African Art and the Colonial Encounter

African Art and the Colonial Encounter

Inventing a Global Commodity
Sidney Littlefield Kasfir
Distribution: World
Publication date: 10/24/2007
Format: Paperback 79 b&w illus., 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-21922-0
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Focusing on the theme of warriorhood, Sidney Littlefield Kasfir weaves a complex history of how colonial influence forever changed artistic practice, objects, and their meaning. Looking at two widely diverse cultures, the Idoma in Nigeria and the Samburu in Kenya, Kasfir makes a bold statement about the links between colonialism, the Europeans’ image of Africans, Africans’ changing self representation, and the impact of global trade on cultural artifacts and the making of art. This intriguing history of the interaction between peoples, aesthetics, morals, artistic objects and practices, and the global trade in African art challenges current ideas about artistic production and representation.

Author Bio

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir is Professor in the Department of Art History at Emory University where she is also Faculty Curator of African Art. She is author of Contemporary African Art and editor of West African Masks and Cultural Systems.


“A rich and highly informative account of the many factors that impact artistic production in Africa.”
 — Victoria Rovine, University of Florida

“A rich and highly informative account of the many factors that impact artistic production in Africa. ”
 — Victoria RovineUniversity of Florida

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Colonial Power and Aesthetic Practice
Part 1. Warriors
1. Maa Warriorhood and British Colonial Discourse
2. Idoma Warriorhood and the Pax Britannica
Part 2. Sculptors and Smiths
3. Colonial Rupture and Innovation
4. Samburu Smiths, Idoma Maskmakers: Power at a Distance
Part 3. Masks, Spears, the Body
5. Mask and Spear: Art, Thing, Commodity
6. Warrior Theatre and the Ritualized Body
Part 4. Commodities
7. Idoma Sculpture: Colonialism and the Market for African Art
8. Samburu Encounters with Modernity: Spears as Tourist Souvenirs
9. Samburu Warriors in Hollywood Films: Cinematic Commodities
Reprise: The Three C's: Colonialism, Commodities, and Complex Representations
Coda: From Spears to Guns in the North Rift