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The debate surrounding modern art in Africa has been all the rage both inside Africa and outside the continent from the beginning of the century until the last decade of the XX century. From one coast to the other, words ring out: Black Identity, African Identity, the trap of mimicry, the trap of academism, the trap of the international market, the forced marriage of tradition and modernity, the political desire for social art with a social vocation before and after the independence movement.

Mixing genres is frequent between still living ritual art, popular art, urban art, recovery art and the art that certain people would like to call sophisticated. Cheri Samba at the Grimaldi ForumSocial Anthropologists fight with too few art critics to assert a solely contextual reading. All speeches are good and accompany varied productions of varied talents. Contempt for artists who are conscious of their work has long resulted in there being seen as "sexual psychopaths sacrificed on the altar of acculturation". Attempts have even been made to portray these artists as merely "bastard" products of an impossible synthesis between Africa and the West. People want something that is authentic, true and pure, even if they have to invent it. Artists wishing to paint, sculpt or produce as they see fit have been tossed around, knocked down, and mostly ignored because they only partially participate in the debate from which they are the first to be excluded. (...)

Everybody is willing to subscribe to the idea that Africa is a single unit, provided, however, that the basis and content of this unit are specified. In actual fact, it is, quite paradoxically, a multiple unit.
George Lilanga at the Grimaldi ForumIt is a unit of condition, first and foremost. In all of human memory, no continent has had a fate quite like Africa's. On the negative side, this fate is a long succession of hardships, from the slave trade to colonial domination, to post-colonial abuses. On the positive side, it is a sort of ongoing success story, in which the continent constantly gets up after being knocked down, overcomes the gravest of crisis, each time regaining an autonomy that is unceasingly threatened. That is why these issues of memory are so important in today's African communities, as can be seen in it's storybook, film, musical and of course, scientific production. The message is the same in all of it's languages: restoring the greatness of "Africa the cradle of Humanity" and land of notorious empires and glorious heroes.(...)

This is why we can bet that the Africa of tomorrow will be, in people's consciousness and in fact, both a cultural area and a plurality of cultural areas.


source: "An Anthology of African Art- the XX century" - N'Goné Fall & Jean Lup Pivin

photos: (c) Grimaldi Forum, Monaco



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