27 Chapters
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Coda: From Spears to Guns in the North Rift

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub

Coda

FROM SPEARS TO GUNS IN THE NORTH RIFT

This book has asked: What happens to a complex representation when the cultural script undergoes a major change? The original context was British colonialism, but just such a thing has occurred again during the decade in which this book was researched and written. In this last section, I attempt an updated reading on the fighting spear in Samburu culture, the evidence for which comes from reports on the radio, on the Internet, and in newspapers and from first-hand accounts within Samburu District.

In Idomaland, it took the Pax Britannica and the banning of headhunting in 1917 to aestheticize and memorialize warriorhood and turn a disappearing supply of enemy crania into carved representations and a war dance into a masquerade. Nearly a century later, Samburu warriorhood is still a recognized and clearly marked stage of life, but in the past decade its main symbol, the spear, has begun to undergo a similar kind of transformation.

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13. Work and Workshop: The Iteration of Style and Genre in Two Workshop Settings, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Till Förster

Workshops offer a unique occasion to observe and document how cultural knowledge on art is reproduced. They bring masters and apprentices, teachers and pupils, and also artists of the same status together—and, thus, provide opportunities to learn from each other, to develop a shared style, or to distinguish the members as a group from other artists. Even within one society, workshops as a setting of learning and exchange often differ significantly and lead, through their different organization and the modes of communication that this organization fosters, to more or less homogeneity in the artistic expression of the member artists. By the same means, workshops may become visible as groups or as individual artists, as many examples from Western as well as non-Western art history show. The many varieties of workshops thus call for a comparative analysis of how the particular organization of a workshop affects the modes of cooperation and communication among its members and how this translates into particular modes of art production as they become visible in a recognizable style and genre. The questions that arise from this short reflection on the significance of workshops for the understanding of the production of art are, however, an empirical challenge. One must first broaden the understanding of terms as cooperation and communication because of the specificities of art and handwork. What happens in a workshop may be easy to observe but it is usually not part of propositional knowledge—that is, artists very often will not want to explain or put in words what they are doing and how they actually cooperate and learn from each other. Any analysis of work in a workshop thus needs a thorough methodological toolkit to describe and conceptualize how artists work, how they cooperate, how they learn their skills and how they develop a nonverbal understanding of what they do. Such a focus is best developed through a study of different workshops, as I will try to show in this article by comparing sculptors’ workshops of the rural Senufo in northern Côte d’Ivoire with painters’ workshops in urban Bamenda, Cameroon.

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Reprise: The Three C’s: Colonialism, Commodities, and Complex Representations

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub

Reprise

THE THREE C’S: COLONIALISM, COMMODITIES, AND COMPLEX REPRESENTATIONS

It remains to summarize these changing representations and practices within the particular historical circumstances the book describes. There were many colonialisms operating simultaneously in sub-Saharan Africa following its partition among the European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885. British colonial policy, following the implementation of Lord Lugard’s mandate for indirect rule after World War I, was less intrusive than most. Throughout most of the colonial period, the whole of Nigeria was administered by a corps of about 200 district officers (Smith 1968). Local rulers were expected to continue to govern their subjects as they had before and at the same time recognize the overarching authority of the British administration. Kenya, which had few towns or precolonial governing structures, had to be administered by direct rule implemented by about the same number of officers (Gavaghan 1999). “Native custom” was to be respected as long as it did not interfere seriously with what the British saw as their civilizing mission. Unlike French colonial policy, which assumed that Africans, when properly educated and enculturated, could become black Frenchmen, British policy was based on the racial assumptions that the African was too different from the European to ever assimilate European culture beyond formal changes and that any attempts in that direction could only result in a cruel parody (see Joyce Carey’s Mr. Johnson). This had very important implications for the rate at which change took place, since it left the institutions intact that directed and regulated life at the local levels.

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6. Warrior Theatre and the Ritualized Body

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub

6

WARRIOR THEATRE AND THE RITUALIZED BODY

The body of a warrior is both an aesthetic locus and a site of signification, bridging what often appears to be a conceptual discontinuity by blurring the structurally imposed boundary between nature (the body experienced as an anatomical fact) and culture (the body as aesthetic object and signifier). Moving from artisan back to warrior again, this chapter explores the issue of how not only certain objects (masks, spears) but also the decorated, mutilated, or sexually androgynous body as an artifact of culture acquires meaning in relationship to the institution of warriorhood. Both Idoma and Samburu warriors were deeply enmeshed in their own ritual systems and their respective systems of objects that structured cultural practice at the beginning of the twentieth century. These two systems were linked through a series of performative practices that included dancing and masquerading for the Idoma, dances and lmugit ceremonies for the Samburu, and of course warfare itself, also a type of performance. The most ritually marked objects were (at least so far in this reading) Samburu spears and Idoma enemy heads and mimetic carved representations of such heads.

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5. Stitched-up Women, Pinned-down Men: Gender Politics in Weya and Mapula Needlework, Zimbabwe and South Africa

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Brenda Schmahmann

Husbands would help us if they feel pity, but sometimes they don’t [feel pity]. And what makes you see they don’t is that you are pregnant and have a child on your back and are going out fetching firewood and the man does not help.

I became pregnant again [for the third time] in 1988. My husband was working at that time but then he got arrested and was jailed for two years for some reason. That is when our suffering increased enormously. After his return from custody, I got pregnant with our fourth child, who was born in June 1990. In 1992 my husband was jailed again for some reason. Then I got a job but my salary was not enough for me to pay school fees.

The first of these passages quotes Charity Mugala, who was living in Weya—a communal area (formerly known as a Tribal Trust Land) about 170 kilometers east of Harare in Zimbabwe—in the mid 1990s (Mugala, interview by Brenda Schmahmann, October 27, 2006, Weya). The second—dating to 2001—is by Julia Makwana, a resident of the Winterveld, a peri-urban area about 40 kilometers northwest of Pretoria in South Africa.1 Although the context and cultural frameworks of these commentators may be different, both women construct scenarios in which support is not forthcoming from a husband, whether through reluctance or absence, and a female is thus forced to undertake all domestic labour or single-handedly generate earnings necessary to sustain herself and her children.

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