African Art and Agency in the Workshop

African Art and Agency in the Workshop

Sidney Kasfir and Till Forster
Distribution: World
Publication date: 04/01/2013
ISBN: 978-0-253-00758-2
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The role of the workshop in the creation of African art is the subject of this revelatory book. In the group setting of the workshop, innovation and imitation collide, artists share ideas and techniques, and creative expression flourishes. African Art and Agency in the Workshop examines the variety of workshops, from those which are politically driven or tourist oriented, to those based on historical patronage or allied to current artistic trends. Fifteen lively essays explore the impact of the workshop on the production of artists such as Zimbabwean stone sculptors, master potters from Cameroon, wood carvers from Nigeria, and others from across the continent.

Author Bio

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir is Professor Emerita of Art History at Emory University. She is author of African Art and the Colonial Encounter (IUP, 2007).

Till Förster is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Basel.


“A closer examination of the workshop provides important insights into art histories and cultural politics. We may think we know what we mean when we use the term 'workshop,' but in fact the organization of groups of artists takes on vastly different forms and encourages the production of diverse styles of art within larger social structures and power dynamics.”
 — Victoria Rovine, University of Florida

“Mozambican freedom fighters direct artistic cooperatives to anti-colonial ends. An entrepreneurial Zambian king “brands” his people through patronage of distinctive visual and performance arts. These and equally compelling case studies demonstrate how African workshops have long mediated collective expression and individual imagination. In their nuanced contextualization of “the workshop” across cultural, geographical, and temporal diversities, the editors frame apprenticeship, cultural constructions of creativity, pragmatic materiality, and phenomenologies of production as no Africanist art historians have before, and in ways applicable anywhere in the world. ”
 — Allen F. Roberts,, University of California, Los Angeles

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Rethinking the Workshop \ Till Förster and Sidney Littlefield Kasfir
The Contributions to This Book \ Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Till Förster
Part 1. Production, Education, and Learning
1. Grace Dieu Mission in South Africa: Defining the Modern Art Workshop in Africa \ Elizabeth Morton
2. Follow the Wood: Carving and Political Cosmology in Oku, Cameroon \ Nicolas Argenti
3. Masters, Trend-makers, and Producers: The Village of Nsei, Cameroon, as a Multisited Pottery Workshop \ Silvia Forni
4. An Artist's Notes on the Triangle Workshops, Zambia and South Africa \ Namubiru Rose Kirumira and Sidney Littlefield Kasfir

Part 2. Audience and Encounters
5. Stitched-up Women, Pinned-down Men: Gender Politics in Weya and Mapula Needlework, Zimbabwe and South Africa \ Brenda Schmahmann
6. Rethinking Mbari Mbayo: Osogbo Workshops in the 1960s, Nigeria \ Chika Okeke-Agulu
7. Working on the Small Difference: Notes on the Making of Sculpture in Tengenenge, Zimbabwe \ Christine Scherer
8. Navigating Nairobi: Artists in a Workshop System, Kenya \ Jessica Gerschultz

Part 3. Patronage and Domination
9. Lewanika's Workshop and the Vision of Lozi Arts, Zambia \ Karen E. Milbourne
10. Artesaos da Nossa Pátria: Makonde Blackwood Sculptors, Cooperatives, and the Art of Socialist Revolution in Postcolonial Mozambique \ Alexander Bortolot
11. Frank McEwen and Joram Mariga: Patron and Artist in the Rhodesian Workshop School Setting, Zimbabwe \ Elizabeth Morton
12. "A Matter of Must": Continuities and Change in the Adugbologe Woodcarving Workshop in Abeokuta, Nigeria \ Norma H. Wolff

Part 4. Comparative Aspects
13. Work and Workshop: The Iteration of Style and Genre in Two Workshop Settings, Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon \ Till Förster
14. Apprentices and Entrepreneurs: The Workshop and Style Uniformity in Sub-Saharan Africa \ Sidney Littlefield Kasfir

Coda: Apprentices