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Aesthetics in Africa

Aesthetic Discourse, Cross-cultural Thematics, Aesthetics On The Move, Bibliography

Africa has more than two thousand languages, representing several thousand cultures, each with its own system of logic. No single aesthetic philosophy characterizes the continent, and any concept of a coherent "Africa" is arbitrary, given such extraordinary diversity. Furthermore, a given culture may possess several aesthetic discourses, as may any artistic genre. Globalization complicates matters even more, for one cannot discuss the aesthetics of contemporary African artists without considering transnational paradigms and hybrid visions.

Given such complexities, how can one propose any comprehensive notion of African aesthetics? One may consider key aesthetic concepts of a particular group, such as the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria, to demonstrate the specificity of aesthetics. Other revealing themes are aesthetic experiences crossing the boundaries of "traditional" African societies; the efficacy, concealment, and revelations of African arts; a common aesthetic of accumulation and process; and the performativity and polysemy of African expression. Finally, colonial and postcolonial aesthetic encounters are relevant to a discussion of how changing aesthetics shape present concerns.

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