Africa Film WebMeeting

Message from: Katerina Papadatou (
About: Re: Is the message corrupting......

Thu, 11 Apr 1996 09:01:56 -0400

Originally from: Katerina Papadatou <>
Originally dated: Thu, 11 Apr 1996 09:01:56 -0400

Hi everybody, Hi Muhonjia,

Well, I would like to continue the debate by bringing up some ideas about
art in general and the african case in particular.
So since human beings exist in this world there is expression in the form of
"art". It is obvious that the notion of art as we understand it now, didn't
exist in previous centuries. Furthermore, I would like to refer to the
cultural element of art, that means that different cultures define art in a
different way. To illustrate this I give one example: there is a unique
exhibition of "African Art" at the moment in Berlin, Germany. (By the way,
this exhibition, unique in its kind has come here from London and after May
is supposed to travel to New York, USA, at Guggenheim Art Museum, so all of
you New-York residents, don't miss this chance!!!). So to return back to
this exhibition and the notion of art... It is obvious to me that the
african "artists" (sculptors, woodcarvers e.t.c) were not conscious of
themselves as being artists by the western definition of the term. They were
creating utensils that were used in the everyday life, in rituals, or were
orders from or to the honor of kings, chiefs etc depending on the form of
the social organization of the particular community / society. The fact that
in the West this is considered art, at least by some art critics, poses
several problems. So in order not to go too far, I would suggest that in the
traditional african or even european societies there were objects created
and the artist was carrying the "tradition" (forms, aesthetic, content)
through his talent from generation to generation.
I had the chance to discuss this matter with some Senoufo woodcarvers at
Korhogo, Ivory Coast. And I was amazed to find out the strict rules with
which this continuity of tradition is established and followed. On the other
hand we see in Africa, specially after the independence of the majority of
the ex-colonies (end of 50s begining of 60s) a wave of "artistic creations"
that were politically and socially enganged, they had a cause to propagate
or to defend. The best examples are the films of Ousmane Semb=E8ne of=
Semb=E8ne himself considered cinema an "evening school". His and many other
artists' intention was to educate, awaken consciousnesses, built up
identities. In these so called didactic films, there was a clearly
formulated message and intention transported by means of filmic language.
There are similar examples in painting etc. =20

Having this in mind I would suggest that the "artist" is leaving in a
particular society and is influenced and formed by it. On the other hand
there were always influences from other societies and the last centuries
through different ideologies. The self-understanding of the artist is a very
individual affair that consists of the biography, origins, influences etc of
this particular person. Through history of mankind there were always
"values" to serve, propagate and if necessary defend. The artist in the
western conception of the term is a sensitive receptor of what is happening
around him and his work a subjective reflection of the same.=20
So, I think I better stop for now, but I would like to come back to the
debate ?? 'tradition-modernism" at some other occasion.=20


K. P.

Katerina Papadatou

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