Friday, November 11, 2011

Artists vs. Individuality

           This week brought up new issues and controversies that deal with not only contemporary artists, but artists in general. The discussion also linked back to the beginning of the semester as well as resurfacing the strong point of last week’s topic of discussion- contemporary African artist debatable issues. The two articles read in class this week were that of “Traces of Ecstasy” by Rotimi Fani-Kayode, “Eros, and Diaspora” by Kobena Mercer.  Both articles consisted of sexual nature that creates both controversy and strong point that was established through these artworks and the artists’ ‘so-called’ identity. The point of this blog and much of the topic discussed, is that of the fact that stereotyping and assuming an identity of someone will never change no matter the artist or subject, because that is what we, as the audience and crowd are programmed to learn/know.
            In the first article by Rotimi, it was stated that, “I seek to translate my rage and my desire into new images that will undermine conventional perceptions and which may reveal hidden worlds... I make my pictures homosexual on purpose.“ This was a bold statement by Rotimi in more ways than one. Throughout the discussion groups on Thursday it became evident that the same issues that were raised were again, that were discussed last week. What makes something authentic? In addition, how does an artist portray their identity? What is there identity? So many questions to ponder here. The issues last week that of real authenticism and what black artists are supposed to create as African traditional artwork. It’s something that’s almost unescapable.
            This is something that was brought up this week through the articles, but in a different manner. Not only does Rotimi have to battle the allegations and stereotypes of a black artist, but as a black homosexual as well. He states that he remains at a disadvantage because of so. The struggle for these artists is being able to produce creative pieces that recognize them as an artist and not as an object or subject. This was also apparent in last week’s readings and discussion of Yinka Shonibare. The battle is still there and will continue on, as labeling will honestly never cease.
            I think a connection can be made also with the Haitian collection at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. Unfortunately, I didn’t think that the center would be closed today because of the holiday, so I wasn’t able to physically see the collection. However, I can assume that it would be interesting looking at all of the work and comparing displayed pieces to one another. I think to myself now that if I did not take this Arts of Africa class and did not learn about these controversial issues, that I would have been just like any other average joe in the class- stereotyping and assuming where these artists come from, their values and what they’re supposed to be producing as works of art.
It made me think to myself that if I would have actually got to see the collection, that  my mindset and the way I analyzed and understood the meaning behind the works- would have been done in a completely different way.


  1. I'm glad the readings raised your criticality--however, I continue to encourage you to question "what we, as the audience and crowd are programmed to learn/know." Who does the "programming"? How?

  2. I also found it interesting to consider how it is that we are "programmed" to view things. With that in mind I would like to personally visit the Haitian exhibit for myself and really step back and think about what my initial reactions are as opposed to what the artist is aiming at.

  3. Stereotyping and generalization does seem to be the underlying issue when it comes to African artists and their quest for identity. You're right, there isn't a likely end to such assumptions and preconceived notions because humans seem to be wired to think categorically and make judgements accordingly. Classes like this one help us "reprogram" our original thoughts and see things from a new vantage point.