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Friday, September 16, 2011

Reactions to Donald Cosentino

           This week we discussed a lot about Donald Cosentino’s article, The Radiance of the King, and how it addresses the idea of cross-cultural pollination. The main focus of his article was on his reactions to the “Out of Africa: Obama and McCain” exhibit at the Ernie Wolfe Gallery in West LA. The exhibit consisted of various posters done by Ghanaian artists, most of which revolved around the inauguration of Barack Obama and how they viewed the election of an African American president. Cosentino goes on to describe how technology has had an impact on Ghanaian art, as well as the different meanings behind the artwork and how differently the peoples of Ghana might interpret it versus how we might. There are also many aspects of Ghanaian art that relate to some of the art we have previously studied.

          One common theme is the multiplicity of meaning, especially in how the visuals are being portrayed. An example of this is seen is in the Fante flags, where there are so many visual metaphors. This can be related to Ghanaian paintings in the sense that they portray Obama as so many different celebrities and idols. This is especially evident in the painting of him as a basketball player where the he would be seen as someone of importance or someone to look up to in our culture, and the basketball could be taken as a representation of the world. However, there is more than just the idea of multiple meanings connecting Ghanaian art to the pieces we’ve been looking at in class, such as technology and media.

          Cross-cultural pollination is seen in a lot of the art we have studied so far, such as the Fante flags, as shown in the picture above where the train is being used to represent new technology and is used as a symbol of power.  However, trains were just the beginning. The revolution of media in Africa has had a tremendous impact on various art forms. Cosentino related cell phones to bread in terms of being a staple or necessity.  Not only do they show up in textiles and clothing, some Ghanaian coffins even depict cell phones. While some coffins represent chickens, eagles, and fish, others go as far as to replicate Mercedes Benz. Coffins that are far from Ghanaian traditions aren’t even allowed in the churches, but it shows how great of an impact different cultures have on each other.

          The television is another part of the media revolution, integrating cultures through this form of communication and globalization.  Television became a big source of inspiration to the Ghanaian artists, especially relating to world politics. Paintings of Barack Obama started taking over, replacing movie posters. He had been an icon of not only change and peace, but also unification. Cross-cultural pollination was becoming more evident in the artwork. For example, the piece depicting Obama where he looks as if he is European American, versus African American, as an attempt to “bridge the gap”. 

          Overall, I think what I’ve taken out of this article and what we’ve learned this week goes back to my conclusion during our first blogging assignment. We do not see what Africans see; not only relating to technology, but also relating to what they see of as “praise portraits” and how we see it, in a totally different context, as humorous.


  1. This is a thoughtful and reflective blog. I especially like your pointing out the multiplicity of meaning--not just because of different cultural audiences, but inherent to the depictions themselves (basketball/world). It would be good to note the "cross" part of this pollination--exchange include in what ways the US is impacted by these Ghanaian paintings. Of course, I have to point out the author's name is Donald, not "David" or "Donal." :)

  2. Your post brought up some good points. I hadn't looked at the article in the 'multiple-meaning' lens. You give the example of Obama as a basketball player. I think this one in particular could relate to US culture, the president is depicted as an 'all-star.’ This was meant as a compliment and yet, some in this culture would see it as stereotyping and offensive. It’s all in how each culture interprets the message. As you point out, we have a tendency of seeing these ‘praise portraits’ as humorous. I also, like many I’m sure, find the coffin sculptures somewhat funny. Ghanaians spend thousands of dollars on these coffins to honor their loved ones, I have a hard time understanding their extreme break from traditional coffins, but that’s how their culture has evolved using influences from other cultures.