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Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List


General : Surveys and Critiques

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Afrika und die Kunst: Einblicke in deutsche Privatsammlungen / edited by Dorina Hecht and Günter Kawik. Germany: Kawik, 2010. 487pp. illus. (color), maps, bibl. refs. (pp. 478-484). N7380.5.A47 2010 AFA. OCLC 725859197.

The reception, collection, study, and exhibition of African art in Germany are the themes of Afrika und die Kunst. Although covering both tradition and contemporary African art, it is the contemporary that is relevant here, and in particular artworks that are in private German collections. Also discussed are issues of globalization, appropriation, and the opening up of art history to contemporary African art.

Agthe, Johanna. "Die Sammlung zeitgenössischer afrikanischer Kunst in Frankfurter Museum für Völkerkunde," pp. 28-34. In: Afrikaforschung in Frankfurt: Begleitheft zur Ausstellung analässlich des 75 Jährigen Bestehens den Frankfurter Unviersität: 8 November bis 16, Dezember 1989. Frankfurt am Main: Die Bibliothek: Das Institut, [1989]. illus. DT19.95.U543A38 1989X AFA. OCLC 21411904.

The Museum für Völkerkunde in Frankfurt is committed to collecting and documenting art from outside Europe. The rationale for this policy is that contemporary art is part of "recent culture" and is therefore a legitimate form of cultural expression for a museum of ethnography to collect. The curator Johanna Agthe is careful to point out that theirs is not an art museum and that they collect broadly the work of academic artists and self-taught artists, tourist art, posters, advertisements, cartoons and book illustrations. The acquisitions are made in Africa, preferably from the artist directly, so that documenting the artwork goes hand in hand with gathering information about the artist and the circumstances of production.

At present the collection of contemporary Africa art in Frankfurt comes from six areas: Nigeria, East Africa, Senegal, South Africa, Congo (Democratic Republic) and Zimbabwe.

Airport art: das exotische Souvenir. Stuttgart: Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, 1987. 118pp. illus. (color). N8217.E88A29 1987 AFA. OCLC 17466554.

On tourist art worldwide, including several Africa-related contributions. Hermann Pollig, in his essay entitled "Airport art," provides an overview of airport, or tourist art, worldwide, discussing themes, market responses to demands, copies and trivializations, new materials and new forms. Ronald Ruprecht ("Airport Art in Nigeria") argues that Nigeria, lacking a mass tourist market as found in East Africa, has not developed the same kind of souvenir art. Here one sees copies and spin-offs of genuine objets d'art. The Benin ivory mask, symbol of FESTAC, inspired a whole host of souvenir pieces big and small. Benin heads and Yoruba twin figures (ibeji) are also recreated in a variety of sizes and materials (ceramic ibeji!).

Dieter Göltenboth ("Cottage industries -- die Definition des afrikanischen Kunsthandwerks durch europaische und merikanische Designer") maintains that the ways in which foreign consumers and foreign design have shaped and driven craft production in East Africa is reflected in both tourist art and recycling of goods. New objects for the tourist trade (e.g., wooden animal puzzles), old objects from new materials (e.g., Kamba baskets woven in plastic), and new objects from old materials (recycled rubber tires and inner tubes) all respond to new demand and/or availability of raw materials. In a second essay ("Makondeschnitzer in Ostafrika"), Göltenboth discusses modern Makonde carving, which is probably the African tourist art most widely known; it has become a major industry in Tanzania and Kenya today, both as a production and a marketing enterprise. Its initial impetus came from mission and colonial influences and encouragement. Lastly, Göltenboth explains ("Masai, die Vermarktung des `edlen Wilden'") that the marketing of the Maasai for the tourist trade goes beyond airport art. The Maasai also market themselves in photo opportunities and staged dances. But it is the Kamba carvers who are cashing in on the trade with woodcarvings of Maasai masks and figures depicting Maasai warriors.

Heidwig Hadidi-Feuerherdt ("Aus dem Land der Pharaonen") confirms that pharaonic kitsch for the tourist market is nothing new. Its most enduring and popular images and themes are pyramids, the Obelisk, the Sphinx, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen, scarabs and the Horus eagle.

Amselle, Jean-Loup. L'art de la friche: essai sur l'art africain contemporain. Paris: Flammarion, 2005. 213pp., 8pp. of plates, bibl. refs. (pp. 165-199). N7391.68.A47 2005 AFA. OCLC 58943227.

At a moment when contemporary art in the West has become a but tired and too self-referential, African art offers an alternative. The relentless quest for the Next Big Thing has hit upon contemporary African art. But is this, too, just another passing fancy? Can contemporary African art rejuvenate Western art? French anthropologist Jean-Loup Amselle analyzes this global dynamic between contemporary African art and the West -- the French manifestation of this phenomenon he calls "Françafriche." Yet the "freshness" of Africa art itself recycles Western notions about Africa, about "tribal art," about re-appropriation of cultural icons, even kitsch. The West remains repulsed yet fascinated by Africa; it embraces Africa in the spirit of multiculturalism, but cannot shed the primitivizing impulse.

Anthology of African art: the twentieth century / edited by N'Goné Fall and Jean Loup Pivin. New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers; Paris: Revue Noire Editions, African Contemporary Art, 2002. 407pp. illus. (color), bibliog. (pp. 402-404). qN7391.65.A5713 2002X AFA. OCLC 49942843.

Revue noire, which has been showcasing contemporary African art since 1991, now summarizes the state-of-the-art at the end of the twentieth century. This weighty tome is not really an anthology, despite the title, for it is not mere a collection of previously published Revue noire articles. Many of the artists are familiar from the pages of Revue noire, but many different artists and new perspectives are also presented. Fifty short essays covering the entire continent (except North Africa) are offered in a roughly chronological sequence from "Territory of forms" (the classical canon) to "Migrations and Convergences" (the postmodern hybridity). Lavishly illustrated. A companion volume to Revue noire's Anthology of African and Indian Ocean photography (1999).

Arnoldi, Mary Jo. "Rethinking definitions of African traditional and popular arts," African studies review (Atlanta) 30 (3): 79-83, September 1987.

One of four commentaries on Karin Barber's paper on popular arts in Africa (see Barber below). While agreeing that popular arts in Africa reflect change in the urban setting, Arnoldi cautions that the historical dimension of artistic production and the rural-based popular arts should not be missed. Using her own research among the Bamana, she finds "unofficial" arts exemplified in puppet theater. Syncretism ("domesticating the foreign") is also characteristic of older "traditional" art forms. In her response, Barber acknowledges that there are elements of the "popular" in traditional art, but maintains that popular arts of the colonial and post-colonial periods are qualitatively different.

Art criticism and Africa / edited by Katy Deepwell. London: Saffron Books (Eastern Art Publishing), 1998. 128pp. illus. (40 b and w.illus. & 16 color). N7485.A35A78 1998 AFA. OCLC 39533826.

This book arises from the AICA conference on Art Criticism & Africa, held at the Courtauld Institute in November 1996. It was sponsored by Arts Council of England, AICA, Islamic Arts and Eastern Art Report.

Contents: Katy Deepwell, Introduction; -- Olabisi Silva, Africa 95: cultural colonialism or cultural celebration; -- John Picton, Yesterday's cold mashed potatoes; -- Everlyn Nicodemus, The art critic as advocate; -- Ola Oloidi, Art criticism in Nigeria 1920-1996: the development of professionalism in the media and the academy; -- Murray McCartney, The art critic as advocate: a Zimbabwean perspective; -- Barbara Murray, Art criticism for whom?: the experience of Gallery magazine in Zimbabwe; -- Tony Mhonda, The art critic as advocate; -- David Koloane, Art criticism for whom?; -- Colin Richards, Peripheral vision: speculations on art criticism in South Africa; -- Chike Okeke, Beyond either/or: towards an art criticism of accommodation; -- Fatma Ismail Afifi, The Kom Gohrab project in Cairo; -- Olu Oguibe, Thoughts towards a new century; -- George Shire, Art criticism of Africa outside of Africa: a reply to Olu Oguibe; -- A selected bibliography; Tributes to Stephen Williams and Jock Whittet.

Art nègre, Vivante afrique (Namur, Belgium) no. 246: 1-53, septembre-octobre 1966. illus. BV3500.A3G75 AFA.

Vivante afrique, a Belgian Catholic missionary journal, devoted a special issue to the emerging African art forms evident at the time of the 1966 World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar. It is interesting as an historical document of the period in recognizing that African art was indeed becoming something new and that the role of the African artist was changing. Among the several artists whose works are illustrated are Christian Lattier (Côte d'Ivoire), Ignace Bamba (Congo (Democratic Republic)), Benjamin Mensah (Ghana), Paul Ayi (Togo), Kitsiba (Congo), and Ibou Diouf (Senegal).

Partial contents: "Un laboratorie de formes neuves" (pp. 14-22); "L'artiste moderne en divorce avec son peuple," (pp. 25-31); "Que sera l'art africain de demain?" (pp. 32-42); "Art nègre: utopie ou vocation," (pp. 43-52).

Art, anthropology and the modes of re-presentation: museums and contemporary non-Western art / edited by Harrie Leyten and B. Damen. Amsterdam: KIT Press, Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen, 1993. 80pp. N430.A78 1993 AFA. OCLC 29465456.

Exhibitions of non-Western art are no longer a rarity in Europe and the USA. The Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam is one of the Dutch anthropological museums that has followed an active policy of exhibiting non-Western modern art. This book focuses on questions of how to display non-Western art, as well as the different approaches of anthropological museums and museums of modern art to these complex and fascinating issues. Among the contributors are David Elliott (Museum of Modern Art, Oxford), Paul Faber (Museum of Ethnology, Rotterdam), Harrie Leyten (Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam). -- from the publisher's catalog.

Aufbruch: Moderne Afrikanische Kunst, die Sammlung Kleine-Gunk. Fürth, Germany: Solaris, 1996. 93pp. illus. (color), bibliog. (pp. 27-28). N7380.5.A94 1996 AFA. OCLC 57710361.

Bernd Kleine-Gunk’s catalog of his collection of contemporary African art is one of the few published private collections of its kind. The collection itself follows closely the Pigozzi model by focusing on self-taught artists, many of whom are already well-known: Twins Seven Seven, Middle Art, Kane Kwei, Chéri Samba, Georges Lilanga, Joel Oswaggo, Richard Onyango, Sane Wadu, Zephania Tshuma, Joram Mariga, John Takawira, Nicholas Mukomberanwa, and more. Bruce Onobrakpeya is the only academically-trained artist represented. Included in the present work is an interview with Twins Seven Seven and an essay by Celia Winter-Irving on Zimbabwe stone sculpture. Kleine-Gunk previously wrote two catalogs on artists from Kenya and Zimbabwe. In sum, there is not much new in this publication.

Barber, Karin. "Popular arts in Africa," [and] "Response," African studies review (Atlanta) 30 (3): 1-78 [and] 105-111, September 1987. notes, bibliog. (pp. 113-132).

A major overview paper commissioned by the Joint Committee on African Studies of the ACLS/SSRC in which Karin Barber grapples with defining what are popular arts in Africa. She explores the sociological ("popular") and the aesthetic ("arts") aspects of popular arts -- here including not only visual arts but also music, dance, theater and literature. She considers the often used triadic classification Traditional/Popular/Elite, but finds it unsatisfactory to conclude that "popular" arts are what is left in the middle after "traditional" and "elite," which are easier to define, are set aside. Barber sees the unofficial character of popular arts as "the source of its extraordinary vitality." They are novel, syncretic and urban-oriented. She analyzes the limitations and the virtues of this triadic classification, emphasizing the extreme fluidity and relativity of the boundaries between them.

Who produces and who consumes popular art? These form the economic and political matrix of Barber's analysis of popular arts and what they tell us about a society, how they communicate to their audience, and how to discern the "sub-texts" in their message. She draws in her analysis from the work of Fabian and Szombati-Fabian on Shaba paintings and Jules-Rosette on Zambian popular paintings.

In her response Barber sets out again what for her is the crucial question: What do popular arts communicate? The content of the message is more important than the process of communicating. What are people thinking about, aspiring to, fearful of? -- these are the insights that popular arts can provide.

See critiques by Arnoldi, Cosentino, Cooper and Jules-Rosette.

Beier, Ulli. Contemporary art in Africa. London: Pall Mall Press; New York: Frederick Praeger, 1968. xiv, 173pp. illus. (pt. color). N7380.B42a AFA/N7380.B42 AFA. OCLC 463332/OCLC 1234759.

An important early survey of contemporary African art focusing on the new artists, that is, those working in non-traditional modes and settings. Covers all the new schools of art with particular emphasis on Beier's own experience with the Oshogbo artists.

Reviewed by E. Okechukwu Odita in Africa report (New York) January 1970, pp. 39-40.

Bender, Wolfgang. "Modern art to the ethnographic museum!" pp. 182-196. In: Die verborgene Wirklichkeit: drei athiopische Maler der Gegenwart = The hidden reality: three contemporary Ethiopian artists: Zerihun Yetmgeta, Girmay Hiwet, Worku Goshu / by Elisabeth Biasio. Zürich: Völkerkundemuseum der Universität, 1989. illus., notes (pp. 203-206). N7386.B57 1989 AFA. OCLC 20878295.

Art museums and galleries in Europe reject modern African art as being derivative and imitative, yet not modern enough, while ethnographic museums are at best ambivalent about accepting it into their collections. Those few that have done so, tentatively and hesitantly, seem to be sifting out that which is deemed "too modern." They are looking for modern art which seems to relate to "traditional" art from the area in question. Artists themselves are tired of being relegated, if dealt with at all, to the categories of "ethnic arts" and shown only in ethnographic museums.

Bender argues that ethnographic museums ultimately do a disservice to their own mission if they continue to ignore contemporary expressive arts of the cultures they purport to represent. Curatorial timidity and inexperience with modern art can and should be overcome. Unlike art museums and galleries, which are compelled to show only trendy art, ethnographic museums can freely and comfortably collect and display a wide range of contemporary art -- academic, popular, tourist. Moreover, ethnographic museums have a responsibility to more fully document this art, just as they would for any object in their collections, with contextual and historical information.

Binet, Jacques. "Thèmes and sujets de la painture africaine," pp. 125-130. In: Creer en Afrique / 2e colloque européen sur les arts d'Afrique noire, Paris, les 23-24 octobre 1993 au Musée national des arts d'Afrique and d'Océanie. Arnouville: "Arts d'Afrique noire," 1993. N7380.C714 1993 AFA. OCLC 30387506.

What are African painters painting? Landscapes do not inspire the intellectual artists, but naïf painters like rustic scenes. Portraits are popular among the so-called popular painters, but intellectuals are not interested. Historical genres also appeal to the popular painters. "Engaged" painting on metaphysical or political themes does appeal to some intellectuals. The nude is not a subject for the intellectuals, though the "watistes" flock to Mami Wata as a perennially favorite subject.

Pure abstraction, as a style, is rare among African painters. "Figurative baroque" might be a more accurate designation. Ornamental motifs are sometimes used in symbolic ways, rather than as the purely "decorative." In fact, there seems to be a great affinity between artists and traditional motifs, reworked and re-interpreted. One thinks of uli, Hausa embroidery, Dogon graphic signs, Akan symbols, or bogolanfini.

In sum, African painters are drawn to metaphysical or political themes and reject hedonistic ones. Painters avoid exposing individuality and are preoccupied with the urgency of transmitting a message, often wrapped in nationalistic or ethnic colors.

Brett, Guy. "No condition is permanent," chapter 3, pp. 82-111. In the author's Through our own eyes: popular art and modern history. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1987. illus. (pt. color), bibl. refs. N8210.B84 1987 AFA. OCLC 15065445.

Draws on the work of Szombati-Fabian and Fabian on Shaba painters to describe Congolese "collective memory" genres and Mamba Muntu mermaid images. Turning to Ghana, Nigeria, and Côte d'Ivoire, Brett looks at popular art of mammy wagons, sign paintings, mbari houses and children's toys. This is a very useful synthesis of some of the popular arts in contemporary Africa.

Brown, Evelyn S. Africa's contemporary art and artists: a review of creative activities in painting, sculpture, ceramics and crafts of over 300 artists working in the modern industrialized societies of some of the countries of sub­Saharan Africa. New York: Division of Social Research and Experimentation, Harmon Foundation, 1966. 136pp. illus. N7397.S3B87 AFA. OCLC 1063546.

The Harmon Foundation promoted artists from Africa and sponsored exhibitions in the United States as early as the 1950s. The first attempt of the Harmon Foundation to compile a directory of African artists was in 1961; Evelyn Brown's 1966 directory was the second, considerably more substantial effort. For many years it stood as the sole directory of African artists, and now stands as an historical marker of the mid-1960s. The archival files generated by this compilation are now in the Library of Congress; other records of the now-defunct Harmon Foundation are in the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Busca, Joëlle. L'art contemporain africain: du colonialisme au postcolonialisme. Paris: Harmattan, 2000. 237pp. bibliog. (pp. 223-233). N7380.B87 2000X AFA. OCLC 47978936.

The emergence of contemporary African art onto the world art scene in the last quarter of the twentieth century is a clear and direct manifestation of globalization. African artists gained higher visibility and greater acceptance in mainstream cultural venues, according to Busca, a French art critic and independent curator. A quick review of the major exhibitions beginning with Magiciens de la Terre in 1989 reveals the proliferation of biennales and other well publicized events which featured African artists. The art establishment in France also re-organized its museum venues for African art during this period. The art market, too, woke up to the new interest of high rolling collectors in contemporary African art, such as Saatchi and Pigozzi. In retrospect, African art has come a long way from its "primitivism" aura of the first decade of the twentieth century to the global reach of today's practicing artists from Africa and the diaspora.

Busca, Joëlle. Perspectives sur l'art contemporain africain. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2000. 145pp. illus. (color), bibliog. (pp. 141-145). N7380.B873 2000 AFA. OCLC 46683096.

The companion volume to Busca's study (see preceding entry) showcases fifteen of these high visibility artists. They are: Kwesi Owusu-Ankomah (Ghana); Esther Mahlangu (South Africa); Théodore et Calixte Dakpogan (Bénin); Willie Bester (South Africa); Toma Muteba Lutumbue (Democratic Republic of Congo); Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (Côte d'Ivoire); Chéri Samba (Democratic Republic of Congo); Pascale Marthine Tayou (Cameroon); Georges Adéagbo (Bénin); Ouattara (Côte d'Ivoire); Abdoulaye Konaté (Mali); Romuald Hazoumé (Bénin); Sokari Douglas Cmap (Nigeria); Bili Bidjocka (Cameroon); and William Kentridge (South Africa).

Catalogue de la collection d'oeuvres d'artistes contemporains d'Afrique et d'Océanie acquises ou conservées par l'ADEIAO / introduction by Lucette Albaret and Paul Balta. Paris: ADEIAO, 1995. [164]pp. chiefly illus. (color). Cover title: Art contemporain d'Afrique et d'Océanie. N7380.5.A229 AFA. OCLC 32346384.

The collection of ADEIAO [Association pour le Dévelopment des Echanges Interculturels au Musée National des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie] was begun in 1984 by a few spirited individuals who felt that the museum needed a more contemporary focus in its exhibitions and collections. From a series of temporary exhibitions organized from 1985, the museum acquired selected works by purchase or donation from the artist. The present illustrated catalog reproduces 116 paintings, prints, and a few sculptures, representing artists from mainly franco-phone African countries.

Contemporary art of Africa / edited by André Magnin with Jacques Soulillou. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996. 192pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 185-186). qN7391.65.C66 1996X AFA. OCLC 31607382.

The peripatetic curators of this gallery of sixty African artists, André Magnin and Jacques Soulillou, criss-crossed the continent to seek out those creative individuals who "seemed to demonstrate a faithfulness to a strength or a capacity to give substance to an insight" (italics theirs). Let us be quite clear on this point: the choices are Magnin's and Soulillou's (and Jean Pogozzi's). No more, no less. Their taste runs strongly toward the unschooled, self-taught, and visionary artists, untainted by Western influences. (Never mind whether such unadulteration is possible in the later twentieth century).

In their introduction, the author-curators elaborate their views on contemporary art practice in sub-Saharan Africa, which reinforce their disdain for formal art-schooled artists. They develop a new triadic taxonomy labeled Territory, Frontier and World, which requires complicated elucidation. In effect, it carries the goals and spirits of the 1989 "Magiciens de la Terre" exhibition to another level. What is not stated, but is evident from the credits is that the majority of the art works are in the collection of Jean Pigozzi, who is clearly the Wizard of Oz behind this book enterprise.

For each of the sixty artists presented, there is a mini-essay, illustrations of one to several works, and a portrait of the artists. An appendix lists additional artists whose work the authors value but which did not quite make the cut for inclusion. For those artists represented this is undeniably an attractive showcase, the first time the big art publisher, Harry N. Abrams has ventured into the world of modern art.

Reviewed by Dele Jegede on H-AfrArts, August 20, 1997; by Bill Wright in Nka: journal of contemporary African art (Brooklyn, NY) no. 5: 70, fall 1996; by Elsbeth Court in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies(London) 3, 1997, pp. 607-608; by Dele Jegede, “On scholars and magicians: a review of contemporary art of Africa,” pages 187-195. In: Issues in contemporary African art / edited by Nkiru Nzegwu. Binghamton, NY: International Society for the Study of Africa, ISSA at Binghamton University, 1998 [reprinted from the H-AfrArts posting of August 20, 1997].

Cooper, Frederick. "Who is the populist?" African studies review (Atlanta) 30 (3): 99-103, September 1987.

One of four commentaries on Karin Barber's paper on popular arts in Africa (see Barber above). Cooper seeks to probe more deeply than Barber did the relationships between popular art forms and the shifting urban audiences (consumers) and ultimately what those dynamics can tell us about a particular setting in modern Africa, not about the masses or the populace as an abstract category. Barber, in her response, is in full accord with Cooper's plea for greater historical specificity in examining popular arts, rather than merely looking at them against "a generalized backdrop of colonialism or post-colonialism."

Cosentino, Donald. "Omnes Cultura Tres Partes Divisa Est?" African studies review (Atlanta) 30 (3): 85-90, September 1987.

One of four commentaries on Karin Barber's paper on popular arts in Africa (see Barber above). The triadic classification Traditional/Popular/Elite, which Barber invokes, wrestles with, but never fully rejects, Cosentino rejects outright. Instead, he sees a unitary ("seamless web") quality to contemporary African culture. The role of the marketplace both international and local as motive and inspiration for artistic creation and the process of re-contextualization are crucial to our understanding of contemporary African arts.

Though it is initially tempting to buy this argument, Barber, in her response, takes issue with Cosentino's using commercialization as an all-purpose explanation for the production of popular arts in Africa today. This art for profit approach tells us nothing of the historical specificity of the production and dissemination of art or of the popular consciousness which it addresses.

Cultural diversity in the arts: art, art policies and the facelift of Europe / edited by Ria Lavrijsen. Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute, 1993. 119pp. bibliog. NX180.S6C96 1993 AFA. OCLC 29789693.

The European art establishment is beginning to face the tough questions of how to open up and respond to newness of art in their increasingly diverse, pluralistic societies. In a complex multicultural environment, how does one define quality in the arts? How do art institutions move away from parochial vision to a more global view of art? Is there any intermediate space between the rigidity of binary opposites -- Western/non-Western, Black/White, South/North, power/powerless -- and a neutral, apolitical approach which discounts the social and historical context of art? These issues were aired at a 1993 conference on "Cultural Diversity in the Arts" held in Amsterdam. The essays, reports and recommendations in this volume arise from that gathering.

De receptie van Afrikaanse kunst. Amsterdam: Stichting Kunstlicht, 1992. 64pp. illus. (Kunstlicht; jaarg. 13, nr. 3-4). N7380.R28 1992 AFA. OCLC 32254626.

This special issue devoted to the reception of African art in Europe (and in the Netherlands, in particular) includes articles on "Africa explores," and on Kenyan and South African artists.

Delaquis, H. Ato. "Dilemma of the contemporary African artist," Transition (Accra) 9 (50): 16-30, October 1975-March 1976. illus. qDT433.2.T772 AFA.

The dilemma for the African artist is where to position himself between a cultural heritage not fully lived or experienced and an artistic neo-colonialism that insists on cultural referents in anything called "modern African art." What is needed is a neo-African cultural response to present day realities in Africa.

Why is it that realism is regarded as taboo for contemporary African artists? Possibly because too many attempts to achieve it were and still are unconvincing. Tradition-inspired art which emerged in the 1940s and 1950s has in most cases been equally unconvincing. Some educated artists have self-consciously sought to retrieve a romanticized past, but much of this experimentation has proved arid. In fact, both realism and tradition-inspired art are legitimate avenues for the African artist to explore. The modern artist, however, must recognize that his spiritual connectedness to tradition is quite different from that of the village artist, and the resulting art works must necessarily be different. Creating an art for art's sake poses new sorts of intellectual challenges. The modern artist needs to reconnect with his present-day society, a vastly different reality.

Accusations of derivation and imitation are particularly acute and sensitive ones for the intellectual African artist. Criticized on the one hand for being derivative of Western art forms and, on the other, for losing one's roots, he cannot win.

The concluding portion of Delaquis' essay on "The Modern International Outlook" was to have been published in the next issue of Transition (volume 9, no. 51). But the journal folded, and it was never published.

Domino, Christophe. L’art africain contemporain / Christophe Domino and André Magnin. Paris: Éditions Scala, 2005. 127pp. illus. (color). N7380.D664 2005 AFA. OCLC 60597768.

Éditions Scala publishes a series of world art books under the rubric Tableaux choisis, and this is the contemporary African art volume for which the authors turned to Jean Pigozzi’s art collection. Twelve artists closely associated with Pigozzi’s collection are featured as presumably being representative of contemporary African art. They are Georges Lilanga, Esther Mahlangu, Seni Awa Camara, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, Seydou Keita, Georges Adéagbo, Body Isek Kingelez, Willie Bester, Chéri Samba, Barthélémy Toguo and Pascale Marthine Tayou.

Duganne, Erina. The presentation of twentieth-century African art in the west. B.A. thesis, Reed College, 1992. [7], 111, [18] leaves. illus., bibliog. [unpublished]. N7428.2.D86 1992 AFA. OCLC 30087275.

This thesis examines Western presentation of twentieth-century African art. Duganne shows how attitudes toward African art have evolved through a chronological investigation of four exhibitions of Third World art: "Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern," "Magiciens de la Terre," "Contemporary African Artists: Changing Traditions," and "Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art." Duganne examines the methods of presentation employed by Western museums and how these procedures interpret the displayed objects. Three twentieth-century African art forms -- "international" , popular, and tourist -- are examined in more depth. This exploration leads to some general reflections on the nature of museum settings and how future exhibitions might go about finding alternative approaches for the display of African art. Included in this final section are the author's own proposals for exhibitions as well as her concerns for incorporating African collaboration in the development of future exhibitions of African art in the West. -- adapted from original abstract.

Enwezor, Okwui and Chika Okeke-Agulu. Contemporary African art since 1980. Bologna: Damiani, 2009. 367pp. color illus., bibliog. (pp. 348-359). N7391.65.E59 2009 AFA. OCLC 326552935.

Surveys of the work of contemporary African artists from diverse situations, locations, and generations who work either in or outside of Africa, but whose practices engage and occupy the social and cultural complexities of the continent over the past 30 years. Organized in chronological order, the book covers all major artistic mediums: painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, installation, drawing, collage. Presents examples of work by more than 160 African artists, among whom are: Georges Adéagbo, Tayo Adenaike, Ghada Amer, El Anatsui, Kader Attia, Luis Basto, Candice Breitz, Moustapha Dimé, Marlene Dumas, Victor Ekpuk, Samuel Fosso, Jak Katarikawe, William Kentridge, Rachid Koraïchi, Mona Mazouk, Julie Mehretu, Nandipha Mntambo, Hassan Musa, Odili Donald Odita, Iba Ndiaye, Richard Onyango, Ibrahim El Salahi, Issa Samb, Cheri Samba, Ousmane Sembène, Yinka Shonibare, Barthélémy Toguo, Obiora Udechukwu, and Sue Williamson.-- From publisher description.

Contents: Situating contemporary African art : introduction -- Frames of reference : between postcolonial utopia and postcolonial realism -- Networks of practice : globalization, geopolitics, geopoetics -- Politics, culture, critique -- Archive, documentary, memory -- Abstraction, figuration, and subjectivity -- The body politic : difference, gender, sexuality -- Work/plates [presented chronologically].

Appendices: Concepts -- Workshops -- Major exhibitions -- Biennials -- Artist groups -- Bibliography -- Checklist.

Reviewed by Steven C. Dubin, “What is African art?” Art in America (New York) 98 (9) October 2010, pages 57-60.

Enwezor, Okwui. "Redrawing the boundaries: towards a new African art discourse," NKA: journal of contemporary African art (Brooklyn, NY) no. 1: 3-7, fall-winter 1994. bibl. refs. NX1.N737 AFA.

Post-modernist critiques, which appear to profess solidarity with "outsider" artists and with cultural practice of the decolonized world, is but another form of appropriation. It may be less transparently patronizing than the "Primitivism in Modern Art" phenomenon, which begrudgingly allows the spotlight to fall briefly on "tribal art." But it is just as effective in maintaining a very unequal relationship. Within "official boundaries" of Euro­centric circles, the silence -- and silencing -- of African artists continues. How, then, are African artists to open their own discourse, to "renarrate" the multi­faceted, variagated histories of modern African art? Where do we situate the "cultural nomads"? When do we begin to recognize the diversity and resilience of artistic expression on the continent, a continent clearly beset with its own eruptions -- political, social, cultural? The journal Nka seeks to be one such forum where one can "unite and engage the different spectrums of African viewpoints on 20th century cultural practices."

Ethnic and tourists arts: cultural expressions from the fourth world / edited by Nelson H. H. Graburn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976. xv, 412pp., [4] leaves of plates. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. N5311.E73X AFA. OCLC 2762615.

Graburn's introductory essay constitutes a pivotal statement on the nature of "fourth world" arts. In it he sets up categories of creative production: extinction; traditional or functional fine arts; commercial fine arts; souvenirs; reintegrated arts; assimilated fine arts; popular arts. There are four essays (out of twenty) relating directly to Africa: "Changing African art," by William Bascom; "'A la recherche du temps perdu': on being an ebony-carver in Benin," by Paula Ben-Amos; "The decline of Lega sculptural art," by Daniel P. Biebuyck; "Functional and tourist art along the Okavango River," by B. H. Sandelowsky.

Faber, Paul. "Kunst uit een andere wereld = Art from another world," pp. 9-30. [introduction to] Kunst uit een andere wereld = Art from another world; [exhibiton, Museum of Ethnology, Rotterdam, November 4, 1988-February 13, 1989]. Rotterdam: Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1988. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 133-134). N72.S6K96 1988 AFA. OCLC 20254165.

The complacent division of the world between "Western" and "non-Western" art, between objects found in art museums and in ethnographic museums set in the nineteenth century, no longer holds. It collapses under a more fully understood anthropology of art -- a concept of art developed by anthropologists who began to study aesthetics, style, creativity, innovation within so-called traditional societies. One can no longer continue to "historicize" art beyond Europe, while retaining modernity and the avant-garde as preserves of contemporary European art.

Faber discusses manifestations of what he calls "tradition on the move," such as the use of new materials and techniques for old art forms, or the impact of commercialization. The place of an art tradition or practice in a larger society may very well determine its survival: traditions belonging to the dominating culture are more likely to survive than those of political or cultural minorities.

Popular urban arts, such as painted lorries or commercial street art, may not even be thought of as "art," but as individual expression, now more frequently signed. Faber coins the term "art to be looked at" (what art isn't?) by which he means an art for art's sake. Tourist art ("the ultimate cliche") is one obvious manifestation of this new productivity stimulated by a new market, but the creativity of artists propelled by some kind of European intervention (e.g., the Oshogbo artists) is also an "art to be looked at."

The intellectual approach to art, which may be said to have begun in the late nineteenth century in Europe, is not confined to European art; but in Africa it has been slow to take hold, and Faber gives cogent reasons why this is so. One is the artistic conservativism of the academic art schools in Africa and its perpetuation through the second generation of African teaching staff.

Faber concludes that art in these societies is not a clear-cut concept and that these four different art circuits exist simultaneously and side-by-side: tradition on the move, a new commercial popular art, art to be looked at, and academic art.

Fosu, Kojo. 20th century art of Africa. Revised edition. Accra: Artists Alliance, 1993. 245pp. illus., portraits, bibliog.

The "revised edition" contains very little new material apart from the inclusion of five additional Ghanaian artists and slightly expanded entries on three other Ghanaians. Basically, the text is silent on developments over the last decade in the field of modern African art, nor does it update information on artists represented. It remains focused on the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, the weaknesses of the original Zaria edition are unaddressed. The illustrations are of even poorer quality, and none are dated.

Reviewed in Nigerian art, reflections (Ibadan) 3, 2003, pages 112-113.

Fosu, Kojo. 20th century art of Africa. Zaria: Gaskiya Corporation, 1986. vii, 241pp. illus. (pt. color), portraits, bibliog. N7380.5.F758 1986 AFA. OCLC 14259840.

A conscientious but not wholly successful attempt to survey contemporary art in Africa; organized roughly thematically by school or workshop, e.g., Polly Street Art Center, Zaria Rebels, Makerere Direction, Coptic Infusion and so forth. The focus is on black African artists with primary emphasis on the decades of the 1960s and 1970s.

Reviewed in Nigerian art, reflections (Ibadan) 3, 2003, pages 112-113.

Gaudibert, Pierre. L'art africain contemporain. Paris: Éditions Cercle d'Art, 1991. 175pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. N7380.G26 1991 AFA. OCLC 26593361.

Contemporary African art has found an enthusiastic publicist in Pierre Gaudibert, who documents its emergence from tentative beginnings in the mid-decades of this century to its assured multi-faceted expressions evident by the beginning of the 1990s. His geographic focus is sub-Saharan Africa; his approach is one of sweeping survey and inventory of names: the big picture, no in-depth analysis of particular art movements, schools or trends. Within this broad brush stoke, he includes academic artists, workshop artists, self-taught artists, elite arts and popular arts. Gaudibert takes into account the international dimension, that is, African artists living and working outside of Africa. Beware the inordinate number of spelling errors in names of artists; the editing, if there was any, is extremely sloppy. No index.

Reviewed by Giovanni Joppolo, "Art africain contemporain," Opus international (Paris) 131: 60, spring-summer 1993.

Global visions: towards a new internationalism in the visual arts / edited by Jean Fisher. London: Kala Press in association with The Institute of International Visual Arts, 1994. 175pp. illus., bibliogs.

This anthology gathers papers presented at a symposium on the New Internationalism in the Visual Arts, held in London in April 1994. Contributions by: Rasheed Aareen, Hal Foster, Guillermo Santamarina, Sarat Maharj, Geets Kapur, Olu Oguibe, Judith Wilson, Hou Hanru, Everlyn Nicodemus, Gilane Tawadros, Jimmie Durham, Gordon Bennett, Gerardo Mosquera, Raiji Kuroda, Fred Wilson, and Elisabeth Sussman.

Guez, Nicole. L'art africain contemporain = Contemporary African art. Edition 1992/94. Paris: Association Dialogue entre les Cultures, 1992. xvii, 293pp. illus. (pt. color). Text in French and English. N7380.5.G93 1992 AFA. OCLC 26984935.

A pocket-size directory of African visual artists living and working in Africa and overseas. Arranged by country. Also included are names and addresses of galleries, museums and key individuals in the field of modern African art.

Guez, Nicole. L'art africain contemporain = Contemporary African art. Edition 1996. Paris: Association Afrique en Création, 1996. xiii, 421pp. illus. (pt. color). Text in French and English. N7380.5.G93 1992 AFA. OCLC 26984935.

Considerably expanded, this directory of African visual artists living and working in Africa and overseas gives addresses, telephone, fax numbers and indicates the artists' media (e.g., painter, wood sculptor). Arranged by country. Also included are names and addresses of galleries, museums and key individuals in the field of modern African art. This second edition adds a very useful name index.

Hassan, Salah M. "Creative impulses/modern expressions: African art today," pp. 1-14. In: Creative impulses/modern expressions: four African artists: Skunder Boghossin, Rashid Diab, Mohammed Omer Khalil, Amir Nour. Ithaca: African Studies and Research Center, Institute for African Development, Council for the Creative and Performing Arts, Cornell University, 1993. notes, bibliog. N7380.C912 1992 AFA. OCLC 28319148.

African art scholarship urgently needs a new framework and fresh paradigms for assessing and analyzing contemporary African art. It is not being well-served by existing ones. Of the several attempts at definition so far advanced, one element always present is the artists' search for a new identity. Why is this so important? It is true that a central intellectual concern for academic artists, coming from whatever part of the continent, is the quest for "African-ness" in their work.

Hassan calls into question the facile dichotomy "traditional" and "contemporary" -- and a parallel concept: authenticity -- as no longer useful or valid. We need to see the artist as a whole, complete individual, a product of all his experiences and personal history, and as a player within the creative process, which also includes his audiences and patrons and the social milieu within which he works. Art is essentially a communicative process and must be analyzed as such. Hassan suggests a "dialogic" relationship between artist and audience. The pernicious tendency to continually categorize the product, the artwork (elite, traditional, popular, tourist) must be resisted.

Hassan, Salah M. "The modernist experience in African art: visual expression of the self and cross-cultural aesthetics," Nka; journal of contemporary African art (Brooklyn, NY) no. 2: 30-33, 72, spring-summer 1995. illus., bibliog.

An elaboration of the ideas put forth in the essay above.

Issues in contemporary African art / edited by Nkiru Nzegwu. Binghamton, NY: International Society for the Study of Africa, ISSA Binghamton University, 1998. vi, 218pp. illus., bibliog. (pp. 197-204). N7380.I793 1998X AFA. OCLC 40856281.

This is a collection of eight essays, one artist’s autobiographical interview, and one book critique. Three focus on individual artists: Nigerian sculptors Sokari Douglas Camp, Chris Afuba, and Ndidi Dike, and painter Farid Belkahia of Morocco. Other essays zone in on art movements in Senegal Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana. Collectively, these essays attempt to broaden the discourse of contemporary African art.

Jules-Rosette, Bennetta. "Aesthetics and market demand: the structure of the tourist art market in three African settings," African studies review (Los Angeles) 29 (1): 41-59, 1986. bibliog.

Rejecting the notion of "ethnoaesthetics," Jules-Rosette defines tourist art as a media of communjuleication between the new art producers and their audience; she analyses aesthetics in village markets (as exemplified by Korhogo carvers or Lele raffia makers) and in popular art markets (as exemplified by Lusaka commercial painters or Kamba carvers); she goes into the history of Kamba carving tradition which dates to the early years of the 20th century and derives from Makonde work.

Jules-Rosette, Bennetta. "Rethinking the popular arts in Africa: problems of interpretation," African studies review (Atlanta) 30 (3): 91-97, September 1987.

One of four commentaries on Karin Barber's paper on popular arts in Africa (see Barber above). Setting forth the matrix used by Barber for the production and consumption of popular arts, Jules-Rosette finds it rigid and misleading with respect to understanding the role of the artist in the process of negotiating between producers and consumers ("culture brokers").

She takes issue with the pidginization thesis of tourist art advanced by Ben-Amos and invoked by Barber, because it ignores the communicative and symbolic dimensions of art. She proposes a model of her own which diagrams a hypothetical communication system between artists, middlemen and consumers of popular arts.

Barber agrees that much more needs to be understood about relations between producers and consumers of popular arts, but she rejects the communication model proposed by Jules-Rosette (which implies that popular arts are exclusively commercial -- which they are not) because it ignores the "emergent" quality of popular arts and denies their fluidity and diversity.

Jules-Rosette, Bennetta. "The aesthetics of communication and the reproduction of cultural forms: the case of tourist art," [with particular reference to artists in Lusaka, Nairobi and Kinshasa]. pp. 41-61. In: Aesthetic illusion: theoretical and historical approaches / edited by F. Burweick and W. Pape. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1990. diagrams, bibl. refs. VF -- Artists - General. OCLC 22274024.

Jules-Rosette challenges the conventional view of aesthetics based on evaluation and judgmental responses to artworks. She proposes instead a communicative model of aesthetics with reference to tourist art, which explains "the complex relationship between the production and reception of tourist art" (page 42). The "tourist art system" posited by Jules-Rosette is an interactive one between art producers, art objects and audiences through which aesthetic standards are negotiated. Marketing strategies are further negotiated by middlemen as seen, for example, with the Kanyama painters of Lusaka.

"Image-creators" are those who innovate and are imitated by "image-producers." Three such image-creators are profiled: Jonathan Kimetu Kioko, master Kamba carver at the Mombasa cooperative; Safari Mbai, a Nairobi-based master carver; and Diouf Kabamba, an academically trained Congolese painter who works in Lusaka.

Jules-Rosette, Bennetta. The messages of tourist art: an African semiotic system in comparative perspective. New York: Plenum Press, 1984. xviii, 266pp. illus., bibliog. N7399.65.J85 1984X AFA. OCLC 10778364.

This book examines tourist art as a system of symbolic and economic exchange. Drawing upon seven years of fieldwork in Zambia, Kenya and the Ivory Coast -- plus information collected in the United States on the consumer response to African tourist artwork, Jules-Rosette integrates a theoretical approach to the sociology of culture with firsthand ethnographic evidence of the production and exchange of tourist artwork in an international context. She rejects the assumption that tourist art is mass produced and challenges the view that tourist art is inferior to, or even separate from, high or traditional art. She shows that although the economic motive in tourist art production alters both the creative process and the artistic display, it does not determine the final product. In-depth interviews with grass-roots painters, potters, woodworkers, tinsmiths, and ivory carvers -- along with forty-nine illustrations of the artists and their work -- provide graphic documentation of how the messages of tourist art shape and reflect culture. -- from the book's dust cover.

Reviewed by Simon Battestini in African studies review (Atlanta) 30 (2): 104-105, June 1987.

Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield. Contemporary African art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1999. 224pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 214-217). (World of Art). OCLC 42039553.

Kasfir chose a thematic approach to tell the history of art in African from the 1950s to the 1990s. She describes "the major transformation that occurred within African artistic practice as a result of the colonial incursions" (page 9). This postcolonial perspective recognizes that modern art practice in Africa is built upon differing traditional practices, socio-political circumstances and interventions. The major themes are popular culture and new emerging urban art, art workshops, patronage and culture brokers, art as commodity, artists' identity, art schools and national cultural identity, artists in exile and on the international circuit. North Africa is completely excluded from the discussion, but most of the well known and some lesser known art movements, art schools and workshops, and artist luminaries from sub-Saharan Africa are woven into Kasfir's narrative. Packaged in Thames & Hudson's World of Art series, Contemporary African art is intended primarily as classroom text.

Reviewed by Bayo Oyeleke in Nigerian art, reflections: a journal of the Society of Nigerian Artists, Oyo State Chapter (Ibadan) 7, 2007, pages 74-76; by Valerie Sweeney Prince in International review of African American art (Hampton, VA) 16 (4) 2000, page 61; by Lauri Firstenberg, "Negotiating the taxonomy: contemporary African art, production, exhibition, commodification," Art journal (New York) 59 (3) fall 2000, pages 108-110; by Kate Ezra in African arts (Los Angeles) 34 (1) spring 2001, pages 11-12.

Kennedy, Jean. New currents, ancient rivers: contemporary African artists in generation of change. Washington: Smithsonian Institutiton Press, 1992. 204pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. N7391.65.K46 1991X AFA. OCLC 22389510.

Jean Kennedy's book is the summation of thirty years of personal and professional involvement with artists of Africa, which is both a survey and a celebration of some of Africa's finest. Her odyssey begins in Nigeria, which she knew best, and continues in West Africa with a separate chapter on Senegalese artists. Other chapters cover Sudan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, plus artists from other countries as well. Although sub-Saharan Africa is too vast to be encompassed in one volume, Kennedy has selected around 150 artists to demonstrate what she felt represented the vitality and originality of contemporary creativity from the continent. There are many illustrations, but few in color.

Indexed separately are chapters on modern art in Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Ethiopia, East and Central Africa, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Reviewed by Dele Jegede in African arts (Los Angeles) 29 (1): 21, 96, winter 1996; by Elsbeth Court in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (London) 56 (2): 428-429, 1993; by Monni Adams in International journal of African historical studies (Boston) 26 (1): 444-446, 1993; by Aaron Segal, "Africa's creative energy," Africa today (Denver) 41 (2): 106, 2nd quarter 1994; by Dennis Duerden, "Contemporary African art," West Africa (London) no. 4020: 1809, October 17-23, 1994; by Christopher D. Roy in Choice (Middletown, CT) 30 (4): 610, December 1992.

Kunstreise nach Afrika: Tradition und Moderne. Bayreuth: Iwalewa-Haus, Universität, 1988. 128pp. illus. (48 figs. on 32 plates) (pt. color), bibliogs. N7380.K965 1988 AFA. OCLC 18689509.

In his forward to this collection of essays, Ronald Ruprecht dispels the idea that art in Africa is in decline. Indeed, he makes the case that the vitality and ingenuity of artists today is remarkable and worthy of serious attention and of celebration, which this volume sets out to accomplish. There are eight separate individual contributions: Friedrich Axt on Senegalese art, Ulli Beier and Georgina Beier on "Alaraba" cloth, Helke Kammerer-Grothaus on painters from Congo (Democratic Republic) and Congo; Gunther Péus on Shona sculpture, Ronald Ruprecht on art in Nigeria since 1950, Winfried Schmidt on the Nsukka school of modern art in Nigeria, and Josef Thiel on the representation of man in African art.

LaDuke, Betty. Africa through the eyes of women artists. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1991. 148pp. illus., bibl. refs. N7380.L15 1991 AFA. OCLC 24281599.

American artist Betty LaDuke sought sisterhood in Africa through women artists: her "unique introduction to a complex continent." She sees in their work (perhaps, was looking for) a common thread: the representation of positive feminine role models. From this personal odyssey emerged the profiles of nine African artists and three from the Diaspora: Elizabeth Olowo (Nigeria), Nike Davies (Nigeria), Susanne Wenger (Nigeria), Pama Sinatoa (Mali), Anta Germaine Gaye (Senegal), Theresa Musoke (Uganda), Chaibia (Morocco), Inji Efflatoun (Egypt), Sue Williamson (South Africa), Lois Mailou Jones (USA), Edna Manley (Jamaica) and June Beer (Nicaragua). One chapter is devoted to each, and an introductory chapter pays tribute to traditional women artists, especially the potters.

Reviewed by Lisa Aronson in African arts (Los Angeles) 26 (1): 99-100, January 1993; by Teresa Unseld in Journal of multicultural and cross-cultural research in art education (Madison, WI) 12: 98-101, fall 1994; by Bennete Armah Hanson, "Projecting women's image," West Africa (London) no. 3899: 992, June 8-14, 1992; by D. J. Johnson in Choice (Middletown, CT) 30 (3): 455-456, November 1992.

LaDuke, Betty. Africa: women's art, women's lives. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1997. xix, 187pp. illus.

Based on LaDuke's odysseys to Africa over the last several years to meet women artists, this volume covers: wall painters in Burkina Faso, textile artists in Mali, women potters in Cameroon, Mali and Togo, bead sculptors in Cameroon, Zimbabwean stone sculptors, women of the Weya cooperative in Zimbabwe, and Eritrean painters.

Leyten, Harrie M. and Paul Faber. Moderne kunst in Afrika. Amsterdam: Tropenmuseum; Zutphen: Terra, [1980]. 94pp. illus. (pt. color), map, bibliog. Text in Dutch. N7391.65.L49X AFA. OCLC 08194607.

The 1980 exhibition of modern African art at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam followed close on the heels of the Berlin Festival Horizon `79 and featured much of the same work and themes: self-taught and commercial artists, workshop artists, and academic artists. In their essay, Leyten and Faber place these widely scattered new art movements into a context of evolution and change in Africa.

Linden-Museum Stuttgart. Andere Moderne Afrikas: Kunst aus den Sammlungen des Linden-Museums Stuttgart: zum Gedächtnis an Barbara Frank (1936-2004) / Hermann Forkl. Stuttgart:Linden-Museum, 2004. 199pp. illus. (color), map, bibliog. (pp. 189-199). N7391.65.L56 2004 AFA. OCLC 60972596.

The Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, has been building a collection of contemporary African art that dates back to the first decade of the 20th century. The focus of this collection is what might be called popular or naive art, in keeping with the ethnographic mission of the Museum. In 1909 the Museum acquired a group of brass and clay figurines by Ali Amonikoyi, the Yourba-Togolese artist. Subsequently, it added Ethiopian secular paintings, many barbershop signs, Poto-Poto and Tingatinga paintings, Makonde sculpture, Ethiopian political posters, and works by Michael Ayodele (Nigeria), Yemi Bisiri (Nigeria), Sunday Jack Akpan (Nigeria), Alirwana Augustine Mugalula-Mukiibi (Uganda), Georges Lilanga (Tanzania), and Voania Muba (Democratic Republic of the Congo). This catalog presents the history of the Linden-Museum 20th century African collection and discusses the themes, styles and techniques of these various genres.

Lucie-Smith, Edward. "Modern Africa and Asia," chapter 10, pp. 186-204. In the author's Race, sex, and gender: in contemporary art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994. illus. (color). N7429.4.L83 1994X AFA. OCLC 28889101.

Modern African art does not know quite where to situate itself in the "post-Classical" period. It is political only in the sense of being acutely aware of the tremendous political and social upheavals of twentieth century Africa. To wit: John Muafangejo. The tourist trade has also had (and continues to exert) a pervasive influence in modern African art. Commerce not spirituality are at its roots -- whether with the narrative and sign painters, such as Chéri Samba, the "Mammy Watists," Makonde surrealists, or originals, such as Kane Kwei, coffin-maker. The African artists who fit most comfortably within a western frame of reference are those living and working outside Africa, e.g., Uzo Egonu or Ibrahim El Salahi.

McEvilley, Thomas. "Fusion: hot or cold?" pp. 9-23. In: Fusion: West African artists at the Venice Biennale. New York: Museum for African Art; Munich: Prestel, 1993. bibl. refs. N7398.M14 1993 AFA. OCLC 29513040.

The identity crisis that beset African artists in the colonial-Modernist period -- manifest initially in assimilation and later in cultural resistance -- now seems a struggle of the past. At least for younger generations of African artists, whose cultural heritage is a hybridization. This thirty-something or twenty-something generation is in the "postcolonial phase," that is, "one in which artists self-consciously accept hybridization and make their work reflect various forces that have formed them as individuals" (pp. 12-13).

There is a kind of balance in these artists in the impulses between sameness and difference, which represents a postcolonial reversal. The 1993 Venice Biennale itself represents a kind of "cultural nomadism," or global intermingling. Although the African artists in Venice may not regard themselves as "post-Modernist," their presence in Venice is a "distinctly post-Modern event." Autonomy and individuality are paramount values to the African artist, whatever his perceived or actual relationship with his culture may be.

McEvilley interviews four of the five West African artists in the 1993 Venice Biennale (the fifth, Senegalese Mor Faye, is deceased). The four are sculptor Moustapha Dimé (Senegal), painter Tamessir Dia (Senegal-Mali), painter Ouattara (Côte d'Ivoire), and painter Gerard Santoni (Côte d'Ivoire).

McEvilley, Thomas. "The selfhood of the other: reflections of a Westerner on the occasion of an exhibition of contemporary art from Africa," pp. 266-275. In: Africa explores: 20th century African art. New York: Center for African Art; Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1991. illus. (pt. color), notes. qN7391.65.V63 1991X AFA. OCLC 22909235.

As twentieth-century Modernism dissolves into Post-modernism, the essential cultural relationships and assumptions on which it is built shift dramatically. Ideas about center-periphery, Western progress, nature-culture, cultural-mixing, and ethnic purity are all challenged by the deconstructionist attitudes of Post-modernism. The "dialogue of objects" between cultures, whereby ideas and material goods are exchanged and revalued, is just beginning to reach the realm of contemporary African art. Ways of seeing and of representing the Post-modernist world are relativist and non-absolute; the center is unanchored and set adrift. The search for the Other becomes a search for self.

McEwen, Frank. "Modern African painting and sculpture," pp. 427-437. In: Colloquium: function and significance of African Negro art in the life of the people and for the people, (March 30-April 8, 1966); organized by the Society of African Culture (S.A.C.) with the co-operation of UNESCO, under the patronage of the Senegalese Government. Paris: Presence africaine, 1968. At head of title: 1st World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar, April 1-24, 1966. NX587.C714 1966 volume 1 AFA. OCLC 187418

McEwen's defense of the workshop approach to nurture creative artists in Africa is forceful, fearless, and unapologetic: "personal inducement of inborn talent" is the way to go. He lashes out at Western-style art schools in Africa as producers of mediocrity and killers of talent, headed by "bemedalled academic nonentities." With traditional African art dead or dying, Africa's creative energies are all too often channeled into the demeaning production of "airport art" -- the disparaging epithet which McEwen is credited with coining.

In the workshop scenario, many are called but few are chosen, in what McEwen calls a metaphoric anthill, where the supreme emerge on the corpses of many. The success of McEwen's Workshop School at the National Gallery of (then) Rhodesia is a case in point. He argues that although there is no African tradition from which these works of stone sculpture spring (not as yet any corrupting influence from European art), they are clearly "African" in character. The "explosive talent" in Africa, its potential unrealized, faces a real threat from becoming stultifyingly bland and boringly imitative by exposure to the aridity of international art. How long can it remain "African"?

The year is 1966. It would be many years before McEwen's paternalistic, if well-intentioned, views about modern African art were challenged.

Moderne konst i Afrika = Modern art in Africa / text by C. O. Hultén [and others]. Lund, Sweden: Kalejdoskop, 1978. 136pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. Text in Swedish with English summaries. N7380.M68 AFA. OCLC 6110928.

The Swedish art publication Kalejdoskop spent about three years pulling together a special issue devoted to modern art south of the Sahara under the guidance of artist C. O. Hultén. In a series of essays, he and other writers survey some of the new developments and art movements that define modern African art: Mbari, Poto Poto, and Thèis. Also covered are short synopses on individual artists, including among others, Malangatana, Skunder Boghossian, Baby Joachim Daman-M'Bemba, Vincent Kofi, Amadou Seck, Asiru Olatunde, and Jimoh Buraimoh. There is an essay on monumental public art and another on the cultural politics of FESTAC.

Mount, Marshall Ward. African art: the years since 1920. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. 236pp. illus. (pt. color)., bibliog. N7391.65.M68 1973X AFA. OCLC 861736.

Mount's survey of modern African art is much read and often quoted in part because so little was published on the subject, but also because it is a fair-minded and broadly based survey of the state of contemporary African art in the early 1970s. The survey looks at the various art school and workshop traditions (e.g., English-speaking countries, French-speaking countries) and at thematic topics, such as mission-inspired art or souvenir art. As a text it has stood the test of time reasonably well, but must today be viewed as an historical survey.

Mount, Marshall Ward. African art: the years since 1920. New York: Da Capo Press, [1989], c1973. xviii, 236pp. illus., bibliog. Reprint of the 1973 edition with new introduction. N7391.65.M68 1989X AFA. OCLC 19887831.

This is a reprint of Mount's 1973 text (see preceding entry) presented without change apart from the removal of three color plates that appeared in the original edition. Mount does, however, provide a new six-page introduction to update and correct some of the earlier information, following the chapter outline of his original work, e.g. mission-inspired art, souvenir art, etc. Still, the intervening years from 1973 to 1989 have witnessed so many developments and new artists on the modern art scene in Africa, which cannot be dealt with in six pages, that this book remains an historical look at the subject.

Neue Kunst aus Afrika: afrikanische Gegenwartskunst aus der Sammlung Gunter Péus. Hamburg: Katholische Akademie Hamburg; Kulturbehörde Hamburg, 1984. 111pp. illus. (color), bibliog. (p. 47). N7380.N48 1984 AFA. OCLC 18753161.

Gunter Péus, whose contemporary African art collection is featured in this catalog, is a German journalist correspondent in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. He built his collection largely through direct contact with the artists during his travels around the continent. Predictably, he collected Makonde and Shona sculpture, Tingatinga and Oshogbo paintings, Igbo sign painters (such as Middle Art), Malangatana, Nairobi-based painters (such as Jak Katarikawe and Ancent Soi), South African township artists (Muafangejo and others), Ethiopian secular paintings, and a sprinkling of others. The work of few professionally-trained artist seemed to have caught his eye.

There are nine short essays in the catalog, five of which are by Péus; two are reprinted essays by Ulli Beier on Twins-Seven-Seven and Middle Art, one a reprinted essay by Betty Schneider on Malangatana, and one general essay by Hans Ganslmayr.

Oledzki, Jacek. "Les peintures de l'Afrique noire," Africana bulletin (Warsaw) no. 20: 9-46, 1974. illus. VF -- Commerical Art.

One of the livelier forms of popular arts in Africa are the barbershop signs, which are found in cities and towns across West, Central and East Africa. Painted vehicles of public transport are another exhuberant popular art expression in Africa. Bar painting is yet a third common public art form, equally imaginative and colorful. One muralist working in a different vein is a Kano artist, named Suly, who has distinguished himself by the paintings he executes on outside walls of private residences and compounds. Less well known are rural homes (for example, in Cameroon, Central African Republic and Congo (Democratic Republic)) with whitewashed exterior walls painted with figurative murals. Church murals are also found in these same regions, both fairly recent phenomena. The popular arts in Africa today are not ethnically based, as older art forms were. They differ, too, from paintings of "elite" artists. These paintings described by Oledzki are created by and for the people.

Oledzki, Jacek. "The contemporary African art, some remarks on new trends in the development of sculpture," Africana bulletin (Warsaw) no. 21: 9-35, 1974. illus. VF -- Artists - General.

New forms of artistic expression abound in Africa, but remain overshadowed by "traditional" genres or ignored by scholars. New sculptural forms have emerged more slowly than painting (see Oledzki's article "Les peintures de l'Afrique noire" -- next entry) and have been more greatly influenced by market tastes. Commemorative sculptures, inspired by Christianity or by syncretic churches, comprise an inventive and original stream of creativity arising from local concerns and needs. Sepulchral monuments, vaults, and cemetery statuary in cement and clay are widespread in West Africa. Oledzki illustrates several examples from Cameroon and southern Nigeria.

In the popular arts, sculptural equivalents of barbershop signs occur in sculpted, painted wood mannikin heads. Other examples of sculptures as advertisement can readily be cited. Sculptural innovation also occurs within traditional contexts, e.g., reliefs on Bamileke meeting houses. Makonde sculpture, however, arises as a purely commerical venture.

Oloidi, Ola. "Who is the new African artist?" Aspects of African spirit / special issue of: Chrysalis (New York: Swedenborg Foundation) 3 (l): 4-13, 1988. illus., bibl. refs. DT14.A83 1988 AFA. OCLC 18129862.

The new generation of modern African artists (by which Oloidi means those who came of age post-independence) seeks to differentiate itself from the earlier generation, who were products of colonial art institutions or foreign education -- artists such as Ibrahim el Salahi, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Vincent Kofi or Herbert Owiti. The hallmarks of this modern African artist are his creative independence, his re-interpretation of traditional heritage, whether expressed abstractly or naturalistically, and his moral and humanitarian standards. Oloidi illustrates works of five Nigerian artists: Boniface Okafor, Dele Jegede, Clary Nelson-Cole, Tayo Adenaike, Obiora Udechukwu, and Ghanaian El Anatsui.

Picton, John. "In vogue, or the flavour of the month: the new way to wear black," Third text: Third World perspectives on contemporary art & culture (London) 23: 89-98, summer 1993. illus., bibl. refs. NX1.T445 AFA.

The propensity to categorize African artists and their art production perversely and willfully fails to reckon with the artists themselves and their personal histories and environments. This was true with Susan Vogel's "Africa Explores" exhibition and catalog; it was true with Nelson Graeburn's paradigms of "Fourth World" art; it is true in the fatuous presumptuousness of collector Jean-Christophe Pigozzi's search for untrained African artists. Contemporary African art is still being looked at in broad, sweeping, generalizing terms and placed into similarly restrictive boxes. Particular art histories are ignored or, in most cases, are lacking. Yet it is to these more specific levels -- nation, regional, local, individual -- that the multiple histories of modern African art must begin.

Reading the contemporary: African art from theory to the marketplace: a critical anthology of writings on contemporary African visual culture / edited by Olu Oguibe and Okwui Enwezor. London: INIVA, 1999. 432pp. illus. N7380.R43 1999 AFA. OCLC 43338909.

Reading the contemporary is an anthology of twenty-two previously published essays that the editors intend “to sketch the development of a new critical language and method for the evaluation of contemporary African art” (page 9). The decade of the 1990s witnessed the arrival of modern African art into the global arena, launched by the 1989 “Magiciens de la Terre” exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris - - a controversial yet seminal event. The globalization of late 20th-century art is forcing a rethinking of theory and criticism of African art practice both on the continent and in the diaspora. The writers whose essays are included in Reading the contemporary are at the forefront of this endeavor. Five are artists: David Koloane, Everlyn Nicodemus, Olu Oguibe, Chika Okeke, and the late Rotimi Fani-Kayode. Others are academics, critics or curators: Kwame Appiah, Manthia Diawara, Ima Ebong, Okwui Enwezor, Salah M. Hassan, Sidney L. Kasfir, Thomas McEvilley, Kobena Mercer, V. Y. Mudimbe, Laura Mulvey, John Picton, Colin Richards, Margo Timm, N. Frank Ukadike and Octavio Zaya. The essays address theory, art practice among Africans locally and especially internationally, and shifting identities. It covers photography and cinema as well as visual arts. Several of the essays were first published in Nka; journal of contemporary African art (Ithaca, NY) and Third text: Third World perspectives on contemporary art (London).

The thrust and tone of these texts are biting and edgy, challenging our perceptions about African art practice. The point is not to survey modern African art, but to present new ways of thinking about it; to move African art out of the periphery and into the global arena; to discard old notions about “Africanity” with all its trappings of exoticism. The sub-text is to disparage or at least implicate those in the West who favor and promote African popular (read: naive) artists, such as sign painters Chéri Samba and Middle Art. Theirs is not the face of postmodernism that editors Oguibe and Enwezor want to present. In fact, the balance tilts to the other side by elevating the art practice of those who are obliterating and transcending boundaries rather than those who remain grounded in the parochial and the local. The agenda of globalization, cultural nomadism and hybridity is very much reflected in the choice of essayists. Reading the contemporary is the latest offering in the Oguibe-Enwezor enterprise. The illustrations are quite adequate but are secondary: this anthology is more about text than image. Intended primarily for students of art history, art criticism and cultural studies, it’s not a book for connoisseurs and collectors.

Reviewed by Akinwumi Adesokan in Nka: journal of contemporary African art (Ithaca, NY) no. 15, fall-winter 2001, pages 94-95; by Ikem Stanley Okoye in African arts (Los Angeles) 34 (3) autumn 2001, pages 15-16, 92; by Michael D. Harris in International review of African American art (Hampton, VA) 17 (2) 2000, page 61; by Richard Hylton, "Re-framing Africa," Third text: critical perspectives on contemporary art and culture (London) 50, spring 2000, pages 122-124.

Critiqued by Anthony Chennells in Gallery: the art magazine from Gallery Delta (Harare) no. 26, December 2000, pages 13-16.

Spring, Christopher. Angaza Afrika: African art now. London: Laurence King, 2008. 336pp. illus. (color), bibliog. (pp. 335-336). N7381.7.S67 2008 AFA. OCLC 222163277.

Chris Spring, a curator at the British Museum, “sheds light on Africa” (in Swahili: angaza Africa) in this showcase of 63 (mostly) African artists. His personal, ecumenical selection reflects the diversity of creativity on and off the continent. Many of the artists live abroad, such as Mohamed Omer Bushara, Sokari Douglas Camp, Tapfuma Gutsa, or Hassan Musa. Others, less well-known, live and work in Africa, such as Mohamedi Charinda, Owen Ndou, or Khadel Ben Slimane. Spring introduces the book with a scan of “art that is all around” in Africa, such as sign paintings, kangas, metalworks, and fanciful coffins.

Reviewed by Amy Halliday in Art South Africa (Cape Town) 7 (1) spring 2008, page 103; by Susan Linnee in Msanii (Nairobi) no. 24, July-September 2008, pages 19-20.

Stevenson, Michael and Joost Bosland. Take your road and travel along: the advent of the modern black painter in Africa. Cape Town: Michael Stevenson, Michael Graham-Stewart, Johans Borman, [2008]. 144pp. illus. (chiefly color), bibliographies.

Black African artists who engaged with Modernism in the mid-20th century are only lately being looked at with serious interest. Of the nineteen artists represented in this catalog, several went abroad for formal academic art training, some were self-taught or informally taught, and some went into exile abroad (Sekoto, Mancoba, Egonu, Dumile Feni, Desmore). The opportunities and expectations both at home and abroad for these pioneer artist were limited.

The artists Stevenson and Bosland selected are: Kalifala Sidibé, Akinola Lasekan, John Mohl, Gerard Sekoto, Ben Enwonwu, George Pemba, Sam Ntiro, Thomas Mukarogbwa, Valerie Desmore, Simon Lekgetho, Peter Clarke, Valente Malangatana Ngweny, Twins Seven-Seven, Yusuf Grillo, Ephraim Ngatane, Welcome Koboka, Dumile Feni, Ernest Mancoba, and Uzo Egonu.

Ströter-Bender, Jutta. Zeitgenössische Kunst der "Dritten Welt": Äthiopien, Australien (Aboriginals), Indien, Indonesien, Jamaica, Kenia, Nigeria, Senegal und Tanzania. Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag, 1991. 244pp., 28pp. of plates. illus. (pt. color). (DuMont Taschenbücher, 265). N7414.S77 1991X AFA. OCLC 27229492.

Contemporary art of the "Third World" has many faces and forms. What Ströter-Bender presents here is a sampling of those artistic faces and forms from nine countries, including five African countries -- Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania. The balance is tipped toward the popular, untutored, and workshop artists, which perhaps reflects the true demographics of national art communities. In Ethiopia, there are the narrative folk painters, using both religious and secular themes; in Kenya, the bar paintings; in Nigeria, the Oshogbo artists and sign painters; in Senegal, the glass paintings; in Tanzania, the square-board Tingatinga group and the Makonde sculptors.

Still, academic artists are not overlooked in this brief survey. Some of those discussed are Skunder Boghossian, Afewerk Tekle, Gebre Kristos Desta, Zerihun Yetmgeta, Uche Okeke, Uzo Egonu, Obiora Udechukwu, and Iba Ndiaye. Others are mentioned in passing.

Tarver, Stanley. "Contemporary African art symposium at the Studio Museum in Harlem," African arts (Los Angeles) 24 (2): 12, 14, 16, 18, April 1991. N1.A258 AFA.

A one-day symposium held in conjunction with the exhibition "Contemporary African Artists: Changing Tradition" attempted to thrash out thorny issues on the role of the artist in society, identity, patronage, definitions ("traditional/contemporary"), and the emergence of a modern idiom in African art.

Vansina, Jan. "Arts and society since 1935," pp. 582-632. In: General history of Africa. volume 8: Africa since 1935. London: Heinemann; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. illus., notes, bibliog. (for volume, pp. 942-981). ("Visual arts," pp. 583-601).

The new visual arts in Africa today fall into four social categories, according to Vansina: traditional, tourist, popular, and academic. While not rigid, these categories have remained remarkably stable since 1935, the period under review. Vansina elaborates these four categories on the basis of patronage, rural/urban locus, type of work and workmanship, artisan/artist roles, and ultimate use. Wide-ranging examples of artists and art forms from all over Africa, including North Africa, are brought in to illuminate the trends and innovations, as he sees them. The changes in African art in these decades mirror the changes in African society -- urban popular arts emerge as urbanization occurs, tourist arts flourish as tourism and the expatriate presence increase.

Of the academic artists, Vansina discerns three clusters, each of which he treats in turn: (1) artists who go to Europe to study; (2) those who come under the tutelage (or non-tutelage) of European mentors in workshop settings; and (3) those who study in the art academies of Africa.

The bottom line seems to be that each of the four streams of art -- traditional, tourist, popular, and academic -- existing side-by-side in Africa today, are bound to influence each other, and that is indeed the case. The visual arts and the performing arts (which Vansina considers in the remaining part of the chapter) are defined since 1935 by the eruptions of nationalism across the continent. The new arts did not derive from European traditions, though their emergence coincided with the peak of European influence. More striking is the continuity with the past. "The new arts in Africa are a synthesis in which a selective small portion of the European heritage has been combined with a large African legacy" (page 631).

Welling, Wouter. “A new chapter: contemporary art in the Afrika Museum,” Volume 1, pages 174-199. In: Forms of wonderment: the history and collections of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal / by Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers. Berg en Dal, Netherlands: Afrika Museum, 2002. illus. (color), bibliog. (volume 2, pp. 597-605). GN36.N42.B465 2002 AFA. OCLC 52225485.

Outlines the history of the contemporary African art collection at the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal, Netherlands, which was begun in 1968 with the purchase of Ben Enwonwu’s sculpture Anyanwu. There were intermittent acquisitions in the 1970s, but in the 1980s, serious and systematic collection started. The Afrika Museum acquired the Felix Valk collection, the premier private collection of contemporary African art, antedating the better known Jean Pigozzi collection, although a number of the same artists are represented. Today the Afrika Museum’s collection is fairly representative of contemporary African art with many of the familiar names.

Willett, Frank. "African art today," pp. 239­264. In the author's African art: an introduction. New York: Praeger, 1971. illus. (pt. color). N7380.W5X AFA. OCLC 141060.

Islam did not obliterate art, but often influenced it, as, for example, Nupe brasswork. Christianity attempted to undermine traditional practices while setting up training schemes. Academic artists interpreted modern and religious images through traditional forms. Nigerian church and secular examples are given. The aim of the Mbari workshops in Oshogbo was to free Nigerian artists of the inhibitions of Western training. It also helped discover untrained talents among professional craftsmen.