Friday, January 11, 2008

Doing the ''culture-improvement'' rounds

I visited the Brooklyn museum on Wednesday. It is huge. I was only able to view two exhibitions from the African section, and a new show of American ''impressionists'' exhibiting water color traditions between the 18th century to the 20th century.
As I strolled leisurely through the African exhibition all I could think was that these works were ''stolen'' from my continent. Those thoughts deemed the pleasure of my ''viewing'' considerably. But I was also proud to identify with these works of exquisite beauty and craftsmanship from Mali, Togo, Nigeria, Gabon, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, DRC, Congo Brazaville, Liberia, Sierra leone, South Africa, Angola, Namibia and Zambia.
It also made me wonder why in West Africa particularly, we are not able to boast of these kinds of institutions where the best of our national creative treasures should be displayed. Instead we have to go to museums in America and Europe to view our artistic and cultural legacy. I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of African governments, for not recognising and appreciating the value of creating a home where our arts and cultures can be preserved for posterity, and as a link between past and future generations.


Thomas Blaser said...

Appiah wrote an insightful essay on this theme in the NYRB. And not only African politicians, but also rich people from these countries deserve blame. I know of only one, unfortunately shady, businessman in Angola who invested largely in art. What do the other rich people do for African art? And also the arrogance of European collectors continues. One very important Swiss collector loves to emphasize how threatening 'Islamism' in Nigeria (and worldwide)is of African art and hence all is well with the status quo. Much more will, creativity and sensitivity is needed.

Ijeoma Uche-Okeke said...

Hi there Thomas,
Thank you for your comment. Your questions really got me thinking. The art world is as political as all other sectors, I think even more so than is apparent on the surface. For so long the West has dictated what ''world art'' is. The acceptance of the existence of an African contemporary art movement is very slow in coming. But I think it has at least become acknowledged. The question asked by the West now is ''does it compare to our concept of contemporary art?'' Interesting isn't it?