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In the Break: African and African Diaspora Art and the Problem of Art History Today

  • Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz
Wednesday 18 May 2016
African Arts and Literatures Today
Museum Volkenkunde, Research Center for Material Culture
Steenstraat 1

Dr. Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz (University of Cape Town)

For several decades, the history of African and African Diaspora art has received increasing attention from, and has been included in, traditional art history programmes, especially within the US academy. Despite growing interest, however, the study of African and African Diaspora art remains marginal in the field. This coincides with ongoing struggles of African and African Diaspora artists to find a place within major art institutions. In this presentation, Dr. Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz will address some of the causes underlying these issues, examining the limits of traditional art historical theory and practices in properly addressing African and African Diaspora Art. Tracing the history of the discipline's relationship with African art, Martinez-Ruiz will argue that western art history has failed to fully replace assumptions regarding the primitive nature of ‘traditional art’. Further, that dichotomies in contemporary art theory between modernity versus modernization, culture versus nature, and high culture versus low culture continue to plague the discipline, and thus offers little place for addressing African and African Diasporic Art adequately. He will draw on his own work, which engages with a range of sites from Angola and the Congo to Cuba focusing specifically on his work on graphic writings systems in both Africa and the Diaspora. 

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