African modern art and black cultural trauma

Nicodemus, Everlyn (2012) African modern art and black cultural trauma. [Doctorate by Public Works]

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Abstract

The thesis is an inquiry into modern art in sub-Saharan Africa, its genesis and initial stages during colonial rule and the early phase of independence, and into the impact on its trajectory of a black cultural trauma mainly caused by colonial oppression. The submitted documentation includes writings on 20th century African modernism published 1992-2009 in conjunction with two extensive, partly art practice-based projects, ‘Woman in the World’, 1984-86, and ‘Ethics of the Wound’, 2001-09. ‘Woman in the World’ was an in-residence project carried out in Denmark, Tanzania and India, which presented an open-ended form of research built upon listening to testimonies and on interaction between oral and visual communication. In this sense it laid the ground for a more academic investigation of psychiatric literature on trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as of the cultural studies literature on trauma and cultural production, which had predominantly focused on trauma symptoms in literature and film. This research, culminating in ‘Ethics of the Wound’, was supported by observations derived from the author’s own trauma experience as an African-born woman artist in the diaspora, facilitating an extension of interdisciplinary cultural studies to the field of visual art. The art historical research into modern African art was initiated in 1992 with an extensive inventory of available literature in European archives and museums and followed up in 1995 with concentrated research in Nigeria and South Africa. In combination with in-depth studies of the Nigerian pioneering painter Aina Onabolu and the black South African artist Ezrom Legae it led to several insights. In the case study of Onabolu the thesis discusses in terms of a paradigm shift the crucial moment around 1900 in the changeover from pre-modern to modern art in West Africa, and in the Legae case study it presents an elaborated analysis of how, seventy years later, post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by apartheid produced an extraordinary aesthetical tension. By studying the emergence of modern art in sub-Saharan Africa through the perspective of cultural trauma, the thesis identifies the dual role of colonialism as the context for acquiring new ideas on art and the obstacle to African subject-forming processes fundamental to modern art production.

Item Type:Doctorate by Public Works
Research Areas:Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Art and Design > Art & Design
Masters and Doctorates > Doctorate by Public Works
ID Code:9026
Deposited On:01 May 2012 08:48
Last Modified:14 Nov 2014 00:55

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