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Caribbean, Africa: The concept of fine art?

Afro-Caribbean musician Rasheed Ali ponders the question: what is the concept of fine art in Africa? “For western thinkers and art collectors there may be a sense that these arts pieces are devalued by there sameness. Yet upon further examination we find that the style of many art pieces has been ritiualized over time.”

1 comment

  • It is always a bit difficult to apply western terms like “fine art” to African art without being judgmental or arbitrary. Until recently, the concept of “fine art” created just for contemplation outside of practical applications or religious use was very uncommon in most african cultures, as opposed to “fine art” in other traditions. So today an African piece of “fine art” is one that is evaluated and experienced outside of its cultural and social context and found to be beautiful and beautifully made, lyrical or evocative or historically significant by western contemporary standards.

    Many outstanding masks and African objects in museums today are displayed with skimpy reference to their context, stripped of clothing and ornamentation what would have been worn along with the object when used and seen in its original environment. In addition to that, the general public cannot place them stylistically and cohesively among other objects from the same period.
    African artists today are developing new expressions and styles that are not so closely tied to everyday objects, religious rituals and regional specialties. They seamlessly incorporate western artistic techniques and reference current world events like strife, globalization, women’s issues. They will define a new standard for “fine African art” going forward, for themselves.

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