1 minute read

Arts

AfricaThe Paradox Of Modernism

As is well known, European colonization of a good part of Africa between the late nineteenth century and the mid-1970s resulted in the imposition of European values. It also disrupted the social order, precipitating metamorphic changes. Having discredited African art as "primitive" and as "fetishes," colonial administrators introduced a new art education program, stressing naturalism and art for art's sake. At first talented Africans were encouraged to go to Europe for further training, but by the late 1930s European-type art departments had been established at Achimota College, Gold Coast (now Ghana), and Makarere College, Uganda. Others were introduced in the 1940s and 1950s in Senegal, Nigeria, Republic of Sudan, and Congo-Leopoldville (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). The paradox is that colonialism foisted European-type naturalism on Africa, touting it as "modern art" at the same time as the leading modern European artists were being inspired by African stylization. Conversely, "modernism" had different implications in Africa and Europe during the colonial period, denoting naturalism in the former and stylization/abstraction in the latter.

Dissatisfied with this paradox, some European expatriates in Africa initiated an alternative modernism—a conceptual art that would evoke the spirit of African art without necessarily imitating its forms. They established informal art workshops where individuals without previous art training could create freely, emphasizing genre and folkloric themes. These workshops include L'Academie de l'Art Populaire Congolais, Elizabethville (now Lubumbashi), Democratic Republic of Congo (founded in 1946 by Pierre Romain Desfosses); the Poto-Poto School of Art, Brazzaville, Peoples Republic of Congo (founded in 1951 by Pierre Lods); the Central African Workshop, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) (founded in the late 1950s by Frank McEwen); the Lourenço Marques Workshop, Mozambique (founded in 1960 by Amancio Guedes); and the Oshogbo Workshop, Oshogbo, Nigeria (founded in 1962 by Ulli Beier). The graduates of these workshops created images ranging from the realistic and surrealistic to the expressionistic and abstract. Some were very original while others were derivative, reflecting influences from European modernism, or what Marshall Mount describes as "a rather condescending Western stereotype of what African painting should be" (p. 75).

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Anticolonialism in Southeast Asia - Categories And Features Of Anticolonialism to Ascorbic acidArts - Africa - The Myth Of Primitivism, Functionalism, Structuralism, And "one Tribe, One Style", Beyond Sub-saharan African Art