After reading your post, I feel the need to underlign what seems to me to be another misunderstanding.
To me, it is difficult to agree with you when you make a comparison between "the few Westerners who can't make the difference between a Braque and a Picasso" - and the Yoruba "who can't make a difference between a Gelede mask and an Epa one".
When you refere to Braque and Picasso, you refere to Art - Art pour l'art - art for art. To my eyes, this has nothing to do with what we call "traditional art" & traditional artifacts.
Since the time that artists are recognized and sign their works (i.e. from the Renaissance, in W-Europe), art is an individual expression - one single person's "Weltanschauung" - it is a private move. Its aim is to show reality, as today-photographers (Renaissance portraits, for ex), or reporters (Rembrandt, Lautrec, for ex), to show beauty (Turner, Van Gogh). It can deliver a message but can do very well without delivering any.
MichelAngelo and Raphael were paid by the christian authorities to paint what I would call trivially (to make it short) religious "propaganda". I do not think that they painted with their soul but for fame and salary (and that does not question their talent).
Traditional arts, from where-ever it is from, are not only the expressions of a group (the group's beliefs and customs) but also mediums as well as respected symbols which identify a group (from the extern point of view) or cement it (from the intern point of view).
The builders of pyramids, temples, churches, cathedrals, the carvers of madonnas, Gelede, St Francis, Nkisi, Bouddhas, Epa masks, etc... worked with not only their soul but with their community's soul, stimulated by their beliefs.
Experts. Only a vain title. I believe that passion and enthusiasm and an endless hunger for research are the basic conditions to become an expert worth the name, in whatever field.
Real experts know the infinity of what remains for them to be explored and studied so that they are humble enough not to dare claiming they are "experts". Well, that is only my point of view.
I also believe that reality is approchable by the conjunction of different point of views - internal and external : to try to know about Eskimo life and traditions, I would read the observations of an Eskimo sociologist (or sort of ~) and also the ones of an italian, indian, african (or so on) sociologist (or sort of ~) who worked on this subject.
I am really surprised to read that "The African experts are regarded as illiterates, primitive, unsophisticated and, at best, primary sources for western researchers, who consider themselves the sole authorities on these objects". I do not know with which square heads you had to deal with, but I would like to know more about your experience and its context (University ?). You could maybe give me another subject of fight.
Finally : "...the Ramadan that Veronique would want [Bubacar] to enjoy..". Well, Mo, I lived long enough in a Muslim country to know that Ramadan is a period of the year that Muslims enjoy : time of gathering and having a good time between dusk and dawn. Am I wrong ?
Thank you, Mo, for reading my worst frenglish (and, maybe, worst points of views) down to here.
Mo Okdg <okdg@...> wrote:
It is probably more complicated than saying Africans do not care or no longer understand their indigenous heritage because Africans are now involved in the daily struggles of survival, or are caught up in the rat race of (post)modernity.
In the west, the purvew of art remains in the hand of western art experts. Few westerners can tell the differences between Raphael and Michelangelo, or between Braque and Picasso. Even fewer still care about the differences. Most westerners are quite happy to go to a print shop to buy a tacky poster to decorate their appartments and homes. But there are experts in the west who know these differences, who write about them, and who curate these objects. They are usually westerners. I really do not know of a situation in which Renaissance art--or contemporary western art for that matter--is entrusted to a nonwesterner as a curator.
Similarly in Africa, most people do not know or care about the differences between Gelede or Epa masks. But there are practitioners and experts, such as priests, devotees and performers, who know these things in details, who are born into the making, manipulation and curation of these objects. Partly what bothers Boubacar and seems to distract him from the Ramadan that Veronique would want him to enjoy, is the fact that such experts are not the ones who often speak about these objects. The African experts are regarded as illiterates, primitive, unsophisticated and, at best, primary sources for western researchers, who consider themselves the sole authorities on these objects. Right Boubacar?
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