documents for education on past societies, the way they lived and governed. The fragileness of the photo-etched Apartheid Scrolls commands the viewer’s attention. Once the viewer is drawn in, he/she may possibly contemplate the true meaning of the scrolls: the repressive system of Apartheid and the artist’s attempt to capture his father’s feelings that were restrained before the Apartheid government ended in South Africa, 15 years ago, considering its production in 1995. One of the most interesting questions that The Apartheid Scrolls poses is: what is the factual connection between government and art? Must art follow absolute rule, justify it or impose it? So long as creative artists continue to produce thoughtful works to assist the audience to understand what has happened in the past, then the audience will learn how to stop the ugly past from repeating itself. Rudzani Nemasetoni is one such creative artist. He turned an oppressive object, passbook, into an artistic and aesthetic masterpiece. His ability to transform oppression, hatred, and ignorance into an expression of freedom, understanding, and knowledge is a hallmark of a true artist. Thus, his piece, The Apartheid Scrolls, is a photo etching seemingly selfcontradictory but in reality expressing a possible truth.

2.116 1963 Chemchemi Center Nairobi, Kenya: The Chemchemi Center of Nairobi, Kenya, started in late 1963 through the efforts of Ezekiel Mphahlele. He did this with the financial and moral support of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, in Paris. The Congress allotted a basic initial sum to get cultural centers started, following subsequent yearly grants, until they were self-supporting or directly financed by other sources. What gave birth to Chemichemi? Three centers called Mbari Writers and Artists Club were opened in Ibadan and Oshogbo (Western Nigeria) and Enugu (Eastern Nigeria), respectively. The centers started through the activities of African writers and artists. The writers and artists include Chinua Achebe, a novelist; John Pepper Clark, a poet and playwright; Cyprian Ekwensi, a novelist; John Ekwere, a playwright; S. Fagunwa, a novelist; Gabriel Okara, a poet; late Christopher Okigbo, a poet; and Wole Soyinka, a playwright, to mention only a few names. These writers were famous at the time. Included among them were four artists: Demas Nwoko, Uche Okeke, E. Okechukwu Odita and Oseloka Osadebe. These writers and artists had already met each other through their Mbari Club deliberations as well as their contributions in Black Orpheus, a Journal of African and Afro-American literature, published in Ibadan. These centers were engaged in promoting art, music, writing, and exchange of ideas through an intellectual dialogue. Such activities gave the centers nourishment. As stated in its brochure: Chemchemi has now come into our midst as a sister to the Mbari centers and will be 349


MRC 171 E.Okechukwu Odita. Odita by his Concrete Sculpture, Offering to Ala Goddess. Behind him is Oseloka Osadebe’s Mural Painting, Mbari Courtyard, No1 Ogwui Road, 1963, Enugu, Nigeria (Sculpture Looted During The Nigerian Civil War),psd

MRC 172 Barrister F. O. Iheanocho, Chairman of Eastern Nigeria Public Commission, viewing Odita’s Solo Exhibition at the Mbari Writers and Artists Club, No 1, Ogwui Road Enugu, 1963

inspired by the same aims as the Nigerians have set for themselves. The methods of achieving them will be guided by local national conditions…In answering the question whether there is a national culture in Kenya, Chemchemi hopes, with…fullest participation and advice, to search for the broken threads of traditional idioms of culture. It will try to look for the points of harmony between (ethnic)…modes or reconcile them; to help the writer, the artist, the musician and the intellectual outside the arts, to negotiate the tricky bend which marks the meeting point between their basic Africanness and outside cultures so that they should know what to do with the various impacts of the Present; to help them contain the shock that they experience in confrontation with other cultures that have different sets of values from theirs. Chemchemi wants also to remind itself that a tradition that stays put like a monument to a past and cannot be shifted and made to bear on present day problems remain mere history. In short, Chemchemi will try to create a climate in which one can become an integrated personality. Is this indeed not the ultimate end of the arts (Chemchemi, 1963.12)? So, Chemchemi Center was established to fulfill the expressive needs of Kenya society, and it was to be directed by the Kenyan people themselves. There were seminars and social gatherings with the intent of arousing Nairobi’s cultural life. From Chemchemi Center, therefore, contemporary artists were equipped with the opportunity to spread a light for art to Uganda, Tanzania and other East African communities.

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MRC 173 E. Okechukwu and F. Chinyere Odita Send-off to US by the Enugu Mbari Writers and Artists Club and friends. Photo 1963, No1 Ogwui Road, Enugu

MRC 174 E. Okechukwu and F. Chinyere Odita Receiving Send-off Gift, Mbari, Enugu 1963, Nigeria

MRC 175 E. Okechukwu Odita. Ironsmiths At Work, mural painting, oil color on drywalll, 1963, Nigeria

2.117 1963 The Mbari Writers and Artists Club Enugu, Nigeria: 351


Following the successes attained at Mbari centers of Ibadan (1960) and Oshogbo (1962), it seemed natural to start another Mbari Club at Enugu in 1963. It was an irony that the Igbo people from whose ancient culture the concept of Mbari Club was derived, appeared to have been forgotten in the early 1960s; nonetheless, it was delightful to know that those who took part in the Mbari Club’s exhibitions and mural paintings at Ibadan were of Igbo origins: Demas Nwoko and Uche Okeke, members of the Zaria Art Society. Thus the apparent need to start the Mbari Writers and Artists Club at Enugu, the capital of then Eastern Nigeria and the northern homeland of the Igbo people, intensified because of a teeming population of about nine million people with so many artists in this municipality. The Mbari Club of Enugu, under the charismatic poet John Ekwere’s direction, began by coordinating the existing activities in Enugu: music, theatre, discussion group, and art exhibitions, similar to practices at the Ibadan Mbari Club. Having secured Club premises in 1963, two young Igbo artists were again chosen to decorate the walls with murals and sculptures in the usual characteristic fashion of Igbo Mbari Houses (MRC 171). The two were E. Okechukwu Odita and Osaloka Osadebe, also members of the Zaria Art Society, who had graduated from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria, in 1962 and were on the faculty of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. They were also the first two artists to have a group exhibition at the Enugu Mbari center. Following the one-man showing by Odita59(MRC 172), shortly after the opening in 1963 and subsequent to his departure from Nigeria to US for further studies (MRC 173174), several other artists were encouraged not only to produce works but also to exhibit their creations as well. With the Art Department of University of Nigeria providing a group of talented artists, many citizens from the city of Enugu soon found Enugu Mbari Club center a place for creative endeavor as well as a location for relaxation. One cannot help but to be in love with the vivid colors of the murals and abstract designs of the Mbari Club symbolic of the culture of that part of Nigeria (MRC 175). Publications to promote the activities of the Mbari Club started. To attempt to evaluate the achievements of the Mbari Writers and Artists Club at Enugu, one ought to have a complete activity list of several writers, actors and actresses, including painters. These artists drew inspirations from the lovely atmosphere available at the Enugu Coal City of Nigeria. So strong had feelings run in the field of drama that members of Enugu Mbari Club went beyond the Coal City and Nigeria itself, seeking every opportunity to project the Mbari spirit. In mid-sixties, the August Commonwealth Festival in Scotland was the scene for a performance by members of Enugu Mbari Club, after word went out that they had been selected to represent the then Eastern Nigeria. In preparation for this festival, Inyang Ema and Uche Okeke combined their creative efforts to design the background scene of the Play using traditional and state symbols. Actors and actresses banded their efforts together and cut themselves free from any individual inclinations. The result was compelling. The group headed by John Ekwere confounded the international audience when it captured the best award of the festival in drama for Nigeria. Thus, the Mbari Writers and Artists Club, 352


Enugu, may be compared to: [‌a] mango tree: too slow in growth to compete with ephemeral fashions of the art world, but with roots too deep in the soil to be uprooted by any shallow wind of civilization. Its roots sink deep into the earth to reach out for the sop that is our heritage from God; its stem powerful and round, like true communal life, in unity and harmony. Its branches open up into a generosity of leaves, flowers and colorful fruits to feed the world and inspire humanity with spiritual health, joy, love, peace and humility in eternal wonder (Njau, 1964). As the Mbari Writers and Artists Clubs’ centers sprang up in Enugu (Eastern part of Nigeria) Oshogbo and Ibadan (Western region of Nigeria), there was a vital link-up of their activities. This was achieved by way of cultural exchanges in art exhibitions, literary, theatre and music productions. For example, art exhibitions that were worth circulating, from

MRC 176 Uche Okeke, Munich Girl, crayon on paper, 1962. The Artist Collection

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Ibadan to Enugu, and vice versa, were available to the Enugu public. By this means, critics both in the east and the west of Nigeria were able to have a panoramic view of the works of Nigerian and other contemporary African artists. Besides formal education, the Mbari Writers and Artists Clubs of Nigeria guided many writers and artists to “new freedom’ of ‘self reliance.’ The fact that the high standard set by the Mbari Clubs had to be continually protracted was enough to challenge established African writers and artists to put out their best. Perhaps, it is believed among Nigerian experts that the Mbari Writers and Artists Clubs have achieved their objective. Still, while the ovation for the excellent work they were doing was loudest, they could naively “quit the stage,” because of complaisance. Accordingly, one would expect the activities of these Clubs (Enugu, Ibadan and Oshogbo) to rather forcefully continue, requiring constant publicity to make their endeavors a lively focus in the middle of their African audience.

2.118 1963 Mbari Muchen, Germany: (Became Orpheus Africanus in 1964) The German African Society, Dentsche Afrika Gesellschaft, was a government organization started in 1960 to meet these purpose: to present African culture to Germany; to assist Africa achieve cultural self-awareness; and to “meet opposite members” by coming to know creative personalities from Africa or Germany. The program worked slowly to create permeating influence and to open minds before taking any giant leaps. The society planned several ventures that included theatre, music, dance and art exhibitions. Another venture of the Society was however to arrange to have artists from Africa go to Germany, to work in media which they could continue to work in at home. One of the African artists to participate in the programs, and later was the founder of the Mbari Club in Germany, was Christopher Uche Okeke. Okeke spent a year in Germany 1961-1962, learning to make mosaics. He was on scholarship from Nigeria and he carried with him the memories of Ibadan Mbari Club from back home. In 1963, the Mbari Muchen was launched in Munich, Germany, with Uche Okeke60 as the founder and adviser, and Dr. George R. Liersch as the leader of the Club. By the end of 1964, Dr. Liersch had problems with Mbari Muchen. First, the name was a bit difficult for the Germans to pronounce or remember. Second, his South African friends advised him to change the name to something else, because Verwoerd, South African President, was determined to ban all Mbari publications in South Africa. They reasoned that since reaching African artists anywhere was one of the objectives of Mbari Muchen, the change of name would imply that African artists in South Africa would no longer be isolated from the rest of the world, especially in their creative and intellectual urges. Thus, in late autumn of 1964, the name Mbari Muchen became Orpheus Africanus. Its guidelines of operation expanded as it became more stable. Liersch described it as an independent artist club aimed at acquainting German-speaking Europe with the contemporary arts of the Afro-

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American. Thus, there was the exhibition of works produced by Americans of African origin in Germany and Denmark concurrently with those of artists from continental Africa. Two of the African artists who exhibited were Ibrahim El Salahi of Sudan and Skunder Boghossian of Ethiopia. The aim of the Club was to expose the German public to the Africans’ productions that have been done since 1960 (the watershed of independence for many African countries). It also sponsored exhibitions and seminars on contemporary African Art, the standard being quality art. According to Dr. Liersh: False regionalism and exoticism and things painted with an eye on quick sale are not acceptable by us. We stand for that which will give a fine screening all the artists (Orpheus Africanus, Maiden Issue, 1964). Thus when Mbari Muchen became Orpheus Africanus, not only were Germans exposed to creativity of African and Afro-American artists, but the African artists had an opportunity of studying abroad (MRC 176), thereby advancing their reputation and skills as artists.

2.119 1963 Workshop School of Rhodes National Gallery, Salisbury Zimbabwe: In 1963, the National Gallery of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, developed a non-racial Workshop School with Frank McEwen as the gallery director. The motivating force behind the creation of this workshop came from paintings done by Thomas Mukarobgwa, the untrained museum guard. McEwen encouraged Mukarobgwa and other interested Africans to paint more. For a while, creativity was sustained and intense, and the number of Mukarobgwa’s artist friends gradually increased: all came regularly to the Gallery Workshop that was initially in the museum storerooms. Other artists who could not come to the gallery worked at home, but brought their works for McEwen’s criticism and encouragement. There was no formal instruction in the Workshop School for McEwen claimed that his role was limited to supplying materials, space, encouragement and occasional criticism. He felt that African artists should remain free from the “corrupting influence of Western art schools” to express in-depth African qualities. To him, Africa meant a folklore garden with a fanciful but unchanging environment; any move to incorporate foreign influence would be false and doom would take on a new meaning to the culprit.

MRC 177 Some members of The Society of Nigerian Artists, 1980, Nigeria

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In the museum environment that European art pieces were copiously on display, the budding workshop artists were to these works frequently exposed. McEwen claimed to have done the incredible by keeping his student artist pure and straight. Still, this is visionary rather than practical. Thomas Mukarobgwa, whose style is said to be similar to the works of German Expressionists, was the famous and most talented painter of McEwen’s Workshop School (Mount, 1973, 1989.120). Sculpted workshop works, by Bernard Manyandure, Boira and Richard Mteki, Lemon Moses, Jaram Mariga, Benson Dube and Nicholas Mukomberanwa, who utilize varied stones along with their preferred human figure subjects, were also famous. Many of the works produced by the Workshop School were sent to Europe and America for exhibitions. An exhibit (McEwen, 1963), for example, was dispatched to Commonwealth Institute, London, for showing in the “New Art from Rhodesia” early in 1963. These exhibits were fully publicized and considerably well received, in terms of sales. The condition of the Workshop School (McEwen, 1966) is not that, in striving for its ultimate results, McEwen’s reach exceeded his grasp. It is that, unlike his breathtaking claims, his gamble to vend the workshop works succeeded, but his strategies to keep the workshop artists pure of foreign influence failed. It is a celebration of monetary accomplishments, better saved for a circle of intimate friends.

2.114 1964 Community of East African Artists Nairobi, Kenya In July of 1964 the Community of East African Artists, founded by Elimo Njau and Sam J. Ntiro, was launched with specific objectives in mind. The goals were to exhibit the works of its members throughout the nations of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and elsewhere in the world, to operate from Nairobi always under the umbrella of Chemchemi; and most significantly, to establish the place of East African art as an integral part of East African culture. When the first meeting of the community was held on July 3, 1964, Ntiro was elected as Chairman, Elimo Njau, as Secretary General, and Eli Nyeyune (a Ugandan) as Treasurer. Their earliest exhibition, which opened as a part of the National Festival of Tanganyika (now Tanzania), was held at the National Museum of Dar es Salaam in July 1964. Julius K. Nyerere, President of Tanzania, opened the showing that went on record as successfully exhibiting artists from the entire east Africa. However, a much more ambitious exhibition by the Community of East African Artists was held in October 1964, at the opening of the new premises of Chemchemi, thus realizing one of the objectives of its founders.

2.121 1964 The Society of Nigerian Artists Lagos, Nigeria: In 1964, a small group of twenty-four Nigerian artists founded the Society of Nigerian Artists in Lagos, then the federal capital of Nigeria. Although the society took roots from 356


a “prestige” rather than “grassroots” group, it was well aware that artists’ observations, impressions and reactions often end up in nothing without a constant communion with their fellowmen and a brotherhood of artists. Artists not only have to live completely in a society but they need a critical showcase for their works, to learn the reactions of the public to their creative expressions. With the preceding ideals in mind, the Society of Nigeria Artists (MRC 177) formulated its principle aims. First was to keep the Society inclusive of those who have professional attainment as their goal. Second was to display in an exhibition the creative works of society members, regularly, under its sponsorship. It also wanted to cooperate with the National Government for the Festival of the Arts, so successfully carried out over past years. Moreover, fourth, to found a magazine that would provide coverage of painting, sculpture and graphics as well as stimulate interest in the history of Nigerian traditional and contemporary art. It would also feature international art news. These well-chosen

MRC 178 Mohamed Zulu. Je me suis trompe d’erreur, oil color on canvas, 27.5 x 39”, 1992, Senegal. The Artist Collection

objectives were all duly completed. Founding members of the Society include Omotayo Aiyeghusi, Israel Ala, Afi Ekong, Yusuf Adebayo Grillo, the late Simon Obiekezie Okeke, Godfrey A. Okiki, Jubilee Owei, J. Kayede Oyewole, and the late Solomon Wamgboje.

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2.122 1964 United Republic Crafts Council Dar es Salam, Tanzania: With good craftsmen that are skilled in woodcarvings of animals and busts for local sales and world export in East Africa, the need to regulate this industry was first understand in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. It was a big business and provided several hundred thousand dollars in annual revenue. It was in high demand and consequently, quality was forfeitured for quantity. Thus, in 1964, after Tanzania’s independence, the United Republic Crafts Council registered with the Government in Dar es Salaam. It’s★ objectives were to undertake raising and regulating the standards of crafts, their sale and display in art exhibition, and to see that only those crafts of artistic merit in materials and execution would, through the Council, be purchased and exhibited for resale to the public. These long-range objectives were definitely a challenge to the president of the Council, Sam J. Ntiro. On the international level, the Crafts Council organization was, and still is, a member of the World Craft Council of which Sam J. Ntiro was its General Secretary. At least, by late sixties the activities of the Crafts Council organization had greatly expanded. In the nineties its impact on art was eminent. There is today a strong indication that the organization will continue to serve Tanzania in many capacities, as long as the commercial carvers are potent with ideas and the craft industry thrives.

2.123 1964 Zulu Mohammed, Senegal: The synthetic art style is extremely apparent in works done by an artist called Zulu. Mohammed is his chosen surname, an Arabic derivation of a Moslem prophet. However, because he and his works are characteristically African, his contemporaries felt “Zulu” would be a more appropriate name to match his paintings. Mawadou M’baye is his original name, dropped for reasons best known to him. He was born at Dakar in 1964. Zulu rented an apartment in Dakar that he converted into a studio, painting and exhibiting some of his works there. Zulu, however, did not have a regular rhythm of showings. Only when he felt he was ready will he join ventures with other kindred-spirit artists to display his works. The people of Senegal, who are familiar, for their love of art, were at times Zulu’s patrons. However, very frequently, medical doctors and lawyers were his customers, the people with cash flow. Zulu’s entire income came from the hope of selling his art, although he had no single major sponsor and had never received an artistic commission from the Senegalese Government. Still, his works today have exhibited all over the world, from Senegal to Europe, and America to Canada. Zulu was in 1985 the president of the National Association of Artists/Painters in Senegal, an important society, because members were mostly painters, all helping, learning and gaining new ideas from each other. Zulu is a self-taught artist. But, occasionally an art teacher, Pierre Lutz, privately couched

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him. His exclusive medium of work is oil color, but it is quite evident that Zulu shows an understanding of what this kind of picture making can do. Sometimes, he employs gouache, tempera and watercolor. Zulu, also, paints on different surfaces from canvas to paper, and other materials. At the beginning of his career, he used traditional religious themes; but now his subjects for painting all come from within himself, a mystical conglomeration of his thoughts. Zulu has a special approach to painting. First, he empties his mind; and as the work progresses, the piece itself directs the process to completion. Zulu’s philosophy of art is complex, yet simple. He feels that his works’ symbolisms are created within himself. Thus, there are no concrete messages in his paintings for the audience to interpret. Because of this approach to painting, Zulu has a distinct advantage over his patrons. They could each attribute individual meanings to the works, as if each work were fashioned specifically for each patron. Thus, his art is not an illustration that represents a known object, idea, but a secret life force that questions the order of the universe (MRC 178). The works that I videoed in Zulu’s appartment, in 1985, were from his Recent Portfolio and exhibited in Germany, one of which depicts the profile image of a mask, with color crystallizations creating cast shadows in the background. However, within the mask itself, the light comes from inside making it appear alive. L’espirit de feu, The Fire Spirit, is the second work. Zulu started the picture, on paper, with gouache and completed it with oil color. Burnt orange and reds are the colors that envelop the painting, filling ones eye with the entire picture space, but less on any detail. Light comes from within, yet there are cast shadows in the background. The third work, untitled, appears to incorporate Islamic influences because of its geometric embellishment. Done in China ink, the work is entirely black and white, emphasizing his knowledge of structural and organizational space. Finally, the fourth work, also untitled, is completed with a mixed coffee and China ink. The colors are unusual; a mixture of expresso and golden browns that seem to shine as it reflects the light. Selective naturalism is apparent, emphasizing bulging eyes with Islamic ornamentation around them. The rest of the painting appears like a human face; yet, it is a mask with a golden hue almost comparable to a liquid crown, dripping down upon it. Zulu’s art philosophy and his approach to painting obviously originate from the highly individualistic yet technical qualities of Ijinla art style (Zulu: Dakar 1992.38). Giving advice to young contemporary African artists, Zulu said: Remain the strong and powerful African artists that you are. Accept any education offered to you from Africa, Europe or America, while exploring your own knowledge of various art techniques. Moreover, combine your individual talents and styles to create powerful works. The works must have intense artistic and aesthetic values and capable of becoming innovative and praiseworthy masterpieces of contemporary African art (excerpt from Video Interview with Zulu at his residence by the present writer in Dakar, Senegal, in 1985).

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2.124 1964 Raphael S. Mutulikwa, Zambia: Uncovering information about Mutulikwa is a daunting task; one that yields very little and leaves one feeling as if one is being purposely deprived of access to this extremely talented man. Simply finding photographs of his work is nearly impossible. In all likelihood, the lack of information is due to the continual inability and unwillingness of the Western scholars to recognize and appreciate contemporary African art; the result being that Mutulikwa has not been given the written attention that he deserves. Moreover, Zambia is struggling to make its mark in the art world while simultaneously building a strong post-colonial nationstate. Thus, political, economic, and social concerns have naturally taken precedence over cultural development, leaving Zambia with no national gallery or education and exhibition infrastructure from which artists like Mutulikwa can garner worldwide recognition and support. However, what information is available reveals that Mutulikwa is an innate talent

MRC 179 Raphael Mutulikwa. Man Seated, oil color on canvas, 34 x 32�, 1996, Zambia. The Artist Collection

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and lifelong student whose work offers a stimulating, yet peaceful glimpse of everyday life in Zambian society. Born in Lusaka on 30 October 1964, Mutulikwa began his career as an artist, informally as a young child. Fascinated by the decaying roots overturned in his grandfather’s field, he often studied them for hours, and soon after, their influence began to appear in his primary school paintings (Banda, 1991). His teachers, recognizing his natural talent, encouraged him to continue his work and eventually enlisted his help in creating maps and other classroom aids (Ibid.). Mutulikwa was born into a large family of four boys and two girls. Thus, the financial strain that his parents faced was considerable, rendering it impossible for him to complete his studies at Munali Secondary School (Ibid.). However, he was fortunate to locate a private art tutor who taught him some basic techniques free of charge. Later, Mutulikwa went on to study graphics and design at Evelyn Hone College in Lusaka where he earned a diploma and an advanced certificate (Ibid.). In the late 1980s, he took a job as a general worker for the National Hotels Development Corporation (NHDC), during which time he sold his first painting to a technician at the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (information from Mutulikwa’s Folder: unpaged and undated document for the Exhibition Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, at The Ohio State University in 1997). Regarding the sale, the humble artist stated to Daily Express reporter Francis Malaya Banda that he “felt so proud because I [he] didn’t think I [he] could sell a painting (Banda, 1991).” Mutulikwa later left NHDC to become a self-employed teacher, which is still his profession today. During the 1990s, Mutulikwa began to exhibit his paintings at a variety of venues, including hotels, cultural centers, museums, and private residences, totaling thirteen, three of which were solo. The exhibitions earned him a cache of prizes and awards, counting one for the best artist at Zambia-Italy Cultural Center in 1991 (Correspondent, 1991). He also captured first prize awards for work displayed at competitions held at or by VAC in 1992, the Italian High Commission, also in 1992, again at the Italian Cultural Center in 1993 (information from Mutulikwa’s Folder: unpaged and undated document for the Exhibition Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, at The Ohio State University in 1997). Finally, because his talent is considerable and his work is well-recognized and appreciated in Zambian art circles, Mutulikwa has been commissioned several times for both portraiture and residential renderings (Ibid.). His admirers offer sincere praise, noting that he is uniquely able to capture the hearts of both judges and the general public (Correspondent, 1991), which is, perhaps why he has become as popular and respected as he has. His technique and use of color and materials appeal to those who view his work with technical knowledge; however, it is likely that Mutulikwa’s themes appeal to the layperson. Mutulikwa uses his art as a way to understand Zambian culture, and the major themes that appear in his work are those that deal with everyday life. For example, in one of his most captivating paintings titled Sifting Grain (1996), we see two women pouring grain into a basket, presumably to prepare for cooking the daily meals. In another named Man Seated, 1996, a man is solemnly passing away the hours in what might be his favorite chair. 361


Both paintings are realistic in nature and have what appear to be simplistic themes, and to those who refuse or are unable to look for deeper meaning, they might seem to deal with nothing at all. One might mistake them for the type of art created by hobbyists who simply paint what they see while sitting at a local park or beach. However, Mutulikwa’s talents and intentions are far more noble and, indeed, instructional. His aim is to portray “people’s behavior, habits [sic], feelings, and attitudes,” and by doing so, educate both himself and his viewers about the complex functioning of Zambian society (information from Mutulikwa’s Folder: unpaged and undated document for the Exhibition Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, at The Ohio State University in 1997 — www.accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/1997-2/index). To illustrate Mutulikwa’s noble and instructional intentions beyond what meets the eye, take for example the Man Seated (MRC 179). This 1996 painting offers an intimate moment into a tired man’s quietude. The older nonspecific man retires for a moment heavily on a readily excusable wooden chair. The man leans over the shaft of the chair and with a rather solemn expression on his face he turns and rests his head on his arm. He is dressed in attire most suitable for work and it is likely that the artist captures his sitter after an exhaustive day of labor or work of a similar nature. His red cap counteracts the grim character created by his expression and gesture, with a flash of flamboyant energy. The aged man sits before the viewer, pushed immediately to the foreground of the canvas by composition. However, the audience confronts him, entering a private moment of an unanticipated inclusion. The drained colors of blue and brown help to create the dismal realm of the sitter and accent his shadowing. The artist’s play on this shadowing furthers the articulation of utter desolation, as made evident in the deep creases in the sitter’s jeans and the steadfast shadow that falls beneath his seat, holding him fixed in time. Mutulikwa’s painting, displayed in 1977 Diversity In Contemporary African Art Causes and Effects exhibition, remains consistent with the artistic conventions of the Soyan style. Most notable is the artist’s strong interest in portraits, which shows an understanding of the internal structure of things as they appear through external coverings. Through the modest facade of a common older man, the artist creates a harsh reality earned through experience. The artist’s evidence of a good understanding of color theory is in keeping with the Soyan art style and impressively accentuates the relationship between the sitter and his surroundings. Mutulikwa delivers the condition of one man, an unknown African man, and yet we can easily imagine a million African men. Suddenly the unknown figure becomes a vital metaphor for one’s reflection at the closing of a significant journey, a tiresome day or the near end of one’s lifetime. The artist exhibits an intimate moment of this man’s daylight hours, though it can as easily be read as a moment in his lifetime. Thus, Man Seated exemplifies the concept of the impact of a particular collective history coexistent with individual experiences. As explained earlier, Mutulikwa is what is referred to as a Soyan artist; therefore, he is one 362


who accepts acculturation and builds on the western European techniques of realism while drawing themes from African sources. Using oil colors, pastels, acrylics, and watercolors, he paints vivid, realistic images of ordinary African people participating in ordinary activities, but it is through his sensitive use of color that he adds “glamour” to the mundane. Today, Mutulikwa continues to live and work in Zambia. He is an ambitious artist, stating that he wishes “to become a world recognized painter (Banda, 1991).”

2.125 1965 Kenya Design Association, Kenya: In August 1965, the Kenya Design Association was with a view established to linking courses of University College to the study of abstract design practices of the indigenous people. The study focused on traditional patterns on shields for not only members but also for local artists and those with merit from the East Africa. Sorsbie Gallery in Nairobi was often the exhibition center for the abstract design works. Its location, in the outlying residential districts of the city delighted the public and encouraged a good attendance of the indigenous folks to view abstract design works and other leather-covered articles, cut on ivory, calabashes and household things. The design patterns were not copied but symbolically studied for a meaningful application in contemporary contexts. This was an important first step taken towards linking the past with present. Selby Mvusi was behind the approach, an artist from South Africa and a teacher with American experience who joined the Art Faculty of University College, Nairobi, in January 1965. The Association organized exhibitions.

2.126 1965 Kibo Art Gallery, Tanzania: Kibo Art Gallery near Moshi was a pet project of Elimo Njau, East Africa’s leading African artist. He hoped that its completion in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) would see the start of a cultural revival. As he acknowledged at the dedication ceremony: This new African Art Gallery embodies our burning faith in God and Africa. We dedicate it to the young generation who claim to be true sons of Africa, in hope that they will face the challenge to live truly in poor circumstances of their homes, in the villages, deserts and countryside, and uplift the old Africa to new spiritual heights and depths, unknown to the modern materialistic world (Chemchemi, 1965.1). There is nothing new about starting a cultural center. Many others before Kibo have existed in Africa. Still, by far, the distinctive feature of this endeavor lies in the fact that most of the funds for Kibo Art Gallery came out of Njau’s own pocket. The gallery was set up next to the Kibo Hotel, on a plot given to him by his father on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Built of stone and cement and roofed with grass, banana fiber and corrugated iron sheets, Njau said of Kibo Gallery: This is part of a big project, and an experiment in art and communication as well as the beginning of a creative art center that will develop around the gallery. It is a practical attempt to bridge the artificial gap that exists between the village people and people from sophisticated institution in 363


universities and towns and abroad. In this gallery we hope we shall always have works of art by modern African artists, seen side by side with artistic creations of the village people, quite apart from exhibitions of work from the local schools (Ibid.). Under such optimistic projections, the Kibo Art Gallery officially opened on June 9, 1965 with His Excellency Mwalimu Julius Nyerere presiding. The Kibo Art Gallery was in honor of Nyerere, one of Africa’s foremost cultural leaders, with his own inspiring words: We will light a candle on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which will shine beyond our borders, giving hope where there is despair, love where there is hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation… We shall celebrate it in honor of Kibo who like Mother Earth is heavy with the pain of prolonged pregnancy. She must deliver the message NOW or die with IT (Chemchemi. 1965. 2)! If Kibo Art Gallery advocates continue to effectively state their understanding, and if the inspiring words of Nyerere continue to influence cultural decisions in Tanzania, a new legacy of government-civilian alliance may be closer in Africa than we realize. We may find, once we untangle the rhetoric of such cultural pledges, what Elimo Njau and Nyerere have been trying to sow all along is: Kibo Art Gallery must stand to enhance humanity.

2.127 Mid-1960s Universal Civilization, Senegal: In the mid-twentieth century, on the West Coast of the continent of Africa, an idea was being formed. It was the belief in a Universal Civilization. Led by Senegalese President,

MRC 180 Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles de Avignon, oil on canvas, 96 x 92”, 1907. The Musuem of Modern Art, New York, Collection

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Leopold Sedar Senghor, the role of art in this movement was described. It was his feeling that Universal Civilization, the unity of all people of the world into one group, was one in which all were included and none excluded. The idea was nowhere relevant than in Africa where, as a result of World War I and II, the Africans finally tasted freedom. In his home nation of Senegal, Senghor, a champion of Negritude, encouraged his nation’s role in establishing this Universal Civilization through art. Organizing exhibitions such as Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Negres, Senegal, in 1966, was showing the world the importance of ancient and traditional African art. This art, although isolated and scorned for years, has become one of the influential portions of the art world. Western and European artists have discovered the beauty and genius in African talent. Add these contributions to the newly developing age of technology, and the result is an unprecedented society, coined a “Universal Civilization” by Leopold Sedar Senghor. Senegal, Senghor’s home country, has contributed much, if not more, to this new society as any other African country. The peoples respect for their history, their influence on modern art movements and their highly influential and innovating schools make Senegal one of the most powerful members of the global society. According to Webster, civilization is defined as “a relatively high level of cultural and technological development.” Therefore, by pure definition, a “universal civilization” would be a high level of development found worldwide. However, to understand how the term is applicable in the modern art world, one must first understand its inferences. According to historians, one of the key factors in defining a civilization is determining whether the community in question had a means of writing or record keeping. Senghor points out that the transition from savage to human being did not become evident with the first written word, but the first work of art. This evolutionary step created mammals who were not only interested in communicating orally, but through feelings as well, braking the last barrier between animals and mankind. Anthropologically, however, civilization is not just defined by methods of communication and record keeping. Instead, the definition concentrates on similarities between people and cultures on a large scale. Although civilizations can be reduced to small areas revolving around cultural centers, this demarcation has no use in the expression universal civilization. Instead, one must think globally, creating an amalgam of values and ideas that is contributed to all races and nations. “As we [are] well aware” Senghor stated, “…a Universal Civilization would be poor if it lacked one single value from one single people, one single race, one single continent” (Senghor, 1997.226). The idea of Universal Civilization grew out of Negritude and its influences. Negritude, which is important as a means to achieve a world civilization, is the return to ancient and traditional art forms that celebrate the African people. As Africans were given their freedom from years of western European colonial rule, artists were able to successfully and legally practice the values of ancient and traditional African art that had been discouraged by their former European colonizers. At the time, many talented African artists had been producing works emphasizing western European realistic art style due to encouragement from the European art instructors. Yet, some artists chose not to follow the western European 365


MRC 181 Fade Camara, La Magie des Noirs, acrylic on canvas, 51 x 63”, 1992, Senegal. The Artist Collection

example. Senghor and many Africans championed the idea of Negritude – a celebration of Negro values of civilization. Negritude, like the Sankofa art style, told artists that it was not wrong to use the ancient and traditional African forms and styles of their ancestors. Universal civilization cannot be achieved if all people and all forms of expression are not included. Thus, these ancient and traditional Negro values and art style were finally accepted by much of the world, and Senghor believed that they must be practiced so that this civilization can be reached (Seghor, 1997.218). Senegal artists set an example of how Africans can do their part to achieve Universal Civilization through means such as Negritude. At the Dakar symposium, artists, poets, novelists, musicians, and sculptors all attempted to support this believe through their works. Just as the African American had used spirituals and blues in art, the Senegalese artists practiced with rhythm, and were able to characterize the people of Senegal through art. Senegal further contributed to Universal Civilization by hosting famous artists’ exhibitions. In particular, Picasso en Nigritie, in 1972, was a display of Pablo Picasso’s works held in Dakar, the Senegalese capital. Picasso, one of the world’s most renowned artists and 366


the father of modern cubism, was greatly influenced by ancient and traditional African art. He was one of the first western European artists from Spain to use Negro influence in his works such as Demoiselles d’ Avignon (MRC 180). Critics worldwide were stunned and moved by the way he had completely removed all influence of classical European principles of linear and aerial perspectives from this work and from all other works of his African period, relying completely on perceiving all sides of a cube from one point of view. This technique was not new, though. Picasso was simply showing the influence that ancient and traditional African art had on his heart and mind that resulted in this realization: [Painting] is not an aesthetic process; it is a type of magic that stands between the hostile universe and us, a way of seizing power, by giving shape to our desires (Senghor, 1997.228). Picasso’s works did not leave without influencing Senegal in return. According to Senghor, the Dakar school still regards Picasso as a mentor, encouraging its students to create new and exciting art and to have respect for their ancestral roots. The various art schools also held in Senegal do not exist without contributing to universal civilization. Pierre Lods notes how his involvement with the Studio at Poto-Poto, in Brazzaville-Congo Republic, changed his view: So I developed a different way of looking at the world, my understanding of Africa and my involvement in its actual life date from [then] (Lods, 1997.219-220). The Dakar School was he catalyst of Senegal’s involvement in the universal civilization. The creation of a group of talented Senegalese artists made way for other schools and exhibitions. The school created a great amount of publicity for Senegal. Andre Malraux noticed some of their talents at the Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres: You have, here, in Senegal, five or six artists who can match the greatest European artists for stature, he told Senghor (Senghor, 1997.218) Not only did the school contribute to the universal civilization by adding new techniques and talents to the already growing list, but also by opening doors to Europe and the west for Senegalese art. The concept of a universal civilization is growing in popularity as the world becomes more and more interconnected. Before the age of technology isolated communities were very prevalent. Now, no modern society can honestly say that it is without outside influence. In return, each society adds its values and history to the growing global culture. Senegal is not without its influences. Its amazing artistic history and continuing development have made this country a vanguard of African influence in modern society. Perhaps, Pierre Lods, a European who has spent much of his life working with Senegalese artists, can best summarize it. He stated: One can predict with certainty that…world culture, which has recently been given a new lease

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MRC 182 Odili Donald Odita and Carol Schneemann in Schneemann”s Studio, May 1998

of life by African art will be assimilated by Africa (MRC 181) and given back to the world, newly dynamic and resplendent (Lods, 1997.221).

2.128 1966 The First World Festival of Negro Arts Dakar, Senegal: The First World Festival of Negro Arts, not to be confused with the 1st International Congress of African Culture of 1962, was held in April 1966 in Dakar, a city recognized as the intellectual center of French-speaking African. Leopold Senghor, one of the most able African statesmen and himself a distinguished poet had conceived and backed the project with his immense prestige, as an African president and a significant artist. In his speech opening the festival, “The First World Festival of Negro Arts,” Senghor declared:

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We have assumed the terrible responsibility of organizing this festival for the defense and illustration of Negritude‌When I speak of negritude, I am referring to a civilization where art is at once technique and vision, handicraft and prophesy; where art expresses in the words of Ogotemmeli: the identity of material gestures and spiritual forces (Mueng, 1966.1). Spilling over with enthusiasm, this claim was reverberated by M.E. Mueng, director of the arts colloquium: At the First World Festival of Negro Arts, Africa’s duty is to speak of herself, to speck to her own children, as well as to the men of all countries. And this speaking will be done through her art. African Negro art is, above all, a creative activity in which man transformed himself while transforming the world, by an operation which unites the destiny of man and the destiny of the world through actions, signs, words and techniques, painstakingly elaborated and handed down by tradition. This is Negro African art in action (Ibid.). Thus, the First World Festival of Negro Arts emphasized the cultural ties between African nations and other sister countries and the impact of Negro culture upon the world. The roots of the festival lay in the Negritude Movement that had its early beginnings in Paris in 1947, where, the periodical Presence Africaine was by Leopold Senghor and Alioune Diop founded. Rather than being a perfect vehicle for the rejection of colonial culture, Negritude was both subjective and objective in its conceptualizations. It was concrete and spiritual. It was the sum total of economic, political, intellectual and moral, artistic and social values of Negro peoples of Africa, America, Asia and the world. Participants in the festival included large cultural groups: colleges, museum representatives, various government agents, world press and so on. Activities included symposium, drama (theatre), dance and music performances, poetry, reading discussions on literature, and art exhibitions. The bringing together of Negro artists from across the world into a new identification of spirit had a grandeur that developed from the breadth of the concept that inspired it. But when one considers coldly the weaknesses of the festival, one thinks of the following: it is backward-ever and forward-never, it emphasized old tradition instead of bravely stressing upon change, and, in doing so, it unfortunately established the worst of racially prejudiced assumptions and ignorance that see the African arts as primitive, dark and savage, irrelevant to contemporary, progressive concerns. There was, however, far more to this festival than the confirmation of expected prejudice. A new African generation of artists was already present and articulate. That was the exciting thing about Dakar.

2.129 1966 Odili Donald Odita, Nigeria: Odili Odita was in Iowa (USA) begot of Igbo parents who soon after departed to Nigeria, where he was born in Enugu in 1966. At the age of 6 months, Odili Odita and his family fled Nigeria for the United States just before the Nigerian airports shut down at the start of the Biafrian/Nigerian War. Odili Odita still resides in America where his experiences of growing

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up in mid-west suburban communities of Ohio continue to shape his thinking and artwork (MRC 182). After graduating from The Ohio State University in 1988 (B.F.A. with Distinction), and Bennington College, Vermont in 1990 (M.F.A.), Odili Odita moved to New York City. Since 1990, Odita has been living and working as an artist. He most notably participated in the 1997, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa by executing public artworks consisting of billboard and bus shelter posters placed throughout the city of Johannesburg. Odili Odita began curating and writing about art in 1992. Exhibitions that Odili Odita has curated include GOTCHA (1995) at Momenta Art, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, INTERIOR-LIFE (1997) at RUSH Arts, New York, REALLY (1997) at UNFINISHED, Williamsburg, Brooklyn and PARADISE8: PERMANENT RESIDENT/HOME & THE WORLD at Exit Art, The First World. Odili Odita has had numerous paintings in over forty different exhibitions. These showings range from places in New York City such as the Gramercy International Fair and Come As You Are to North Bennington, Vermont; Columbus; South America; Brazil and other places around the world. His exhibitions in 1999, alone, included: One-Person Exhibitions at Gallery 101 in Ontario, Canada; at Florence Lynch Gallery in NYC; and a 3-person exhibition at Arsenal Gallery in Bialystok, Poland. He was also included in the traveling exhibition, Segregation: A Conversation at 40 Degrees that opened in Istanbul in November of 1999. This show traveled to New York, Sante Fe, San Francisco, and Tai Pei, ending in the year 2001. Also, he was included in the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. He has had solo exhibitions at Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem; the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; the Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; and the Institute of Contemporary Art University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Odili Odita’s art is predominantly Ijinla in style, a style that combines various value systems to include realistic and abstract motifs, especially earlier in his car. In this way the artist constantly breakes the rules by placing odd elements that make his creations stand out, or draw a particular emotion from the audience. Take Stitches, one of his paintings, for example. It is a collage-like painting of different faces of the pop-star musician, Pince, with a mixed background of abstract design. The painting’s realistic part comes from the faces of Prince and the abstract portion emanates from conceptual elements of the picture. Odili Odita sucessfully blends the two varying features in harmony to create a stirring painting that compels the viewer to wonder about the artist’s mind. Mulch and wallpaper reoccur in Odili Odita’s earlier paintings. He asserts that he frequently used “mulch to make reference to the earth and ground as a beginning of mankind.” [Odili Odita’s Artist Statement for the Exhibition: Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, at The Ohio State Ubiversity in 1997]. In other words, mulch is a natural symbol of returning what is normal and common to our ancestors, uniting us all. Regarding the wallpaper, Odili explained that: “wallpaper is used in my work as a sign for the modern progression of painting into the banal and mass produced (Ibid.).” Consequently, wallpaper

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MRC 183 Odili Odita. Tropicalia, acrylic on Canvas, 84 x 96�, 1998, Nigeria. Paul D. Miller Collection

for him is the symbol of technology, quantity produced to suit everyone’s needs. Yet to Odili Odita, the excerpts below (with his permission), which appear in a magazine called the ICON A List, contain the following illuminating information, as expressed in a kind of response format by the artist: 1. ARTIST/CURATORIAL PRACTICE: I moved to New York City after getting my Masters in Fine Arts from Bennington College in 1990. I began curating in 1993, as means of getting my work and the works of other artists I respected out into the public. I took a critical stance in the exhibitions I organized and worked collaboratively with other artists to challenge particular orthodoxies within the art world that dealt with aesthetics, culture, and ultimately, gender and race. My writing (along with my curating) became a creative extension of my artwork as I try to embody the values I carry within my aesthetic outlook in and of life. 2. MY APPROACH AS AN ARTIST OF COLOR IN NEW YORK CITY. I am a Nigerian born artist and have lived most of my life in the United States. While many Nigerian cultural traditions were alive in my household, I still had television to contend. As a child, I grew up watching a lot of television, movies, and reading a lot of comic books. I can say that my work is the merging of the spectacle of western media with that of African culture as can be felt by someone who has lived long outside its (African) shores.

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My work has always been involved with issues of culture in aesthetics, and specifically race as it deals with issues of identity and identification. In my paintings, I am dealing with memory, the presence and absence of experiences removed, nostalgia for a lost past, and a hope for something new and better. My media-based installations more pointedly deal with issues of comodification as it relates to the black body within western culture. I am concerned with how the black body is in transactions (business) and communication (media/art) used and misused. 3. MY OUTLOOK ON WHAT IS OF THE MOMENT IN SOCIETY WITHIN CURRENT CULTURAL PRODUCTION. I am interested in what seems to be a cultural war within the art world between issues that range from the political to what can as pure entertainment be seen (work devoid of any social content). People who support the latter tend to use oversimplified and conservative arguments such as art and politics should not be merged, and so on. On the other hand, work of too strong a political nature can be as morally restrictive and dogmatic reaffirmed. I personally believe in a graceful merging of the two where art can and should uplift for its beauty as well as for its imperative and intent. We cannot escape culture or its inherent relation to power. I feel it is the responsibility of all people to be aware of their position within society and the impact they have upon it. The world is attainable for the potential of being an open space, for fair and just communication between different people. It is the world that I dream about of, wishing to contribute towards through the work I make as an artist. Odili Odita’s great skill and brilliant use of materials in his works bring out themes that other artists are unwilling to address. Recently, he has been permitted to display his sociological concerns Color Theory in his first solo New York exhibit. Color Theory uses wall installations, photographs and paintings to portray his thoughts on color. Nadine Kibanda explains: “For Odita, color behavior is not just about spectrums and color wheels; it is also about concepts (http://www.flashartmagazine.com/exclusive/odita.html).” One painting in particular, Tropicalia (MRC 183), echoes his talents very well and brings some of the most disquieting issues found in his artwork to the forefront. Tropicalia: a rather large painting, 84 x 96”, it is composed of acrylic painting on canvas. The composition itself is somewhat simple. The painting displays many different colors, including muted orange, ochre yellow, olive green and a few swaths of brilliant pink and blue, all separated from each other on the diagonal, without demarcating lines, in Sankofa art style. The result is a painting that appears to comprise multiple blades of color, all turned in so that they are facing one another. The meaning behind this painting is rather involved. At the simplest level, it appears that Tropicalia is just constructed for appearance. The complementary colors and their diagonals are quite pleasing to the eye. The rhythm of color blades, also, stream fairly well, drawing the eye from top to bottom and left to right in a soothing manner. However, Odili’s work is not based solely on pleasing the viewer.

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Odili has often struggled with the idea of African heritage in an American society, and Tropicalia is no exception. The painting is very reminiscent of his African birthplace; the use of bright, yet unusually natural color and geometric patterns both allude to the patterns and colors usually found in African textiles. Although, as Nadine Kibanda suggests, Odili uses color in some of his other works to symbolize his early childhood in the United States, the earthy type tones in this particular painting do not relate to an American experience. Similarly, the title, Tropicalia, indicates that the subject of the painting was not an urban lifestyle. The African textile references not only allude to Odili’s birthplace, but also to some of the difficulties facing Africans in the contemporary western society. Firstenberg notes that although textiles may be used as communicative devices in Africa, they are more often “popular emblems of Afrocentricity when appropriated in the West (Firstenberg, 2000.70).” Odili is concerned with the way Africans are represented in the contemporary western European society, and this theme often appears in his work. Although Tropicalia does not address these issues as blatantly as some of his other works, it does raise the question of African misrepresentation by the media and criticizes exploitation of African arts and skills. Tropicalia also adds meaning to the whole of Odili’s Color Theory exhibit. The title represents not only a basic knowledge of art, but also his thoughts on the mix of western European and African society. As Nadine Kibanda states, “…theory means more than the analysis of pigments in relation to art, it becomes a metaphor for exploring issues of culture, race, and identity (http://www.flashartmagazine.com/exclusive/odita.html).” Tropicalia is a painting that can be viewed on so many different levels. On one hand, it is very pleasing to the eye. On the other, it has a significant sociological meaning, criticizing the western European view of African art. This combination of artistic talent and social impact creates a work of art that has an important part in American society. To understand the work, the viewer must see it not with the eyes, but instead, the heart. Odili is familiar with the task of creating paintings that communicate an inner level especially in his Naturalist Ideal (MRC 183.1), when he states: Main contest within nature is the one where night is in constant Battle with day. Whin this struggle there can be a balance, and this painting depicts those crossroads of light that keep this balance in place (Belot, 2004.cat.5). As well Odili Odita maintains: “In my paintings, I am dealing with memory, the presence and absence of experiences removed; nostalgia for a lost past, and the hope for something new and better (Firstenberg, 2000.70).” Odili Odita is currently Associate Professor of Fine Arts at Tyler School of Art, at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, and lives in Philadelphia and New York. He writes for several different magazines and has had numerous articles published. This stakes his place as a multi-talented person of the arts in that he can paint as well as write.

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MRC 184 Bimbong Man on Glob, bronze, 1994, Nigeria. Michael Benson Collection 1994

2.130 1966 Paa Ya Paa Gallery Nairobi, Kenya: As soon as the name Paa Ya Paa Gallery is mentioned what comes to mind is the 374


name of its founder, Elimo Njau of Tanzania. He was very active in artistic creation and encouragement of artists in Nairobi, as well as in his own country, Tanzania. Under the management of Njau, himself an important painter and muralist as well as the former head of the Visual Arts Program for Chemchemi, Paa Ya Paa Gallery adopted the role of Chemchemi. Its objective was to exhibit the works of major East African artists as well as artists from abroad. Like the Mbari Clubs of Nigeria, from which the Chemchemi was adapted, Paa Ya Paa Art Gallery sustained a workshop to discover and encourage new talents. In Njau’s own words: It was to draw out all the cultural resources of the country regardless of race…to create an atmosphere of harmony between the highly Westernized artists and the village artists— working and learning together….(Chemchemi, 1966.6). It is interesting that through the efforts of an individual a gallery could combine such farreaching goals as Paa Ya Paa did (and still does). There soon emerged a large number of painters and sculptors in East Africa, some of which had passed through the Paa Ya Paa Art Gallery in Nairobi. The gallery was established in Spring 1966. Thus, Africa needs more of Elimo Njau’s caliber that, after attaining personal successes, stooped to uplift others less fortunate.

2.131 1968 Bright Bimbong, Ghana: Bright Bimbong is a contemporary African artist, born and raised in Ghana. Consisting of rainforests and grasslands, Ghana has River Upper Volta flows through it. Its climate is tropical, with both wet and dry seasons as well as a heavy condensation during the moist period. Ghana’s prevailing weather is therefore always hot. Of the root of his work, Bimbong explained: The African Diaspora is a complex issue that has been a major influence on my work. Living and learning in an environment surrounded by the influences of African and Western peoples, history and culture has made me want to bring the different ideas and forms together (excerpt from Bimbong’s Folder: unpaged and undated newspaper clippings for the Exhibition Diversity in Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, at The Ohio State Ubiversity in 1997 — ref. web site: www.accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/1997-2/index). Bimbong further explained: The usual tactic of isolation, separating the African experience from Western consciousness, is part of what I wish to address in my work. [He adds] …the other part of my sculpture is concerned with form, curves and the figure (Ibid.). This “other part”, in the preceding statement, is perhaps where Bimbong’s academic instruction plays a significant part in his art. With these quotes in mind and having observed a good number of Bimbong’s works, it is clear that his art is classifiable as Soyan art. It is an art style expressed partly in African subject matter and partly in western 375


European techniques of realism. Bimbong combines the two principles in his sculptural creations. Bimbong had a succssful showing in 1995, at the Skoto Gallery, in New York City. His sculpted works included the following bronze pieces: a man balancing five spherical objects on his head, a woman sitting forlornly on a cabinet, and a portly man standing atop a nearly deflated global object (MRC 184). Bimbong prefers working in models that he considers truthful to his sense of aesthetics and in natural materials. These materials include soft and hard ones, clay and terracotta as well as bronze and steel, respectively. Bimbong combines very often these allied materials in his sculpted productions. Not unlike other artists in Ghana, Bimbong has participated in other numerous exhibitions. In over twelve exhibitions, the showings that stood out include: the 1990’s Allied Artists Association, New York; the 1985’s GIFEX ‘85, Accra, Ghana; and the 1980’s Commonwealth Centre exhibition, London, United Kingdom. He is well educated. In 1980 and 1982 he received General Certificates of Education from St. Johns School in Sekondi, Ghana, at the ordinary and advanced levels. Continuing his

MRC 185 Chris Ofili. The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996, Nigeria

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education in Africa, in 1987, he gained a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Upon proceding to the United States, in 1990, Bimbong enrolled in many curricular. They include the Program in Casting Techniques and the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in Mercerville, New Jersey; as well as the Summer Program at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, Maine. Bimbong’s latest academic achievement was in 1995 when he received the Master of Fine Arts degree from Rutgers University, Brunswick, New Jersey. He has received several grants, fellowships and commissions. The list encompasses two grants from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation in Montreal, Canada: one in 1987 and the other in 1993. In addition, he received two fellowships, one at Johnson Atelier in 1989 and the other at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1992. Finally, two commissions: during the Artist Residence of 1993 at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Ralph Abernathy Memorial Sculpture in Atlanta Georgia in 1996, were, furthermore, under his belt. In thinking about Bimbong’s works, the examination of his approach to form is insightful. Associate Curator of Exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Jorge Daniel Veneciano, described Bimbong’s installation Sustainers in 1994 as: […] an assemblage of course yet fragile vessels, the collection of pots evokes the persistence of spirit and sacrifice in and through the physical and cultural labor invested in the production and use of the pots (Ibid.). Continuing, he explains: they stand for economic survival whether pursued in the open market places of Africa or on the sidewalks of Harlem. The pots also become the symbolic tools of survival, eliciting the ability to contain and transport sustenance and nurture; they suggest, by extension, the tacit promise and conveyance of hope (Ibid.). From Veneciano’s observation, Bimbong may be creditable with caring about his motif, culture and people, and the symbolic message of his art wins one’s affection. Bimbong has been raved by critics as an emerged artist with visual eloquence all his own. His art has for the strength that it possesses been praised. He has struggled against the mainstream and made his own niche among it. An art critic from New York, Geoffrey Jacques, described his works at the Skoto Gallery in 1995 as a wonderful example of how art approaches the common human problems of time and anxiety. With all of this said, one would like to end with the opinion of a Nigerian art critic, Okwui Enwezor. He states: […] hopefulness, ultimately, is what Bimbong brings to his enterprise as an artist: the idea that no matter how commercialized, art still remains, in the words of the sculptor Moustapha Dine, ‘a human gift, not just something for commerce.’ Which is precisely the most meaningful way to engage the work of Bright Bimbong: as a gift (Ibid.).

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2.132 1968 Chris Ofili, Nigeria: Chris Ofili was conceived in Nigeria by Igbo parents who migrated soon after to Manchester, England where Ofili was born in 1968. Raised as an alter youngster, Ofili eventually moved to London where he attended the Chelsea School of Art, completing his BA in 1991, and then entered the MA course at the Royal College of Art, receiving his degree in 1993. He was a winner of several awards during the years of study, including the “Whitworth Young Contemporaries” award in 1989 and the “BP Portrait” award in 1990 and

MRC 186 Renuka Philli. Execution, acrylic on canvas, 33 x 24”,1996. The Artist Collection

1991. Moreover, Ofili received a British Council Travel Schoarship in 1992 that allowed him to study and experiment with his art in Zimbabwe (Slyce, 1999.76). Ofili’s experiences in Zimbabwe assisted to define his later works. Having encountered the ancient Maputo cave paintings that use repetitive dots, the body scarring of the Nuba people, as well as the material relationship between the world and animals in African life, Ofili developed a unique style. The most striking feature is his use of genuine elephant dung in his paintings, especially the 1996 controvasial work The Holy Virgin Mary (MRC 185). Ofili explains that in an effort to express the intensity of his experience in Zambabwe,

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he threw a piece of dried dung onto one of his canvases and liked the result (Buck, 1997.112). Many of Ofili’s recent works, including The Holy Virgin Mary, are experimental and feature balls of dung attached to and jutting out from the canvas, serving as base for the work of art, and then tilted back to lean against the wall. In addition to participating in the Sensation show (which was in London, Berlin and Brooklyn exposition 1999), Ofili had several solo exhibitions in London, New York and Berlin. He was also included in group-shows such as Brilliant! New Art from London at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1996), NowHere at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark (1997) and the Turner Prize show at the Tate Gallery in London (1998). One critic has suggested that: Identity is the magical element that offers Ofili’s work the opprtunity to cohere as something more than simply the hermetically sealed enterprise on nomadic process painter. Congealed cuttings are a running series of mythic tales that elaborate the artist’s awakening consciousness of his cultural roots (Slyce, 1999.76).

2.133 1968 Renuka Pillai, Ethiopia Renuka Pillai was born and raised in Ethiopia, in the 1970’s, and so was strongly influenced by the civil war that took place there. Consequently, her works developed as an expression of her feelings and emotions brought about by this civil war. Most of her works is oil on canvas and in Ijinla art style, her paintings are therefore abstract, colorful and contemporary in mode. Today, she is a practicing artist in California. Pillai gained her Bachelors degree from the Fine Arts School of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1985; and, in 1996, she received her Masters degree from the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. In obtaining the masters degree, she observed professors of drawing in classes and various teaching assistants conducting art classes, as well as guiding a couple of classes on her own, from 1983 to 1993. During the time, she worked in proxy as an Ethiopian freelance artist. Pillai was able through this venue to exhibit her works on an international level. It also enabled her to work on commissioned paintings, judge art competitions, and participate in the restoration of paintings and ceramic wears. All these allowed Pillai to acquire professional experience, while making a name for herself in the art world. Renuka Pillai has had five solo art exhibitions. First, in July of 1986, she had an exhibition in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Second, her showing titled Exposition Renuka held in November of 1989, also, in Addis Ababa. Third, she had another exhibition in Sweden on September 9 through the 27 of 1991. The fourth show, Victims of War, was from December 5 to 19; and the fifth, The Real and the Surreal, was for the entire month of October. Both exhibitions were held at Missoula, Montana, in 1996. Pillai has also been involved in numerous group and invitational exhibitions, starting from 1982 to 1996, in addition to the exhibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, in 1997 (see Archive, web site: www.accad.osu.edu/~eodita/aeafrart/archive/1997-2/ 379


MRC 187 Renuka Pillai. I am the enemy you killed, my friend, acrylic on canvas, 63 x 33”, 1996, Ethiopia. The Artist Collection

index). Pillai was twice by the University of Montana acclaimed for her artwork. She received the Bertha Morton Graduate School Scholarship Award in 1993 and gained the Fell Oskines Award in 1994. She is in numerous publications cited for her paintings. Some of these include The Ethiopian Herald, The Missulian, The Montana Kaiman and The Missoula Independent. Pillai ‘s focus is women’s roles in African culture. Her paintings, generally depicting women holding children and reacting to the horrors of Ethiopian civil war, are powerful. Her searching compositions show abstract figures, faceless and distorted. She employs warm, vibrant colors of tropical Africa, to get across her emotional messages. A case in point is her Execution (MRC 186), acrylic on canvas, 1996. Pillai’s Execution is a painting that clearly speaks for itself in its explicit subject matter and title, which need no explanation. It is deeply influenced by years of civil war that Pillai lived through in Ethiopia. In the painting, six male figures of predominantly African descent are depicted, standing side by side, lined up in front of what might be assumed to be a firing squad. The men are dressed uniformly in suits and ties of a white-collar fashion. Their hands are raised mercifully above their heads in a v-shape, as their legs mirror the same pose. There appears to be no real attempt to individualize the men other than one man wearing glasses, second from the right hand side of the painting. They are not only unified by dress and stance alone, but also by a single red spurt of blood which projects out from each one of them. Just behind the men lies a heap of dead bodies, presumably those who have already assumed their horrifying fate. These bodies appear faceless and it is difficult

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to define their attire, although they do not appear to be dressed in suits and ties like the figures in the foreground. Renuka Pillai has treated the materiality of the painting quite appropriate to its subject matter. She articulates her work with bright luminance colors that recapitulate the painting’s immediacy. The use of line is loose, yet controlled to execute its purpose of representation. The painting appears almost electric with neon yellows, oranges, and blues. Propelled by zigzag strokes and taking on a certain vitality of their own, the colors appear with their inherent richness to share a common emotional tension with the figures. Pillai’s use of teeth-like brush angles, weaving in and out of the twelve raised hands, creates a harsh contrast by the adjacent colors of yellow and orange, which in turn reflects analogous light on the blues and purples at the feet of the standing figures. A vermillion mixes in the cluster of colors as it trickles down from the heap of the dead bodies. Certainly, the Execution is painted in a primarily Soyan style. The figures are modeled to represent three-dimensional forms and although the light maybe an artificial one, there appears to be a single light source that casts corresponding shadows in the foreground of the painting. The male figures are true to life and exist in a convincing space, though shallow. Because the six figures are facing the viewer, it is uncertain who the executioners are. They appear to be making a plea. Therefore, it can be suggested that the viewer may either assume the role of the executor, or the role of the sympathizer. This role-playing is prompted by the way the figures are staged with the dead bodies behind them. Because of the lack of some specificity in the painting, it is difficult to determine the exact event that may have happened. So to the outsider, the painting may well serve as a metaphor for any civil war, occurring in Africa. However, what is certain is the scene and place. It is a political execution of intelligencers during the Ethiopian civil war, their suits and ties of a white-collar style giving them away. Pillai certainly makes a strong impression on her audience. She is blunt in her representations, hiding nothing and leaving anything to chance. She depicts clinical violence in everyday life with passion: the ugliness of war, the tearing apart of families, the killing of mothers and children, and the oppression of a nation without mercy. A superior examplar of this recklessness in government resides however in her 1996 painting (MRC 187): I am the enemy you killed, my friend. Consequently, her personal experience confers intensity to her works, yielding the unique style she so strongly developed. Indeed, Pillai has emotionally brought us closer to Africa’s twentieth century reality and a better understanding of life in Ethiopia during the 1970’s through art.

2.134 1970 Marcia Kure, Nigeria: 381


MRC 188 Macia Kure. Woman Giving Birth, ink, pencil, pastel crayon, watercolor and kola nut pigment on paper, 1997, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

MRC 189 Macia Kure. Woman at a Wedding, ink, pencil, pastel crayon, watercolor and kola nut pigment on paper, 1996, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

The early stages of contemporary Nigerian art were dominated by men, including which artists got attention for their works, and which gender was positively represented in the artwork being made. According to Dele Jegede (Web site) in his article Introducing Women, “In Nigeria, there is a vibrant culture of contemporary art. In terms of visibility, however, it is the men who are already in the limelight.” Salah Hassan (Web site, 1997) noticed this in a Nigerian dissertation paper in the late 1980s: “In an intensely patriarchal society [Nigeria], it was most interesting that the stock images of the women as mother, fairy queen, and dancer held sway even in the work of woman artists, unrevised and unchallenged.” Out of this environment came Marcia Kure: A female artist with a mission to begin a tradition of positive female representation, or at least start an international dialogue about a woman’s place in Africa. Mercia Kure was born in Kano, Nigeria in 1970. As a child, Kure lived in several Nigerian cities. She majored in painting at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in the Fine and Applied Arts in 1994. Since then, she has had several solo shows in Nigeria, Germany, and the United States. Kure is in the early stages of her career, yet she is making a valuable impact (Crossing: Time, Space, movement exhibition

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MRC 190 Kamela Ibrahim Ishaq. Ishaq in Khartoum, 1969. Photo, Marshall Mount Collection

catalogue). Olu Oguibe 1998 (Web site) said this of Kure: Mercia Kure has already distinguished her practice through a determined devotion to the centering of women in her work. In her paintings and drawings, not only are women the protagonists, they are portrayed with a sensitivity and attentiveness to the details of their natural and social conditions that is rare in the work of her contemporaries. Kure clearly exemplifies the positive characteristics of an Nsukka-educated artist. At Nsukka one learns much about Western art styles, techniques, and history. The education at Nsukka is rigorous, and a graduate can expect to be prepared both artistically and intellectually. Artists also can expect to have a strong sense of self and possibly an individual style. Interestingly, Nsukka tends to be male-dominated. Both the best-known teachers and practicing graduates are mostly male. For Kure to have come from the program, as such a strong and individualistic artist says a lot about her. Kure is also associated with the contemporary Uli artists, which is not surprising, considering that Nsukka is the “home� of the Uli artists. Uli, as a word, is an artistic techique employed traditionally by Igbo women of Nigeria in decorating their bodies and ornamenting the walls of their houses in Igboland. Traditional Uli technique uses sensitive 383


and curvilinear designs, driven by varying qualities of pure line and yielding confident drawing, simplification of outlines, and directness of execution of patterns on the picture surface. Kure is a master of drawing with strong sensitive line and demonstrating a sure hand in Uli art principles. In a typical Kure work, bold, sweeping strokes are combined with small, delicately drawn designs. Kure’s message about womanhood is meant to be African; she freely references several African cultures in her work. She employs symbols of Nsibidi★, a symbolic written language of the Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria. She also uses patterns of Akan/Ashanti Adinkra textiles of Ghana. Kure sometimes depicts also figures that reference ancient stone paintings and engravings of African Akwanshi Stone Figures: Woman Giving Birth (MRC 188), ink, pencil, pastel crayon, water color, and kola nut pigment, 1997). Even her Woman at a Wedding (MRC 189) relies so much on Akwanshi Stone Figures of Upper Cross River, in Nigeria, as the foundation of the work: ink, pencil, charcoal, and pastel, 1996. Moreover, she includes mask characteristics from the Bamana of Mali and shield motifs from Masai of Kenya. References to women fertility figures of the Ashanti of Ghana are also strong in her works. Thus, one of Kure’s inventive preoccupations has been the condition of woman in today’s Africa. Although Kure does not offer solutions to the many problems faced by women in contemporary society, she does however promote discussion of these issues. In Kure’s “Women Series,” she explores both the traditional and forbidden roles of women. In many drawings, Kure explores the emotions experienced by women as they perform their traditional African roles: bearing a child, breast-feeding, participating in a wedding, and being invisible. Conversely, Kure also addresses ideas of women breaking the “gender barrier” and taking on roles traditionally performed by men: specifically, dancing in masquerades and being a warrior. Pencil, pastel, wax, ink and kolanut pigment are all used in this series, adding texture to her style of combining bold line with delicate surface motifs. The viewer’s reaction to her works, subsequently, happens at both emotional and sensual levels.

2.135 1975 Crystalist School, Sudan: In mid-1970’s, artists in Sudan began to rebel against the principles of the Khartoum School. This rejection was rooted partially in the general disappointment with the ruling class in the post-colonial Sudan. Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq (MRC 190), Muhammad Hamid Shaddad and Nayla Al Tayth broke away from the Khartoum School and founded the Crystalist School. This new school was by ceremonies and rituals such as Zar greatly influenced, which was a cult of spirit possession practiced by women in Sudan. In addition, the new school was by avant-garde, existentialism, and other European art movements also inspired. In 1978, Ishaq, Shaddad and Tayth, outlining the principles of their art, issued the Crystalist Manifesto: 384


The essence of the universe is like a crystal cube, transparent and changing according to the viewer’s position. Within the cube, human beings are prisoners of an absurd destiny. The nature of the crystal is constantly changing, according to the degrees of light and other physical conditions (Whitechapel, 1995.118). Thus, Crystalist School used non-traditional media as part of a rebellion against the Khartoum School. One of Crystalist’s art exhibitions featured paintings of women’s faces and distorted human figure forms imprisoned in crystal c ubes. Other media included piles of melting ice cubes surrounded by transparent plastic bags, filled with colored water. The Crystalists’ artworks certainly infused a degree of transparency into their color scheme. Yet, the works themselves reflect the earthy color style of the Khartoum School. The Crystalist’s works of art received mostly negative response in Sudan. The works were not seriously regarded and critisized for being unconventional and imitative of the Western avant-garde.

2.136 1977 The Second World Festival of Black An African Arts and Culture (FESTAC), Nigeria: The Second World Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture (FESTAC) had its roots in Dakar Festival of 1966. It took place in Nigeria, exactly eleven years after the first. It remained faithful to the Dakar format, an organized presentation of events, exhibitions and colloquium61, but paid more noticeable attention to contemporary African arts and culture than its Dakar precursor. The theme of the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar was “The Function and Significance of Negro Arts for the People and in the Life of the People.” The theme of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) was “Black civilization and education.” This main theme was divided into the following sub-themes: 1. Black Civilization and the Arts. 2. Black Civilization and Pedagogy. 3. Black Civilization and Language. 4. Black Civilization and Literature. 5. Black Civilization and Religion. 6. Black Civilization and African Governments. 7. Black Civilization and Historical Awareness. 8. Black Civilization, Science and Technology. 9. Black Civilization and Mass Media. Thirty-five countries registered to participate in the Festival: Brazil, Cuba, Canada, United States, United Kingdom and Ireland, France, Australia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mauritius, Zambia, Swaziland, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zaire, Burundi, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Empire, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Liberia, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Republic of Guinea, Peoples Republic of Benin, Zimbabwe, Surinam, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania. Representatives of eighteen other countries joined the FESTAC 385


during the Festival: Somalia, Lesotho, Libya, Egypt, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Madagascar, Tunisia, Algeria, Guinea Bissau, Rwanda, Republic of Cape Verde, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Togo, Niger, Namibia and the Black Community in Germany and Holland. France and Mauritius did not participate. In all, there were 700 participants. Although FESTAC was replete with events, exhibitions and colloquia, illustrating Black civilization and education, its emphasis on contemporary African arts and culture was apparent not only in the events and exhibitions but more so in the colloquium’s sub-theme of Black Civilization and the Arts. It highlighted the problem of civilization and cultural identity, Art as a factor of technical progress, Problems of the history of African art, and Problems of the value of traditional and modern art. It affirmed that: Art [is] an essential element of Black Civilization and its contribution to the universal culture. This relationship between art and civilization [it stated] is so organic that the symbolism of this art enables…[the Blacks and Africans] to know the structure of the history of…[their] civilization (Amode, 1978.42) Throughout the sessions on art, FESTAC recognized the need for researching the history of the philosophy of art. It recognized the impact of world capitalist imperialism on the Black and African world and rejected the western European ideal. It delimited the European from the Black and African world; henceforth, Europe and its traditions would be a case to be studied, thus making the European perception of African traditional art as a primitive illustration a dead issue. It observed that: …the basic search of the Black and African academic artist is not for authenticity but for legitimacy and that the source of legitimacy is not the traditional world but the state authorities of Black and African world (Ibid. 45). FESTAC policy recommendations all pointed to and called for the development of a professional base within the contemporary Africa and Black art world and to an assimilation of the traditional artists into the contemporary sector. The details of the policy recommendations can be found in Amode (1978.187-190).

2.137 1986 School of The One, Sudan: For over half a century, contemporary art movement pursued in Sudanese the idea that, without a cultured foundation, a contemporary artistic creation has no value. The contemporary Sudanese artists, therefore, find it essentially appropriate to connect and bond with the Arab Islamic heritage. Also, the Sudanese artists consider it important to deliberate and appreciate the contributions of the Khartoum School, a school founded on cultured and historic proposition, as it embodies all aspects of life in Sudan: religion, culture, sociology, economy, and politics. It is a project based on a holistic vision. Created in 1986 by Ahmad Abdel Al, Ibrahim Al-Awan, Muhammad Hassay Al-Fakki,

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Ahmad Abdallah Utaibi, and Ahmad Hamid Al-Arabi, The School of the One draws its inspiration and aesthetic goals from the meaning of monotheism in Islam. It upholds the principle of unity in diversity. Its motto is: Allah – the one and only, The Almighty and Most Revered, The Initiator, The Repeater, The Creator (Painter), The Creative, and The Creator of all things. The whole – is a Whole Who is manifested in rhythm of multiplicity and diversity” (Whitechaple, 1995.245). With this philosophy, the School believes that there is no separation between this new vision and the appearance of nature and its essence. They believe also that inspiration is a creative necessity that will free human beings from the confines of inattention, leading to the wisdom of the beauty of existence. Thus, their two pillars of creative experience must manifest in vision and skill that are teachable at School of The One. For this reason, School of The One’s aim is to improve skills and vocations as a means of cultured development. Creativity is then the total sum and ultimate goal around which creative beings should gather without any conflict. As earlier identified, School of The One is guided by the principle of unity and diversity which has been essential to art throughout the Islamic world. The Islamic civilization has never destroyed any local heritages, instead has endeavored to assimilate them. For this principle to work, the School of The One must construct artistic and aesthetic schools in Sudan. It is important for the school to learn and perform artistic and aesthetic research in institutions of higher education. All this is instructable through a well-grounded curriculum. The School of The One appreciates the idea that ‘nation’ is an “indisputable entity rooted in time and space” (Ibid.246). The artists of School of the One value comfort in their belief in the unity of human existence. Their creativity is thus a contribution to their heritage, a contribution to Islamic civilization. The artists of the School of The One believe that freedom is the essence of religious and moral responsibility: The artist who believes in the unity of God [Allah] (i.e. in monotheism) is a struggling cultural entity” (Ibid.246). Freedom is therefore an essential demand of all people and is the only means of victory against weakness, dogmatism, fear and poverty, for all to gain enlightenment and begin nation building. The students of the school believe also in unifying concepts and in developing a healthy Sudanese people who will be productive in their lives, only if “Allah wills”, as its students would express it.

2.138 1989 The Eye Society Zaria, Nigeria: The Eye Society was founded in Zaria in 1989 to address the threats to the development of visual representations in Nigeria. The threats came from Nigerian artists who produced two types of art: one for the mainstream, status quo of Western society that is a reproduction of the traditional, strictly for sale, and the other that reflects the artist’s ideals and conceptualizations. Because of these two types of art, the contemporary Nigerian art was 387


unexposed to western society. Thus, only the trendy, stereotypical ancient and traditional Nigerian art was to the Western Society disclosed and accepted by it as contemporary works of art. The Eye’s major objectives were: To undertake a massive but gradual education, particularly of the Nigeria public, so that they may learn to appreciate creative contemporary art irrespective of what inspires its productions; and to build confidence in the artist to continue producing works based on deeply felt ideas (Whitechapel, 1995.214). Other aims of the Eye Society include: The projection of the visual arts as an instrument of development of the society; the documentation and the analysis of the developments and history in the arts; the promotion of community projects in the area of environmental aesthetics, arts and crafts through workshops and other activities involving members and selected communities from time to time; and the organization and promotion of exhibitions, workshops and symposia (Ibid.).

MRC 191 National Gallery of Art (facing north), Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Professor Professor E. Okechukwu Odita, 2003

It would seem from the preceding that the Eye Society accepts that only when artists are free to produce what they believe in, can they make a meaningful contribution to the development of their society. To fully appreciate the aims of this society, one must be aware of a certain fundamental. The Eye Society developed in an Islamic area of Nigeria where the Muslim population needed to be educated in contemporary Nigerian art. It has not been easy for contemporary artists, here, to develop without coming up against Islamic religion that discourages any creative, visual representations that imitates nature. God must not and cannot be rivaled, an injunction from the holy Koran. The problem is further heightened

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MRC 192 Dr. Chike Dike at Emerging Technologies Studio, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, in Autumn 1998. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

when associates of The Eye Society are all members of the Department of Fine Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, located in the center of Islamic Nigeria, where the teaching and making of art is vital and academic and in line with western education. Moreover, the 1980’s economic break down in Nigeria prompted many artists to produce works by themes for sale, inspiring such works as copies of Nigerian antiquities solely for western consumption. The Eye Society was vehemently against the preceding restrictive practices for they limited creativity and the ability of the artist to analyze Nigerian art. The society worked on the future of visual art in Nigeria. It organized shows and exhibitions, ran workshops, and educated the Nigerian population. Members of the society include the late Gani Odutokun, Jerry Buhari, Matt Ehizele, Jacob Jari and Tonie Okpe. The Eye Society established The Eye, a biannual journal, in 1992 to disseminate its ideas and ideals. Championed by Gani Odutokun (who died in February 1995), The Eye Society favors liquid images that clearly manifests in Gani Odutokun’s “acidental design” and Jerry Buhari’s “color dripping” investigations. Many of its members have branched off, displaying and explaining their “true” works in Nigeria and beyond.

2.139 1990 Laboratoire Agit-Art, Set, Senegal: The people in the towns and various districts took up Set Setal in Senegal in 1990. Issa Samb, also known as Joe Ouakam, is the primary innovator and exponent of the Set Setal and of the experiments of Laboratoire Agit-Art as arenas for speaking out through theater workshops and street performances. Laboratoire Agit-Art is a group of artists and intellectuals who have chosen the media of experimental workshops, public debates, 389


theatrical performances and visual creations to consider and analyze the body of questions relating to arts development. Due to its non-bureaucratic, anti-official and rather informal nature, the Laboratoire was able to be the vanguard and the forerunner of the uprising by men, women, and children. Set Setal opened public eyes to inadequacies of slums and their effects on health, education and prosperity. The Laboratoire Agit-Art is a cultural phenomenon that baffled the Senegalese Administration. It happened without government support. It linked everyday Senegalese environment with its determination to clean up the districts, making them smarter and safer. With street performances, music in the air, young Senegalese were emotionally fired with eagerness as they threw themselves into the installation of wall paintings and sculpted pieces on the roundabouts of Senegal, ranging from Sankofa to Ijinla art styles.

2.140 1992 Skoto Gallery, New York, USA: Since its inception in 1992, Skoto Gallery in New York City has helped to introduce the works of contemporary African artists to the American public through its numerous and highly informative exhibitions. Critical reviews on some of these exhibitions have appeared in several publications such

MRC 194 Okay Ikenegbu. Dancer, Cast Iron, 52.7 x 26.3�, 1988, Nsukka, Nigeria. The Artist Collection

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as The New York Times, Art in America, The Village Voice and African Arts. It has also collaborated in exhibition projects with galleries and institutions in the US and abroad. Skoto Aghahowa and Alix du Serech are the Skoto Gallery’s Directors.

MRC 195 NASA Symposium In Session 2003. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

2.141 1993 National Gallery of Art, Lagos, Nigeria: The 1990s affirmed the era of the National Gallery of Art, Lagos. In September of 1993, Nigerian Federal Decree, Number 86, created the National Gallery of Art (MRC 191). The National Gallery got the exclusive authority to further the course of contemporary art more efficiently, with a budget to do so. This change did not come without mitigating circumstances. Still, the relentless efforts of Dr. P. Chike Dike (MRC 192-193) must be acknowledge in this context. In magnitude, they are comparable to Aina Anabolu’s unyielding efforts in the establishment of the teaching of art in Nigerian schools in 1927. From July to August 1995, the National Gallery of Art was active. It organized and dispatched seven works that boldly represented a-four-Nigerian group of artists in an international exhibition. The venue was Jakarta, Indonesia, in the exposition Contemporary Art of the Countries of The Non-Allied Movement. At the Panafest, in Ghana, Contemporary Nigerian Art: Past Generation was from August 29 to September 7, 1997, mounted. Over 100 works were involved; but, because of limited space, only 24 pieces were in the showing. Finally in 1997, also, from November through December 11 works of art consisting of four sculpted pieces and seven paintings were at the Trinnalle India exhibited. Unlike previous showings of Nigeria’s contemporary art, the 1990s art exhibitions were chaperoned by educational brochures. For the National Gallery of Art, the exhibition of the Works of The Zaria Art Society, from November 9 to 21, 1998, was an outstanding achievement. Unlike anything before in the

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history of contemporary Nigerian art, it has a book with the same title as the exhibition, The Zaria Art Society: A New Consciousness. It was by Dr. P. Chike Dike and Dr. Pat Oyelola edited and published by the National Gallery of Art, Nigerian, in 1998. If this exhibition could be advanced beyond Nigerian boundaries, the total contribution of the National Gallery of Art, so far displayed during its era, would be more directed towards a given end: By focusing exclusively on today’s art rather on art of the past, the National Gallery of Art has essentially liberated contemporary Nigerian art from the shackles of Nigerian antiquities. If one assumes that the value of a contribution is measurable on a scale, one may arrive at an ultimate outcome. While any other Nigerian agencies, like the Federal Department of Arts and Culture, would be expecting a trophy for promoting Nigerian contemporary art, the National Gallery of Art would be anticipating a trophy chest.

2.142 1998 Contemporary Uli Art, Nigeria: Contemporary Uli Art, as art movement, was most popularized in the exhibition The Poetics of Line: Seven Artists of the Nsukka Group, National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., 1998, with a book of the same title. The term Uli is an Igbo word for a vegetable dye. Uli, produced by grinding the dried seeds of uli plant and mixing it with water, is bluish black in color. It was used in the distant past as a medium for body decoration in curvilinear pattern, particularly, among young women in Igbo culture. Contemporary Uli art would consequently mean today’s art produced by uli dye, or similar or other medium in curvilinear design, in which also uli is used as a modifier, unable to stand alone, and therefore dependent. The important question, here, is: What is contemporary Uli art? Has it a shared form? Has it a distinguishing style? What are its constants and variables? However, if the art style is the “Poetics of Line,” then, there is a serious problem with contemporary Uli art, for there is hardly any created visual expression from the cave man to the present-day mankind that excludes poetics of line from its artistry. In other words, what specifically sets contemporary Uli art apart from other forms of visual representation in African and the rest of the world? And how can contemporary Uli art be appreciated as a serious, coherent body of works? In the light of preceding observations, there appears to be misunderstanding between style and technique of which the latter seems more defensible for what several members of contemporary Uli art of The Poetics of Line: Seven Artists of the Nsukka Group, at the moment, are all about. In this context, and outside the goup, is Okay Ibenegbu. His Dancer (MRC 194) appears to be the best personalize traditional uli art in a synthetic manner, combining technique and form into a single entity, thus serving as an objective beginning in contemporary Uli art. On the other hand, if the role of contemporary Uli art is to recall the glorious past of Igbo Uli body decoration, the point is clear (for further discussions on contemporary Uli art see: 2.70 1946 Obiora Udechukwu, above).

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MRC 196 Mufu Ouifade, NASA Symposium In Session 2003. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

MRC 197 Mufu Ouifade, Osun Olomoyoyo, acrylic on canvas, 36.8 x 29.2”, Symposium In Session 2003. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

MRC 198 Rachael Isaac, NASA Symposium In Session, 2003. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

MRC 199 Norbert Okpu, NASA Symposium In Session, 2003. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

2.143 2003 NÁSA, Nigeria: (Nigerian Art Studies Association) (MRC 195) NÁSA has a history as involved as its mission. Founded on July 19, 2003 by E. Okechukwu Odita who is its first president, Simon Ikpakronyi takes on the awesome office of the 393


MRC 199.1 A Painting by Norbert Okpu, NASA Symposium In Session, 2003. Photo by Professor E. Okechukwu Odita

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first secretary-general of the association that discovers Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Ife, Ile Ife, and Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, as ideal academic centers for three-way secretariat, reflecting NÁSA’s feeling of respect and good organization in the face of Nigeria’s over-two-thousand years antique art and over-one-hundred years contemporary art. NÁSA laid out on June 19, 2003 manifesto: Declaration of Fusion in Nigerian Arts, written and discussed by E. Okechukwu Odita as an honored guest over Nigeria’s National Television Network at Lagos on August 1, 2003, publicly proclaimed the need for Nigerians to break away from foreign influences on the separation of the arts and to build a unique bridge of integration in the Nigerian arts. It is indeed a manifesto of hope and a feeling for all creative artists, however diverse, to have some control over their destiny by reorganizing themselves, increasing awareness of their involvement, to appreciate their future. The manifesto thus epitomized the rejection of superficiality and romanticism that is felt in the prevailing Nigerian approach to the arts. As an organization, NÁSA’s name, objectives and mission were also discussed and structured to develop a new art studies association that will commit to principles of intellectual responsibility, artists involvement, art educators contribution, art critics participation, art historians input, performing artists embracement, and promotion of pride in Nigerian self-identity. To fulfill the aims, the association was on July 19, 2003, charged to emphasize art issues relevant to the lives and experiences of all Nigerians and to avoid certain failings of earlier artist’s and art historian’s associations in Nigerian, such as the exclusion of gender issues and non-involvement of traditional African art historians in their conferences. By focusing on the definition of NÁSA, Odita sought to celebrate the roots of Nigerian Art Studies Association: NÁSA, as a word, is inspired by a terminology straight out of history of a Nigerian OnitshaIgbo expression “nása,” which refers not just to word as a thing, but word that performs a function in an intellectual sense. “Nása” (¯ _) translates directly as “ reveal,” referring to performance of the word as “revelation,” to be empowered and engaged in an intellectual environment and expected to act in oral and written situations of which art studies, collectively, is one. “Nása,” when considered from Nigerian persuasion, is not merely a static word, it is inherently dynamic, as is the mission of NÁSA organization. NÁSA has the following objectives, as defined by E. Okechukwu Odita: First, Nigerian art studies must be based on a thorough assessment of Nigeria’s cultural heritage and Nigeria’s present position in Nigerian society. Moreover, the studies must be directed toward the establishment of a viable, distinct (and economically) cultural base. In line with the preceding aims, Nigerian art studies should: 1. Stress things like the strong feelings of spiritual kinship and brotherhood, which draw Nigerian people together. 2. Extract objects and symbols from Nigerian already existing culture (past and present), especially those that Nigerian sense of pride and self-respect; and

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3. Point out contradictions, such as exploitation and discrimination, which will give NÁSA members, as well as Nigerians, cause for unified action. 4. Ultimately, Nigerian art studies must make a conscious effort to promote attitudes and values, which when put into practice will either correct or completely destroy all the oppressive conditions confronting art, visual artists, performing artists, art critics, art educators, and art historians. NÁSA, in a pioneering spirit, showcased The First Annual Symposium on The State of Nigerian Art: Past, Present and Future, a three-day symposium for visual artists, performing artists, art critics, art educators, and art historians. This activity, filled with international representatives, housed in Nigeria’s National Gallery of Art, during the 3rd International K-12 Art Teachers and College Students’ Summer Workshop, happened from July 30-August 1, 2003. As a legacy from the turn-of-the-century spirit of diversity, NÁSA invited everyone (Nigerians, Nigerian-Americans, Africans, African-Americans, Americans, Diaspora Africans and many more) to confront important issues in the arts (MRC 196), while presenting challenging and new imagery and concepts (MRC 197), based on perceptions and knowledge directly derived from Nigeria. As focus of the symposium, Nigerian art was analyzed and evaluated to stimulate forward-looking discussions (MRC 198) about questions of pride, self-respect, and contradictions in Nigerian culture. NÁSA’s participants on The State of Nigerian Art: Past, Present and Future included the entire 3rd International K-12 Art Teachers and College Students of the 2003 Summer Workshop, as well as the intellectual community of Lagos State of Nigeria; and from wall-to-wall people were jammed, eager to experience firsthand the dynamics of Nigerian culture through art. Moreover, from foundation members, NÁSA offered mixed paper presentations, forever capturing the elegance, mystery, and beauty of Nigerian art (MRC 199 and MRC 199.1). Presenters, their national origin and title of papers, were the following:

The Artists’ Panel Presenter

National Origin

Specialization

Title of Paper

1 Akaro Afolayan

Nigerian

Sculptor

Stone Carving Methods in Nigeria

2 O’Shiloh Basil

Nigerian

Ceramicist

Terra Cotta: The Foundation of Nigerian Art

3 Sabitu Abu Hassan

Nigerian

Painter

Towards “Amulu Mala” as an Art Style through Hassan Paintings

4 Adebayo Jolade

Nigerian

Painter

Towards “Ara-ism” as an Art Style through Jolade Paintings

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5 Norbert Okpu

Nigerian

Painter

Norbert’s Art: Paintings

6 Mike Omoighe

Nigerian

Painter

A Critical Talk: The Place of Yaba College of Technology in Contemporary Nigerian Art

7 Mufu Ouifade

Nigerian

Painter

Towards “Ara-ism” as an Art Style through Ouifade Paintings

Art Educators’ And Art Critics’ Panel Presenter

National Origin

Specialization

Title of Paper

1 Oyewunmi Fagbero

Nigerian

Textile Design

Nigerian Tye-Busuyi Dying Designs

2 Ama Echefu

Nigerian

Performing Arts

Uplifting Ancestral Eulogies of a Glorious Past through Poetry

3 Rachael Isaac

Nigerian

Journalist

Film Scriptwriting (Post Express)

4 Chuka Nnabuife

Nigerian

Journalist

Art Criticism and (The Guardian) The Press

5 Patrick Nwagbo

Nigerian

Journalist

Playwriting Nnenyelike

6 Odili Donald Odita

Nigerian-American

Painter and Writer

The Third Eye:Painting in an Expanded Field

Art Historians’ Panel Presenter

National Origin

Specialization

Title of Paper

1 Emeka Anonyuo

Nigerian-American

Art History

Contemporary Nigerian Art: The Need for a Durable Methodology

2 D. Ola Babalola

Nigerian

Art History

Zaria Art Legacy: Contributions to Contemporary Nigerian Art

3 Shirley Bowen

African-American

Art History

Envisioning Nigerian Vibrations Anew:

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Towards Designing a Research to Explore the Works of Four Contemporary Nigerian Women Artists 4 Therese McCann

American

Art History

Ben Enwonwu: Does Art Imitate Life?

5 E. Okechukwu Odita Nigerian-American

Art History

An African Writing: Odita The Igbo Nsibidi - Fresh Thematic Classification of its Recurring Motifs of Meaning and Form

2.144 Summary In this rather lengthy chapter, it has been determined that: There is great variety in the styles and influences on contemporary African art, attributable to the diverse cultures, religions and professional experiences of the artists; 2 There were two basic extreme philosophies during the early development of Africa’s Fine Arts schools by Europeans (1942 and 1944): The Academy of Fine Arts (Academic Des Beaux Arts), Zaire, 1942, was based on rigid classicism designed to teach the students in a structured, systematized manner. By teaching or training the students in a dogmatic way, it was believed that this would yield a higher percentage of successful artists, not relying on accidental art. The school allowed no individual styles to emerge in the belief that it could destroy traditional academic style. Congo Academy of Folk Art, Zaire, 1944, on the other hand, favored the individual creativity of the artist. The approach was anti-standardization, no models and methodologies. The institution strictly supplied only a place to work and the necessary materials. It emphasized students’ free will and condemned repetition. It favored works that related to the students personal experiences, independent of western academic standards. Because of the institution’s teaching method, a new art form, such as a flat, primarily decorative style of painting, developed; The oldest contemporary African artist, Ibrayima Njoya, was born in Cameroon in 1880; Contemporary African artists have been actively involved in establishing early independent studios and workshops where young Africans were trained: Lasekan Studio (Nigeria: 1941), Gorsui Studio (Egypt: 1950), Alpha Studio (Ethiopia: 1955), Tapestry School (Dakar: 1966); 5. The greatest concentration of African Muslim artists is historically in Northern Africa. The artists do indeed have a viable contemporary African art, unified, in that it shows the 398


influence of Islamic religion that has such a profound effect upon the total culture of the area; 6. The history of African civilization was promoted in the First World Festival of Negro Arts and Culture in Dakar, Senegal in 1966. It was also advanced in the Second World Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in Nigeria, in 1977. Comparatively, the FESTAC of Nigeria focused world’s attention more on contemporary African art and culture than the Dakar Festival that primarily limelighted African ancestral legacy; 7. Established in the 1990s, two major art galleries promote, exclusively and aggressively, the course of contemporary African art. One, founded in New York in 1992, is the Skoto Gallery and the other, instituted in Nigeria in 1993, is The National Gallery of Art. Since their establishment, the art galleries are steered by African leaders; and, Contemporary African artists and scholars have organized art clubs, societies and art movements, based solely on their own initiatives, to prosper the course of their profession. Associations such as Aouchem (Algeria, early 1940’s); Akwapim six (Ghana, 1955); The Zaria Art Society (Nigeria, l958); Chemchemi (Kenya, 1963); Crafts Council (Tanzania, 1964); Laboratoire Agit-Art (Senegal, 1990), Contemporary Uli Art (Nigeria, 1998), and NÁSA (Nigeria, 2003) are significant. In sum, all the laudable efforts as noted above that individual artists, governments, nongovernmental agencies, and academic institutions have made in African countries—indeed, in the Black World—will be sustained for further development of contemporary African art and artists in continental Africa and the world over.

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Experiencing Art Through Theory

chapter three

3.1 For What Reason? Possibly the first question that comes to mind62 in addressing the topic of contemporary African art is: Why should one engage in the subject of Contemporary African Art Investigation and to what end? Is it to further the frontiers of knowledge, to test new hypotheses, develop new theories; extend existing ones, or are there some mixed motives

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in all that? Are investigators enchanted by the expression, “contemporary African art”? Given the almost exclusive focus on traditional African art in recent years63, are some academicians overwhelmed by the fascination of “getting current” with the attraction of “changing communications” and expressing feeling of exhilaration for doing “contemporary’’ investigations? FWR 200B

These questions are, in all seriousness, asked because there appears to be more than a casual reference to mixed motives in some of the literature on contemporary African art (typified by McEwen 1968, 3.4.1, below). Some published research results seem to have been accomplished in a sort of fun-fair style where the investigator bags his/her catch and runs (exemplified by Beier 1968, 3.4.2, below).64 Thus, this book is intended to flash caution light to investigators of contemporary African art, while making a strong plea for rigorous reporting of research findings, especially if research in the history of art is executed in a scientific manner. This is because scientific approach is necessary to establish a suitable chronology, determine appropriate reference frames for terms used, understand the range, the variability, the differences in artistic processes as a function of culture, and comprehend the uniformity, and the pan-cultural consistency in artistic processes, so that valid generalizations may be made about human artistic and aesthetic functioning. This approach appears to be a good one; however, somewhere between the idea of research method and the concept of art study, there is need for caution. For any study without methodology can be unreliable and confusing, just as any methodology without study is certainly fruitless and flat. If any conclusions are deduced from contemporary African art that mirrors the art in the previous ninety years or more, the most obvious is that contemporary African art reflects the changing aspects of visual communication in Africa. By visual communication I mean a cognate system of maintaining art styles by natural adaptation, cross-culture, trans history and integration, and keeping ideas and actions going forward. Onto this changing and still

FWR 200C Area 75,750 sq mi Population 3,780,000 Capital Dakar Largest City Dakar Highest Point Futa Jallon 1,640 ft Monetary Unit CFA franc Major Languages Wolof, Fulani, Serer, French Major Religions Islam, Religion of African Ancestry, Roman Catholicism

unresolved aspects of visual communication, comes the point at which the appreciation of contemporary African art65 is no longer underground, no longer exclusive to a select few, even if that few were in millions; only at that point is the exchange of ideas in matters concerning art is perceivable as public property. That time is now. By definition, attempts to understand contemporary art within the African context can

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occur inside an open system. In such a system, asking relevant questions is one step toward comprehension. Questions could include the following: What is contemporary African art? Does this concept relate to the understanding of the art? Perhaps, if we briefly address the concept from the perspective of what it is not, we may gain a clearer understanding of what it is: Contemporary African art is not pre-historic art. Contemporary African art is not a racial art. FWR 201A

Contemporary African art is not traditional art. Contemporary African art refers to those visual forms that have grown out of the experiences of the 20th Century African artists as they shaped an artistic identity for the continent of Africa. It also involves receiving, appreciating and understanding the various forms of present-day art that have implications for Africa. Traditional and contemporary African art have therefore been considered as stark opposites. Granted they are in many

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ways entirely different, yet contemporary African art displays many of the techniques evident in the works of traditional African artists. To succeed further in differentiating between the two art types, one must also take into account an individual artist’s style. Prior the emergence of contemporary African art, it

FWR 201C Area 4,003 square miles Population 357,000 Capital Bathurst Largest City Bathurst Highest Point 100 feet Monetary Unit West African pound Major Languages Mandingo, Fulani, Wolof, English Major Religions Islam, Religion of African Ancestry, Christianity

was not so important to review FWR 202A art works strictly according to periods. Works were included under all embracing labels such as: “Baga Art”, “Luba Art”, “Zande Art” or “Zulu Art.” Sometime during the early 1900s, contemporary artists began to appreciate the importance of their art. They started to sign their names to their works, to receive recognition for their skill. Individual styles became more separate, as artists gained reputation and were free to experiment as well as produce art with a diversity of materials. Thus, the foremost contemporary African artists were explorers of a vast frontier of possibilities in art. Such pioneer artists include Ibrayima Njoya of Cameroon (born in 1880), Aina Onabolu of Nigeria (b. 1882), Yahia Turki of Tunisia (b. 1902), Gregory Maloba of Kenya (b. 1922), Mahmound Moukhtar of Egypt (b. 1924), and Michael Zondi of South Africa (b. 1926). As time passed, technology, techniques and tricks of the trade were to each new generation of artists passed on. In turn, each new generation embraced and rejected parts of the handed-down information. Rejected parts exchanged techniques that each new generation of artists had discovered in their own exploration of art. Here, one sees the dynamism of art through the ages. This realization would help us, as we examine the diversity and stylistic qualities of contemporary African art. As we conduct this exercise, we must remember to take into account individual styles of artists, especially in the works of art themselves, as well as group styles. Functionally, styles of contemporary African art are predictable to treat theme, classification and interpretation as concepts in a systematic explanation designed to account for discoveries in art. They are expected to distinguish art through the representation

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of contemporary African life that would include focusing on positive reactions to contemporary environments (Vitu Art); weaving together indigenous and foreign knowledge (Soyan Art); acceptance of an established spectrum of indigenous knowledge (Sankofa Art); and an interdependence of different value systems (Ijinla Art). FWR 202C While dealing with these concepts, the art styles will also account for some qualities that are by two major features characterized: first, “Conservatism” as an independent system of depiction, and FWR 203A “Universalism” as an unconstrained system of representation. Together, ★both

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of these features should be evident in contemporary African art. The problem lies, however, in observing these features in a work of art. The main factor lacking is that the two features are often considered as a subject-matter focus and not defining characteristics. Concerned with the artists’ reactions and experiences, the first-mentioned feature (conservatism) defines the cultural elements of art and the problems with which it deals. These will include symbol and reason, and the two major inquiries critics always demand

FWR 202B

about art: what cultural elements are represented in the art, and what they mean in these cultural contexts. Concentration on symbol and reason helps to reveal the conservative elements of creativity and expression as well as the motivation for artistic expression. To conserve is to save, or keep, something already ones’ own, and conservatism is the valuing of the FWR 203B familiar. It resists change due to either external or internal pressure. Conservative elements of art, then, are always rooted in the culture and history of the artist. Those who understand or share in that culture and history can comprehend fully and appreciate the elements of the art. Those who come from outside of the culture (and also) have not studied the culture, will miss the real meaning of the conservative elements that could include emblems, costumes, jewelry, architecture, pervasive decorative patterns, in fact, any element that is culture-specific. Thus, conservatism in art will help one determine the African artist’s experiences and processes in creating contemporary works of art. It will also assist in revealing the special characteristics of art and the effects of culture on it, especially for those who have no special training in art appreciation. FWR 203C Conservatism in art always marks off the boundaries from “universalism,” the second feature, which deals with elements of personification and significance. Universalism in art appears to treat the spectator’s experience rather than the artist’s experiences and creative processes. Concentration on universalism will reveal liberal elements that

FWR 202C Area 27,925 square miles Population 2,512,000 Capital Freetown Largest City Freetown Highest Point Loma Mts. 6,390 feet Monetary Unit Leone Major Languages Mende, Temne, Vai, English Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Islam, Christianity

are at stake in the art. Universalism in art goes beyond the locally popular to include generally accessible elements. It addresses mankind rather than a specific people. Universalism necessarily means change. The more exposure an artist gets to influences from beyond his own culture, the more possibilities are open to him. He may present an entirely African FWR 204A theme even from one specific locality, but in a way that helps to unlock it to the viewer. Universalism in art allows for experimentation, discovery through accidents, and the

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expression of original ideas. In other words, the experience that universalism in art arouses in the spectator is ultimately the deeper insight into the beautiful in art and its impact. It therefore stresses the quality of a greater freedom of thought in the interpretation of a work of art, as found in this book. As expected, the two features of conservatism and universalism overlap and interpenetrate in a work of art, each contributing to the success of the work in its degree. Now that we have explored some of the common characteristics of contemporary African art, we may FWR 203A

be better prepared to approach the core of their motivation: diversity. FWR 204B Diversity in contemporary African art relates to change in African civilization. According to Bascom and Herskovits, “…there is no African culture which has not been affected in some way by European contact…” (1970.3).This theory frequently serves as a source of encouragement for the Euro-American cognition of contemporary African art. Here, the idea of acculturation66 comes alive, bringing with it the concept of change.

FWR 203B

However, acculturation is not a one-way-process as Bascom and Herskovits would have us believe. For there are other processes involved. FWR 204CThis involves contemplating three essential scenarios: What would it be if left alone? What would its state be during the process of change? Moreover, what would it be after the change? With acculturation as the goal, the three conditions would certainly be sufficient to initiate diversity. The individual merits of before, during, and after change are therefore distinctive and recognizable. What scholars have overlooked is the bearing they have, collectively, on contemporary African art. The problem is an acute one for the history of art because most studies are not, and practically speaking cannot be, conducted on a basis of single perception. For example, a comprehensive process of acculturation of contemporary African art, given the above, can be precise: when the receiving culture is isolated (pre-colonial Africa), there will be no change, especially by way of foreign pressure. During the period of culture contact (colonial Africa), there will be adaptation. After the change in culture (post-colonial Africa), there will be dissension and integration, which are vying circumstances. Therefore, to attain a true comprehension of the study of contemporary African art, the artist must realize that the operant conditions of before (constant), during (convergence), and after (resistance and synthesis) have to play equal parts. FWR 205A Accordingly, these resultant four elements would serve in their diversity to unify contemporary African art through time (chronology), space (geography) and place (origin). With all of these principles, if the answer requirements are unmet then no corresponding consequences will follow. That is, in this case, if contemporary African art does not respond to its principles it will not be in compliance. This fact led to the use of the terms: constant, convergence, resistance and synthesis. In retrospect, the establishment of these nomenclatures based on the success of the principles of before, during and after is the clearest or most dependable course to follow.

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FWR 205BThe characterization of this finding is here brief and thus is set forth virtually without the supporting evidence available in literature or in works of art. Still, since I believe that the finding has profound implications in the study and history of contemporary African art, it is important to try to convey its substance, in detail, through the following art exhibition. The Ohio State University (OSU) exhibition, Diversity In Contemporary African Art: Causes And Effects, October – December 1997, including the accompanying Gallery Guide, has set itself apart from other art showings that have focused on contemporary African art. The manner in which this exhibition was proposed served to correct some of the glaring faults

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of other contemporary African art exposition’s forerunners. FWR 205CThis process is from the beginning the exhibition, which is set out to give voice to those normally silenced in an art showing, such as the collector of the art works and the art exhibition’s hanger. Another unique aspect of this exhibition was its efforts to ensure that the works by African women artists were characterized as well as acknowledged.

FWR 204B

Perhaps the most salient feature of the OSU showing was the unifying element of it: clearly classifying the art into four distinct categories that, in turn, aided in analysis and appreciation of the artists’ products. These features all contributed to the groundbreaking perceptiveness provided by the exhibition Diversity In Contemporary African Art: Causes and Effects. FWR 206AThe feature that immediately stands out in this exhibition is the enlightening remarks included in the Introduction to the Gallery Guide. By reading the art collector Skoto Aghaowa’s essay, “The Obscured Boundary: Exhibiting Contemporary African Art Outside of Africa: Issues Surrounding its Practices”, one learns of the challenges in collecting works for a contemporary African art showing. Skoto brought to light many of the defective conditions that abound in the area of the art. A good example is false notion that “…works by formally trained African artists have been tainted by their contact with the West67 and no longer qualify as African art (2).” The discussion on defective conditions in the knowledge of contemporary African art was by the Exhibition Committee’s article, “Turbulence in Terminology ( .)”, highlighted. The committee disputed the critical issues regarding the definition of art terms such as ‘African art’, ‘western art’, ‘modern art’, and ‘contemporary art,’ and concluded that the terms need to be clearly defined. FWR 206BNot only did this exhibition seek to represent contemporary African art across stylistic, geographical, and national lines; it also focused on the non-representation of

FWR 204C Area 43,000 square miles Population 1,200,000 Capital Monrovia Largest City Monrovia Highest Point Wutivi 5,584 feet Monetary Unit Liberian dollar Major Languages Kru, Kpelle, Bassa, Vai, English Major Religions Christianity, Religion of African Ancestry

women artists in exhibitions. Although out of the fifty-seven featured artists, only ten were women, still, the subject matter of their individual works greatly contributed to the diversity of the exhibition. Another feature not normally seen in art showings was that the works by women artists were clearly identifiable by gender. Thus, it gave the women artists their due credibility and prevented their works from being overshadowed by, or melded, into the works of male artists. FWR 206CAs stated by the exhibition’s curator, the present writer, “…it is hoped that the 407


visitors to the four galleries where this exhibition is mounted will be able to spare some time for a serious contemplation of the works displayed.” To provide a clear framework for a ‘‘serious contemplation’’ of contemporary African art, the curator has classified the works into four distinguishing categories. These four categories serve to unify contemporary African art through time, space, and place. This unique approach is in stark contrast to the assortment of region, indiscriminate time, period, or gender that normally prevails at comparable exhibitions of contemporary African art. As evidenced by the other entries in the Gallery Guide’s Introduction, the artists’ status quo classification does not do justice FWR 205A

to the art works; rather it only serves to limit contemporary African art in a seemingly incongruent and inconsistent manner. Furthermore, by providing the categories of Vitu (ecological) art, Soyan (convergent) art, Sankofa (resistant) art, and Ijinla (synthetic or polymerized) art, the true depth of variety in the works can be understandable by even the most amateur critic of contemporary African art. To date, other contemporary African art exhibitions have only placed emphasis on segments of the art. This categorizing of

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Vitu, Soyan, Sankofa and Ijinla art not only updates the method of historical inquiry in contemporary African art, but also clarifies them in living African languages. However, before proceeding any further, I would like to revise the chronology of Sankofa art style, as found in the Introduction of Diversity In Contemporary African Art: Causes and

FWR 205C Area 124,503 square miles Population 4,800,000

Effects, that states: During the colonial times (late 1890s-1960s), the second and the third art styles developed almost simultaneously: the foremost (Sankofa) in rejection of external acculturation and the latter (Soyan) in acceptance of it.

Capital Abidjan

Based on the statement, what reasoning supports this revision?

Largest City Abidjan

During the acculturation era, there was an important factor in the revitalization of a traditional African art style. The primary Sankofa artists began a rival, but because they had

Highest Point Nimba Mts. 5,745 feet

not been properly educated in

Monetary Unit CFA franc

academic art tradition as the Soyan artists, they did not directly address the philosophical

Major Languages Bale, Bete, Senufu, French

Sankofa artists’ attempts at authentic revival, specifically between the late 1890s and 1960.

Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Islam

and technical issues of Western realism in art. This factor handicapped the primary

The playing field was unequal, as the two art styles (Soyan and Sankofa) of during the acculturation period appear divided among lines that transcended art. It became a battle between tradition and culture, between a way of seeing and thinking, between the West and Africa. This unequal battle gave a quiet end to the primary Sankofa artists who had FWR 207A successfully resurrected an awareness of African antiquity, but who were by the Soyan artists always seen as craftsmen, reviving a culture and not inventing an art. This Soyan consciousness later sparked a new revival; one that the ultimate Sankofa artists of after the acculturation period (from 1960 onwards) would embrace as they actively resisted the Western realistic art techniques and ideology. They have been trained in Western academic tradition and were therefore familiar with the Soyan artists’ contention. They

408


would not copy a posed model of African antiquity, with painstaking detail, to fashion a work like the primary Sankofa artists. Instead, they would use what they knew and theorized, what they observed in their ancestral objects, to create a new work in the present that is also firmly rooted in the past. Consequently, the primary Sankofa artists (between the late 1890s and 1960 and the ultimate Sankofa artists (from 1960 onwards) are connected, yet distinctive in their styles. To understand contemporary African art, very clearly, it is always necessary first to consider the nature of major studies in the art, in which authors’ views and visions are revealed. Views and visions of authors have always outgrown the definitions imposed upon

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them. But for our purpose they could be defined as opinions and insights in matters of contemporary African art that have the capacity to express and stimulate experience within the discipline. The experience may range from the mental survey evoked by the attempt to look at what has changed in the art to a revelation of what has endured. The discipline may range from the strictest linear chronology to that which seeks to evade chronarchy, the tyranny of time, or from the severest stylistic system to a thematic structure

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that approaches the unexpected. Yet, discipline provides for order, completeness, and intensity. Major studies on contemporary African art, incorporating authors’ views and visions may be by focus isolated: those that concentrate on the biography of artists and guidebooks for artists, structured geographically and alphabetically; those concerned with the gender issue; those interested in acknowledging European achievements and influences on contemporary African art; those involved in conveying regional expectation in contemporary African art; those fascinated by what has endured in contemporary African art; and those dealing with the classification of contemporary African art. The literary works (books, journals, articles) represented here are selective in each category as well as period. They will center on what the serious art historian would consider significant works in the history of contemporary African art. Works on Biographies and Guidebooks (1960 -1999) Under this heading, three distinct periods are identified: the early period(1960 - 1965), the middle period (1966 - mid 1989) and the more recent period(1990 - 1999).

3.2 The Early Period: 1960 - 1965:

FWR 206C Area 91,843 square miles Population 8,545,561 Capital Accra Largest City Accra Highest Point Togo Hills 2,900 feet Monetary Unit Cedi Major Languages Twi, Fante, Dagomba, Ewe, Ga, English Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Christianity

3.2.1 Washington, F. (1960) Contemporary Artists of Africa, Harmon Foundation, New York. In 1960, the Harmon Foundation published a pioneering work by Forrester Washington, an African-American sociologist, titled Contemporary Artists of Africa. This work is a compilation of information on the number, variety, ability, and location of contemporary artists in sub-Sahara Africa. Whereas the work presents somewhat inaccurate and incomplete data, it does provide names and brief biographies of artists according to their geographical areas. 409


3.2.2 The Middle Period: 1966 - 1989: 3.2.3 Brown, Evelyn (1966), Africa’s Contemporary Art and Artists, Harmon Foundation, New York. In an attempt to update Washington’s work, the Harmon Foundation published Africa’s Contemporary Art and Artists in 1966. In this work, Evelyn Brown then Assistant Director of the Foundation describes art schools, art organizations, and cultural impacts on art production in sub-Sahara African countries. She includes a brief biography of artists from each nation. Given its date of publication, the book has an impressive list of artists, FWR 20 A

totaling over 300, and is certainly an improvement over Washington’s book in that it offers more detail concerning the state of contemporary art in Africa. Still, because it does not deal with the works of the artists, Africa’s Contemporary Art and Artists is useful as a reference tool for identifying African artists, art schools, and art organizations. 3.2.5 African Studies Department (1968), African Art, UCLA, Berkley, California. Ever since its publication in autumn of 1968, African Arts, a quarterly journal published by the African

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Studies Department of UCLA, has received wide recognition for its continuous focus on contemporary as well as traditional African arts. The articles on contemporary African art deal with either one artist, or a group of artists in an exhibition, or a group of artists from one country. Like Contemporary Artists of Africa and Africa’s Contemporary ★Art and Artists, African Arts articles present brief biographies of artists. Still, there is an effort

FWR 207C Area 21,853 square miles Population 2,004,711 CapitalLome Largest City Lome Highest Point Agou 3,445 feet Monetary Unit CFA franc Major Languages Ewe, Kabre, Gurma, French Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Roman Catholicism, Islam

made to go beyond Washington and Brown’s works to include more illustrations of artists’ works. In some cases, however, the artists’ works are unexamined in terms of their major contributions to the Contemporary African Art field of study, and some of the works are not dated. African Arts’ more current article publications on contemporary African art have greatly improved. 3.2.6 The More Recent Period: 1990 - 1999: 3.2.7 Guez, Nicole. Guide: L’ Africaine contemporain (Contemporary African Art), Paris, Association Dialogue entre les Cultures (1992-94). Guide: L’ africaine contemporain is an exhaustive guidebook for contemporary African art. It lists 4000 artists and their addresses, art galleries, art organizations and individuals interested in the art in 42 African countries. In this way, the guidebook provides access to artists, galleries, both African and foreign museums open to contemporary African art. In autumn of 1995, a new edition was published and is available through the Afrique en Creations, 51 rue Sainte Anne, 75002 Paris. 3.2.8 Kelly B. Comp and J. Stanley (1993), ed. Nigerian Artists: Who’s Who and Bibliography, Hans Zell, UK. Nigerian Artists: Who’s Who and Bibliography was in 1993 published by Hans Zell for the Smithsonian Institution. It covers over 353 biographies of artists in Nigeria from 1920 to 1990. It is also an extensive annotated biography of more than 300 texts.

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3.2.9 Stanley, Jennet (1995), Modern African Art: a Basic Reading List, National Museum of African Art Library, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. It is a unique annotated bibliography of publications, mainly books and catalogues, organized by, country, exhibition and synopsis, not by artist. Its concise summaries are both entertaining and educational. Annually updated, it is of invaluable service to researchers of contemporary African art.

3.3 Works on Gender Issue (1991-1994):

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3.3.1 La Duke, Betty (1991), Africa through the Eye of Women Artist, African World Press, Trenton, New Jersey. It contains twelve biographical sketches of women artists: nine of African descent (three from Nigeria, one each from Mali, Senegal, Uganda, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa), and three of Diaspora ancestry (Jamaican, American and Nicaraguan). The introduction describes how the book was researched and gives a general sense of what life was like

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during the research in contemporary Africa. The succeeding chapter deals with women as traditional artists, with special focus on women potters. Then, she goes on to examine other contemporary African artists, devoting to each a chapter. At the end of the book, she has three chapters on artists of the African Diaspora. For each artist, she gives a biography, and includes information on the artist’s medium, primary theme and general style. The artist’s picture and black-and-white illustrations of the artist’s works are also presented. Among the African artists are: Nike Davis, a batik artist (Nigeria); Inji Efflatoun (Egypt); Chaibia, a painter (Morocco); Anta Germaine Gaye, a portraitist (Senegal); Theresa Musoke, a painter and graphic artist (Uganda); Princess Elizabeth Olowu, a sculptor (Nigeria); Malian Pama Sinatoa, mud cloth painter (Mali); Susanne Wenger, a painter (an Austrian residing in Nigeria); and Sue Williamson, a portraitist (South Africa). The African Diaspora artists are: June Beer (Nicaragua); Lois Mailou Jones (United States of America); and Edna Manley (Jamaica). In their works, some of the artists exhibit influences internal to Africa and others show sways external to Africa, thereby demonstrating diversity in artistic expressions. According to La Duke, these women artists’ works reveal the cultural and political events that helped to shape the artists, professionally. They are also composed of intimate and universal themes that touch on all lives and expand our understanding of humanity. One of the minor weaknesses of Betty Labuke’s book is that none of the illustrations is in color. However, a major drawback is the author’s determination to give each artist’s artwork a feminist interpretation. For instance,

FWR 208C Area 44,290 square miles Population 2,640,000 Capital Porto Novo Largest City Cotonou Highest Point Atakora Mts. 2,083 feet Monetary Unit CFA franc Major Languages Fon, Somba, Yoruba, Bariba, French Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Islam, Roman Catholicism

she describes the self-portraits of Theresa Musoke as works with feminist theme, thereby manipulating facts for her own purposes. 3.3.2 Lucie-Smith, Edward (1994), Race, Sex, and Gender in Contemporary Art: the Rise of Minority Culture, London, Art Books International, and New York, Harry N. Abrams, in which Chapter 10, ‘Modern Africa and Asia,’ is here significant.

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It contains the discussion of an indoctrination that standardized criticism in contemporary art and groups today’s art, without discrimination, under a universal construct of the “unique.” The main thrust of this propaganda seeks contemporary minority art in “a once uniform art world,” thus posing the question of “what happens to a contemporary African work of art when it leaves Africa?” 3.3.3 La Duke, Betty (1997), Africa: Women’s Art, Women’s Lives, African World Press, Trenton, New Jersey. FWR 20 A

It features women’s artistic production in Burkina Faso, Mali, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and Eritrea, thus, providing information on several women artists in locations and regions of Africa not represented in the first book. In this book, La Duke takes her readers on a journey, beginning on the West Coast of Africa, in Burkina Faso (the former Upper Volta). She gives an insight into Tiakane women

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artists who decorate their homes with mud murals, stained with black-and-white dyes, and who have a strong sense of purpose for their community. Their great pride in their works is Timbuktu, Mali. She encounters women artists who use fabric, straw and leather to create works of art. Their works range from straw and leather bags with colorful motifs to beaded bracelets and necklaces. La Duke speaks of a “unique aspect of Tuareg culture…

FWR 209C Area 356,669 square miles Population 120,000,000 Capital Abuja Largest City Lagos Highest Point Vogel 6,700 feet Monetary Unit Naira Major Languages Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani, Tiv, Kanuri, Ibibio, English Major Religions Islam, Christianity, Religion of African Ancestry

that assertiveness is valued as a desirable feminine trait” (34) observable in the intricate detail of their designs. Her next stop is in Cameroon, she meets women artists whose elaborate bead works are fascinating. She gives a vivid account on the history of certain beads and their social power. For example, although used as currency, she examines the female symbolism of the cowry shell and its attribute of fecundity in women. In Zimbabwe, La Duke is by Ilse Noy warmly greeted, a female artist from Germany, who established the Cold Comfort Farm, an artist-training center for sculptors, weavers and other creative art form artists. Leocadia Masango, one of the women artists in training and herself a Zimbabwean, has done an extraordinary weaving of a drawing, “Bird Women, Keepers of the Peace”, that La Duke had previously given to Ilse Noy. La Duke had earlier acquired this drawing in West Africa, while viewing women artists’ works in the market. La Duke’s final stop is in Eritrea. Her interest, here, is on women artists who are also soldiers in Ertrea People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). A female artist and a soldier, Tzeghereda Yohannes, who eventually died in the thirty-year Eritrea revolutionary war has a remarkable work titled “Fear.” This work depicts a mother hiding from the activities of war with her two children. Elsa Jacob is another woman artist-soldier. She has a bizarre work titled “Woman Hero”, in which there is a woman with a dead man at her feet and a Kalashnikov rifle in her right hand, while throwing a hand grenade with her left hand. Betty La Duke has given her readers an insight into the complexities of African women artists’ lives, and how their individual experiences are reflected in their works. Still, feminist undertones are replete in her explanation of why there is more need for African women artists. For instance, when the Cameroonian women’s artworks are in context, La Duke views them as a means of economic independence, leading towards liberation.

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Furthermore, she makes a connection with art, monetary affairs and social revolution for these emerging young women artists. Yet, it seems repeatedly that she uses the women’s works to support her feminist rhetoric. Frequently, it appears as if Betty La Duke is a rural village women’s neo-western, corrupt influence. The replication of her work “Bird women, Keepers of the Peace” by Leocadia Masango is an obvious reflection of her influence on them. Thus, the statement made of La Duke by Dr. Mikelle S. Omari-Obafemi, on the preface of the book, that “She has affirmed the primacy of African women’s creativity and its relationship to their personal lives,” is significant. It suggests that African women’s lives and creative expressions are insignificant until discovered by a non-African, particularly in

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this case, western European.

3.4 Works Acknowledging European Achievements and Influences (1966 - 1989): The third category of writers on general studies of contemporary African art may present biographies, illustrations, and brief discussions of the artists’ works but also focus on the

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question of inspiration. From where should or does the African artist get his inspiration, ultimately the answer is western intervention. 3.4.1 McEwen, Frank (1966), “Modern painting and sculpture,” Presence Africaine, Paris. At the forefront of the discussion focusing on European FWR 213B influences on contemporary African art is Frank, ex-Director of the National Gallery of then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. His claim is that African artists, particularly painters, should derive their inspiration entirely from Africa and remain uncorrupt by the influence of Western art schools. In his article “Modern painting and sculpture” (1966), McEwen laments Western impact on African art. He argues that the unique creative abilities of African artists are hindered by western patronage of “airport” (mass-produced, commercial) art and by western academic art training in Africa schools. He carries this hypothesis further in a later article “Return to Origins: New Directions for African Art” (1968). In the work, he encourages African artists to seek inspiration from their own heritage and not from European teachers and schools. This article is important because McEwen does recognize that African artists have a distinctive type of artistic expression. His opposition to formulized FWR 213C academic training led him to the establishment of an informal workshop school in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, at the National Gallery, although the National Gallery’s workshop school has a laissez faire approach to teaching McEwen and critical of his students’ works. One might argue that because McEwen was born and received his art training in Europe, that he is indirectly imposing Western aesthetic standards on the works of his students. At the same time, McEwen seems to be exploiting the artists by

FWR 210C Area 183,568 square miles Population 5,836,000 Capital Yaounde Largest City Douala Highest Point Cameroon 13,350 feet Monetary Unit CFA franc Major Languages Fang, Bamileke, Bamum, Fulani, Duala, French, English Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Islam, Christianity

encouraging them to produce African-centered works to attract Western patronage. His tactics are similar to those used in the promotion of ‘airport art,” which he detests. FWR 214A

3.4.2 Beier, Ulli (1968), Contemporary Art in Africa, New 413


York: Fredrick A. Praeger. Ulli Beier, another European, set up a workshop school for artists in Oshogbo, Nigeria, and relates his experiences there in this book. Like McEwen, he feels academic art schools in Africa discourage traditional artistic representation and train students to imitate European art styles. At the same time, he recognizes the positive attempt made by some Western educators to preserve traditional African art standards that seems to be a defense of his own occupation in Africa. Among the many shortcomings of Beier’s work is his negligence in accounting for the contributions and achievements of his workshop: when the workshop FWR 20 A

started, what its model, what its instructional procedure? FWR 214B These are questions Beier fails to answer in Contemporary Art in Africa and are important in enhancing our understanding of the direction in works of his students. Unfortunately, his book does not provide a wide range of art as the title suggests; it deals with artists from different parts of Africa, who either participated in Beier’s workshop or exhibited their works at the Mbari Club in Oshogbo. The title of the book is therefore misleading: a more suitable title would

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FWR 211C Area 105,841 square miles Population 5,330,000 Capital Ouagadougou

be Contemporary Africa Artists in Oshogbo.

3.4.3 Mount, Marshall (1973, 1989), African Art: The Years Since 1920, Indiana University Press, Bloomington - London. Mount divides his work into eight chapters: Survivals of Traditional Styles, MissionInspired Art, Souvenir Art, The Emergence of a New Art: Introduction, Art Schools in French-Speaking Africa, Art Schools in English-speaking West Africa, FWR 214C and Artists Independent of African Schools. Although Chapter 9 is titled “Summary,” it is not a digest of the previous chapters but offers additional discussion on the groups of artists

Largest City Ouagadougou

creating‘new” African paintings and sculptures. One would expect Chapter 4 to contain an

Highest Point 2,352 feet

is the only chapter that does not include illustrations by artists. Its aim is to identify a

Monetary Unit CFA franc Major Languages Mossi, Lobi, Fulani, Bobo, French Major Religions Islam, Religion of African Ancestry, Roman, Catholicism

analysis of artists’ works, because of its heading. Not only does it fail to do this, however, Western patronage for the art, enumerating FWR 215A the contributions of specific persons, institutions, organizations, and publications. Upon reading this chapter, one has the impression that Westerners are totally responsible for the emergence and flourishing of the “new” art. The basic information in Mount’s book is similar to that provided in Brown’s; however, Mount offers more detail about the art institutions and artists and also includes illustrations as well as discussions of some artists’ works. He never definitely states why 1920 is a significant date; he mentions the early career of Njoya in the early 1920’s (Mount, 1973.187). In line with Evelyn Brown’s point of view, 1920 coincides with the early career of Aina Onabolu, the first known Nigerian contemporary artist. It relates also to the establishment of art training at Ozuakoli College, Umuahia, in Southeast Nigeria, Ben Enwowu’s alma mater (Brown, “An Acknowledgement”, 1966). Mount’s revision of African Art: The Years Since 1920, in 1989, is somewhat superficial. This is captured by Janet Stanley (1995) when she says that the reprint of Mount’s 1973 book is presented without significant changes:

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FWR 215B […] apart from the removal of the 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 (61). Stanley sees this effort as insufficient. If Marshal Mount really wanted to represent the intervening years between 1973 and 1989, the years that have witnessed so many developments in contemporary African art and the emergence of

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new artists on the contemporary art scenes in Africa, he would have had enough material to include. Stanley concludes: “…this book remains an historical look at the subject (Ibid.)”.

3.5 Works Involved In Conveying Regional Expectations of Contemporary African Art (1964 -1995): FWR 215C

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3.5.1 Said, Hamid (1964), Contemporary Art in Egypt, Ministry of Culture and National Guidance, Cairo, Egypt. Said concentrates on a variety of artworks produced in Egypt, thus the direction of his book FWR 216A is both national and regional. Although it has no table of contents, the 218-page book is divided in four parts: introduction, illustrations, colored plates, and a list of plates. Said gives in this introduction of 13 pages a brief history of the importance of art in Egypt. He feels that art is so significant that the Egyptian government is motivated by it to provide liberal awards, grants and scholarships for artists to pursue career in art in Egypt, North Africa, as well in the Arab world. However, the main theme of Said’s work is “The dialogue between the spirit of the land and the times.” He hopes through this topic that Egypt, which gave so much in both ancient and medieval times, will continue to enrich the life of humanity. The second part of the book, 120 pages in all, displays black and white illustrations. The third part, taking up 22 pages, contains the FWR 216B color plates. The fourth part contains 5 pages of text with data on 58 artists, 41 pages of black and white illustrations and 17 pages of colored plates. Although Hamid Said’s book is not intended as a study in art history, it nonetheless gives a concise general outlook of contemporary art in North African Egypt. It also includes accurate information on basic research materials such

FWR 212C Area 103,346 square miles Population 500,000 Capital Libreville Largest City Libreville Highest Point Ibounzi 5,165 feet Monetary Unit CFA franc Major Languages Fang and other Bantu Languages, French Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Christianity

as artist’s name, birthplace, span of life, title of artwork, size of artwork, medium, theme and location of each work.

3.5.2 Miller, Judith Von D (1975), Art in East Africa – A Guide to Contemporary Art, Africana Publishing Co., Nairobi. Miller concentrates on contemporary African art in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, including

415


the institutions that support art. In the first chapter, she examines the overall environment of contemporary African art in East Africa, discussing topics such as its influences, the educational and employment opportunities available to artists, the patronage of arts. She devotes chapter two to the art produced by Kamba, Kisii, and Makonde, sold primarily to FWR 216C tourists as souvenir pieces. In the third chapter, she examines art galleries in all three nations, discussing when they were founded and by whom, their intentions and the kind of services they provide to artists and art patrons. After these, FWR 213A

she investigates handicraft workshops, their orientations, universities and art colleges, and art societies. In the last section, she gives the biographies of about 80 artists. In spite of its early publication, about ★thirty-four years ago, this book still contains useful known facts. Miller’s discussions concerning the nature of patronage in East Africa, how it affects the art, particularly during the 1970s are insightful. However, there are no analyses of artworks and the discussion of individual artists is limited. Perhaps constrained by publication

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costs, most of the photographs that serve as illustrations of the book are in black and white. Nonetheless, Miller’s book provides useful information concerning the range of art produced in East Africa and some of the problems it faced during the 1970s. FWR 217A

FWR 213C Area 175,676 square miles

3.5.3 Williamson, Sue (1990), Resistant Art in South Africa, St Martins Press, New York.

Population 915,000

Williamson examines the art of political protest and commentary in South Africa before

Capital Brazzaville

work in this book. After a short introduction, the book is divided into seven chapters. Each

Largest City Brazzaville Highest Point Leketi Mts. 3,412 feet

the dismantling of apartheid. Williamson, she herself a South African artist, discussed her chapter is based on certain themes, for example, works critical of South African history, works that discuss the exploitation of the people by the government, or works depicting social problems of individuals living in the society. Each chapter embodies individual works of art that are identified and discussed, either as individual works or as part of the artist’s

Monetary Unit CFA franc

overall body of work. In all, she considers about 75 known and unknown Black and White

Major Languages Kongo, Bateke, Lingala, French

only history in it is a concise summary of the history of apartheid in South Africa, presented

Major Religions Christianity, Religion of African Ancestry

South African artists. FWR 217B As this book is unintended as an art historical study, the in the introduction.There is no sense of the history of protest art in South Africa. Instead, Williamson gives the reader a simple and broad selection of works that somehow make a social comment. In addition, Williamson does not discuss the aesthetic qualities of a work of art. She barely considers the symbolic or iconographic elements of the work. She may be forcing her interpretations of some art forms as protest art, since, in particular, little evidence is shown of the satires she claims for the sculpted figures of some Black South African artists. Still, FWR 217C Williamson’s book has good quality photographs with a variety of artworks of contemporary Africa. Furthermore, attention given to anonymous artists who are overlooked in discussions about contemporary African art is a good feature of her book.

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3.5.4 Kennedy, Jean (1992), New Currents, Ancient Rivers – FWR 218A Contemporary African Art in a Generation of Change, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. Kennedy’s book deals with contemporary African art and artists working from about the 1930’s to the present. With a short history of the development of art schools and teachers in Africa, she begins the book. The rest of the book is divisible in five sections. The first section contains five parts that deal with Nigeria. The next section has two parts that examine Senegal and Sudan. The third section contains one part that investigates Ethiopia, while the fourth section deals with Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and

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Zimbabwe. The last section focuses on South Africa. In each of the parts or chapters, Kennedy summarizes the historical development of each nation. Within this discussion, she deals with individual artists, giving a short biography FWR 218B of each artist, important characteristics of each artist’s approach and analyzing some of the artist’s work. She includes at times an artist’s interview, giving details of his or her life history. Then, at the end of each chapter, Kennedy summarizes the characteristics she sees in the artist of each

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nation. All discussions are with good black and white, as well as color, pictures that are examples of the artists’ works that she discusses. Yet, in one instance, El Salahi’s ”Funeral with Crescent” (112), the painting has been cropped to fit into the space on the page that is a misrepresentation for serious scholars. In general, Kennedy covers her objectives the best way she could. She appears to appreciate what is going on in contemporary African art. She deals with a large number of artists, over 100 in all. Yet, she leaves out artists from North Africa without any justifications. Furthermore, she pays no attention to African souvenir artists and little mindfulness to African academic artists. Instead, her focus is primarily on traditional and synthetically African artists. Overall, the only real problem with her book is the lack of complete range of art produced in contemporary Africa. FWR 218C

3.5.5 Whitechapel Art Gallery (1995), Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa, Flammarion, Paris. The book is written to accompany an art exhibition of contemporary African art in London. It consists of two introductory chapters that describe how the showing was organized, the aims of the exhibition, and short history of exhibitions of contemporary African art. The succeeding five chapters deal with the art of various regional areas. Written by different authors, the five chapters exhibit the FWR 219A use of various methods in explaining the

FWR 214C Area 905, 563 square miles Population 21,637,876 Capital Kinshasa Largest City Kinshasa Highest Point Margherita 16, 795 feet Monetary Unit Congo franc Major Languages Luba, Mongo, Kongo, Kinyarwanda, Zande, Lingala, Swahili, French Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Christianity

art of the area. Still, none of these chapters intends to give the reader the full breadth of contemporary African art in the area. Instead, the five chapters organized to discuss the art of the areas they portray focus on: Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Africa as well as Kenya and Uganda, hence the seven stories. A series of “recollections” that includes interviews, reminiscences, articles and manifestoes follow the five chapters, again organized according to areas. Finally, in the notes at the back of the book are a map of 417


Africa, a list of art colleges, universities and schools, international workshops, movements, centers, workshops and collections of African art in Africa, international events, a list of books for further reading, references, contributions, biographies, and credits. Throughout the book, there are quality illustrations in black and white as well as in color. FWR 219B This is a good book for readers who want to acquire a sense of contemporary African art. Except perhaps the introduction, all of the writers are Africans who are active artists in the areas about which they write. A major disadvantage of this multiple author FWR 215A

approach is that the style of writing and approach to the subject matter differs from chapter to chapter. Still, this drawback does not substantially disrupt the flow of writing. In the “recollections” section of the book, many artists’ manifestoes and statements are publicized, giving the reader direct contact with the thoughts of the artists. Furthermore, the publication of such information is new and important, especially for the art historian and anyone interested in knowing what art movement in Africa is all about. All of the information

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at the back of the book is excellent. It covers basic facts that are invaluable to researchers or those just looking for designated information on contemporary African art. The only real problem of the book is the illustrations. Some of the photographs are out of focus, and frequently there are no examples of artworks of artists in discussion. Kivuthi Mbuno from Kenya is a case in point that one may find frustrating. FWR 219C

FWR 215C Area 219,815 square miles Population 629,000

3.6 Works Fascinated By What Has Endured In Contemporary African Art (Early 1970’s): FWR 220A One author stands out, in scholarly annuals of the Early 1970’s, as the major

Capital Gaborone

exponent of what has endured in contemporary African art: E. J. de Jager’s Contemporary

Largest Cities Serowe and Kanye

regionally focused in the title of his book, his provocative observations cut across the entire

Highest Point Tsodilo Hill 5,922 feet Monetary Unit Pound Sterling Major Languages Setswana, Shona, Bushman, English Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Protestantism

African Art in South Africa, published by C. Struik, Ltd, Cape Town (1973). Although contemporary Africa.

3.6.1 Jager, E. J. de (1973), Contemporary African Art in South Africa, C. Struik, Ltd, Cape Town. Since the first contacts and subsequent profound influence of traditional African Art on certain western European artists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this traditional art has enjoyed an upwardly spiraling trend in lay and scholarly interest, FWR 220B study, and, perhaps most note worthily, prices. Concurrently with this intense display of Western interest, however, has been erosion or, more precisely, a transformation of African culture due to massive and irresistible outside influences, ironically predominantly Western in origin. These influences have resulted in either a complete disappearance of, or a substantial diminution in the vitality and quality of traditional African art. There is much bemoaning of this fact (most notably by collectors and dealers, naturally), but seemingly little interest in what is or has taken the place of this traditional art. It is precisely to this latter proposition that the author, E. J. de Jager, directs his efforts. He is specifically

418


concerned with contemporary African art as it is now being produced in South Africa proper, but both his major premise and observations regarding this art are applicable across the board to contemporary African art in general. FWR 220C De Jager’s purpose in Contemporary African Art in South Africa is to first attempt to establish what is transpiring in contemporary African art as the logical and legitimate continuation of traditional art; second, as an adjunct proof to the first, to define the evolution, rationale, and apparent direction of contemporary African art; and last, provide some insight into the thematic expression of this art, with comments on the possibility of a universal appeal seemingly inherent in one particular aspect of this

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expression. Although this work, as indicated previously, is primarily directed towards the South-African African artists, de Jager’s analysis in his introductory remarks is sufficiently broad enough to encompass the whole of contemporary African art, and it is to this preliminary analysis (pp. 17-23) that this review is directed. That some of his observations have what appears to be uniquely South African perspective will be dully noted.

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It is de Jager’s premise that “…we can never free the artist, and consequently his work, from his cultural background and environmental settling.” He holds that because of this fact that “…there is still much more uniformity in the environmental and inspirational sources of the African artist, and these sources differ widely from those of the European artist…,” that contemporary (here, South African) African art should be approached from a somewhat separate viewpoint than that of the art mainstream, not because it is radically different, but because the cultural and environmental factors operant on it are unique, and thus the contemporary African artist’s approach and rationale are likewise unique. The parameters of contemporary African art as pertain to the analysis entail “…art through the use of the accepted western media and techniques, that is, the art of carving and modeling in the round and relief, painting in oil and watercolor, graphic forms of art, etc.” FWR 221B De Jager emphasizes the relative lack of serious interest in contemporary African art in contrast to that shown in traditional African art, a fact that he regards as unfortunate. Moreover, there is the tacit indication that, at least in South Africa’s case, this lack of serious consideration is not merely unfortunate, but counter-productive. His reasoning and argument are philosophical, and, as such, are universal in scope and applicability: specifically, he contends that art has an intrinsic mission, irrespective to and independent of the intensions of the artist,

FWR 216C Area 150,332 square miles Population 5,310,000 Capital Salisbury Largest City Salisbury Highest Point Mt. Inyangani 8,517 feet Monetary Unit Zimbabwe pound Major Languages Shona, Ndebele, English Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Protestantism

who may or may not be aware of that mission when he creates a particular work. That mission, according to de Jager, hinges on the fact that “…individuals, peoples, and race groups are in dire need of a better understanding of each other.” He feels that “art must of necessity be a very important avenue towards such understanding” since art is “…the essence of a people, their deep reflections on the world and their philosophy of life and hope…as portrayed by those fortunate enough to have received the talents to express it creatively.” Thus, contemporary African art would embody the condition and the aspirations

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of the contemporary African, or any people for that matter, we must of necessity look first to their art. This is his central argument, and a powerful and persuasive one it is, for the importance of fostering increased attention towards contemporary African art. FWR 222A Second, de Jager treats contemporary African art from the academician’s vantage point, focusing on those phenomena that accompany acculturation. He emphasizes the element of reciprocity in the acculturative process in that African artists FWR 217A

have been influenced by Western training and equipment, and that Europeans have likewise been affected, at least by African thematic and expressive concepts (as was pointed out earlier in the case of early twentieth century European artists). It must be remembered, however, that any present influence of African art, be it traditional or contemporary, on Western art is predicated on the exposure of Western artists to that art; in the case of South Africa, this would appear to be an on-going and virtually unavoidable

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condition. In America or Europe, the artist might not be so casually or readily exposed to African art, especially not contemporary African art. This latter implies either a deliberate seeking out by Western artist of contemporary African works, or the essentially accidental exposure to a work or works of sufficient power so as to make a lasting impression, either consciously or subconsciously. De Jager’s point, however, is that art, as a visual

FWR 217C Area 226,657 square miles Population 7,011,563 Capital Tananarive Largest City Tananarive Highest Point Maromokotro 9,436 feet

manifestation of some aspect or aspects of culture, is then an extremely important object not only in an aesthetic sense, but as a tool for scientific inquiry: specifically to the social scientist, be he anthropologist, sociologist, theologian, or whatever. Contemporary African art, then, is to interpret Africa in the flux of change through the eye of a contemporary African. FWR 222C The rationale for this further consideration has thus been made: 1) contemporary art is a means to achieve greater human understanding and cooperation; 2) contemporary art is a manifestation in visual form of the process of acculturation and, as such, is a valuable scientific tool (de Jager is, by profession, an anthropologist). While his

Monetary Unit CFA francs

arguments in support of increased emphasis and interest regarding contemporary African

Major Languages Malagasy, French

of art as a sociologically all-inclusive cultural artifact), they are nonetheless convincing, and

Major Religions Religion of African Ancestry, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism

art are almost wholly theoretically based (e.g., on the nature and mission of art; on the role his more specific analysis of contemporary African art logically follows. He continues to rely on theoretical assumptions, however, and given his methodology of essentially a two-fold analytic approach, he sometimes fails to adequately substantiate his assumptions or conclusions. (His methodology involves, first, the analysis of some “commonly held” viewpoints on contemporary African art, and second, an examination of factors operant on contemporary African art in the light of current anthropological, psychological, and sociological concepts). Specifically, the difficulties arise when he deals with the first part of his methodology: the acceptance or refutation of certain basic assumptions. He sometimes draws historically inaccurate conclusions, or fails to prove the necessary empirical date to reinforce those conclusions.

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FWR 223B For instance, in the third section (18) of the textual introduction to the works themselves, the author attempts to counter the viewpoint that considers contemporary art as but an impotent and degenerate offspring of classical (traditional) African art. He implies that this may in part be somewhat true: “One must, however, not take too pessimistic a point of view on this. New African art forms certainly have their merits and values.” He contends that European influences are not wholly to blame for this loss of vigor, since traditional African art had previously exhibited evidence suggesting loss of expressive power and other degenerative changes. He offers no examples or empirical evidence to support this claim, only that this degeneration can be attributed to “centuries of isolation”

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(this is an instance of historical inaccuracy, and thus eminently arguable) and both Islamic and European influences. Implicit here is the notion that acculturation necessarily leads to degenerative (that is, negative) changes, at least in the art of a people. This is a totally subjective argument: de Jager assumes degeneration; he surmises the causes without providing empirical evidence on which to base them; he seeks to make the element of casualty (or, more succinctly, the blame) for degeneration not completely an European

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phenomena. From a purely conjectural viewpoint, his argument is entertaining, but he fails to adequately convince anyone by excluding concrete examples or pertinent empirical data. In essence what he is saying is that traditional art was degenerating independently, that European contact merely “hastened the process”, but that it had more of a positive and salutary effect on new means of expression. This may be perfectly true, but what is needed (especially in the case of an observation as profound and potentially controversial as this) is something other than opinion to substantiate the fact. Moreover, completely lacking in his consideration are the implications of Islamic contact and influence on the new means of African expression. Perhaps, the latter is external to his scheme, but necessary for any discussion of the new means of African expression. Conversely, when dealing with the impact of psychological and social factors on contemporary art, de Jager seems on much firmer (and more familiar) ground. The reason for this would appear to be the conjectural nature of the problem; statistical or other empirical type data is either scant or non-existent and inferences must be made through a rational and subjective analysis of what seems to be the case, whether by application of currently accepted theory, interpretation of the art forms, conversations with the artists themselves, or a combination of these approaches. For example, the author examines the traditional role of the artist as an artist/craftsman, contrasting it to the role of the contemporary artist, which he sees as being more purely art-oriented (creating “art for art’s sake”). He points out that this transitional parallels, in fact is a part of, the shift from “traditional group-oriented thought process” to one in which the artist “becomes an individual who can express his own thoughts, as and when they are given birth during his new life experience.” This new sense of intellectual independence is nothing short of being psychologically revolutionary and, by and of itself, significant enough to warrant increased interest in contemporary African art. The point here is that in dealing with an abstract concept

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for which there exists no concrete or readily obtainable data, de Jager is powerfully descriptive; his reasoning logical and convincing. It is opinion, but logically arrived at and rationally based (that is, based on currently accepted psychological, social and anthropological concepts). We know that empirical data to either prove or disprove his conclusion is not readily forthcoming, but the conclusion is nonetheless valid. Thus it seems that the author performs best when dealing with the second part of his analytical approach: psychological and social factors operant on contemporary African art. FWR 20 A

In summary, then, de Jager’s approach is a two-fold analysis of (1) assumptions regarding the origin and development of contemporary African art, and (2) those cultural factors influencing that art today. He attempts to interpret and correlate the two, thus providing a conclusion as to the present status and ultimate destination of African art. FWR 225A In accordance with the author’s dual approach, it would seem appropriate to identify those assumptions relating to the origin and development of contemporary African

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art, and also those factors currently operant on that art, which he touches upon in his book. Once we have done this, we can more readily ascertain the direction he takes and whether or not it leads to the conclusion he reaches. Furthermore, we can analyze the conclusion itself and attempt to determine its ultimate validity, as well as the presence of any unstated ramifications. Assumptions and/or statements made by the author regarding the nature of contemporary African art are as follows: That degeneration of traditional art is a fact; that contemporary art FWR 225B is a rebirth of African aesthetic expression. That European influence was a stimulating effect in that rebirth. That the African artist is possessed of an unprecedented intellectual freedom to regard to his opportunity to express himself in. That contemporary art is commercial in the sense that it can provide the artist with “a means of substance and monetary reward”. That the African artist is not “a child and docile imitator of the European”.That African art is in a transitional period; it is a positive and progressive transition. 7) That contemporary African expression is a synthesis of traditional FWR 225C and modern (not necessarily European) influences. 8) That the African “weltanschauung” (ontology) is unique and as such, just as valuable as the European or any other in providing universal philosophical insights, particularly via artistic expression. 9) That because of the above, African art has something to offer on a universal scale, to civilization in its entirety. 10) That the primary idiom of expression in which African artists excel is “figurative expressionism” (that is, an ever-present movement away from strictly naturalistic expression) and that this tendency is reflective of African philosophy (…the essence of FWR 226A African ontology is that ‘being is force’”).

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11) That African philosophy and expression have intrinsic worth, independent of outside (European) cultural values. 12) That the African artist exhibits a preoccupation with man and his contribution. 13) That the African artist is further preoccupied with that which is African (de Jager states rightfully so: “…through all ages, in all places, the highest manifestations of art have always been culture bound”). 14) That African art lacks the variety of themes of European art because of a more limited contact with the world (this is one of those debatable suppositions brought about by de

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Jager’s FWR 226B subjective analysis and conclusion). 15) That African art is frequently esoteric to the European, since it is derived from a totally African context. (It might also be argued that some Western art is esoteric even to Westerners). 16) That the African artist must strive to reach his own people with his work, and he must

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seek to know the impressions of the people to his work. (de Jager advocates that artists lower their prices so the people, as opposed to European buyers, more readily acquire their works). 17) That contemporary African art frequently exhibits a mystical quality, due to the heritage of traditional ritualistic, folkloric, and mythic elements, and that these elements also contribute to the FWR 226C originality and thematic variety prevalent in contemporary works. 18) That perhaps Africans, more than any other people today, are both better equipped and also in the position to depict “…the universal dilemma of industrialization, urban life, and the associated values”. 19) That contemporary African art, especially “township” (urban) art, has not yet been affected by the “conflict between communication and technique…does not mean that these elements have not become separated as with so much [of] modern painting. Township art [that is, contemporary African urban art] still adheres to the historic role of art as communication, it can reach and move men because it is not alienated from… society, in which it is rooted FWR 227A […] it has not developed an awesome technical and intellectual power that cannot communicate with the common man, its creative power derives from communication rather than technological considerations”. From the above far-ranging and provocative observations, de Jager’s conclusion could be predicted to have as its central guideline the idea that contemporary African art is a force to be reckoned with – it is a wave of not only the present, but of the future as well. This is indeed the case; he sees contemporary African art as indicative of the forces at work in Africa today. While it is evident that some of his observations and conclusions are controversial, due either to their possibly (subjective) derivation or to a unique or revolutionary outlook (and because of their number and potentially immense scope not 423


practical to deal with here), we FWR 227B may well however adhere to the concept that “the end justifies the means”. Specifically, although some of de Jager’s views and method of reasoning may strike dissonant chords, his aim is to promote and uplift contemporary African art to its rightful place as the pre-eminent expressive thrust of contemporary African culture. This he has attempted to do in a very short space of time and with limited resources. He has, however, achieved a modicum of success, and he concludes that African artistic expression is undergoing what can only be termed a renaissance. FWR 20 A

In spite of instances of apparent subjectivity, several of which were touched on in the preceding paragraphs, de Jager’s effort remains singularly well written and his arguments supporting increased interest in contemporary African art are eloquently posed. It is to his credit that much of his analysis, while primarily directed towards African art in South FWR 227C Africa, came across as universal in both scope and applicability. His comments became much more than the usual introduction to a collection of the photographs of artists’

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works, more than likely as a result of his background as an anthropologist. His analysis, in fact, the subject of much his commentary, dealt with the communicative nature of art, and, as such, its vast potential as a vehicle to promote human understanding and cooperation. His aim seemed not so much a plea towards such understanding, but to foster an increased awareness in the complexity and immense capacity of art as a manifestation of culture. To this end, his was a thoroughly provocative FWR 228A effort. For all its faults (and I feel they were few and, in context, relatively minor), still an excellent commentary on the nature and direction of contemporary African Art.

3.7 Works Dealing With the Classification of Contemporary African Art (1991 - 2000): Pan-African and bulk for bulk, there are hardly any books worthy of note that seriously address this area. The only two works that attempts to cover this topic are: Susan Vogel’s Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art, published by The Center for African Art, New York (1991) and Sidney Littlefield Kasfir’s Contemporary African Art, published by Thames & Hudson, London (1999) and in United States (2000). FWR 228B

3.7.1 Vogel, Susan (1991). Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art, published by The Center for African Art, New York. The description given by the primary sponsor of this book, The Center for African Art, calls this work a challenge to two false and predominant sentiments regarding modern or today’s art: “That traditional African art remains only in the past because of contact with western culture,” and “…that there is no modern Africa or African art, merely second-hand Western culture” (Vogel and Ebong.3). Alarming as these sentiments may sound, the

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dispelling of these myths serve as the primary challenge that the authors are determined to overcome, but unfortunately failed to accomplish. FWR 228C The book consists of several chapters, sub-divided into essays submitted by various contributors (as Vogel reminds, “mostly Western”). What is an attempt to set Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art apart from other commensurable contemporary Africa art books is that it attempts to categorize the art objects into strains, “…referring to the ‘function’ of an art form” (Whitechapel Art Gallery.311). The first is Traditional art – village

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based, with skills learned by apprenticeship and consisting almost entirely of sculpture. The second is New Functional art – usually created by commission, and often used by “Christian or Islamic cults [sic]” (Vogel.11). The third--Urban art consists of the commercial arts: signs, billboards, advertisements that are saleable to urbanites and Westerners. The fourth– International art signifies that the artist has taught by a European or a product of European. The works are in FWR 229A exhibitions frequently seen, and the artists are

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mostly concerned with form. The fifth–Extinct art is directly from the past and found only in museums and memories. The structure of the book adheres to this format to provide some sense of organization. The chapters present further commentary in the form of essays, along with examples of art. The appeal of this book lies in its photographs. Reproduced in vibrant brilliance, the colors and details of the works receive due justice. The selected objects are somewhat varied, ranging from sculpted wooden figures, delicate masks, intricate tapestries, and of course, paintings displaying varied forms of subject matter. As Donna Seaman has stated, Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art is a “…generously illustrated survey” (1008). This is perhaps the best feature of the book. FWR 229B Though the photographic reproductions are excellent, some of the actual artworks appear to be quite crude – an ironic matter captured by the camera. Their quality does not capture the essence of contemporary art in Africa, let alone the entire art forms of the 20th Century Africa. The works are clearly not representative. Even the so-called “International Art” does not represent the caliber of skills and innovations of the African artistic community. This matter seriously limits the scope of Africa Explores. The novel concept of categorizing African art is a daunting, but admirable task. Still, this attempt also appears to be the largest distraction of Africa Explores. The strains, as described by the authors, serve to obscure rather than clarify the works. The most obvious example is the category of “Extinct Art.” By virtue of extinct definition, it is “obsolete.” FWR 229C How can art that is visible and tactile be classifiable as extinct? Logically, this has no merit. There is also no clear distinction drawn between Extinct art and Traditional art. It seems that the traditional would be an extension of extinct, which causes one to question the very validity of the term. It also seems strange that reference to the West is resolute throughout the book, but no concrete descriptions of the West is given – leaving

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it up to the reader to decide for him/herself. The strategy is obvious. It is a sentimental scheme that has become, in the 1990s, Euro-American trademark. Urban art, described by Vogue, includes art pieces created solely “to look at.” However, Urban art’s works showcased, like all art FWR 230A forms, are visually to be taken in. The true implication of Urban art’s classification remains to be understood. Besides, International art is the pinnacle of artistic achievement. Yet, it is unclear why this term “international” is used. Is it because the artists were supported or taught by Europeans, or is FWR 20 A

it because the art itself has global mass appeal? If so, how is that determined? The closest the authors came to addressing that issue is stating that “Their [international artists’] works can be concerned with issues of forms, and the meaning can be obscure to the uninitiated” (11). Initiated into what – ★meaning non-African perhaps? These examples show that there is no consistency in Vogel’s use of strains. She confuses style with function, and themes with styles. This inconsistency and misuse of terms lead to distraction.

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FWR 230B The unevenness is also clear in the write-ups Vogel uses in each section. First, the artists [much like Vogel’s silent partner, Ima Ebong] are bestowed low regard. There is no real background provided for them, save for commentary in the form of essays provided by a very miscellaneous panel of people. There is no parity in the essays – some are very long and verbose while others are mere paragraphs written by lay people. Besides, the chapter essays for each “strain” are not representative of the continent. Rather, each focuses on one region or country, for example Zaire, or a particular movement, such as Negritude. Again, the structure Vogel uses is a hodge-podge of terms and events that are not solidly put together. Yet, Anderson and Seaman believe the “strains” are remarkable and the most redeeming features of African Explores. Anderson, in particular, claims that they provide the book with a “…powerful and cohesive result” (730). On the contrary, I disagree. Still, this book does have its redeeming qualities. If one accepts Seaman’s statement that “The FWR 230C best of the so-called coffee-table books are the equivalent of “portable museums” (1008), then Africa Explores is a good resource for viewing African art. Overall, the classification attempt is charming but inadequately executed. Still, the vivid photographs are indeed the saving grace of Africa Explores. In the preceding review of Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art, certain conclusions cannot be false. Vogel does not accomplish her two goals proposed in the Introduction. She does grave disparity to traditional African art, relegating huge portions of it as nonexistent. She confuses style with function, and themes with styles, and the FWR 231A contemporary African art depicted is not representative of the better quality art that African artists are today producing. Africa Explores is therefore, especially for the serious art historian, a clear demonstration of more show, ambiguous classification.

3.7.2 Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield (1999, 2000), Contemporary African Art, Thames & Hudson, London/ 426


United States. The most recent addition to the growing body of literature that addresses the subject of contemporary African art is Kasfir’s Contemporary African art. This small volume, part of the Thames & Hudson World of Art series was originally published in London in 1999 and in the United States, in paperback version, in 2000. Kasfir is currently an Associate Professor of Art History at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as Curator of African Art at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, both at Emory. Kasfir is famous for her work on Idoma and Samburu art and has since 1981 devoted her time between the duties mentioned above and fieldwork in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda.

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FWR 231B In the preface, Kasfir explains that her book was originally conceived, as a companion piece to the earlier World of Art publication by Frank Willett: African Art: An Introduction; but that it is organized differently. Willett’s book, initially published in 1971, was revised in 1993. In the book, Willett attempts to introduce the art of the entire continent (from the

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earliest beginnings), dividing his discussion between a history of the history of African art, ancient works, architecture and sculpture and, ultimately, contemporary African art. In contrast, Kasfir in her book opts for a theme-based organizational framework. Rather than follow a chronological or geographical-based outline, Kasfir focuses on certain issues and transformations, which she believes have been most influential in the FWR 231C development of contemporary African art, from the 1950’s through the 1990’s. In her introduction, Kasfir mentions certain terms often found in the discussion of art from this period (such as “contemporary,” “modern,” “postcolonial,” “postmodern”) and elucidates how their use differs in relation to a western European and African context. Following this introduction, Kasfir proceeds with her seven chapters. They are Inventing African Popular Culture, Transforming the Workshop, Patrons and Mediators, Art and Commodity, The African FWR 232A Artists: Shifting Identities in the Postcolonial World, The Idea of National Culture: De-colonizing African Art and, finally, Migration and Displacement. Kasfir’s approach in this volume, as evidenced in the title of her chapters, is to focus on the “artist” and the “process of art-making,” rather than primarily on the objects themselves. This is often the case in books discussing traditional African art, where the artist is sometimes unknown, or is, at least, not the main interest. While her focus on the artist is somewhat of a departure, at least, from many traditional African art texts, her emphasis on the process is much in keeping with the usual approach of traditional African Art historians. Thus, her approach leans toward the anthropological than art historical. The difference here is that, rather than concentrating on environmental conditions and slow evolving cultural traditions, Kasfir feels she must address devastating or FWR 232B rapidly occurring political developments. They are colonial influence and the eventual independence of many states as well as changes within the art market; and the availability of academic training, both inside and outside Africa. The first chapter investigates works that Kasfir designates as “new genres,” including 427


portrait photography, painted signboards, flour-sack paintings, tailgate murals, coffins, naturalistic sculptures as well as easel paintings by such “popular” artists as Cheri Samba and Moke. Here the hybridism and expansive qualities of works, which were obviously affected by the influx of western European culture, techniques and a growing tourist market, are highlighted. In the second and third chapters, Transforming the Workshop and Patrons and Mediators, Kasfir FWR 232C concentrates primarily on the influences of certain expatriates who set up workshops during the colonial period and after. She devotes special attention to Ulli and Georgina Beier in Nigeria, Frank McEwen in Rhodesia, Pierre FWR 20 A

Romain-Desfosses in Congo and Father Carroll in Oye Ekiti in Nigeria. She also considers the contributions of Susanne Wenger who, although eventually a Yoruba priestess, helped to create a new style that bore no relationship to traditional Yoruba sculpture. Many of other workshop leaders encouraged their students to resist western European influence and seek, perhaps from their “collective unconscious,” to retrieve indigenous

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African motifs and styles. Although FWR 233A Kasfir does point out the patronizing attitudes of these workshop leaders, she is somewhat uncritical of Father Kevin Carroll. She mentions that the “subsequently famous Lamidi Fakeye” trained in his workshop, which implies that Carroll was in some way responsible for his talent, and she does not point out that Fakeye was, in fact, trained by his father, before ever going to that workshop. Furthermore, some obvious questions from an observer might be “What of other students? Why are there no other ‘masters’ emerging from this workshop?” Also, it should be noted that Carroll was, in part trying to rehabilitate the reputation of Christian missionaries with regard to traditional African art. While earlier missionaries often destroyed works of African sculpture upon arrival, Carroll begins to employ African sculptors (with strong traditional African FWR 233B art knowledge) to create works with Christian subject matter. When dealing with practices such as those associated with preceding workshops, it is important to maintain a critical stance and Kasfir’s descriptions occasionally seem too accepting of the “party line.” Also in the “Workshop” chapter, Kasfir discusses the Poly Street Centre and Rorke’s Drift Centre in South Africa (a workshop and training school for black township youth), but each time South African phenomena or