Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics

Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics

by Sarah Nuttall
     
 

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In Cameroon, a monumental “statue of liberty” is made from scrap metal. In Congo, a thriving popular music incorporates piercing screams and carnal dances. When these and other instantiations of the aesthetics of Africa and its diasporas are taken into account, how are ideas of beauty reconfigured? Scholars and artists take up that question in this

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Overview

In Cameroon, a monumental “statue of liberty” is made from scrap metal. In Congo, a thriving popular music incorporates piercing screams and carnal dances. When these and other instantiations of the aesthetics of Africa and its diasporas are taken into account, how are ideas of beauty reconfigured? Scholars and artists take up that question in this invigorating, lavishly illustrated collection, which includes more than one hundred color images. Exploring sculpture, music, fiction, food, photography, fashion, and urban design, the contributors engage with and depart from canonical aesthetic theories as they demonstrate that beauty cannot be understood apart from ugliness.

Highlighting how ideas of beauty are manifest and how they mutate, travel, and combine across time and distance, continental and diasporic writers examine the work of a Senegalese sculptor inspired by Leni Riefenstahl’s photographs of Nuba warriors; a rich Afro-Brazilian aesthetic incorporating aspects of African, Jamaican, and American cultures; and African Americans’ Africanization of the Santería movement in the United States. They consider the fraught, intricate spaces of the urban landscape in postcolonial South Africa; the intense pleasures of eating on Réunion; and the shockingly graphic images on painted plywood boards advertising “morality” plays along the streets of Ghana. And they analyze the increasingly ritualized wedding feasts in Cameroon as well as the limits of an explicitly “African” aesthetics. Two short stories by the Mozambican writer Mia Couto gesture toward what beauty might be in the context of political failure and postcolonial disillusionment. Together the essays suggest that beauty is in some sense future-oriented and that taking beauty in Africa and its diasporas seriously is a way of rekindling hope.

Contributors. Rita Barnard, Kamari Maxine Clarke, Mia Couto, Mark Gevisser, Simon Gikandi, Michelle Gilbert, Isabel Hofmeyr, William Kentridge, Dominique Malaquais, Achille Mbembe, Cheryl-Ann Michael, Celestin Monga, Sarah Nuttall, Patricia Pinho, Rodney Place, Els van der Plas, Pippa Stein, Françoise Vergès

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Beautiful/Ugly is a theoretically sophisticated, enormously insightful, and refreshing read of the politics of aesthetics and the aesthetics of politics, terrifically well illustrated and beautifully arranged and designed.”—David Theo Goldberg, author of The Racial State

“Finally, a book that explores African and African diasporic concepts of aesthetics with depth and theoretical sophistication. A marvelous collection of well thought-out and finely crafted essays by a diverse group of scholars, artists, and other practitioners on concepts of beauty and ugliness as they relate to artistic and aesthetic practices in Africa and its diaspora. An important reference book and a must read for the specialist and the general public alike.”—Salah M. Hassan, Director, Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University

Solimar Otero
Beautiful/Ugly is indeed another necessary exploration into the ‘slippery’ area of emerging international public spaces that are consumed, and understood, locally. For those looking for more about the density and proliferation of African aesthetics, art forms, and creative expression, this volume of essays will prove to be a satisfying foray into that familiar space.”
Will Lea
“This is a beautiful book – that is, the production values given to the publication by Duke University Press and no doubt supported by the Prince Claus Fund are wonderful, beautiful even. The essays are supported by the kind of colour reproduction that it is rare to find even in the museum catalogues of blockbuster exhibitions. The essays are even colour highlighted, and there is an over all feel to the book of sumptuous quality. . . . Beautiful/Ugly is both a timely book and a book of its time. . . . [T]he book is a valuable resource, and one that if read carefully certainly enhances ways of thinking through some African relations to beauty in the world – savages notwithstanding.”
Mattia Fumanti
Beautiful/Ugly is a remarkable and timely book. Its highly visual and evocative narrative will appeal to a wide audience of academics, students, and artists seeking to understand the place of African art and its aesthetics in a global perspective.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822339182
Publisher:
Duke University Press Books
Publication date:
01/08/2007
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Nuttall is Associate Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She is a coeditor of Senses of Culture: South African Culture Studies; Negotiating the Past: The Making of Memory in South Africa; and Text, Theory, Space: Land, Literature, and History in South Africa and Australia.

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