|It’s time to indigenise African art|
|Friday, 21 September 2012 00:00|
History was presented as an attempt by the hegemonies to control the consciousness of the subjugated African and to create an environment that would build a body of knowledge only beneficial to the continued perpetuation of their supremacy and to the continued misunderstanding and commercial exploitation of the African artist. Ownership of intellectual space was a preserve of Occidental scholars.
Even following the end of the imperial colonisation of the continent, the meaning and significance of African culture and art were subject to the sovereignty of European interpretations and their perceived albeit antediluvian anthropological ownership of African culture.
Even in this new millennium, white-European and American scholars continue their misinterpretation of newly independent post-colonial artist’s work and continue re-inventing their own version of African contemporary art and culture whilst thriving to own our intellectual space.
It must be known that African art; especially its contemporary manifestations are a huge cultural phenomenon. By virtue of its size, magnitude, multiple facets, and clusters of indigenous and hybrid African people resulting from clan-intermarriages, any honest attempt by an outsider to interpret our art is like trying to unpick a Rubric maze. The answer to these anomalies is for African art scholars is to articulate, document and disseminate the history, ethos and intentions whilst simultaneously garnering the ownership of their art and taking it back to its original roots.
The closure of many private former white-owned galleries and art institutions in Zimbabwe, between 2007-2012, should be seen as a clarion call for indigenous artists to re-think and create alternative spaces to exhibit, discuss and record their artworks, in order to present those to their specific local populace.
The era of foraging for foreign buyers, tourists and collectors, should be a thing of the past. Authentic Zimbabwean artists need to reflect on their role in shaping their own socio-cultural urban environment, by liberating art from its Western commoditisation and reasserting its role as a mediator in society. Perhaps it is time for Zimbabwe to explore new ways of exhibiting and bringing art to the people via television broadcasts, DVD documentaries, and other electronic media so as to reach the homes of the domestic audiences. An alternative mode of communication would be the utilisation of civic spaces to perform and display our wares independently.
Visual art is a citadel of our culture. Commercial galleries need to geld the importance of using their spaces as money-making institutions and instead use them as venues for cultural exchange, education and the dissemination of information, relating to the history, aesthetics and sociology of the Nation.
Perhaps the idea of erasing the commercial aspects of art is what will make us historically relevant as Zimbabweans.
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Post-Modern Art Theory and a Doctorate in Business Administration( DBA) in Post-Colonial Art and Heritage Studies, Law and Art Diploma from Georgetown University, Washington, DC, and worked with WALA (Washington Area Lawyers Association). He is also a practising artist, art critic, designer and corporate image consultant.