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4. Photography, Narrative Interventions, and (Cross) Cultural Representations

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub



Every year in the wintry cold of late January or early February, Time, Inc., releases the much-anticipated Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The swimsuit-clad models are meant to transport readers out of the doldrums of winter to the warmth of tropical locations (e.g., Bermuda, Bora Bora, Dominican Republic, Mexico). Shot in a different location every year—Sports Illustrated identifies the locale each time, but in many ways one beach could be any other—each issue offers a fantasy world of sun-drenched fun. Occasionally, however, a site is chosen that manifests its location specifically through well-known land formations or the indigenous architecture. Such is the case with the 1996 swimsuit issue. Shot in South Africa, its presentation of Ndebele visual culture is fundamental to establishing the locale for readers. Beaded jewelry is most common, though there are two images in the photo essay in which Ndebele wall painting predominates.1

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Medium 9780253340481

Chapter Six Another Realm: Her Highness Xenia

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253348920

Coda: From Spears to Guns in the North Rift

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub



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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Medium 9780253008145

ONE Veiling, Fashion, and Social Mobility: A Century of Change in Zanzibar • LAURA FAIR

Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

“The Veil” has never been a static thing, nor have its use and meaning been firm. In this chapter, I explore changes in veiling habits in Zanzibar over the course of more than a century, illustrating both how and why the veil has changed over time. Though “the veil” is often condemned in the West as a sign of women’s subordination, here I illustrate that in Zanzibar women have often used the veil to assert both their freedom and their economic might. The bulk of this chapter examines changes in veiling fashions over the course of the twentieth century, but I begin with a brief discussion of a more recent trend to illustrate that the uses and meanings attributed to the veil worn by women in the Isles of Zanzibar—which includes two large islands, Unguja and Pemba, and several smaller ones which came to be known collectively as Zanzibar—are often completely hidden from casual observers in the West.

At the turn of the twenty-first century a new veiling fashion was increasingly seen on the streets and in the markets of Zanzibar. Suddenly, it seemed, growing numbers of women were donning the niqāb, choosing to cover their faces entirely when in public rather than wearing the more common buibui, which left their faces open, or the more casual kanga,thrown over the top of the head and draped over the shoulders and chest. Where did this new style come from, I wondered? And what was the impetus for this change? (Plate 1).

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Medium 9780253007414

4. An Artist’s Notes on the Triangle Workshops, Zambia and South Africa

Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield ePub

Namubiru Rose Kirumira and Sidney Littlefield Kasfir

African contemporary artists are often portrayed as individuals who are caught up in the dynamics of art formation spaces, sociocultural movements, and forces of globalization—as well as new discourses of artistic experience. Workshops in particular have been significant formative spaces in artists’ endeavors to become versatile in a globalizing environment (Deliss 1995; Kirumira 2008; Sanyal 2002). It is worth observing that several types of workshops that include long-term (three-month) residencies, short-term (two-week) workshops, and symposia have existed in Africa for some time; many were begun by colonial patrons. Publications such as catalogs produced by the Triangle Art Trust, and articles by Court (1992) and Richards (1998) have given varied, if limited, accounts of the status of art workshops in Africa.

Murray, Picton, and Loder (2005) argue that the condition of being an artist in Africa is a condition of continuous transition. In the same vein, for over fifty years, African workshops have presented themselves in a continuous transition from artist’s colonies, communities, and craft villages to international workshops. A revealing example of what has changed in the African workshop scenario since 1985 is the introduction and spread of the so-called Triangle Workshops, originated by the British art collector and entrepreneur Robert Loder and sculptor Sir Anthony Caro in 1982. The initial triangle was the familiar one of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom; but three years later the first African Triangle Workshop, Thupelo, was organized in South Africa by artists David Koloane and Bill Ainslie.

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Medium 9780253009036

12 Tempered Nostalgia in Recent French Films on the ’68 Years

Daniel J Sherman Indiana University Press ePub


The representational heterogeneity of 1968 is self-evident. The events of that year were multiple; they advocated multiplicity, generated countless instant accounts, and have been interpreted and polemicized in a myriad of ways. Film is a fitting form for reckoning with the sixties as a whole and 1968 in particular not only because impressions of 1968 at the time and since have trafficked in images, and not only because film lends itself to capturing diverse temporalities and spaces, but also because of the simple fact that no one has stopped making films about “the ’68 years.” Where do we stand today in relation to 1968 with respect to film? I would like to discuss two films: Philippe Garrel’s Les amants réguliers (Regular Lovers, 2005) and Christian Rouaud’s Lip, l’imagination au pouvoir (Lip: Imagination in Power, 2007).1

Both of these films return to les années soixante-huit (the ’68 years), that period in France that opened with the student and worker strikes of May–June 1968 and continued into the mid-1970s. Even against the backdrop of worldwide upheaval, the French events of May and June were noteworthy. Nowhere else did matters go so far. Beginning in the student milieu, the largest general strike in twentieth-century Europe led to upward of ten million workers leaving or occupying their workplaces. The government of Charles de Gaulle experienced a shuddering crisis of confidence as the president dramatically left the country in late May for a military base in Germany to check on the loyalty of the army. Although the student-occupied Latin Quarter was cleared in June and special elections later that month strengthened de Gaulle, the events of 1968 were considered by many, as was said at the time, the “beginning of a long struggle,” a “breach” in the wall of conventional society, an opening of historical possibility that militant action would keep open and extend (figure 12.1).2 The late 1960s and early to mid-1970s saw an upswing of left-wing radicalism, the formation of new social movements, and the abrupt emergence of the French counterculture. This climate of radical social and political action began to taper off in the mid-1970s.

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Medium 9780253013873

4 Zombie Media

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

We are the hostages of news coverage, but we acquiesce secretly in this hostage-taking.

Jean Baudrillard, Virtuality and Events

The news is always horseshit.

Tony, Diary of the Dead

Taken as a whole, George A. Romero’s body of work has most often been thought to mark shifts in cultural anxieties—anxieties around the Vietnam War and the civil rights era, the rise of a consumer economy, the relation of science and the military during the Cold War, the war in Iraq, and the irruptive spectacle of terrorism—anxieties that his films not only embody but also critically respond to, and all of which have been well documented. Yet, by regarding these films as markers of cultural anxieties or repressions, such readings either implicitly or explicitly tend to use psychological models, often ones that have been transposed to a cultural level.1 Such frameworks, while certainly useful, also tend to domesticate the zombie.2 Under such models, the zombie becomes safe and familiar, immanently legible as political allegory and cultural construct. In the end, it all comes back to us humans.

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12. “A Matter of Must”: Continuities and Change in the Adugbologe Woodcarving Workshop in Abeokuta, Nigeria

Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield ePub

Norma H. Wolff

In the 1970s, the Adugbologe kin-based workshop located in the family compound in the Egba Yoruba city of Abeokuta was the site of a remarkable and successful family craft industry. The woodcarvers of Adugbologe Compound had catered to the needs of the local community for over a century. Whereas in the past the Adugbologe carvers supplied sculpture for prestige and ritual needs of the indigenous community, in the mid-twentieth century they had expanded their market to a new audience and turned to commodity carving for trade. They sold their products primarily to traders who provided souvenirs to tourists and expatriates, but a handful of family carvers continued to produce for local and prestige needs. The overlap of these traditionally enculturated carvers with those who chose to carve primarily from economic motivations ensured that no drastic changes in formal attributes and subject matter took place in the carvings produced. As an arena of action the Adugbologe Compound workshop encouraged the carvers’ sense of family heritage and their daily exposure to each others’ work favored a more closed mode of imagination reflected in their adherence to the family style. However, changes in production and product were evident. My day-to-day observations from 1972 to 1974 suggest that decision making leading to conscious changes in their products that took them further away from the Adugbologe prototypes was primarily the result of interactions with patrons.1

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Medium 9781574412208

CHAPTER THREE: Building in Houston and Texas Southern University, 1949–1957

Olive Jensen Theisen University of North Texas Press PDF



Voting rights, equal opportunity legislation, the Black Power movement, and Black

History Month were solutions of the following decades.

This photograph (fig. 16) shows John Biggers in his office during 1950–1951 with some of his sculptures. Early in 1950, John organized a conference for art educators and invited Viktor Lowenfeld as a speaker. The following photograph (fig.

17) shows his colleague Joe Mack, Dr. Lowenfeld, and John Biggers at that time.

figure 16

John Biggers in his office at Texas Southern, with his sculptures


President R. O’Hara Lanier of Texas State University for Negroes had been an administrator at Hampton Institute in the early 1940s. He had known of John

Biggers’s abilities. Lanier was eager to see an art department on his campus and promised his full support. He soon hired two more Hampton graduates: Joseph

Mack, a painter, and Carroll Simms, a sculptor and potter. Hazel Biggers had graduated from Hampton with a degree in business and quickly found a position in the business office. The couple located a small two-room apartment of their own not too far from campus. The name of the institution was changed to Texas

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

Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield 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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Medium 9780253007438

7 · Art Évo on the Chaussée d’Ixelles

Allen F. Roberts Indiana University Press ePub

Africa doesn’t exist. I know. I’ve been there.


Storms took Lusinga with him to Europe in another way. When his men brought him the chief’s head, they also brought Bwana Boma a most remarkable wooden figure embodying Swift-of-Foot’s dynastic title and matrilineage.1 Storms carried this and other trophies back to Belgium with him, and a series of photographs taken in 1929 show the figure in the drawing room of his maison de maître (row house) at 146 Chaussée d’Ixelles in Brussels (fig. 7.1). There it stands among geometrically arrayed weapons and carefully composed displays of souvenirs from Lubanda and the other African locales visited by the lieutenant.

The discussion to follow is based upon the assumption that the salon and another room, also photographed in 1929, were still arranged as Storms knew them before his death in 1918. No documentation proves or disproves this assertion, and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was common for mourning rooms to be preserved as they had been enjoyed by deceased loved ones in “an implied narrative of melancholy.”2 Indeed, a velvet rope can be seen to transect the salon in one of the pictures, as though setting portions of the room off-limits to visitors and underscoring the likelihood that the Widow Storms kept the room as her husband had last known it. That the couple had no children reinforces the possibility that the rooms were left as shared by the couple in their later years. Furthermore, one of the photos shows a desk in the corner of the drawing room. Papers are carefully arranged to one side of a blotter, and a lamp has a shade with an image of African women bearing loads on their heads. One can imagine that it was while seated here that Bwana Boma lost himself in reverie and letters, surrounded by vestiges of his brief moment of glory in the Congo.

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Medium 9780253353801

16 Professor Dude: An Inquiry into the Appeal of His Dudeness for Contemporary College Students

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Richard Gaughran

On the first day of classes in the fall of 2006, I walked into a James Madison University class of fifteen students, none of whom I’d met before. I had the usual plan for the first day: a short welcome and introductions, the distribution of a syllabus, followed by explanations and answering of questions. Before any of this, however, I planned to distribute a questionnaire to anyone who has seen the Coen brothers’ film The Big Lebowski. But I had left the surveys in my office, so I placed my other books and papers on a table and mumbled something about having to return to my office to retrieve some forms I wanted the students to complete. When I returned about two minutes later, I asked, “How many of you have seen The Big Lebowski?” For some reason the room erupted in laughter. I didn’t think much of that until some weeks later, when one of these students, in my office for a conference, told me what occurred when I was gone from the classroom. After I had dropped my belongings on the table and left for my office, she asked the rest of the students if they had seen The Big Lebowski, and didn’t I remind them of the Dude? No wonder they thought my question to them, moments later, was funny.

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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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Medium 9780253015754

2. Glittering Video: Format, Fashion, and the Materiality of Nollywood Stardom

Noah A. Tsika Indiana University Press ePub


There is a moment on Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde’s reality television series, Omotola: The Real Me, when the Nollywood star addresses the intense public backlash against the dress that she wore to the 2011 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Making history as the first Nollywood star to grace the Grammy red carpet, Omotola caused quite a splash in a black-and-white, sequined sheath dress, albeit for all the “wrong” reasons: form-fitting around the chest, waist and hips, Omotola’s sleeveless costume was said to accentuate both her best and worst physical features, making her seem, as one Nigerian publication put it, “too much the mother of four that she is”—too, in a word, womanly.1 While the star on her reality TV series acknowledges the “backlash against the backlash”—the discourse of Afrocentrism and self-empowerment that promotes appreciation for “big black bodies”—she also makes an important point about her Grammy appearance, noting that it was live, “in the flesh,” and subject to countless far-flung flashbulbs.2 It was not, in other words, a well-regulated, formally constructed scene from a movie. In the glare of live coverage, it laid bare Omotola’s “real” identity, allegedly giving the lie to her persistent on-screen portrayals of young adults.

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Medium 9780253353801

2 A Once and Future Dude: The Big Lebowski as Medieval Grail-Quest

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Andrew Rabin

Although medieval allegory might seem distant from Lebowski’s “parlance of the times,” references to the Middle Ages—and to the Grail-quest in particular—form a crucial component of the film’s narrative world.1 Like the Old French Queste del Saint Graal, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzifal, or Malory’s Morte Darthur, The Big Lebowski recounts the adventures of three companions seeking to restore a lost fetish-object. This quest leads them through a contemporary wasteland to the castle of a crippled king whose paraplegia marks him as both sexually and politically impotent. Here, the object is found and lost again, and the goal now becomes to restore the king’s potency, as well as to recover the original object of the search. On his journey, the principal Grail knight experiences allegorical visions and confronts the temptations of the flesh. He encounters both Jesus (Quintana) and Arthur (Digby Sellers) and receives dubious aid from an “Irish monk” (the “brother Seamus,” Da Fino). In perhaps the most obvious Grail allusion, the Dude’s second meeting with the “Big” Lebowski takes place in a neo-Gothic great hall with Wagner’s Lohengrin, an opera based on Wolfram’s Parzifal, playing in the background. The adventure finally ends with the death of the most innocent of the questers and the return of his two companions, sadder yet wiser men. However, despite such obvious similarities between the medieval and modern narratives, the inhabitants of the Dude’s world remain as ignorant of their Arthurian analogues as they seem to be of the Iraq War beginning around them. In this film, the voice of history is that of “a Stranger.” Like the child who wanders in in the middle of a movie, they have, as Walter tells Donny, “no frame of reference.”

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