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1. Early Spring on the High Plains: Headwaters

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub


EARLY SPRING ON THE HIGH PLAINS in the Texas Panhandle is gray and brown. Dull clouds press down on the unrelenting span of plowed cotton fields. Gusts of wind blow yellow dust clouds that dissipate on the iron-gray horizon. Occasional farmhouses disrupt the monotony with brief flashes of trees, fences, yards, and the accumulated detritus of life scattered and revealed in the open. There is no place to hide.

I feel particularly small in this great expanse, the tail end of the Great Plains. Even though I am barreling along at ridiculously high speeds, this breadth of space gives me the hallucinatory effect of being stationary.

I am in search of a river. The first Spanish explorers named this area the Llano Estacado, or Staked Plains; early Anglo explorers called it the Great American Desert or the Sahara of North America. In the midst of this arid terrain, I hope to find the headwaters of the Colorado River, more than 850 miles of wholly Texas waterway. Reportedly, it begins in the hidden canyons and seeps on the edge of the Llano Estacado just below the Caprock Escarpment.1

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10. Artesãos da Nossa Pátria: Makonde Blackwood Sculptors, Cooperatives, and the Art of Socialist Revolution in Postcolonial Mozambique

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Alexander Bortolot

On a sunny day in northern Mozambique in 1973, the British journalist Iain Christie interviewed Samora Machel, the political and military commander of FRELIMO, or the Mozambican Liberation Front, and future president of Mozambique. Christie had come to the northern province of Cabo Delgado to write about FRELIMO’s “liberated zones,” areas where the political movement’s armed rebellion had largely pushed out the Portuguese and established autonomous territories in anticipation of eventual national liberation. A declared Marxist-Leninist vanguard party, FRELIMO intellectuals in Tanzania had early on adopted socialism as an alternative to both the capitalist colonialism of the Portuguese overseas empire and what it termed the “feudal tribalism” of precolonial societies. When war broke out in 1964, Machel and the party leadership sought to erect a new society within its liberated zones based in a materialist dialectic of class struggle and collective production.

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Olive Jensen Theisen University of North Texas Press PDF


The Last Years: 1994–2001

I think we have to show the human condition and what happens to it. To me that is what art is all about—showing the spirit of man struggling above the mundane, above the material, above suffering. This is the whole story of art.

— John Biggers, quoted in Felts and Moon,

“An Interview with John Biggers”

The years 1994 to 1997 were exciting but tiring ones for John and Hazel

Biggers. Upon completion of the murals at Hampton University and WinstonSalem State University, Biggers experienced some serious health problems caused by diabetes and exhaustion. They planned to rest for a good long time in their Houston home.

Celebration of Life

In late 1993, Biggers had been approached by a group of artists from

Minneapolis, Minnesota, led by Ta’Coumba Aitkin, Seitu Jones, and Patricia

Phillips, who asked him to design a mural that they would paint collaboratively. The mural was to be painted on concrete sound barrier walls 16 feet high and 160 feet long alongside a major highway. Biggers was intrigued. To work with a community of artists as Diego Rivera had done long ago had always been his dream. John Biggers knew that he could not personally oversee the project but he could design a series of panels for them. He accepted the project and planned that the mural should tell the story of creation through his selected African symbols. After phone discussion and various drawings,

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5 African Cultural Studies: Of Travels, Accents, and Epistemologies

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Tejumola Olaniyan

IN CONTEMPORARY AFRICA, cultural creativity far outstrips cultural criticism, happily and sadly. Happily, because the continent is not, at least, losing out on both creative and critical production. Artists in all media, though many could do with more and better training to sharpen their native talents, are working prodigiously to shape form and meaning out of their demanding specific contexts and the intricate ways those contexts interact with the world. Sadly, because the conditions for the training of intellectuals and cultural critics are far less than adequate and because an overall healthy development of cultural creativity, the type that continually breaches accepted boundaries and invents new forms and suggests new meanings, depends on a robust interaction between talented artists and discerning critics, between the creative and the critical imagination. This is the large backdrop of my response to the challenge thrown to me, a challenge that noted, in perceivable and (understandably, I should add) wistful tones, “shifting paradigms” in the scholarly understanding of African cultural production and “a gulf between those living and working in Africa and those who live and work abroad, a gulf increasingly seen in their perspectives on the world and in the types of works they produce.”1

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9. Lewanika’s Workshop and the Vision of Lozi Arts, Zambia

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Karen E. Milbourne

In 1995, two works of art were selected to represent a Lozi cultural identity at the Royal Academy’s renowned exhibition Africa: Art of a Continent.1 The controversial exhibition was ambitious in its efforts to envision a continent. Through the selection of approximately eight hundred works of art, an idea of the African continent was given a material form. As Brian Wallis wrote in relation to the 1990 exhibition Mexico: A Work of Art, “Of all the ways to constitute a nation, this one—the nation as a work of art—is perhaps the most audacious” (Wallis 1994:265). The organizers at the Royal Academy were audacious, indeed, for they attempted to envision not one, but a selection of all historic nations that make up the African continent. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary untold stories included in this enterprise, however, is that of an under-recognized African king who audaciously utilized the power of art to envision his nation, Barotseland (now Western Province, Zambia), a century earlier.

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2. Ghostly Stories: Interviews with Artists in Dakar and the Productive Space around Absence

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub


Do we cite merely to repeat the words of the other, or do we do so in order to enact or reenact an inimitable gesture, a singular way of thinking, a unique manner of speaking? If the latter, then the quotation would in each case mark a limit, the place where the inimitable gesture of the dead friend becomes inscribed, and thus repeatable, comparable to other gestures…. Each time, citation would mark the beginning of a unique and singular life as well as its brutal interruption.


Since the late 1990s, I have made several research trips to Dakar, where I re-encounter the people who have made this space meaningful and purposeful for me. Just as our re-encounters are shaped by who is present, they inevitably involve exchanges about who is absent. I have come to think of absence as an increasingly significant, if not defining, theme in my research with artists in Dakar. While an artist's absence is often attributable to travel for exhibitions or workshops, what I am talking about primarily is absence due to an artist's death.1 During one stay in Dakar, I was struck by the various ways that such absence was registered and represented in exchanges with friends and colleagues: Abdoulaye Ndoye showed me the portrait silhouette he made of the late Moustapha Dimé (Figure 2.1); Fodé Camara wore a T-shirt dedicated to memorializing Djibril Diop Mambety (Figure 2.2); Oumou Sy called for a moment of silence to honor all those no longer with us during her opening remarks for the Semaine Internationale de la Mode de Dakar; and Germaine Anta Gaye displayed the ex-voto boxes she made in homage to the late Ousmane Sembene. I take these examples to illustrate absence as a productive space that generates representational and interpretive practices. Insomuch as artists produce visual work reckoning absence, they also talk about and around it.

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8. Politics of Narrative at the African Burial Ground in New York City: The Final Monument

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub




The African Burial Ground located in lower Manhattan was used by Africans and people of African descent from approximately 1700 until 1790. It covered five to six acres and likely contained the remains of ten thousand to twenty thousand people. A small portion of the African Burial Ground was unearthed in 1991 when the General Services Administration (GSA) built on top of the cemetery a thirty-four-story Federal Office Building at 290 Broadway between Duane and Reade Streets. The eighteenth-century colonial cemetery was located in what has become today's Civic Center of lower Manhattan, surrounded by City Hall, Federal Plaza, and the New York Supreme Court. Because the plot of land at 290 Broadway is prime real estate, it was initially treated as such, rather than as a sacred, historical burial site. Eventually, after community activism and governmental involvement, several commemorative art projects were eventually commissioned for the site.1

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1. Talking to People about Art

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub


Without thinking about it deeply, you might not realize that talking to people about art is a practice fraught with difficulty. First, there is the fact that visual art especially, but also music and performance, deploy form to produce an effect in ways that often defy authoritative explanation. Art takes you to places filled with thoughts and emotions, but by a very different route than you would have traveled had words alone been the vehicle in which you rode. Indeed, it sometimes seems that art exists to provide a landscape of exploration and analysis in which words work only with the greatest deliberation, and then at the cost of losing some of art's provocative potency. When you talk to people about art, be they consumers or producers—audiences or artists—you face the problem that words can be clumsy, obfuscating, diffusing tools with which to record the making and experiencing of visual culture. It might be easier to use words to examine the things that exist around art, such as artists’ biographies, influences on their work, the influence they have on others, the ways they manifest technique, or the goals they seek to articulate, though these topics too impose obstacles and are not as straightforward as they might seem. But exploring the broad world of art, from artists’ backgrounds and abilities to the effects that artists seek to create and the experiences that audiences gain from art, is vitally important if we are to comprehend expressive culture's depth of resonance in the human condition and its relevance to all human affairs. So we must seek ways to use words that foster understanding of a creative domain that often seems anathema to verbal exposition.

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3 Provocations: African Societies and Theories of Creativity

Edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W H Indiana University Press ePub

Moradewun Adejunmobi

MY OBJECTIVE IN this essay is to argue that cultural studies scholars who focus on Africa should give at least some of their attention to producing scholarship that also provides a wide-ranging justification for humanities research as occasion demands, and that deciders and the society at large must understand that the value of humanities scholarship can never be taken for granted anywhere in the world. What is more, the need to address why humanities scholarship matters becomes all the more urgent in times of economic and political uncertainty when the temptation is highest to curtail, underfund, and if possible eliminate institutions dedicated to humanities scholarship. I shall make the argument for attending to such justifications by way of a commentary on current trends in studies of African cultural production.1

In 2012, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina took advantage of an address to the African Studies Association of the United Kingdom to counter Taiye Selasi’s celebration of the “Afropolitan.”2 As far as reactions to Selasi’s declaration go, Wainaina’s riposte did not represent an isolated incident. Selasi’s 2005 manifesto “went viral” in its initial instantiation in an online magazine and generated considerable commentary in blogs dedicated to discussion of African culture and identity. Similar controversies trail the multiple national affiliations attributed to authors like Teju Cole and Dinaw Mengestu, among others, and the claims to African identity made for Tope Folarin, winner of the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing.3 Discussions of this question in print and online indicate a return to prominence of a certain kind of debate among both writers and critics about the identity and location of the African writer. While such debates about identity will always be topical for African literature, given the current and historical location of many “African” writers outside Africa, I will argue that the main shortcoming of the critical approaches often used today for analyzing African cultural production is not a failure to ask what exactly constitutes “African” as opposed to, say, “Asian” or “Western” cultural production. More important, the critical approaches that we have embraced do not fully account for the relevance of our scholarship on expressive and representational practices to broader trends within African societies at this point in time. They fail to ask what else and what more artistic activity signifies when it occurs under the particular conditions that typify contemporary Africa, and why imaginative activity matters for societies facing apparently more pressing challenges, other than as a form of social commentary that we as scholars are called upon to elucidate.

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Chapter Twelve What, How, and When: On My Art and Myself

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253007438

Appendix B · A Note on Illustrations

Allen F. Roberts Indiana University Press ePub

Illustrations chosen for this book have been selected from the very few that portray the persons, events, relationships, objects, and places that are its subjects. Not a single depiction of Lusinga has been discovered other than the sculpture embodying his matrilineage that was seized by Storms’s men and is now to be found at the Tervuren museum, as discussed at length in chapter 9. The only sense we have of what the man may have looked like is derived from the two or three descriptive adjectives in visitors’ accounts, and these were far from precise—or charitable. Portraits of particular central Africans are nearly nonexistent in explorers’ texts or popular magazines of the time, in part because of the long poses still necessary and other practical aspects of the day’s photographic technologies, but also because political purposes of illustration were first and foremost to contribute to proto-colonial ideology by depicting “natives” in very particular ways. That these pictures are cultural constructions of their day may seem self-evident, yet the paucity of scholarly attention to visual materials of the sort prompts this appendix.13

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Medium 9780253011596

2: Munich Drawing School December 1881–Fall 1883

Rachel Berenson Perry Indiana University Press ePub

December 1881–Fall 1883

Author's note: During his years in Germany, William Forsyth wrote many letters to his patron, Tom Hibben, and to his family. Quotes from Forsyth's handwritten letters use his wording, but I've taken the liberty of altering his punctuation to improve clarity.

WITH STEELE'S ADVICE ABOUT EVERYTHING FROM budgets to the best travel routes, William Forsyth prepared to make his ocean voyage at the end of 1881. But because he could not help but worry about nearly everything, it could not have been reassuring for him to hear from Steele the previous April that “the school has never been so full as now and there is difficulty in getting in after the session has commenced. There have been several Englishmen here for several months waiting for a place to be vacant.” Other Academy news about the difficulty of getting into the painting classes followed: “This is Friday and has been an anxious day to many of the students who have made application to pass to higher classes. A great many have applications and the Secretary's room was crowded with their drawings. Today these are being examined by the Professors. The upper classes are so full that perhaps half of those applying from the Antique [drawing class] will be compelled to stay there. The probability is that they can do so to advantage for there are a great many dummies in [this] school as well as men of artistic talent.”1

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Medium 9780253349118

10. Nina Khanchandani

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

IN INDIA, as in many countries of the world, men are the ones entangled in commerce. They are the merchants, cooks, and waiters, while women work in the domestic sphere. In public, it is easier to meet men, especially the men of commerce who are accustomed to easy exchange, and my quest to meet new women in Banaras began, logically, with a merchant. After several visits to Hemant Khanchandani’s Dayaram Fashion Centre, his hospitality of tea and sometimes samosas did not seem to him enough. He invited us home for a meal. He lives a short walk from his shop, just off of Luxa Road, which is crowded with hotels, restaurants, and clothing stores. As is usual in Banaras, Hemant shares his home with the members of his extended family: his widowed mother, his older and younger brothers, his wife and sister-in-law, and four young adult children—two his own and two his older brother Parmanand’s. Their house is hidden behind a tiny convenience store called Pariwar Provisions, the Family Provisions shop. The name fits, since different members of the family share the duty of running the business. This joint family, in contrast to many others in Banaras, seems to be happy and comfortable, which is one of the reasons I was attracted to Hemant’s household.

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2. Follow the Wood: Carving and Political Cosmology in oku, Cameroon

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Nicolas Argenti

The . . . mask is made to look like an animal. But it is not an animal; it is a secret.


(quoted in McNaughton 1988:129)

The kingdom of Oku, made up of three dozen villages spread over the highest peaks of a mountainous landscape, is a hierarchical polity headed by a king (or ∂bfon) and a complex palatine retinue. Within the Grassfields region, Oku is one among several dozen small kingdoms or chiefdoms, each with their own languages and ruling dynasties. Although these polities all share many cultural traits and myths of common origin and ancestry, they have each specialized forms of production for export over the centuries (Warnier 1985), and Oku has become renowned (not only in the region but among museum curators and collectors too) as one of the foremost centers of carving in the region. Although some of the objects produced by its carvers—mainly ceremonial items of palace regalia including the throne-stools of kings—are destined for export within a regional elite sphere of exchange restricted to the ruling elite of the Grassfields, others are used locally by the palace kwifon regulatory society and by Oku lineage elders. Some of the most arresting objects produced by Oku carvers are the masks used by dancing groups both within the kingdom and throughout the Grassfields. These masks represent male elders wearing gigantic interpretations of their characteristic tasseled caps, beautiful young women, and wild forest animals—some of them unidentifiable, all of them as sinister and alarming to bystanders as they are attractive and exciting. The masks (or headdresses, known as “helmet masks” because they are worn on the top of the dancer’s head) are used by the masking groups (k∂kum) of the palace secret societies and the ruling lineages of Oku (Argenti 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007).

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5 Fashion Design in South Africa: Histories and Industries

Victoria L. Rovine Indiana University Press ePub

South African fashion is totally different from the rest of Africa. It is certainly African—you must call it African because it is made here.

—Marianne Fassler, 2008

We wanted to try and find a way that would make history part of popular culture, so the individuals who buy those clothes become ambassadors.

—Nkhesani Manganyi Nkosi of Stoned Cherrie, Sunday Times, 28 April 2002

Woolworths and South Africa’s leading designers are working together to bring you the best in local design. Wear them proudly.

—Woolworths department store clothing label, Cape Town, 2008

South Africa’s large and diverse fashion industry includes numerous designers whose work bears analysis as conceptual; these designers create garments that evoke complex localities without directly borrowing from or depicting elements of local cultures. Continuing a leitmotif from the previous chapter, many of these designers employ various forms of recycling—from the reuse of clothing to the repurposing of images that allude to specific histories, both national and personal. In post-apartheid South Africa, barely a generation beyond the end of the nation’s long period of racial segregation and repression, references to the past and to the ongoing struggle to realize the promise of transformation are a prime subject for artistic explorations in all media. Fashion design provides a highly visible and widely accessible venue for these explorations. Before turning to case studies of designers, I briefly introduce three aspects of South Africa’s history that reverberate in the work of fashion designers, making the country’s design industry exceptional in Africa. These elements—ethnic diversity, a history of race-based oppression, and a highly developed industrial and commercial infrastructure—all contribute to the distinctiveness of the nation’s fashion industry.

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