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Contemporary African Art Essay

978 words - 4 pages

Proposed Research Outline:
In the slippery terrain created by globalization and cultural brokering, contemporary art made in Africa (and its diasporas) has enjoyed a steady growth in interest and appreciation by Western audiences during the last few decades (Kasfir, 2007). Several biennials, triennials, and scholarly works attest to that, with much of its impact owed to the figure of Okwui Enwezor. However, seamlessly uniting diverse African artists under the untrained Western gaze for the commercialism of the international art circuit – notwithstanding their different cultural contexts and the medium in which they work – is bound to create problems. Enwezor’s and other authors’ sophisticated publications and curatorial works show both the vitality and issues still to be addressed in this field of study (Ogbechie, 2010).

Coveted by international art markets for both its quality and commercial rewards, African Art (in the singular) appears to refer to a homogeneous ensemble (Enwezor and Okeke-Agulu, 2009). All countries, styles, practices, and languages are, in theory, on the same level. However, schools, movements, socio-economic development, and political (in-)stabilities in its many countries trigger varied artistic responses towards both local and global forces. African cinemas are exemplary of that. They have evolved quite unevenly from their beginnings. Diverse languages, multiple former colonial powers, and troubled socio-political histories forced film scholarship to address them in the plural. This development à deux vitesses between African art and African cinemas spurs a number of questions. Therefore, ‘zooming out’ to show this décalage, I intend to bring African photography and cinemas into a wide theoretical framework with other African visual arts in order to interrogate limited perceptions by Western audiences, reveal unusual aspects of African life and culture, and suggest new ways of looking towards its future.

Previous research:
My doctoral project makes evident the interconnection between cinemas from Africa and the Americas (mainly Brazil and the United States) via an articulation of shared experiences of diaspora and sites of memory. My approach centred first on the diasporic connections between Lusophone African and (African-)Brazilian cinemas. Working intentionally on a South-to-South axis on the ‘Black Atlantic’, I focused on suggesting a viable alternative to the long-known and well-established North Atlantic outlook on this field of study. However, the scope of my research project included also select European-based African directors and African-American filmmakers, encompassing further aspects of the legacy of Third World Cinemas in the Atlantic region.

Departing from Professor Paul Gilroy’s seminal work The Black Atlantic (1993), I proposed to “square” the ‘Black Atlantic’ triangle (Africa/Europe/US) found in most theoretical frameworks applied to this field of study. “Squaring” the ‘Black Atlantic’ had...

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