Saturday, November 11, 2006
What is the Concept of Fine Art in Africa?
I am a visual artist besides being a musician. I received a fine arts education and I have been an elementary school art teacher. When I travel I always look for indigenous art work, authentic pieces by local artisans. It can be difficult to sort through the mountains of generic souvenir art to find that unique piece. In every third world country I have been to, there has been a movement to exploit local art and culture as a cash commodity. The economic burdens of third world countries lean heavily upon local artisans. I have toured the back alley souvenir factories where men and women churn out cloned artwork by the hundreds. Sometimes there are only slight deviations from an ancient artistic formula. For western thinkers and art collectors there may be a sense that these arts pieces are devalued by their sameness. Yet upon further examination we find that the style of many art pieces has been ritualized over time.
In many instances we will find that the artistic style of everyday objects have been codified into a handful of designs. For instance, there may only be two or three print patterns for a Nigerian gourd bowl. The question becomes; are these pieces considered perfect recreations of classical works? Do these art pieces represent the power of African apprenticeship, family traditions that never stray from the past?