Modern African Art : A Basic Reading List

Major Group Exhibitions : 1970s


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African contemporary art: the Gallery of Art, Howard University, Washington, DC, April 30-July 31, 1977; [exhibition]. Washington, DC: The Gallery, 1977. [31]pp. illus.

This exhibition, featuring the works of forty-seven artists from fifteen African nations, emphasized trends of expression which have occurred in Africa since 1940. Exhibition reviewed by Kojo Fosu, "The exhibition of African contemporary art," Black art (Jamaica, NY) l (3): 49­54, spring 1977.

Christliches Afrika: Kunst und Kunsthandwerk in Schwarzafrika / edited by Josef Thiel. St. Augustine: Haus Völker und Kulturen, 1978. 96pp. illus., bibliog. N7087.C55 1978 AFA. OCLC 11687313.

The Christian missionary influence on African artistic expression is undeniably significant and pervasive. It goes far beyond the direct impact of art workshops and schools set up by missionaries, e.g., Father Kevin Carroll at Oye Ekiti or the Swedish Lutherans at Rorke's Drift -- though these centers have certainly been very important. Christian iconography and imagery has found a wide diversity of expression at the hands of artists across the continent, never more so than in the twentieth century. Strong stylistic features from local sculptural traditions are often apparent in contemporary Christian art.

Seven essays in this catalog address diverse aspects of African-Christian art. Essays are by Josef Thiel, Walter Hirschberg, Theo Sundermeier, Kevin Carroll, Leonhard Meurer, Bamba Ndombasi Kufimba, and Badi-Banga Ne-Mwine. The exhibition featured 147 works, partially illustrated.

Moderne Kunst aus Afrika: Horizonte '79, 1. Festival der Weltkulturen: Ausstellung der Berliner Festspiele mit Unterstützung der Staatlichen Kundsthalle Berlin, 24. Juni­12 August / edited by Sabine Hollburg and Gereon Sievernich. Berlin: Die Festspiele, 1979. 197pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. Cover title: Kunst aus Africa. N7380.M682 AFA. OCLC 6798351.

The state of contemporary African art as viewed from the vantage point of 1979 is summed up in a group of twenty-four essays, most of which are re-publications and/or translations of earlier articles. Three are original to this volume: "Wenn Wir das Sehen, Werden Wir Glücklich Sein: Afrikanische oder Afroeuropäische Kunst?," by Wolfgang Bender and Claus Peter Dressler (pp. 10-13), which considers the "African-ness" of contemporary African art, including the Oshogbo workshop art; "Die Kunst Afrikas. Das Kollektive, das Individuelle und das Universelle in der Schwarzafrikanisches Kunst," by Oto Bihalji-Merin (pp. 17-24), which contrasts the impact of African art on the West and the Western impact on African art today; and "Sammeln: Erfahrungen eines Sammlers," by Gunter Péus (pp. 26-36), which examines the presentation and reception of African art through exhibitions and the market, particularly with reference to Oshogbo art, Makonde sculpture and Shona sculpture.

The other essays focus on particular artists or "schools," weighted heavily toward the popular and "naive" artists, e.g., Twins Seven Seven, Tingatinga, Asiru Olatunde, truck art, Ofori Danso, Middle Art, the sign painters, Mammy Wata, Zairian popular painting, Lubaki and Malangatana. El Salahi is also featured. Short biographies of the forty-seven artists represented in the exhibition are included (pp. 170-179), as is a checklist of 397 works (pp. 180-191). A large exhibition! The lengthy bibliography at the end sums up fairly comprehensively the literature on the subject of contemporary African art as it existed in 1979. It includes, for example, sixty-one exhibition catalogues.

Exhibition reviewed by Wolfgang Bender in Tendenzen (Munich) 21 (130) April-June 1980, pages 42-47.

Wahlman, Maude. Contemporary African arts; [exhibition held at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, April 20-November 3, 1974]. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1974. 124pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. NX587.W34X AFA. OCLC 01095119.

The Field Museum's exhibition is a highly selective group of artists from nine countries. Together they represent a sampling of contemporary artistic production, presented by medium, e.g., printed textiles, sculpture, graphics and painting. Much falls within the area of crafts, for example, pottery, calabash carving and leatherwork. Music, dance, and literature are also covered.

Wahlman's approach is anthropological: she attempts to place the artists within their cultural context and to consider their role in society. Among the artists featured are Thomas Mukarobgwa, Zimbabwe stone sculptor, Lamidi Fakeye, Yoruba woodcarver, Asiru Olatunde, Yoruba aluminum counter-repoussé panel maker, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Nigerian printmaker, Skunder Boghossian, Ethiopian painter, Hassan Fathy, Egyptian architect, and Ousmane Sembene, Senegalese filmmaker. The bibliography is helpfully arranged by medium, following the outline of the book. Wahlman includes some useful appendices of addresses of African artists, musical and theater groups in the U.S., films and distributors, and importers of contemporary African arts and crafts.