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3. Masters, Trend-makers, and Producers: The Village of Nsei, Cameroon, as a Multisited Pottery Workshop

Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield ePub

Silvia Forni

The village of Nsei is located in the Ndop Plain, a very fertile area about thirty kilometers east of the provincial capital Bamenda, the largest commercial center in the northern Cameroonian Grassfields. Like every other village in this region, Nsei is mainly an agricultural community. According to local customs, women grow the staple foods for family needs (mainly maize, cassava, pumpkins, and green vegetables), while men cultivate cash crops such as coffee and rice, which are sold to local cooperatives that trade these products in national and international markets. Unlike the other villages, Nsei is particularly well known for its rather extensive and eclectic pottery production, which has expanded in scope and volume over the last forty years.

According to historical and archaeological evidence (Warnier and Fowler 1979; Nkwi and Warnier 1982) the Nsei people were established on their present territory by the eighteenth century. Iron, clay pipe heads, ornate vessels, and decorated fiber bags were the main locally produced items that insured Nsei’s regional reputation in the competitive network of exchange characterizing inter-kingdom relations in precolonial times (Fowler 1997). As noted by many scholars, material culture—particularly those items associated at various levels with the male hierarchy that regulates political power—is an essential component of the commercial and competitive relationships among independent Grassfields kingdoms, through which prestige and identity were defined. Thus, the construction of the regional identity is not to be attributed to the common origin of different groups, but is the result of an elaborate system of commercial and symbolic exchanges through which food, utensils, prestige objects, and—in certain cases—institutions and meanings circulated among independent polities.

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Medium 9780253009050

From Montreuil to the Midwest: Aldrich’s Art in Context

Wendy Greenhouse Indiana University Press ePub

The paintings of George Ames Aldrich reveal a romanticist…. [who] sees an idyll in a French village and a magnificent pageant in a steel foundry.

FADING DAYLIGHT ILLUMINATES THE SCENE FROM A high horizon. Rustic cottages or a tumbledown mill crowd an upper corner of the composition, perhaps with the unobtrusive figure of a woman standing by. Dominating the picture, above all else, is a swiftly flowing stream rendered with more careful attention than its surroundings. Edged by rounded banks formed by the tangled roots of bordering trees, the water’s broken surface is deftly rendered in distinct strokes of the brush. The stream nearly fills the foreground and marks a deep diagonal recession toward distant fields and woods. The scene is overlaid with softening shadow; the mood is tranquil, with a hint of mystery. The only movement is in the water, but its perpetual flow underscores the impression of an unchanging remote world of tradition and timeworn habit.

This signature landscape formula sustained the prolific career of George Ames Aldrich for nearly forty years, and it continues to draw collectors with a taste for the pleasing mode known as decorative impressionism, widely practiced in the early decades of the twentieth century among conservative Midwestern landscape painters. Particularly after World War I, many of them focused on American subjects, but Aldrich’s artistic identity remained closely tied to the French rural villages, cottages, mills, and streams that he had pictured since the beginning of his career as a landscape painter, in the first decade of the twentieth century. Known as a “wizard at painting running water and snow covered banks,” he appears to have executed variations on this theme, with or without buildings, until nearly the end of his life, when his initial European sojourn was only a distant memory.1 By then, an approach to landscape painting once regarded as modernist, emulated by Aldrich from the much-admired Norwegian painter Fritz Thaulow, had morphed into an embodiment of convention, a domesticated commodity well suited to the conservative cultural values of middle-class Midwesterners.

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Medium 9780253353801

7 Lebowski and the Ends of Postmodern American Comedy

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Matthew Biberman

What kind of humor is Coen comedy?

The question is difficult in no small measure because comedy itself is difficult to explain. In this essay I offer a reading of The Big Lebowski that situates the film in a tradition of Jewish humor animated by social anxieties about nonconformity and collective psychotic behavior. My thesis is that Coen comedy ceaselessly dramatizes such anxieties and presents them as a kind of psychological training ground for surviving the future.

The standard argument about classifying Coen humor argues that it is best categorized as an instance of “postmodern parody” or “postmodern pastiche.” Clustering Lebowski with such “dark” 1990s comedies as The Cable Guy (1996), The Truman Show (1998), Serial Mom (1993), and Pulp Fiction (1993), Christopher Beach, for example, asserts that such films display “a mastery not only of the comic tradition but also of various other film and television genres, any of which are fair game for its postmodern pastiche” (205, emphasis mine). Similarly, Peter Körte and Georg Seesslen argue that “Coen films positively encourage us to use words like ‘post-modern’ or ‘manneristic’ to describe them” (260). The film is, they write, “a parody of plot twists of so many films noir or contemporary cop movies” (196) and, further, that “Coen country . . . has always been a pastiche,” and in this case, they produce a filmic landscape in which “the 1960s and 1970s almost simultaneously return as parodies of themselves” (200–201). Underscoring this point, R. Barton Palmer has a chapter in his study of the Coens simply called “The Coen Brothers: Postmodern Filmmakers,” where we again learn that “The postmodernist’s characteristic mode is pastiche, the so-called flat parody famously first identified by Fredric Jameson as one of the most distinguishing features of the aesthetic” (58).

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Medium 9780253340481

Chapter Ten Events Follow Events

Samuel S. Bak Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253011596

4: The Beginnings of a Teacher Fall 1888–Fall 1897

Rachel Berenson Perry Indiana University Press ePub

Fall 1888–Fall 1897

AFTER DOCKING IN NEW YORK, WILLIAM FORSYTH spent a few days visiting old comrades in the city and “inquiring about the chances for artists at home.”1 He moved back to his family's rented Indianapolis south side house at 213 Fletcher Ave. in mid-October, 1888. Unfortunately, his valise containing clothes and art supplies was stolen by a hack driver in New York. Although the driver was caught, the valise never reappeared, and Forsyth spent considerable effort trying to get compensation for his loss. The company claimed they were only responsible for clothing and refused to pay for painting supplies.

Bolstering his credentials, Forsyth sent a snow scene titled March to Fred Hetherington to be entered in the 1889 National Academy of Design spring exhibition in New York. He also entered three paintings in the 6th Annual Art Association of Indianapolis exhibit in Masonic Hall. His concern about immediate income was somewhat relieved when he took over Adams’ weekend art class in Ft. Wayne.

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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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1. Grace Dieu Mission in South Africa: Defining the Modern Art Workshop in Africa

Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield ePub

Elizabeth Morton

Africa’s first modern art workshop began in the mid-1920s at Grace Dieu Mission near Pietersburg, South Africa. It developed a trademark style of wood carving that won considerable critical acclaim in the 1930s and allowed the school to support and promote South Africa’s first professional black artists. Two of them, Ernest Mancoba and Job Kekana, received contemporary and lasting acclaim. Although the workshop closed abruptly in 1939, its bas-relief style nevertheless became institutionalized elsewhere and is still produced today.

Grace Dieu is notable because it established a pattern that would be repeated in African art workshops for the remainder of the colonial period. The school developed a recognizable and consistent workshop style influenced by the idiosyncratic ideals of a European “founder.” Additionally, the art was created by young peasant men whose training was restricted to a prescribed style. The workshop patrons found at Grace Dieu that it was best to identify a talented and reliable favorite, who could be hired to train the other artists in the desired manner. Finally, we note the emergence of rebel artists, who chafe under the uniformity and other demands of the workshop and who seek to create other forms of art.

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Medium 9780253015976

6 Le Freak, C’est Critical and Chic: North African Scholars and the Conditions of Cultural Production in Post-9/11 U.S. Academia

Kenneth W Harrow Indiana University Press ePub

Lamia Benyoussef

IN AN INTRODUCTORY English composition class I taught a few years ago, an African American student asked me if she could write her comparative essay on the immigration and integration experiences of Arab and Caucasian Americans. When I pinpointed that the U.S. Census Bureau classified Arab Americans as Caucasians and suggested that she drop the racial categories in favor of a geographic terminology (that is, Middle Eastern and European immigration), in total shock and disbelief she exclaimed: “Arabs do 9/11 and they are still whites?” For a moment I froze there, not knowing what to say. I was not sure if she was angry at me because I was guilty by association or at her own self for still failing to be “white,” even though she was no evildoer like me, her teacher. That life-altering teaching moment repatriated me in W. E. B. Du Bois’s discourse on the Negro veil in The Souls of Black Folk. “It dawned upon me with a certain suddenness” that North African women academics too (alias moukéres or les négresses des sables) “are different from Others; or [like them perhaps] in life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil.” If the point of this essay can be summed up in one sentence, it is the desire to tear down that veil, to creep through the silences and wonders of the academic world “and live above in the blue sky,” free from the pitfalls of colorisms and the haunting shades and “shadows”1 of diversity. This chapter is inspired not only by my own experience as an Arab and Muslim academic in the South but also by the scholarly work and experiences of other North African scholars who find themselves, like me, in the double bind functioning as a native informant (after all, Islam keeps enrollment high) while remaining on the threshold of American academia because their physical presence is as critical as the critical languages they teach.

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Medium 9780253013873

7 Zombie Performance

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

Come and get it! It’s a running buffet! All you can eat!

Shaun, Shaun of the Dead

The zombie consumes us. It occupies our minds, books, screens, and streets; devours and squanders our flesh and bodies; infects us with disease; and overwhelms our very social order. And yet we chase after zombies. In recent years we have facilitated their rise as a veritable cultural phenomenon, compelling them into our movie-theater screens in greater and faster-moving hordes than ever before, into our homes with shows like The Walking Dead, and onto our college campuses with Humans vs. Zombies, a live-action game of survival. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have launched a zombie preparedness campaign, encouraging people to equip themselves against a whole range of catastrophes. The zombie apocalypse, it appears, offers itself as a natural disaster par excellence.

But we humans do not simply want to destroy and survive the zombies; we actually want to be them. In walks and runs across the country, people regularly adorn themselves in fake blood, gaping wounds, and tattered clothing to perform zombie “undeath” in our very streets. The zombie survival guides in our bookstores now find themselves in the company of titles such as So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead (Austin); Zombies for Zombies: Advice and Etiquette for the Living Dead (Murphy); and How to Speak Zombie: A Guide for the Living (Mockus and Millard). For every piece of information on how to combat zombies, there is now parallel advice on how to enact zombie existence.

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3. Can the Artist Speak?: Hamid Kachmar's Subversive Redemptive Art of Resistance

Joanna Grabski Indiana University Press ePub


I would go to this land of mine and I would say to it: “Embrace me without fear…. And if all I can do is speak, it is for you I shall speak.”



Berber artists are not really concerned about personal styles; nor do they care if they are remembered as individuals. Their goals are to present personal views…expressed through the lexicon of collective memory rooted in the tradition of tying knots, combining motifs and taking care that the grammar is not breeched.


In the fall of 2009 Hamid Kachmar, a young Moroccan artist of Amazigh heritage, was featured in a solo show in the Robert and Sallie Brown Gallery and Museum located in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The mission of the Brown Gallery and the Stone Center is “to critically examine all dimensions of African American, African and African Diaspora cultures through its education program and through the formal exhibition of works of art and other items.”1

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Medium 9780253015754

1. From Yorùbá to YouTube: Studying Nollywood’s Star System

Noah A. Tsika Indiana University Press ePub


When Nollywood star Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde was shooting the VH1 drama series Hit the Floor in February, 2013, she started live-tweeting from the set, describing the Paramount lot and calling her colleague Kimberly Elise “a beautiful Method actor.” That tweet in particular seemed to say so much all at once: that a Nollywood star can thrive when 8,000 miles from home and filming scenes with an American costar; that she can classify that costar’s performance style according to what is perhaps the most revered model of realist acting; that she can join forces with a fellow woman of color in order to furnish a reflection of global “girl power” (the tweet came with the hashtag “GirlsRock”); and that she can define her own ever-evolving identity as a truly boundless one. This tweet alone displays the notion that Nollywood’s star system well equips its constituents to achieve expansive success. Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde has, as she says, “the power” to infiltrate American popular culture; the proof is in the Instagram photos that she provides—the charming self-portraits of the Nigerian star weaving her way through a Melrose Avenue lot with the legendary Paramount banner as a backdrop.

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Medium 9780253007438

4 · Tropical Gothic

Allen F. Roberts Indiana University Press ePub

The only thing going on was a war, and no one seemed to notice but Yossarian. . . . And when Yossarian tried to remind people, they drew away from him and thought he was crazy.


Early in Storms’s days at Lubanda, IAA Secretary General Strauch made it clear that he was discontent with the amount of information the lieutenant was forwarding to him and asked for more. Storms responded that he spent his days otherwise, with the implication that he had little time for such idle niceties as correspondence. From five thirty in the morning until two in the afternoon, he oversaw the construction of his boma every day, and at four he set off hunting in the hilly woods west of Lubanda. “For me, continuous work is the best remedy to ward off fever,” he explained—a nonchalant remark, perhaps, but telling nonetheless.1

A shocking number of Storms’s European peers visiting central Africa suffered mightily and many perished, and often gruesomely, from malaria, smallpox, cholera, dysentery, parasites, and other dire diseases, to say nothing of sunstroke, infected wounds, broken and unset limbs, and mental instability. Explorers felt assailed, as Stanley put it, by “Fatal Africa! One after another, travelers drop away . . . the torrid heat, the miasma exhaled from the soil, the noisome vapours enveloping every path, the giant cane-grass suffocating the wayfarer, the rabid fury of the native . . . the unspeakable misery of the life within the wild continent.” Who could hope to cope with such unspeakable rigors?2 Underlying all of these dreadful possibilities was a further sense of “fever (often capitalized in the sources), [that,] far from being regarded as just a medical condition and a reaction of the immune system to multiple causes, became essentialized as the ecstatic counterstate to ascetic hygiene.” Indeed, as Johannes Fabian asserts, “Fever was an ideology” implying “the ‘sacrifice’ every traveler must bring to the black continent” and “a myth needed to make sense of the mortal dangers of exploration, a metaphor giving meaning to what would otherwise have remained as brutal facts.” Fever was also something of “a bad love affair” that required its own “poetics,” and such passions contributed to the sense of central Africa as personifying—more literally than one may now assume—everything fearfully primordial. Such menaces might be met with “ascetic hygiene,” as Fabian suggests, but I would add that more basically at issue was an aesthetic hygiene, to be performed in any such ecstasis.3

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Medium 9780253349118

5. Weaving Saris

Pravina Shukla Indiana University Press ePub

BANARAS HAS BEEN A CENTER for the production of exquisite brocaded saris for centuries. The colloquial name used throughout India for these saris—the Banarasi sari—implies a continuous association of the beautiful saris with the city where most saris of the type are still made. Saris are woven in the Muslim neighborhoods of Banaras: handwoven in Madanpura and Sonarpura, and manufactured on power looms in Alaipura. Dalmandi, the other main Muslim neighborhood, is the market center for readymade clothes; saris are neither woven nor sold there.

A significant portion of the residents of Banaras are involved in the sari trade in one way or another. Thousands of men (and a smaller number of women) work as weavers, a few of them ranked as masters. Some weaving families have been involved in the trade for generations; others turn to it intermittently to earn extra cash. Kanhaiya Kevat, for example, a charismatic boatwallah we met on the Ganges, explained that besides rowing a boat—and working out at the local wrestler’s club, which is his favorite activity—he also weaves saris part-time. Many weavers are journeyman workers under the supervision of the families that have owned workshops for generations. These families of Muslim masters, who bear the surname Ansari, occasionally hire a few Hindu workers, such as Kanhaiya Kevat, who is not by caste a weaver.

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Medium 9781603444668

5. Living Downstream: East Austin through the Blackland Prairies

Margie Crisp Texas A&M University Press ePub


The river pours out of Longhorn Dam and starts a series of lazy, looping curves on its way to the coast. It changes in temperament and character. The way people look at it alters; there can be no mistaking that it is a river again, in name and nature. Just downstream from the last dam (for the present), the river glides underneath the soaring buttresses and pillars of the Montopolis Bridges. The river feels like an anachronism after the high-priced estates and manicured lawns bordering the reservoirs upstream. City of Austin parks bordering the river on either side (Guerro Park on the south and the Colorado River Preserve on the north) are not akin to the mowed and maintained hike and bike trails just upstream around Lady Bird Lake. Erosion eats at the banks of Guerro Park. In the Colorado River Preserve, eroded trails score the woods, heaps of dumped household and construction trash clog the gullies, and debris washed downstream laces the brush.

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9 · Composing Decomposition

Allen F. Roberts Indiana University Press ePub

Remembering is never a quiet act of introspection or retrospection. It is a painful remembering, a putting together of the dismembered past to make sense of the trauma of the present.


What funeral practices might have been undertaken had Lusinga met a natural—or at least a local—demise? While I would assert that Lusinga explicitly engaged in “culture-building” as he sought to validate his emerging authority through the commissioning of statuary and other visible and performative means, he was not doing so from whole cloth. Instead, he was adopting and adapting eastern Luba practices that were sufficiently resonant with Tabwa political culture as to be accepted locally. Such creative work included burial of chiefs.1

The archaeological record suggests how elaborate funeral rites could be for earlier peoples of the region, but archival materials concerning such matters as precolonial burial of chiefs are meager indeed, and Storms left the barest of notes that are not specific to any given chief, community, or moment in time.2 Most Tabwa with whom I worked in the 1970s knew very little of such procedures, and it is likely that a combination of secrecy, the inventive but discontinued maneuvers of ambitious individuals like Lusinga and Kansabala, and nearly a century of colonial intervention—especially by Catholic missionaries based at Mpala-Lubanda and Moba-Kirungu—mean that few details have been retained if they were ever widely known or generally practiced. Nothing resembling a “genealogy of performance” has been maintained or can be retrieved, then, and we have no glimpse of the inevitable “anxiety-inducing instability” of any given performance event when arguments about who does what and how are played out according to the particularities of local-level politics. As Victor Turner asserted, “There is no ‘authorized version’ of a given ritual” like a chief’s interment, and indeed, because of inexorably shifting social dynamics, “no performance . . . ever precisely resembles another.”3 Nor do available data permit an understanding of local variation in symbolism and broader purpose from one burial, village, chiefdom, clan, or ethnic difference to the next, to say nothing of the development of procedures across time. Surely there was variation, as one would expect among communities so loosely related to each other—if at all—as were Tabwa of the late nineteenth century. The archaeology of performance to be offered here will be a deductive quest, then, as stimulated by a most intriguing entry in the White Fathers’ Mpala Mission diary concerning the death and burial of Sultani Kansabala, Lusinga’s “mother’s brother.”

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