Announcing the publication of
Critical Interventions Number 7: Special Issue on African Cultural Patrimony.
CI# 7 investigates the production of value for African art by examining the global perception of African cultural patrimony in discourse as well as efforts by African museums to manage and preserve indigenous cultural heritage within the context of modern nation states. It features articles by Dunja Hersak, Frances Connelly, Christopher Slogar, Carola Lentz, Peter Probst, Sidney L. Kasfir, Sophie Mew, Okechukwu Nwafor Gemma Rodrigues, Jean Borgatti and Silvia Forni.
The articles in this issue of CI are divided into four parts: The Interventions section features Dunja Hersak who uses the works of Trigo Piula to review how established discourse on African art is often at variance with the lived reality of Africans by showing how contemporary global curators have fashioned and fabricated a vision of Africa based on recycling the same two paintings from the artist and completely disregarding the variety evident in his other works. Frances Connelly discusses the contradictions inherent in the idea of primitivism and how this shapes the discourse of authenticity in African art
In the Research section, Christopher Slogar reviews the ongoing plundering of archeological sites in Africa and how plundered ceramics objects are validated through museum exhibition and display. He cites some recent exhibitions in which the practice of collecting African ceramics becomes increasingly conflated with the acquisition of looted antiquities and suggests that scholars of African art should be more concerned about the implications of this conflation for research on the subject. Carola Lentz explores aesthetic and historical genealogy of the Ghanaian seat of state and its implications for a new interpretation of visual politics in modern Ghana. Peter Probst discusses the role of media and mediation in the designation of Osogbo as a UNESCO cultural heritage site and concludes that Yoruba arts and aesthetics should be understood as a form of vernacular media theory in this context. Sidney Kasfir revisits debates about creativity and migration by reading the works of transnational African contemporary artists in light of classical theories by Nietzsche, Wolfe and Simmel. Sophie Mews looks at important experiment in creating diversified museum collections in Mali and Ghana based on the concept of “encyclopedic museums” –i.e. museums that attempt to represent other cultures to African viewers-- and suggests that such museums may provide for reciprocal representation of world cultures in which Africans are not always seen a subjects. Okechukwu Nwafor analyzes the problematic management of a Nigerian museum and suggests that continued mismanagement of cultural heritage impacts negatively on efforts to repatriate Nigerian cultural objects from Western museums.
The Portfolio section presents important new work by the acclaimed transnational artist Allan deSouza that interrogates how cultural legacies of colonization and the condition of exile impacts his current cycle of creativity. Finally, the Recollections section features two views of the art collection management process: Jean Borgatti discusses how an art collector tried to manipulate scholarship to enhance the value of his African art collection and suggests that this kind of manipulation has important implications for the production of value for African art in general. Silvia Forni discusses how the canon and art market combine to define the value of African art and what she considers the unsuccessful efforts of an African collector to break into this process of valuation.
As an item of interest, the cover page of Critical Interventions Number 7 is illustrated with a Helmet Mask of the Igala peoples of Nigeria, used courtesy of the Femi Akinsanya African Art Collection based in Lagos Nigeria. I have been researching this collection since 2009 and have written a book about it that will be published in Fall 2011 by 5 Continents Editions. The book, Making History uses the Femi Akinsanya African Art Collection to evaluate the material process of formalizing and interpreting an African-owned collection of African art, with the goal of defining how such collections might be incorporated into a context of African art studies in which they are currently invisible.
CI#7 Table of Contents
Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie---Who Owns Africa’s Cultural Patrimony?
Dunja Hersak—-Virtual, Partial and Fabricated Visions of Africa
Frances S. Connelly—-Authentic Irony: Primitivism and Its Aftermath
Christopher Slogar—-Africa Consumed: Cultural Inertia, Looting and Legitimization in Art History
Carola Lentz—-Travelling Emblems of Power: the Ghanaian ‘Seat of State’
Peter Probst—-Revisiting Osogbo: Images, Media and the Art of Mediation in a Yoruba City
Sidney Kasfir—-Creativity and Migration: Back to Nietzsche, Wolfe and Simmel’s Stranger?
Sophie Mew—-‘Universal Museums’ in West Africa: Considerations over the Diversification of Cultural Heritage Institutions in Mali and Ghana
Okechukwu Nwafor—-Culture, Corruption, Politics: National Museum of Unity Enugu and the Struggle for Survival of Cultural Institutions in Nigeria
Gemma Rodrigues, Steven Nelson and Allen Roberts—-His Master's Tools: Recent Works by Allan deSouza
Jean Borgatti—-Art Marketing and the Art Market: A Northern Edo Example
Silvia Forni—-Ambiguous Values and Incommensurable Claims: The Canon, The Market and Entangled Histories of Collections and Exhibits
For more information, visit www.criticalinterventions.com