Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire

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This book combines ethnography with the study of art to present a fascinating new vision of African history. It contains the paintings of a single artist depicting Zaire's history, along with a series of ethnographic essays discussing local history, its complex relationship to forms of self-expression and self-understanding, and the aesthetics of contemporary urban African and Third World societies. As a collaboration between ethnographer and painter, this innovative study challenges text-oriented approaches to ...
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Overview

This book combines ethnography with the study of art to present a fascinating new vision of African history. It contains the paintings of a single artist depicting Zaire's history, along with a series of ethnographic essays discussing local history, its complex relationship to forms of self-expression and self-understanding, and the aesthetics of contemporary urban African and Third World societies. As a collaboration between ethnographer and painter, this innovative study challenges text-oriented approaches to understanding history and argues instead for an event- and experience-oriented model, ultimately adding a fresh perspective to the discourse on the relationship between modernity and tradition. During the 1970s, Johannes Fabian encouraged Tshibumba Kanda Matulu to paint the history of Zaire. The artist delivered the work in batches, together with an oral narrative. Fabian recorded these statements along with his own question-and-answer sessions with the painter. The first part of the book is the complete series of 100 paintings, with excerpts from the artist's narrative and the artist-anthropologist dialogues. Part Two consists of Fabian's essays about this and other popular painting in Zaire. The essays discuss such topics as performance, orality, history, colonization, and popular art.

Author Biography: Johannes Fabian is Professor and Chair of Cultural Anthropology and Non-Western Sociology, University of Amsterdam, and author of Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (1983), Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo (California, 1991), and many other works. Tshibumba Kanda Matulu worked as aself-taught artist in the mining towns of southeastern Zaire. He thought of himself as a historian and educator of his people; his History of Zaire was inted to help them overcome the trauma of colonization. Many of his paintings have been exhibited in Europe and the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A unique style of painting developed among Zairean artists during the late colonial and postcolonial period. Often labeled "tourist-art," this emergent painting tradition has evolved considerably in recent years, moving beyond simple decorative landscape scenes to subjects of more indigenous interest. Fabian chair, cultural anthropology and non-Western sociology, Univ. of Amsterdam focuses on a remarkable cycle of 101 paintings that tells the modern history of Zaire from the perspective of artist Tshibumba Kanda Matulu. The volume is divided into two parts: the first reproduces the paintings together with Matulu's personal commentary, while the second offers the author's anthropological analyses of issues raised by Matulu's work. A unique study of an important development in modern African art that should be of great value to scholars, this is highly recommended for academic libraries; but it may be too narrowly focused for public libraries.Eugene C. Burt, Art Inst. of Seattle Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520203754
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/19/1996
  • Pages: 385

Meet the Author

Johannes Fabian is Professor and Chair of Cultural Anthropology and Non-Western Sociology, University of Amsterdam, and author of Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (1983), Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo (California, 1991), and many other works. Tshibumba Kanda Matulu worked as a self-taught artist in the mining towns of southeastern Zaire. He thought of himself as a historian and educator of his people; his History of Zaire was intended to help them overcome the trauma of colonization. Many of his paintings have been exhibited in Europe and the United States.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Pt. I The History of Zaire as Painted and Told by Tshibumba Kanda Matulu
Prelude: Tshibumba on Tshibumba 3
Prehistory: Times Ancestral 17
The Lost African King: Origins of African History 20
Discovery and Exploration 22
Crushing African and Arab Resistance to Conquest 32
Katanga and Msiri: Sovereignty Lost 38
The Colony Established 45
Colonial Times 51
Toward the End of Colonial Rule 67
Independence Endangered: Ethnic Wars and Secessions 94
Central Government and the Struggles for Power 113
The Mobutu Regime 155
Afterthoughts: Visions of the Future 176
Pt. II All Was Lost: Ethnographic Essays on Tshibumba's History of Zaire
Ch. 1 Genre and Popular Painting in Shaba 193
Ch. 2 Painting, Talking, and Writing: The Making of the History of Zaire 219
Ch. 3 Beyond the Written and the Oral: Performance and the Production of History 247
Ch. 4 What Happened: Historiology and the Meaning of History 269
Ch. 5 Images, Words, and Realities: From Interpretation to Confrontation 297
Appendix: Iconography 317
References 329
General Index 337
Index of Paintings 347
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