The first two weeks in Arts of Africa have already changed the way I view not only African art, but the culture and traditions of the people as well. After reading Giblin’s essay on Issues in African History, the Key Moments in Life website, watching the video, and class discussion and lecture, I felt as if there were a few overall themes that were the most intriguing to me, such as how African art is viewed differently throughout various cultures and whether it should really be displayed as an art form.
A big part of why it caught my attention was the part of the video that mentioned the word “art” wasn’t necessarily a concept in Africa. The preface in our textbook explains how instead they consider it more of a skill or tradition versus an art form. They don’t create things specifically for art; the objects must serve a purpose. Not only that, but they don’t even have complete freedom over what they create. They must follow certain signs and symbols. So if the people making these objects don’t consider it art, how do we justify putting the pieces in museums?
Traditional objects, such as the masks worn in ritual dances, become useless once put into a museum. They are displayed solely as masks, while still showing off their beauty and visual power, the viewer cannot take in the artworks purpose and meaning. Another issue with art being displayed in museums is the amount of people that get caught up in the racism and poverty Africa can be known for, altering their reaction to the art on its own. Much of the history and tradition so relevant in a piece is lost once taken out of context.
Overall, the basic concept is that we do not see what Africans see. The fact that they create things so visually interesting without the intention of it being displayed as art is what captures my attention and makes their art so different.