Tag Archives: West Africa

Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley

The Benue River Valley is the source of some of the most abstract, dramatic, and inventive sculpture in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet  the many and diverse groups flanking the 650-mile-long Benue River—and their fascinating arts—are little known and studied.

The exhibition will be at the Fowler Museum at UCLA February 13 – July 24, 2011 and will then travel to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center, and the Musée du quai Branly, Paris.

For more information and related resources click here

UCLA Newsroom release

Review from ARTINFO

’42’ Women of Sierra Leone

(c) Karen Lee Stow (detail of photo)

The exhibition ’42’ Women of Sierra Leone presents 42 portraits of the women of Sierra Leone, by British photojournalist and writer Lee Karen Stow. This exhibition is part of Liverpool’s first ever international photography festival, Look11.

At the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool: From 4 March 2011 – 5 April 2012

For more information click here

ONLINE VIDEO: One Tribe, One Style?: A Text with an Agenda!

Christopher D. Roy, Professor of Art History, at the University of Iowa has added new videos to his Youtube channel: CDROYburkina.

Professor Roy has put together a short presentation on YouTube that describes the art of the Mossi peoples of Burkina Faso, and says of these resources:

“The intention is to help students and teachers who are interested in the great diversity of Mossi mask styles. Anyone who has read any of my publications since 1976 knows that the idea of one tribe one style certainly does not apply to the Mossi: thus the title “One Tribe One Style: A Text With an Agenda”.

“The Mossi are made up of several peoples, all of whom were conquered in 1500 A.D. by invading horsemen from the south. This resulted in a variety of styles, based on the locations of each of those conquered peoples.   In addition the Mossi create political art in the form of figures and spiritual art in the form of masks. The result is a great diversity of object types and styles.

“You can find my YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/CDROYburkina look for “One Tribe One Style: A Text With an Agenda”. Of course the YouTube presentation includes numerous slides and videos of objects in each of the styles being used in village context.

“I think it would be very interesting if more scholars of African art put some material  on their own areas of expertise on YouTube to make it available for us to use in our classes. YouTube makes it possible not only to use narration–that is text– but also to use video, and slides.”

Please leave any comments or questions and these can be passed onto Professor Roy.

Mask of the Spring Water: Dance as a Source of Culture in Africa

KALLVATTNETS MASK was first published in Swedish in 1983; and this is the first English translation, by Rachelle Puryear and Hakar Lovgren. The author, Birgit Akesson (1908-2001) was a legendary figure, an innovative modern dancer and choreographer, and a teacher and researcher. This is her very personal documentation of traditional African dance in a number of societies in East, West and Central Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. She travelled extensively in Africa, with stays in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and the Republic of Congo. She presents a unique body of material, analysed from her special vantage point. Her search for the essence of dance, the source beyond language or expression that was universal for true dance, had its point of departure in dance as an essential part of human existence. In opposition to many art historians, anthropologists and ethnologists, she experienced the dance, the masks, the music and the social interaction as intrinsic elements of a totality. In many instances, what she was allowed to see then may no longer exist, making her observations a valuable historical record of the state of traditional African dance in the mid-1900s.

For more information about this publication or to purchase it from the African Books Collective click here.

ONLINE VIDEOS: Art and Life in Africa

Christopher D. Roy, Professor of Art History at the University of Iowa has started a Youtube channel at CDROYburkina which presents videos he and his colleagues have produced over the last decade while researching Art in West Africa. Currently these include:

African Art: Mask Performance in the Bwa Village of Boni
African art: The performance of a Mossi Bagba Diviner 2010
Art and Life in an African Village
African Art: Mask Performances in the Winiama Village of Ouri
African art : Masks Perform at a Funeral in a Mossi Village
African Art: Fulani Men Dance at the Gerewal Celebration in Niger

Professor Roy says of these resources: “I make these videos in the course of my research in West Africa. I travel with a driver and my friend and cameraman Abdoulaye Bamogo, or his uncle Jacob, through countries I have been visiting since 1970. I do not travel with a film crew, so I do not have a sound pole and separate audio recorder, nor do I have any of the other luxuries the videographers from National Geographic enjoy. If I traveled with a crew these videos would cost $249.50 each, instead of $24.95. I do not use a script, but I film what I see, as it happens, without any interference from me. Nothing is staged, no Africans are told how to act or what to wear. If an artist is stamping adinkra patterns on cloth next to a busy highway in Kumasi, you will hear the sound of passing traffic. I take pride in being able to find spectacular, authentic, traditional African art that is used or made in the same ways it has been for decades. I enjoy mask performances in Burkina Faso, royal funerals in Ghana, and beauty competitions in Niger. I am fascinated by potters in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Nigeria. I have been interested in African technology ever since I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ouagadougou from 1970-72, at the National Art Center. I enjoy seeing the innovative ways Africans make art.

“I believe strongly that the improvements in video technology in the past decade make it possible for scholars to make excellent videos that are very useful in their own classes, and are of interest to teachers, collectors, and students. For many years we were forced to depend on independent film makers or National Geographic to create films and videos we could use in our classes. These often did not present the ideas we wanted to communicate to our students. 16 mm. was excellent, but very expensive, you had to have a separate sound system and, if you wanted to do it right, a full camera crew. In the mid-1970s I had a Kodak super-8 film camera with sound that was useful but very limited, especially because the Kodak film cassettes were only eight minutes long. Then I had a VHS-C video camera, better quality, but still vastly inferior to 16 mm. film. Now we have digital video, and even high-definition digital. The quality of image and sound is outstanding, it is possible for a young scholar or a teacher to carry a small camera and make excellent images, and to do all the post-production editing on a personal computer. A high-quality professional camera is only marginally more expensive, still very portable, and the results are excellent.

“I also enjoy video footage my colleagues Abdoulaye Bamogo and Jacob Bamogo have made for me in Africa while I am at home in Iowa. Since 2001 I have left very good digital video cameras in Burkina for the Bamogos to use, and for Yacouba Bonde to use in Boni. If I am not there, they film on their own and mail me the tapes. I pay them very well indeed. I have trained them carefully, and they have learned very quickly. They are skilled at getting permission to film from people who might be reluctant were I there, and they are skilled with cameras. They are African, so they film what they find interesting, and they ask questions that they feel are important. I hope that to some extent this gives my videos an African voice.

“Finally, as you watch these videos, you will be seeing performances that took place a month ago, a year ago, or at the earliest in 2001. These videos make it abundantly clear that “Contemporary African Art” includes the superb masks and figures, music, pottery, textiles, and other media that we have enjoyed for decades, and which you see in my videos. Art is still very much alive and important in the lives of many Africans, and it is still very possible for scholars, as well as casual visitors to Africa, to see and enjoy traditional art in the communities for which it was created.

“If you subscribe to my channel CDROYburkina you will be notified when I add new videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/CDROYburkina

“I would love a bit of feedback from those of you who look at these: are they useful, do I need something else, are they too short or too long, should I add more, should I add voice over narration…?”

More related resources can be viewed on the pages of the Art and Life in Africa Project: http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/