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VRA 2013 Documenting the Art of Africa, Klein


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Presented by Debra Klein at the Annual Conference of the Visual Resources Association, April 3rd - April 6th, 2013, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Session #09: Documenting the Art of Africa: Creating New Vocabularies
ORGANIZER: Karen Kessel, Sonoma State University
MODERATOR: Carole Pawloski, Eastern Michigan University
Debra Klein, Bard College
Jennifer Larson, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Carole Pawloski, Eastern Michigan University
Endorsed by the Education Committee

Over 100 years ago, artists like Picasso and Gauguin found novel inspiration for their art in the creative works of art from exotic places like Africa and the South Pacific. Digital technology has created the ability to more widely share the resources that we manage yet our vocabulary in describing them is limited. Most Western cultures still view traditional arts of the African continent with a Western aesthetic. People are more interested in how the work is formally viewed than its original function or how and why it was created and how it is displayed. There is often much lacking with record descriptions, cataloging and display that would both enhance the work and give viewers a more accurate understanding of each object. More complete records would enhance the usefulness of object records for multiple disciplines. The influence of African art on the work of Western artists could be documented in the object records. This session will strive to provide these missing elements and further cultural understanding by presenting some of the concerns about the documentation of objects being addressed by current scholars in African art history and related fields. It will touch on the evolving standards and codification of traditional African art, the multiplicity of functionality within objects, and how to better convey meaning through the documentation and contextual display of objects. At the same time, we need to be aware that these cultures may express a need to limit the sharing of information about works that have special significance to their own cultural communities or ethnic groups.
Thursday April 4, 2013 1:35pm - 2:55pm

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VRA 2013 Documenting the Art of Africa, Klein

  1. 1. Session 09:Documenting the Art ofAfrica: Creating NewVocabulariesThursday, April 4, 2013Cataloging African Artfor Clarity and ContextDebbie KleinYoké Mask, Baga, GuineaPhotograph by Michael HuetHuet, Michel. The dance, art, and ritual of Africa. Pantheon,c1978., pl. 24
  2. 2. IRIS Cultural Objects: A Guide to DescribingCultural Works and Their Images Vocabularies of Congress Authorities
  3. 3. • Creating new vocabularies• Using narrow and broad termsfor subject and worktypes• Cataloging ephemeral events• Fragment vs. wholeFemale and male Pórópya figures overlooking the log shelter, kpaala, in the central square at the funeral of an elderPhotograph by Anita Glaze, 1970Lamp, Frederick John, ed. See the music, hear the dance : rethinking African art at the Baltimore Museum of Ar. Prestel, 2004, p. 30
  4. 4. Work Type: shirt, ceremonial costume, costumeCulture: Bamana, Mande, West AfricanTitle: Hunters Shirt with basi, or secret thingsDescription: Hunterss shirts accumulate basi, orsecret things, including amulets, claws, horns, andother found objects, to represent the knowledgeacquired by the hunter over the course of hislifetime. Only the hunter knows the contents of thepackets, and no other person is ever allowed towear the shirt, so personal are its secrets. (Nooter,p. 104)Materials: cloth, leather, cowrie shells, foundobjects, mirrorsCreation location: MaliSubjects: Magic; Power; Folk Art; Ethnic costume;Amulets; Cosentino, Henrietta, Numu Tunkarawearing hunters shirt, 1976Nooter, Mary. Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals. Museum for African Art, c1993, p. 104.
  5. 5. Work Type: documentary photograph, black-and-whitephotograph, photographCulture: Mende, MandeDate: 1976Photographer: Henrietta Cosentino (American, 1941-)Title: Numu Tunkara wearing hunters shirtDescription: The hunters life is dedicated to acquiringknowledge, kept as a closely guarded secret, which isreflected in the depth of accumulation on his shirt. Thecollection on a hunters shirt include amulets, tusks, mud,leather, and more, representing prayers, power, spells,and knowledge of plants of animals. (McClusky, p. 74)Citation: Pamela McClusky. Art from Africa: Long StepsNever Broke a Back. Lund Humphries, c2002.Subjects: Rites and ceremonies; Magic; Power; Amulets;Talismans; Indigenous peoplesMcClusky, Pamela. Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back. Lund Humphries, c2002, p. 74
  6. 6. Work Type: face mask, mask (costume), costumeCulture: Kuba, Central AfricanTitle: Female mask (Ngady Mwaash)Description: This mask personifies the wife of theancestral king Woot who is represented by the maskMwaash Mbooy. These masks tell the origin storyduring a Kuba Bushoong masquerade that honorstradition and heritage during funeral ceremonies.Source: (accessed 3/18/13)Discovery location: Kinshasa (Democratic Republic ofthe Congo);Repository: Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore,Maryland, USA) ID: BMA 1954.145.77Subjects: Geometric patterns; Ritual and ceremonies;Spirits; Ancestor figures; Masquerades; Cosmology;Funeral rites and ceremoniesLamp, Frederick John, ed. See the music, hear the dance : rethinking African art at the Baltimore Museum of Ar. Munich: Prestel, 2004, p. 172
  7. 7. Sample entry for a subject term authority record showing cataloger’s notes:Not in AAT, but a very useful term. dkAncestors are believed to affect the fertility and fortune of the living in several ancient andmodern cultures in Africa, South Pacific, and South America.As ancestor figures these sculptures were passed down through the family. They were cared for byfamily elders who kept the figures in shrines within their compounds and made frequent offeringsto them for the well-being of the family and its lineage. The figures powers could be heightenedby being anointed with magical medicines and they were used in a number of ways: to protect thesick from evil forces, villages from unwelcome intruders and to ascertain the guilt, or otherwise, ofa defendant. peoples of the coasts and islands of Cenderawasih Bay in northwest New Guinea formerlycreated korwar, figures that portrayed recently deceased ancestors. ...Korwar images served assupernatural intermediaries, allowing the living to communicate with the dead, who remainedactively involved in family and community affairs. When a family member died, his or her relativessummoned a carver, typically a religious specialist, who created a korwar and enticed the spirit ofthe deceased to enter it.Source: Ancestor Figure (Korwar) [Cenderawasih Bay, New Guinea, Papua (Irian Jaya) Province,Indonesia] (2001.674) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  8. 8. From the Getty Research Institute Art & Architecture Thesaurus® Online (Hierarchy Name)costume (mode of fashion)<costume by function>masks (costume)body masksfiber masksleaf masksceremonial masksBifwebeface maskskpeli-yehefiber maskshelmet maskshorizontal maskshorned masksleaf masksnimbaplank masks
  9. 9. NgadyMwaash performs at a funeral for an initiated manPhotograph by Patricia Darish and David Aaron Binkley, 1982Lamp, Frederick John, ed. See the music, hear the dance : rethinkingAfrican art at the Baltimore Museum of Ar. Munich: Prestel, 2004, p. 173
  10. 10. Egungun ensembleYoruba, West AfricaUCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History LosAngeles, California, USAFMCH X96.3.7Drewal, Henry John. Beads Body and Soul: Artand Light in the Yoruba Universe, Los Angeles:UCLA Fowler Museum, 1998, p. 270
  11. 11. McClusky, Pamela, Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back. Seattle, Wash.: Lund Humphries, c2002, p. 22
  12. 12. Cataloging a complex, time-based eventEvent?Masquerade?Photograph?McClusky, Pamela, Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back. Seattle, Wash.: Lund Humphries, c2002, p. 22
  13. 13. Work Type: documentary photograph,photographDate: 1994Photographer: Henning Christoph (American,1944-)Title: Yoruba Egungun mask dancingDescription: Egungun is a part of the Yorubapantheon of divinities. The Egungun representsthe "collective spirit" of the ancestors.Citation: Pamela McClusky. Art from Africa:Long Steps Never Broke a Back. LundHumphries, c2002.Technique: color photographySubjects: Costume (mode of fashion);Religious; Ancestor worship; Culture/Ritual;Events; Masquerades; Ancestor figures; Bodymasks; Yoruba
  14. 14. “Theses objects [in the museum] are but fragments of a larger, integrated form of art as itgenerally seen in Africa. …When we see the same objects in their original contexts … we realize that a museum display isquite antithetical to their original nature.”- Frederick John LampSee the Music, Hear the Dance: Rethinking African Art at the Baltimore Museum of African ArtLamp, Frederick John, ed. See the music, hear the dance : rethinking African art at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Munich: Prestel, 2004, p. 244-245.
  15. 15. Goli Glen pair accompanied by a tre played by KalouYao, 1971Photograph by Susan Mullin VogelVogel, Susan Mullin. Baule: African Art, Western Eyes. Yale UP, c1997, p. 181Yoké Mask, Baga, GuineaPhotograph by Michael HuetHuet, Michel. The dance, art, and ritual of Africa. Pantheon, c1978., pl. 24
  16. 16. Work Type: documentary photographCulture: Baule, AkanDate: 1971Creator: photographer: Susan Mullin Vogel(American, 1942-)Title(s): Goli Glen pair accompanied by a tre playedby Kalou YaoDescription: The tre, a side-blown horn, is Goli Glensspecial instrument. Goli is a dance of Wan origin thatinvolves use of four pairs of masks. Goli Glen (orGoliGlin) is the senior male mask in the series, alsocalled simply "Glen" (or "Glin.") (Vogel, p. 180)Creation location: Kami (Yamoussoukro, Cote dIvoire)Citation: Vogel, Susan Mullin. Baule: African Art, Western Eyes. Yale UP, c1997.Subjects: Goli dance; Horns (animal materials); Aerophones; Helmet masks; Masquerades;Ceremonial objects; Crowds; Audiences; Rituals (events); Dancers; Body masks; Fiber masks
  17. 17. BibliographyDrewal, Henry John. Beads Body and Soul: Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe, Los Angeles: UCLAFowler Museum, 1998.Huet, Michel. The dance, art, and ritual of Africa, New York: Pantheon, c1978.Michel Huet. The dances of Africa, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.Lamp, Frederick John, ed. See the music, hear the dance : rethinking African art at the BaltimoreMuseum of Art, Munich: Prestel, 2004.McClusky, Pamela, Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back. Seattle, Wash.: Lund Humphries,c2002Nooter, Mary. Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals, New York: Museum for African Art,c1993.Visonà, Monica Blackmun. A History of Art in Africa, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001.
  18. 18. Additional Reading: Sources for Cataloging African and African Diaspora ArtAnderson, Martha.G and Christine Mullen Kreamer . Wild spirits, strong medicine : African art and the wilderness. New York, N.Y. : Centerfor African Art, 1989.Bacquart, Jean-Baptiste. The tribal arts of Africa. Thames and Hudson, 1998.Tanya Barson& Peter Gorschlüter eds. Afro modern : journeys through the Black Atlantic. Tate Liverpool, 2010.Bassani, Ezio. Africa and the Renaissance : art in ivory. New York City : Center for African Art, 1988.Suzanne Preston Blier. The Royal Arts of Africa: The Majesty of Form. H.N. Abrams, c1998.David H. Brown. Santería enthroned : art, ritual, and innovation in an Afro-Cuban religion. University of Chicago Press, c2003.Cole, Herbert M.,The Arts of Ghana. UCLA, c1977.Cole, Herbert. I Am Not Myself: The Art of the African Masquerade.Cole, Herbert. Icons : ideals and power in the art of Africa. Washington, D.C. : Published for the National Museum of African Art by theSmithsonian Institution Press, 1989.Cosentino, Donald J. Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou (UCLA Fowler Museum). U of California P, 1995.Coquet, Michele and Jane Marie Todd. African Royal Court Art. U of Chicago P, 1998.Crowley, Daniel J. African Myth and Black Reality in BahianCarnaval. UCLA Fowler Museum, 1984.Henry John Drewal. Dynasty and divinity : Ife art in ancient Nigeria. Museum for African Art, c2009.Drewal, Henry John. MamiWata : arts for water spirits in Africa and its diasporas. Fowler Museum at UCLA, 2008.Drewal, Henry John . Yoruba : nine centuries of African art and thought. New York : Center for African Art in Association with H.N. Abrams,1989.Elleh, Nnamdi. African Architecture: Evolution and Transformation. McGraw Hill, 1996.
  19. 19. Flores-Peña, Ysamur and Roberta J. Evanchuk. Santeria Garments and Altars: Speaking Without a Voice. UP of Mississippi, 1994.Foss, Perkins, ed. . Where gods and mortals meet : continuity and renewal in Urhobo art. Museum/African Art, c2004.Galembo, Phyllis. Divine Inspiration: From Benin to Bahia. U of New Mexico P, 1993.Galembo, Phyllis. Maske. Chris Boot Ltd., 2010.Galembo, Phyllis and GerdesFleurant. Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti. Ten Speed Press, 1998.Garlake, Peter. Early Art and Architecture of Africa. Oxford UP, 2002.Grunne, Bernard de. The birth of art in Africa : Nok statuary in Nigeria. A. Biro, c1998.Hahner-Herzog, Iris. African masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection, Geneva . Prestel, c1998.[Claudia Herrera]. The African presence in México : from Yanga to the present. Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, c2006.Historical Museum of South Florida. At the Crossroads: Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami. Historical Museum of S. Fla., 2001.Huet, Michel. The dance, art, and ritual of Africa. Pantheon, c1978.Jemkur, J. F. The Nok culture : art in Nigeria 2,500 years ago. Prestel, c2006.LaGamma, Alisa,and John Pemberton. Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination. HNA Books, 2000.Alisa LaGamma, ed. Eternal ancestors : the art of the Central African reliquary. Yale University Press, c2007.Frederick John Lamp, ed. See the music, hear the dance : rethinking African art at the Baltimore Museum of Ar. Prestel, 2004.André Magnin, ed. Arts of Africa : Jean Pigozzis contemporary collection. Skira, 2005.Pamela McClusky. Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back. Lund Humphries, c2002.Morris, James. Butabu : adobe architecture of West Africa / James Morris ; text by Suzanne Preston Blier. Princeton Architectural Press, c. 2004.
  20. 20. Njami, Simon. Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent. Hayward Gallery, 2005.Omari, Mikelle Smith. From the Inside to the Outside: The Art and Ritual of BahianCandomblé. UCLA Fowler Museum, 1984.Perrois, Louis. Ancestral art of Gabon : from the collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum. The Museum, 1985.Phillips, Tom, ed. Africa : the art of a continent. Prestel, 1995.Picton, John and John Mack. African Textiles: looms, weaving and design. British Museum Publications for the Trustees of the British Museum,1979Roberts, Allen F., Mary Nooter Roberts, Gassia Armenian, and OusmaneGueye. A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal. UCLA FowlerMuseum, 2003.Schildkrout, Enid. African reflections : art from northeastern Zaire. U of Washington P, c1990.Tamagni, Danielle. Gentlemen of Bacongo. London Trolley Ltd, 2009.Thompson, Robert F. Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas. Prestel, 1993.Vogel, Susan, et al. Art/artifact : African art in anthropology collections. Center for African Art, 1988.Vogel, Susan. Africa Explores: Twentieth Century African Art. Center for African Art, 1991.Vogel, Susan Mullin. Baule: African Art, Western Eyes. Yale UP, c1997.Wahlman, Maude. Signs and symbols : African images in African-American quilts. Studio Books, 1993.Alvia J. Wardlaw, curator. Black art ancestral legacy : the African impulse in African-American art. Dallas Museum of Art , c1989.
  21. 21. LINKS
  22. 22. Explore the Smithsonian’s Folkways site for music, video, interviews, etc.