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African Art and the Colonial Encounter: Inventing a Global Commodity

Overview

Focusing on the theme of warriorhood, Sidney Littlefield Kasfir weaves a complex history of how colonial influence forever changed artistic practice, objects, and their meaning. Looking at two widely diverse cultures, the Idoma in Nigeria and the Samburu in Kenya, Kasfir makes a bold statement about the links between colonialism, the Europeans’ image of Africans, Africans’ changing self representation, and the impact of global trade on cultural artifacts and the making of art. This intriguing history of the ...

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Overview

Focusing on the theme of warriorhood, Sidney Littlefield Kasfir weaves a complex history of how colonial influence forever changed artistic practice, objects, and their meaning. Looking at two widely diverse cultures, the Idoma in Nigeria and the Samburu in Kenya, Kasfir makes a bold statement about the links between colonialism, the Europeans’ image of Africans, Africans’ changing self representation, and the impact of global trade on cultural artifacts and the making of art. This intriguing history of the interaction between peoples, aesthetics, morals, artistic objects and practices, and the global trade in African art challenges current ideas about artistic production and representation.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

"A provocative and useful addition to postcolonial analysis. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Faculty and specialists." —Choice, January 2009

Choice

"A provocative and useful addition to postcolonial analysis. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Faculty and specialists." —Choice, January 2009

Victoria RovineUniversity of Florida

"A rich and highly informative account of the many factors that impact artistic production in Africa." —Victoria RovineUniversity of Florida

Leeds African Studies Bulletin
"... there is little doubt that [this book]... will be compulsory reading for critical African art history syllabi for years to come... This book takes history very seriously, and in doing so, it brings a properly researched post-colonial critical discourse to bear on histories - those of the Samburu, the Idoma and African art history itself. In doing so it shows how art (artefact, material culture, objects... whatever) can both make those histories and be a vital part in our understanding of how the world is represented." —Will Rea, University of Leeds, Leeds African Studies Bulletin, #70 Dec. 2008

— Will Rea, University of Leeds

Research In African Literatures
"... well organized, analytically rich, elegantly written and a compelling read." —Mary Jo Arnoldi, Smithsonian Institution, RESEARCH IN AFRICAN LITERATURES, Vol. 40.3 August 2009

— Mary Jo Arnoldi, Smithsonian Institution

H-AfrArts
"... it is highly recommended with its emphasis on the three Cs—colonialism, commodity, and complexity of representation." —Joseph Nevadomsky, H-AfrArts, September 2009

— Joseph Nevadomsky

African Studies Review
"... persuasively demonstrates the degree to which colonialism reshaped artistic production and meaning, and also how artists were agents of resistance through creative transformation." —Mary Nooter Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles, AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW, Vol. 52.2 Sept. 2009

— Mary Nooter Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles

International Journal of African Historical Studies

"Kasfir provides a robust historical account bridging the study of "classic" African art markets—precolonial objects—with contemporary art markets, which still exoticize African artworks." —International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 43.1, 2010

Choice - J. L. Cooper

To help alter and broaden the meaning that some of her western professional colleagues associate with African objects, art historian and curator Kasfir (Emory Univ.) applies and draws lessons from certain anthropological practice from the 1980s and literary theory from the 1990s to two examples of African artifacts. "Sustained fieldwork" undergirds her study of the spears of the pastoralist Samburu of the Rift Valley, in Kenya, East Africa, and of the masks of the agricultural Idoma in Nigeria, West Africa. The comparison of these two quite different tribes and their artifacts unfolds in four parts: warriors and warriorhood, "artists" and their products, "the objects themselves," and commodification and globalization. Practicing anthropologically, Kasfir digs into the cultural fabric of the tribes and applies it to their artifacts. She recognizes the different impacts of varied British colonial policy upon the tribes and records some of the misreadings of tribal culture by European explorers, colonial officials, and settlers. As historian, she underlines cultural change and the consequent meaning of embedded artifacts over time--something that western artists and curators (let alone tourists) do not always apply to their reading of African objects. A provocative and useful addition to postcolonial analysis. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Faculty and specialists. --Choice J. L. Cooper, emeritus, DePauw University, Choice, January 2009

Victoria Rovine

"A rich and highly informative account of the many factors that impact artistic production in Africa." —Victoria Rovine, University of Florida

Leeds African Studies Bulletin - Will Rea

"... there is little doubt that [this book]... will be compulsory reading for critical African art history syllabi for years to come... This book takes history very seriously, and in doing so, it brings a properly researched post-colonial critical discourse to bear on histories - those of the Samburu, the Idoma and African art history itself. In doing so it shows how art (artefact, material culture, objects... whatever) can both make those histories and be a vital part in our understanding of how the world is represented." —Will Rea, University of Leeds, Leeds African Studies Bulletin, #70 Dec. 2008

RESEARCH IN AFRICAN LITERATURES - Mary Jo Arnoldi

"... well organized, analytically rich, elegantly written and a compelling read." —Mary Jo Arnoldi, Smithsonian Institution, RESEARCH IN AFRICAN LITERATURES, Vol. 40.3 August 2009

H-AfrArts - Joseph Nevadomsky

"... it is highly recommended with its emphasis on the three Cs--colonialism, commodity, and complexity of representation." —Joseph Nevadomsky, H-AfrArts, September 2009

AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW - Mary Nooter Roberts

"... persuasively demonstrates the degree to which colonialism reshaped artistic production and meaning, and also how artists were agents of resistance through creative
transformation." —Mary Nooter Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles, AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW, Vol. 52.2 Sept. 2009

From the Publisher
"Over the course of the past thirty years, Sidney Kasfir has become known as one of the most critical and conceptual minds in African art history... Sidney Kasfir, one of the freshest minds of African art history...." —The Journal of African History

"... it is highly recommended with its emphasis on the three Cs—colonialism, commodity, and complexity of representation." —Joseph Nevadomsky, H-AfrArts, September 2009

"A provocative and useful addition to postcolonial analysis. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Faculty and specialists." —Choice, January 2009

To help alter and broaden the meaning that some of her western professional colleagues associate with African objects, art historian and curator Kasfir (Emory Univ.) applies and draws lessons from certain anthropological practice from the 1980s and literary theory from the 1990s to two examples of African artifacts. "Sustained fieldwork" undergirds her study of the spears of the pastoralist Samburu of the Rift Valley, in Kenya, East Africa, and of the masks of the agricultural Idoma in Nigeria, West Africa. The comparison of these two quite different tribes and their artifacts unfolds in four parts: warriors and warriorhood, "artists" and their products, "the objects themselves," and commodification and globalization. Practicing anthropologically, Kasfir digs into the cultural fabric of the tribes and applies it to their artifacts. She recognizes the different impacts of varied British colonial policy upon the tribes and records some of the misreadings of tribal culture by European explorers, colonial officials, and settlers. As historian, she underlines cultural change and the consequent meaning of embedded artifacts over time—something that western artists and curators (let alone tourists) do not always apply to their reading of African objects. A provocative and useful addition to postcolonial analysis. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Faculty and specialists. —Choice J. L. Cooper, emeritus, DePauw University, Choice, January 2009

"... there is little doubt that [this book]... will be compulsory reading for critical African art history syllabi for years to come... This book takes history very seriously, and in doing so, it brings a properly researched post-colonial critical discourse to bear on histories - those of the Samburu, the Idoma and African art history itself. In doing so it shows how art (artefact, material culture, objects... whatever) can both make those histories and be a vital part in our understanding of how the world is represented." —Will Rea, University of Leeds, Leeds African Studies Bulletin, #70 Dec. 2008

"... persuasively demonstrates the degree to which colonialism reshaped artistic production and meaning, and also how artists were agents of resistance through creative
transformation." —Mary Nooter Roberts, University of California, Los Angeles, AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW, Vol. 52.2 Sept. 2009

"A rich and highly informative account of the many factors that impact artistic production in Africa." —Victoria Rovine, University of Florida

"Kasfir provides a robust historical account bridging the study of "classic" African art markets—precolonial objects—with contemporary art markets, which still exoticize African artworks." —International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 43.1, 2010

"... well organized, analytically rich, elegantly written and a compelling read." —Mary Jo Arnoldi, Smithsonian Institution, RESEARCH IN AFRICAN LITERATURES, Vol. 40.3 August 2009

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253219220
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Series: African Expressive Cultures Ser.
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir is Professor in the Department of Art History at Emory University where she is also Faculty Curator of African Art. She is author of Contemporary African Art and editor of West African Masks and Cultural Systems.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: Colonial Power and Aesthetic Practice
Part 1. Warriors
1. Maa Warriorhood and British Colonial Discourse
2. Idoma Warriorhood and the Pax Britannica
Part 2. Sculptors and Smiths
3. Colonial Rupture and Innovation
4. Samburu Smiths, Idoma Maskmakers: Power at a Distance
Part 3. Masks, Spears, the Body
5. Mask and Spear: Art, Thing, Commodity
6. Warrior Theatre and the Ritualized Body
Part 4. Commodities
7. Idoma Sculpture: Colonialism and the Market for African Art
8. Samburu Encounters with Modernity: Spears as Tourist Souvenirs
9. Samburu Warriors in Hollywood Films: Cinematic Commodities
Reprise: The Three C's: Colonialism, Commodities, and Complex Representations
Coda: From Spears to Guns in the North Rift
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Indiana University Press

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