1. A white person.
Used esp. in the context of interactions between black and white
Now often derog. or ironic, esp. as used by black writers.
2. White people collectively.
3. As a term of address: 'white person'.
1. Of a person: white.
2. Of or pertaining to white people.
A dictionary of South African English on historical principles,
Oxford University Press, 1996, pp.466-467.'The old biological model of birth, flowering, decay, and death imposes on culture not only an order that is seldom there but also, in this case, the strong temptation to identify the onset of "decay" with the onset of colonialism. This is the historicist flaw in the authenticity test used to construct the canon of African art.' Sidney Kasfir1
The book The Mlungu in Africa: art from the colonial period, 1840-1940 explores African art that engages with the presence of Europeans in the 'contact zones'2 and colonial states in sub-Saharan Africa.3 Such works transgress conventional categories and display a cross-cultural hybridisation of styles, techniques and imagery. They illustrate the dynamic and creative role of African artists in negotiating European and African identities in times when realities were rapidly altering and evolving. We presume that most such works were expressly made to be sold to Europeans although there are instances where pieces in this broad genre were retained for symbolic use.
Almost all the works reproduced in the book are figurative and carved by men in wood and ivory (aside from a few bronzes and ceramics). The imagery tends to revolve around stereotypical perceptions, and the subjects are usually immediately recognisable as African men or women from a specific region, or European role players of the time such as leaders, explorers, soldiers, missionaries, traders, colonial officials, teachers and lawmakers in their various guises. To accentuate the character of these portrayals, the sculptures often incorporate objects closely associated with Europeans - guns, chairs, padlocks, pith helmets, hats, bicycles and pipes - or easily recognizable items of African material culture. The assimilation of these stereotypical accessories into local iconography was often rapid, even in areas far removed from daily exposure to Europeans: a traveller among the Makonde of Tanzania in the early 1950s amusingly describes a dance ceremony in which a dancer on stilts
'came prancing into an arena wearing a mask of none other than "Kwini Elizabethi Yapili wa Waingilesa" - Queen Elizabeth the Second of England. The Queen was referred to by name, and though the mask itself was no flattering work of art, there was no doubt whom it was supposed to represent from the crown on its head ... In another village I saw a similar dance performed in which an "American sailor", heavily ornamented with Makonde markings, was a central figure. This occurred shortly after a US Naval ship had put in at Mtwara on the Tanganyika coast ... All these masks, whether the Queen, an American sailor, missionaries, ugly Portuguese policemen, or neighbouring tribesmen, were treated with the same reverence and fear by the Makonde people.'4
There are two such masks (no.37) in the book and, like most of the pieces in this collection, they reflect the mixed responses of carvers working at the intersection of cultures. Such encounters were marked by misconception, fear and admiration, and, as Julius Lips wrote in the introduction of the first book on the subject (published in 1937), The savage hits back or the white man through native eyes: 'the work ... recorded their comment with censure, buffoonery, astonishment, misunderstanding. 5 What were the thoughts in the mind of the carver of the pair of Ovimbundu figures with explicit genitalia (no.40) or the Loango ivories of European men fondling African women (nos. 2 and 6)? Or, in a more humorous mode, the portraits of colonials carved in West Africa, particularly by Thomas Ona (no.56)? As these rhetorical questions illustrate, our selection for this book seeks to counterbalance the nostalgic and amusing images of Africans and Europeans in exotic settings with works that reflect the harsh realities of the impact of Europeans in Africa.
The selected pieces fall within the timeframe of a century: from about 1840 to the outbreak of the Second World War.6 The advent of mass tourism and the independence of African states resulted in dramatic shifts in style and subject in this genre right across Africa and, consequently, 1940 is our approximate cut-off date. However, art of this nature has its own tradition which far pre-dates this period. Benin bronzes incorporated many references to the Portuguese in their iconography from the sixteenth century onwards7. Perhaps even more renowned are the Afro-Portuguese ivory carvings produced in Guinea and on the Congo coast at the end of the fifteenth century as gifts or for sale to the Portuguese who were seeking a route around Africa. These works were regarded as some of the greatest treasures of the Kunstkammers and European courtly collections and remain, along with Benin bronzes, cornerstones of the canon of African art. The tradition of carving in ivory, specifically in the region of the mouth of the Kongo river on the Loango coast, continued well into the nineteenth century, and such pieces are illustrated in the opening pages of this book (nos.1-8). Their imagery vividly depicts the interactions around the trade in slaves, ivory and rubber through coastal trading stations.
Most of the pieces reproduced here originate from regions in which the
British and Portuguese played out their imperialist ambitions. Their efforts in establishing colonies pre-dated those of France, Belgium, Italy and Germany. Consequently, Africans were more familiar with (and hostile to) Europeans in the British and Portuguese colonies than was the case elsewhere in Africa. These long-standing encounters repeatedly found expression in carvings, especially in regions that had pronounced traditions of figurative carving such as West Africa and Angola, but interestingly also in regions that did not have these traditions such as south-east Africa.8 However, in regions such as the Congo basin, which was colonised by King Leopold of Belgium in the 1880s, cross-cultural figurative pieces were not as widely produced for sale, even though the area had a rich and sophisticated tradition of figurative carving. A reason for this may be related to the fact that the expectations of the Europeans with regard to art in this region were strongly coloured by the myths of 'dark' Africa, and as a result they tended to focus on masks and figures used in ritual ceremonies which the carvers began to produce commercially (and still produce in great quantities) to meet this demand.9
This point raises the significant issue that there is often no clear-cut distinction between pieces made solely for indigenous consumption versus those produced for sale to outsiders. It is an issue of particular relevance to many pieces in the collection, and a theme that should be more readily discussed in relation to almost all African art which was collected during the colonial period (and subsequently). Sidney Kasfir, who is perhaps the most perceptive observer of so-called cross-cultural art from Africa,10 makes the important point that we should not over-simplify the 'ethnographic complexity of the encounter between artist and audience'. In her opinion, discussions about African art produced for sale to external markets seldom acknowledge the 'highly contingent and often somewhat blurred realities of cultural practice'.11 In the new economic order dictated by colonialism, the sale of objects to Europeans was one amongst the many adaptive strategies adopted by Africans to generate income. The complexity of this exchange, with its asymmetrical relationships and inequalities in class and race, especially during the colonial period when the social and economic order was in a state of flux, was (and is) often misunderstood. In addition, the dynamics of the trade between African communities themselves are not generally acknowledged.
These factors contribute to a prevailing assumption about the homogeneity and insularity of African societies in the minds of many Western collectors who believe that 'authentic' and 'traditional' African art was produced in a society that had not been in contact with Europeans. Such assumptions entwining the authenticity of African art with the isolation of communitieshave long since been debunked by historians on the grounds that - except for a few isolated communities such as the Easter Islanders and some Inuit/Eskimo and Amazon Indian groups - almost all societies in the new world have experienced some engagement with Europeans over the past few centuries. For example, even though European maps of Africa beyond the hinterland remained blank until the mid-nineteenth century, the indigenous societies were invariably already aware - through the network of slavery and trade - of Europeans and their ambitions.12 As Lszl- Magyar (1818- 1864), a Hungarian explorer who arrived on the Angolan coast in 1848 noted,
'During my stay here, I had occasion to confirm the enormous profits yielded by African inland trade (slaves, ivory, rubber, urzella, wax, etc.); equally I heard from reliable men that some 80 or 90 nautical miles inland, [that] ... although the inhabitants are pagans, as a result of extensive trade in the centre of Africa, they are in contact with all countries, being cosmopolitans by nature, they accept newcomers; they are brave travellers and clever elephant hunters.'13
Kasfir is adamant that the construct of 'authentic' African art advocated
by the art establishment is contradictory, and undermines any meaningful attempt to understand the objects. She makes the point that, ironically, what we could call canonical African art was, and is, only produced under condi-tions that ought to preclude the very act of collecting. One 'cannot escape the internal contradiction in the working definition of authenticity - namely that it excludes "contamination" while at the same time requiring it in the form of the collector'.14 Ruth Phillips, writing on souvenir art from the north-east region of North America between 1700-1900, further argues that the debates about authenticity marginalise not only the objects but also the makers, reducing them to a ghostly presence in the modern world rather than acknowledging their vigorous interventions in it:
'when commodified arts are excluded from art-historical research, we are deprived of a rich source of information about the processes by which transcultural aesthetic expressions emerge, processes that have operated throughout the centuries of contact and colonial rule ... Such exclusions, furthermore, silence not just the producers of these objects but also their consumers by failing to recognize the historical significance of the patronage of ordinary people. And, perhaps most seriously, in its disregard of community values the discourse of inauthenticity represents a failure of real respect for the pluralist aesthetics to which most of us now at least pay lip service.'15
The complex concept of 'strangers' and how images of Europeans have
been incorporated as such into the rituals in some African societies is explored in Fritz W Kramer's The red fez. Some of the examples in this collection of 'outsiders' representing a stranger or foreigner in indigenous value system and rituals16 are the Baule figure (no.45) and the Cameroon bronze pipe (no.49), both of which were probably made for local use rather than expressly crafted for sale to Europeans. Kramer makes the valid point that
'Just as Europeans since antiquity have created an image of the savage which, even if it has assumed differing forms from one epoch to another, has always acted as a counterpart to their own culture and civilisation, African societies have also devised their own respective inversions and counterparts which have helped them articulate their sense of self and determine their political and ritual practices.'17
The Europeans in Africa obviously differed enormously in nationality, class and status, and it is debatable if all Europeans were categorised as one and the same type of stranger. The reasons for their travels varied and included trade, missionary work, colonial administration and scientific endeavour. The assumption that Africans collapsed the individualities of these many personas into one stereotype of a European limits our understanding of how diverse strangers were acknowledged in varying ways in different times and places. Furthermore, the 'strangers' in Africa were not only European and/or Christian; they could be African persons from other regions or ethnic identities, or Moslem Arabs (or even Africans of the Islamic faith). The references to Europeans are usually more easily recognisable because of the noticeable cultural differences between European 'strangers' and members of African society. However, African art is replete with references to other less obvious alien identities. In addition, the presence of a stranger may not only be inferred through visual imagery but may also be more subtly sensed in the introduction of new technologies and materials.
There is perhaps no specific term that appropriately describes the genre
of African art that is the focus of this book. Often such pieces have been referred to as Colons, a term that French and German collectors tend to use to describe carvings of Europeans or colonials (which have often been produced specifically to meet the new-found interest in representations of Europeans). Yet in this instance the term is too narrow as there are numerous pieces included that are not depictions of Europeans, and there are none of the polychrome West African figures that are the backbone of that taste in collecting. Another term often used is 'tourist art' which first came into use in the 1950s - along with the phrase 'airport art' - to describe African art produced expressly to be sold to tourists. In terms of this selection, it is a problematic phrase because the expression is generally used in relation to mass tourism, which stimulated the mass production of the carvings. However, almost all the pieces included here were carved prior to the establishment of such a sustained industry which did not develop in most parts of Africa - except in certain regions in south18 and east Africa - until the onset of the era of jet travel in the 1950s.19 Another awkward aspect of the expression 'tourist art' is the implicit value judgement inherent in its widespread usage. Words such as 'mass production' and 'repetitive forms' are not generally associated with 'art', and the prevailing assumption is that pieces produced expressly for sale to outsiders lack integrity and aesthetic significance.20 All these problematic aspects of the term are intricately described by Kasfir:
'it is a richly layered example of how the West has invented meaning (and in this case denied authenticity) in African art. Without Western patronage it would not exist. It is a Marxist's nightmare, hegemonic appropriation gone wild. But what actually is "it"? The rubric "tourist art" seems to include all art made to be sold that does not conveniently fit into other classifications. It is easier to state what it excludes: "international" art made by professionally trained artists and sold within the gallery circuit, "traditional" art made for an indigenous community, and "popular" art that is non-traditional but is also sold to, performed for, or displayed to "the people" ... But by assigning everything else under one classificatory, and inevitably dismissive, label, Western art museums and galleries cause all other "unassigned" forms to become invisible, to fall through the canonical sieve.'21
Another term used in relation to these carvings is 'souvenirs', which are generally thought of as objects providing a tangible link with a past experience. Souvenirs serve as a repository of memories of places or people, usually in a distant land. Almost all the works included in this book were acquired in Europe which suggests that they were taken or sent from Africa by officials, traders, travellers, and missionaries, etc, as reminders of their encounters on the continent. Consequently, these works can be classed as souvenirs but, in some respects, this term is inadequate because it emphasises the relationship between the consumer and the object, and ignores the connection between the maker and the object.
Another restrictive connotation is the association of the terms 'souvenir' and 'tourist art' with objects of European material culture produced by Africans, for instance, beaded handbags and wastepaper baskets, often made using their traditional techniques.22 Relatively few such objects - for example, the carved table and mirror frame made in West Africa in the 1920s (nos.58-59) and walking sticks carved in south-east Africa circa 1880-1920 (nos.18-25) - were produced in sub-Saharan Africa prior to the second half of the twentieth century. (However, they were widely made in other parts of the world, even in the nineteenth century, and most obviously by native American). In
Africa, it was generally in the period of high colonialism in the first third of the twentieth century that projects were initiated to influence the manufacture of such objects of material culture for sale outside the indigenous society. (Missionaries influenced traditional crafts much earlier in South Africa, although examples of their industry have rarely survived23). By 1924, when the British Empire Exhibition was held in London, there were a great number of items submitted by missionary schools and colleges which were made by African people specifically for European consumption and whose form and function were determined by European tastes. These included, 'A teak frame by a Native carpenter', 'Teak cigar and cigarette box by a Native carpenter', 'Native-made Hunting crop', 'Native-made nut cracker' and 'Native-made sandals', etc.24 Later colonial initiatives were not always as patronising and tended belatedly to acknowledge the indigenous knowledge, skills and aesthetics;25 they often emphasised by adapting indigenous techniques and materials rather than discarding them.26 An unusually reflective perspective on European efforts to direct the industry of African people is to be found in H V Meyerowitz's A report on the possibilities of the development of village crafts in Basutoland, (Morija, 1936): he wrote of the tendency
'to judge the work of other people by our own standard of taste. At the same time we over-estimate the importance of the individual artist and overlook the talents or genius of the community in which he lives ... Their art is just as valuable as ours and we at present are the ones who sit in "glass houses" and should throw no stones.'(pp.4-5)
Consequently, the terminology that is usually resorted to in classifying
and describing these works is imperfect in many respects. The narrow categorisations and generalisations limit our understanding of the range of meanings the carvings carry in the narrative of European imperialism in Africa. To appreciate the rich cross-cultural references in these works, the stereo-typical perceptions of the encounters between Europeans and Africans need to be challenged. This has already occurred in recent African historiography but the classification of African art seldom reflects such shifts in thinking. As Terence Ranger has observed,
'Both whites and blacks in Africa need to be seen as human beings, each with a fully human capacity for heroism and villainy and mediocrity. And one cannot see either whites or blacks as fully human in the framework of conventional colonial historiography, where white humanity is distorted by the burden of power, and black humanity is distorted by the image of submission.'27
African perspectives on pieces such as these are seldom known, partly be-cause the viewpoints of the carvers and their societies are obscured from us by vast distances in time and place.28 In almost all instances, these works were not of interest to anthropologists who tended to focus on documenting the so-called traditional material culture and sculpture of African societies. Early travellers, soldiers and colonial officials also seldom thought the theme worthy of mention in their memoirs. As a result, explicit records that provide a sense of the persona of an African carver are rare, and the implicit attitudes embedded in these works are often the only means of sensing an African perspective. Clementine Deliss articulates this theme further and advocates a more encompassing approach to interpreting these works:
'we in the West who have ruthlessly collected these objects cannot provide the "true" interpretation of them. How we see them, understand them and classify them is not how they were intended to be viewed and interpreted in the first instance. The objects illustrate different moments in the historical perceptions of people who were subjected at various times and in various forms to European culture and identity. Rather than accept one interpretation, for them it seems wiser to take several into account, thereby suspending the notion of a single validating rationalization which amounts to the real reason for their existence. It then becomes possible to view these objects as participatory elements in a trade of identities.'29
One of the rare instances where an extended anecdote about a carver work-ing in the genre is recorded is Henri Junod's account of meeting the carver Muhlati in Mozambique in the 1890s (see no.13). It is worthy of quoting at length to illustrate the perceptions of the time from both perspectives. In this narrative, it is clear that Muhlati was working specifically for Europeans whowould probably return to Europe with his carvings. He was also well aware of his skill in carving and commanded prices which were perceived as 'high'. It is clear that Junod was ambiguous about Muhlati's ingenuity and creativity as a carver and found it difficult to reconcile the fact that an African carver could produce such work without the stimulus and demand provided by Europeans:
'The finest specimen of Native art that I ever saw is the carving of a huge panther about to devour a human being, the work of Muhlati, a sculptor living in the neighbourhood of Loureno Marques. This artist, who was very proud of his work, and asked a tolerably high price for it, claimed to be able to carve anything and everything: birds, four-footed beasts, or men. He was famous throughout the land for his talent. Nothing more quaint could be imagined than this large spotted creature, (the spots being obtained as usual by burning with a hot iron), planting his claws into the flesh of a man, (an Englishman, I was told by the inspired author of this group!), and glaring at him with two great round eyes, not very symmetrical. With touching forethought, this modern Phidias has made the posterior half of the tail quite independent of the rest of the animal. A tenon and circular socket allow the caudal appendage to be so neatly adjusted that the joint is hardly visible! Muhlati told me how the idea of a removable tail had occurred to him. He thought that if ever his masterpiece had to be packed up and cross the ocean, it would be more easily cased. This can hardly be called the idea of a savage! Besides, the work itself would never have been accomplished had there been no Whites in this country. Evidently the sculptor, indolent like all his race, would not have worked day in and day out at carving such an animal as a plaything for his children. He concluded that his talent might well bring him in some money; it was mercenary considerations that urged him on to the execution of the work, and no mere love of art; nevertheless I do not believe any foreign influence was exercised in the conception of the idea. His group is absolutely original, and, as such, shows us to what lengths the sculptural talent of the Baronga can go.'30
The Nigerian carver Thomas Ona's (see no.56) intentions have also been recorded in passing. It is claimed that he was 'not trying to express resentment against the British rulers of Nigeria either directly or indirectly. He was most interested in the statuses and roles of Nigerian society ... He was especially concerned with the insignia of status, giving the Polo Player his number, the King his beaded crown, and the Captain his three pips.'31
The one region in Africa where works produced in response to colonialism are accepted as 'authentic,' and the artistry of the carvers is widely acknowledged, is southern Africa. As Anitra Nettleton concluded in an essay written more than a decade ago on tradition, authenticity and tourist sculpture in South Africa during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, 'The styles are not based on ethnic divisions, they have more to do with social relations and market forces, and it is time to admit that so-called "tourist" art is as "genuine" a response to social realities as any other art'.32 The reasons for such frank and refreshing perspectives are complex but include the fact that the art of southern Africa was generally neglected until the last two decades and fell outside the strictures of taste that governed 'classic' African art. Thus, the prejudices that tended to dismiss art of the colonial era from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa were not entrenched, and recent revision of the traditional approaches to African art history have been concurrent to the rediscovery of the art of this region. A further issue that indirectly contributed to an interest in this genre of art from the area is, ironically, the ingrained Western taste for figurative pieces. In southern Africa, where there has been only a very limited tradition of indigenous figurative carving, often the only figurative pieces available are those carved for sale to Europeans. Another contributing factor is the fact that colonialism dominated the region earlier than in most of sub-Saharan Africa. A steady stream of explorers, hunters, missionaries and colonial officials advanced into the interior from South African towns, and hundreds of European soldiers passed through its ports. As a result, objects were produced for sale to European visitors from a relatively early date, often alongside, and sometimes integrated with, the tradition of making objects for consumption within the indigenous societies.33 The patina of age invariably adds some respectability in the eyes of the art world, even if the subject has been 'tainted' by European colonialism.
Even though this aspect of African art has been relatively neglected, advances have been made in identifying a number of different hands in art produced in response to colonialism. In the early stages of this genre, before styles became formulaic and generic, the stylistic characteristics of particular carvers are often clearly evident. In this respect, the work of some carvers who worked in south-east Africa in the late nineteenth century has been identified and art historians are constructing their oeuvres. For example, in this book, works are ascribed to Muhlati (no.13), staffs and figures are attributed to the 'Baboon Master' (no.11) and the 'Carver of the Pitt Rivers' pair of figures' in the Brenthurst collection (no.12). The identity of the father of the Kamba school of carving, Mutisya Munge, is well known and he occasionally signed hisworks (no.38a). The Yoruba artist Thomas Ona's individualistic treatment of colonial figures has long been recognised (no.56). The identities of some African ceramicists are also slowly emerging. One example is the potter Voania who was productive in the first decades of the twentieth century until his death in 1928 in the village of Woyo in the Congo.34 He usually signed his figures of colonials and African chiefs and other personages, which identified his work for outsiders. Another case in point is Mbitim, an Azande potter who worked at Luarangu in southern Sudan.35 These advances in identifying individual artists represents a significant shift in our perception of African art because as Kasfir has explained, the
'insistence on the anonymity of African artists denies its individuality. Far from seeing this anonymity as a result of the way African art is usually collected in the first place - stolen or negotiated through the mediation of traders or other outsiders - we have come to accept it as part of the art's canonical character. The nameless artist has been explained as a necessary precondition to authenticity, a footnote to the concept of "tribal style" that he has the power neither to resist or change.'36
However, the advances that have been made in researching this aspect of African art are still in their infancy. As compared with the mass of books that have been, and continue to be, published on African art, there remains a paucity of published material on cross-cultural work produced in response to the presence of Europeans. Lips' book published in 1937 surveyed African, Oceanic and Native American portrayals of Europeans, and remains an important resource, especially for the many reproductions. His perspective on the subject is fascinating because he was also an outsider - a Jew in Germany in the early 1930s - which imbues his work with a critical stance against power and dominance. As he wrote in the introduction:
'The unknown artist should have his say at last ... I set to work to assemble a collection of pictures which would speak for this unknown artist, since for the most part he has no other writing. This would be his opportunity to take vengeance upon his colonizer, or to honour the white man's mode of living and blend it with the magic of his own ideas ... The savage hits back.'37
Even though some of Lips' theoretical approaches are now considered idiosyncratic, it still is one of the most extensive and encompassing publications on the subject. The next book devoted to this subject appeared more than thirty years later - The exotic white man: an alien in Asian and African art(1969) by Cottie A Burland - but it is a very general and broad overview on the subject and lacks incisiveness. A seminal publication was edited by N H H Graburn, Ethnic and tourist arts: cultural expressions from the Fourth World (1976) which approaches the subject from anthropological and sociological perspectives, and mostly focuses on contemporary developments of the genre. Subsequent to this, there have been an increasing number of researchers exploring the so-called commodification of traditional art forms that straddle cultures, and the recent publication, Unpacking culture: art and commodity in colonial and postcolonial worlds (1999), edited by Ruth B Phillips and Christopher B Steiner, richly illustrates the parallels in cultures across the world of societies adapting to new social and economic orders. There have also been a number of surveys on the impact of Christianity on African art (which is generally outside the parameters of this book because such carvings were usually made for use by the church or mission).38 Aside from Kasfir, relatively few of these studies engage with the subject in a broad conceptual manner. In addition, only rarely do any of the studies approach the subject from a formal art historical perspective which would provide stylistic analysis and discussions about the iconography. The emphasis at this point remains on researching the socio-economic context in which the artists work or worked.
Museums have generally been reluctant to display African art specifically made for sale to outsiders in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. An interesting and early case in point is the acquisition by the Museo Nazionale Preistorico ed Etnografico Luigi Pigorini in Rome of a collection of ethno-graphic artefacts assembled by the explorer Giuseppe Corono in 1887 in West Africa, mainly in Calabar and near the mouth of the Congo River. The collection, acquired in 1889 on the basis of photographs, was later declared unsatisfactory because some of the pieces were made expressly to be sold to Europeans. Pigorini, who was the founder and director of the museum, noted that he acquired the collection on condition that
'each object bear unequivocal signs of having been used by the natives from who it originated, thus excluding the possibility that it [the collection] might consist of materials produced along the coast to be sold to those who hunt for curios ... there are only twenty-five figures, and of these, eighteen cannot be accepted because they have never been used.'39
The situation has not changed meaningfully over the past century and there have been only a handful of exhibitions exploring the subject.40 These include 'The stranger among us' at the National Museum of African Art, Washington, in 1982,41 and the show Exotic Europeans curated by Clmentine Deliss, in London in 1991, which toured regional museums in Britain and included works from Africa, Asia and the Americas.42 The extent of the prejudice that lingers is illustrated by the conspicuous absence of such work from the enormous and extensive AFRICA 95 exhibition held at the Royal Academy in London in 199543 and thereafter at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. A very limited perspective on African art was presented, with the focus on the traditional taste of collectors, and concentrating on sacred and secular art and material culture, with almost no acknowledgement of the centuries of interaction between Africa and Europe. A similar state of mind is evident in the new British Museum Africa galleries and their accompanying handbook, which almost entirely ignores cross-cultural art, although they do offer a broader view encompassing material culture and costume as well as contemporary African art.44 As a result, they skirt the complexities of British colonialism that provided the impetus for the formation of their collection. One of the few enlightened museums to advocate a broader conception of African art has been the National Museum of African Art in Washington, yet their recently published handbook includes only a handful of pieces that illustrate the impact of colonialism.45
The disdain of institutions and collectors for such art is ironic because, like Western art, such pieces were mostly made to be sold. It would be extreme to suggest that such pieces were made by carvers with expectations that their work would be displayed as 'art' in Western collections because, unlike most African art many such works did not orginally have secular or sacred functions. Consequently, the shifts in classification that most African art has been subjected to - from material culture to ethnographic objects to 'art' - (as best described by James Clifford (1988),46 has not always occured to works of the genre illustrated in this book. Another ironic and obvious point is that the work of Modernist painters and sculptors who were inspired by African art is widely acknowledged and celebrated, yet the work of African artists which displays European influences is generally viewed as degenerate. However, meanings shift over time, and new generations of art historians, curators and collectors see the same objects with different perspectives. These carvings produced in response to the presence of Europeans in Africa will have a new life when the reality of cross-cultural encounters and the impact of colonialism on the art of Africa is more widely recognised and appreciated.
1 Sidney L Kasfir, 'African art and authenticity: a text with a shadow'. In (eds), Reading the contemporary: African art from theory to the marketplace, edited by O Oguibe and O Enwezor, London, 1999, p.93.
2 To use Mary Louise Pratt's descriptive phrase; see Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial eyes: travel writing and transculturation, London, 1992.
3 The shift in power and the status of Europeans existing in a frontier society can often be identified with a specific event. In South Africa a dramatic shift occurred with the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, in Zimbabwe it was around the time of the Matabele Rebellion in 1896-7, in West Africa when Benin was conquered in 1897, in the Sudan with the battle of Omdurman in 1898, in Namibia at the time of the genocide waged by the German army in 1904. In each of these regions the first encounters between Europeans and Africans were usually much earlier than the subsequent conflict and repression.
4 R Dick-Read, Sanamu, Adventures in search of African art, London, 1961, pp.60-1.
5 Julius E Lips, The Savage hits back on the white man through native eyes, London, 1937, p.xxi.
6 This period coincides with the frenzied European penetration into sub-Saharan Africa. At the time of the outbreak of the First World War, European countries had colonised the whole of sub-Saharan Africa except for Liberia and Ethiopia. For a history of European-African interactions prior to this period, see David Northrup, Africa's discovery of Europe 1450-1850, Oxford and New York, 2002.
7 See the catalogue by E Bassani and W Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance: art in ivory for an exhibition at the Center for African Art in New York in 1988. It included carved horns from the Kongo (present-day Republic of Congo) from the late fifteenth century; ivories which often incorporated European motifs from the Sapi culture (which flourished in present-day Sierra Leone) towards the end of the fifteenth century; and ivories which were produced for European export from the Benin Kingdom (in what is now Nigeria) in the first part of the sixteenth century.
8 The exceptions are the rarely seen initiation figures used by the Venda, Chopi, Tsonga, and South Sotho peoples.
9 See E Schildkrout, 'Personal styles and disciplinary paradigms: Frederick Starr and Herbert Lang'. In E Schildkrout and C A Keim (eds), The scramble for art in Central Africa, Cambridge, 1998, p.169-192.
10 See also Sidney L Kasfir, 'Taste and distaste: the canon of new African art', Transition, 2(3), no.57, pp.52-70 in which she reviews the exhibitions Closeup and Africa explores at the Center for African Art in New York.
11 Sidney L Kasfir, 'Samburu souvenirs: representations of a land in amber'. In Unpacking culture: art and commodity in colonial and postcolonial worlds, edited by Ruth B Phillips and Christopher B Steiner, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1999, p.67.
12 For an extensive discussion in relation to Europeans' first encounters with the Tswana people, see Jean and John Comaroff, 'Through the looking-glass: colonial encounters of the first kind', Journal of Historical Sociology, 1(1), March 1988, pp.6-32.
13 Quoted by Judith Listowel, The other Livingstone, Lewes, 1974, p.103.
14 Sidney L Kasfir, 'African art and authenticity: a text with a shadow'. In Reading the contemporary: African art from theory to the marketplace, edited by O Oguibe and O Enwezor, London, 1999, p.90.
15 Ruth B Phillips, Trading identities: the souvenir in Native North American art from the northeast, 1700-1900, Seattle, 1998, p.x.
16 See, amongst others, W A Shack and E P Skinner (eds), Strangers in African societies, Berkeley, 1979; Suzanne Preston Blier, 'Imaging otherness in ivory: African portrayals of the Portuguese ca. 1492', The Art Bulletin, LXXV, September 1993, pp.375-pp.396; and Herbert Cole, Icons, Washington, 1989.
17 Fritz W Kramer, The red fez: art and spirit possession in Africa, London and New York, 1993, p.2.
18 The first three retail and wholesale curio stores in Livingstone and Victoria Falls were established in 1910, 1912 and 1913. The establishment of the Victoria Falls as the major tourist attraction in the interior of southern Africa, which occurred early in the twentieth century, soon impacted on the tradition of carving in the region. See the little-known but comprehensive survey of carvers at the Victoria Falls in the 1960s: Bonnie B Keller, Wood carvers of Zambia, Special paper of the Livingstone Museum, 1967.
19 For example: Makonde, Kamba and the 'Victoria Falls' tourist arts have developed in response to the mass tourism that is a phenomenon of the post World War II era. While precedents may be found for some of the East African forms, their creative elaboration and recognition as art was primarily due to their circulation in the tourist art market, beginning in the 1940s. The case of West and parts of Central Africa, however, is complicated because many of these societies had well-established systems of artistic production and consumption for generations before Western contact. See A E Horner, 'Tourist arts in Africa before tourism, Annals of Tourism research, 20, 1993, pp.52-53.
20 As Graburn remarks, 'The rationalization of production and the standardization or simplification of design of many souvenir arts have tended to give all commercial, contemporary arts a bad name. The symbolic content is so reduced, and conforms so entirely to the consumers' popular notions of the salient characteristics of the minority group, that we may call these items ethno-kitsch...' N H H Graburn (ed), Ethnic and tourist arts, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1976, p.6.
21 Sidney L Kasfir, 'African art and authenticity: a text with a shadow'. In Reading the contemporary: African art from theory to the marketplace, edited by O Oguibe and O Enwezor, London, 1999, p.100.
22 As Phillips remarks in relation to work by Native North Americans: 'Souvenir art is the product of a careful, anthropological study of the material culture and aesthetics of the Western other by Native artists and craftspeople.' See R B Phillips, Trading identities: the souvenir in Native North American art from the northeast, 1700-1900, Seattle, 1998.
23 An unusually early example is the various knives and boxes made by converts at the Moravian mission stations at Genadendal. Groenkloof and Mamre in the Cape Colony which were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. The patronising tone that characterised most such missionary ventures is latent in an observation made on the occasion of an industrial exhibition in 1884 in Cape Town: 'what is now exhibited, and produced within a very limited time, will go so far to shew, that at least instruction has been given to the extent of enabling Natives to perform manual labour required in the preparation of useful articles. For the use they may make of this instruction after they leave us at Lovedale, and the progress they may make as workmen, we cannot hold ourselves responsible. Our duty has been performed when they are brought this far. The rest remains with themselves. Perhaps we expect too much, if we suppose they will all turn out steady and persevering workmen or mechanics in the first generation'. For a detailed list of the exhibits in which each maker is mentioned, see The Christian Express, 1.9.1884, pp.130-131.
24 British Empire Exhibition, South African section: official catalogue, London, 1924, pp.69-70.
25 For instance, see K C Murray, 'The condition of arts and crafts in West Africa', Overseas Education, 5, 1933, p.5.
26 James Walton in his pamphlet, Craftwork for African schools, published in South Africa in 1949 explained this more inclusive approach: 'The craft teacher in any African school is confronted by two very conflicting factors: a desire to preserve and encourage the traditional crafts and a realisation that new media are daily playing a more important r™le in the lives of his pupils... The craftwork course in schools must aim, therefore, at preserving and improving the traditional crafts and also it must direct the introduction of new media and methods along channels which are in keeping with tradition and which are aesthetically sound.' (p.1)
27 Terence Ranger, 'Europeans in black Africa', Journal of World History, 1998, 9(2), p.256.
28 For a revisionist overview of African history, from an African perspective, see David Northrup, Africa's discovery of Europe 1450-1850, Oxford and New York, 2002.
29 Exotic Europeans, London, 1991, p.15.
30 H A Junod, Life of a South African tribe, New York, 1962 (first published 1912), v 2, pp.135-136.
31 William Bascom, 'Modern African figurines: satirical or just stylistic?', Lore, 1957, 7(4), p.126.
32 See A Nettleton, 'Tradition, authenticity and tourist sculpture in 19th and 20th century South Africa, In Art and ambiguity, Johannesburg, 1991, p.32.
33 See A Nettleton, 'Tradition, authenticity and tourist sculpture in 19th and 20th century South Africa. In Art and ambiguity, Johannesburg, 1991, p.32.
34 See Maureen Vincke, Nzungu: La cramique Bakongo, Brussells, 2002, pp.34-35.
35 Nigel Barley, Smashing pots: feats of clay from Africa, London 1994, p.144.
36 K W Appiah, 'African art and authenticity: a text with a shadow'. In Reading the contemporary: African art from theory to the marketplace, edited by O Oguibe and O Enwezor, London, 1999, p.94. See also Sidney L Kasfir, 'One tribe, one style? Paradigms in the histiography [sic] of African art', History in Africa, 11, 1984, pp.163-193.
37 Julius E Lips, The Savage hits back on the white man through native eyes, London, 1937, p.xxi.
38 See Neger kunst and Christendom, exhibition at Museum van Utreche, Nieuwe religieuze kunst, 1956; Arno Lehmann, Afroasiatische christliche kunst, Berlin, 1967; J F Thiel (ed), Christliches Afrika: kunst und kunsthandwerk in Schwarzafrika, Sankt Augustin, 1978; Kevin Carroll, Yoruba religious carving: pagan and Christian sculpture in Nigeria and Dahomey, London, 1967; E Rankin, Images of wood: aspects of the history of sculpture in 20th-century South Africa, Johannesburg, 1989; Dina Cormick, Bernard Gcwensa and Ruben Xulu: Christian artists of Natal, Pretoria, 1993; Guy Butler, The prophetic nun, Johannesburg, 2000.
39 Ezio Bassani, '19th-century airport art', African arts, 12(2), 1979, pp.34-35, 90.
40 An Exhibition of Europeans seen through native eyes was organised by William Ohly at the Berkeley Galleries in London in September 1954, a surprisingly early date for a dealer's show of this nature. The catalogue notes were written by Cottie Burland who never left Britain until retirement when he went on a package holiday to Mexico.
41 Herbert Cole, Icons, exhibition at the National Museum of African Art, Washington, 1990, in which there was a chapter entitled 'Ambiguous aliens: the stranger in African art history'.
42 There have also been many commercially oriented shows such as sales by Binoche et Godeau, Colons, Paris (including 25.10.1987, 6.6.1990); Fred Jahn, and W Lohse, Colonne Colon Kolo [Colonial figures from West Africa], Munich, 1980.
43 T Phillips (ed), AFRICA 95, exhibition at the Royal Academy, London, 1995, p.143.
44 John Mack, Africa: arts and culture, British Museum, 2000.
45 Selected works from the collection of the National Museum of African Art, v 1, Washington, 1999.
46 James Clifford, The predicament of culture: twentieth-century ethnography, literature and art, Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1988.