Anthropologist Rhoda Woets not only wrote an essay for SMBA Newsletter #129 on the work of kari-kacha seid’ou, she also lectured modern and contemporary Ghanaian art on September 30. During this afternoon Woets discussed the work of several artists in relation to the complex definition(s) of contemporary Ghanaian art. The notion of contemporary art in Ghana is for instance related to institutions such as art schools and art galleries. Popular art, craftwork and weaving such as kente are usually not included in this category.
The Ghanaian government has a tradition in stimulating the arts. In 1952, five years before the nation’s independence from the United Kingdom, the College of Art in Kumasi was established. Resonating its colonial relations, the school was affiliated with art institutions in London, such as Slade and the Royal College. Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah continued many of these international connections, as he took Western culture as exemplary in his mission to create an independent nation-state. In his vision modern art was a tool to construct identity; he argued that artists should express Ghanaian cultural history in their work. Many Ghanaians indeed relied on African traditions and symbols in order to express their identity. One example of this concept of ‘Sankofa’ is the ‘Accra Optimist Club’, a group of Ghanaian men who wore traditional cloths during colonial times.
This summer the Dutch Museum Beelden aan Zee curated ‘Rainbow Nation’, an exhibition of contemporary South African sculptures. In the final weekend the symposium ‘Mixing the Colors of the Rainbow’ was organised, to discuss the current status of South African art and art history. Head of exhibitions Dick van Broekhuizen started the evening with a short introduction to ‘Rainbow Nation’. To provide a contextual framework guest curator Annelies Brans-Van der Straeten referred to the historical time line of the new art historical encyclopaedia ‘Visual Century. South African Art in Context 1907-2007’. Editors of ‘Visual Century’ Gavin Jantjes and Lize van Robbroeck were invited to explain the realization of this historical overview and the accompanying struggles with methodology. Dutch art historian and curator Esther Schreuder was invited to present her view on South African art history.
Introduction by head of exhibitions Dick van Broekhuizen
Cover of Rhoda Woets PhD thesis 'What is This? Framing Ghanaian art from the colonial encounter to the present'.
On September 28, the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam’s department of Social and Cultural Anthropology organized a seminar entitled ‘(Re)contextualising Art: Anthropology, Art History and the Museum’. During this afternoon anthropologists, art historians and curators gathered to discuss the current status of globalization and contemporary art.
Issues that were put up for discussion are the modes of evaluation to judge, acquire and display art from “outside.” What tools and criteria should curators use? Is an intimate knowledge of the social and cultural settings in which artists operate essential in valuing their work, as anthropologists tend to argue? A growing number of anthropologists study contemporary art(ists) but what have their contributions been to the formation of new art historical discourses? In short: how can anthropologists, art historians and curators come to a more fruitful cooperation and exchange?
Both art historian Gabriele Minelli and art historian Madelon van Schie wrote a report about the seminar. Gabriele Minelli’s report is published below. Click here to read Madelon van Schie’s report in Dutch.