- Thanks so much! I did watch the debate/film in French so I can cope with it in a passive way, even though cannot speak well at all. So I will do. It is so wellMessage 1 of 5 , Jul 2, 2008View SourceThanks so much! I did watch the debate/film in French so I can cope with it in a passive way, even though cannot speak well at all. So I will do. It is so well done. It needs to be seen more than once. I really enjoyed that channel and also the Senate one which also had a series on "Negritude" (don't know how to spell the word.) Thanks Jean-Pierre. I do think it is relevant to the group as a whole as this does something towards the need to think of African Art in context..Bye, Margalit----- Original Message ----
From: Bouillie Jean-Pierre <bouiliejp@...>
Sent: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 9:51:42 PM
Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Art/Craft Distinction
You can see the film if you go first to
www.arte.tv/ plus7 and then you click on "Documentaires" and then you click on the name of the film "Les esclaves oubliés"
It's in french,of course
--- En date de : Mar 1.7.08, M.E.F. <mfliegelmann@ yahoo.com> a Ã©crit :
De: M.E.F. <mfliegelmann@ yahoo.com>
Objet: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Art/Craft Distinction
Ã€: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
Date: Mardi 1 Juillet 2008, 20h14Hi David,I would not want to make this a blanket (non)distinction (i.e., as in your words:In our culture we separate "art" from "craft" in the same way we separate "secular" from " sacred" (or "body" from "mind", "animate" from "inanimate") . These concepts may not exist to tribal people, and didn't exist in our own cultures in the distant past)...
I also don't want to belittle "our culture". Modes of thought are the most fascinating aspect of anthropology (see for example Robin Horton or John Skorupsky).
It is always better to be specific and focus on what you are saying, not widen your circle to the point of blurring.
Back to our specific distinction. Only craft is art in Africa. The craftsman, who most of the time was a ritual specialist of high standing (e.g. the blacksmith had great spiritual and ritual powers) worked for the realm of the spiritual, political status and political power, and occasionally for simply functional objects, which, might also have had the added magical or spiritual dimension.
Incidentally, I saw an excellent documentary on Art TV while in Paris on the debate around slavery involving very impressive historians from Dakar University and elsewhere in Africa. One of the points of the debate in the documentary was taking responsibility for slavery right along the continuum of the mechanism involved. When the two African historians from Dakar pointed out the African component of capturing and enslaving those who were then treated as merchandise, I was shocked to see that some of the masks we like so much, were being used in warfare to intimidate the victims in the bellicose clashes which produced the people that were to be sold. I might have, in my house, masks that served such terrible purposes?! (I think I saw a Senufo "Fire Spitter".. which I happen to have..)
But, back to the point, while in Western usage craft is what produces a more humble set of objects whereas art is of higher esteem, from an African point of view, this simply does not makes sense. That should not mean much more than the need to translate cultures other than "word by word", literally. Just like one would not translate a text within Western cultures that way, as you pointed out, David.
Regards, Margalit----- Original Message ----
From: DZ Levine <davidzl_2000@ yahoo.com>
To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
Sent: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 7:03:48 PM
Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Art/Craft Distinction
There are such good discussions on this forum. I'd like to add my two Dalasis to Lee's and Margalit's excellent replies.
Some of the distinction comes from our reductionistic Western concepts. In its noun form "craft" is defined in the dictionary as "something made with skill and care". I noted that the questioner has a French email address. My Larousse defines "craft" in French as art, metier. One meaning of the word metier is "handicraft" . So there also may be distinctions in English that don't translate exactly in French....and vice versa.
This question, of course, gets into the "What is art?" discussion.
When an object is created with a sense of aesthetics it begins to take on aspects of what we call art. This may be intentional or unintentional. As Lee pointed out, there may be other cultural values assigned to any object. In addition, there may be spiritual values. In our culture we separate "art" from "craft" in the same way we separate "secular" from " sacred" (or "body" from "mind", "animate" from "inanimate") . These concepts may not exist to tribal people, and didn't exist in our own cultures in the distant past.
To Native American people all things partake of the sacred in some way. Some things are more sacred and some much less but they all participate. I don't know whether this is the case in traditional African thought. I point it out, though, as analogous to the art/craft dichotomy.
I wonder, is there a point where craft becomes art? Where the skill and expertise accumulate to where they become art? I am thinking of the eccentric flints produced by Meso-American artisans that sometimes represent animals or gods or are sometimes abstract (to us). They appear to have no utilitarian purpose. Perhaps they were sacred objects, but perhaps they were simply admired. I wonder if once in a while a tribal potter (or weaver/flinknapper/ gourd carver, etc.) made one so well that he or she said, "This one's too good to use. I'll just set it aside and look at it."
Maybe Lee or Margalit or someone else could comment on this.David Levine360-535-3875
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