Jean Borgatti, Boston University

African artists have long incorporated new materials and images into their repertoires – from 16th century Benin’s cast brass plaques inspired by book illustrations to WWII gas masks used as masquerade paraphernalia in the 20th century. However, the canon for African traditional art has been defined by Western dealers and collectors, and focuses on certain objects and types, as well as a particular presentation that emphasizes high polish and smooth surfaces. Later mid-20th century research in Africa shows a much wider range of materials incorporated into objects made for local use (as distinct from those made for tourist performances) as illustrated by the Dogon (Richards2005) as well as the utilizing of such new forms as Sesame Street’s big bird (Bentor1998) among several Igbo subgroups. Contemporary African and Diaspora artists have extended the post-modern aspects of 20th/21st century community based African art by reconfiguring historic forms as gallery-focused works of art, such as Hervé Youmbi’s totems, Kader Attian’s mirror masks, and Zak Ové’s sculptural installations. This panel hopes to include studies that show art, either community based or gallery focused, that disrupts the canon as it has been defined by the West.

Please send paper proposals by email (jborgatti[at] by March 1, 2019