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Thursday, April 4 • 1:35pm - 2:55pm
Session #09: Documenting the Art of Africa: Creating New Vocabularies

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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
Garden Room, 2nd Floor Providence Biltmore, 11 Dorrance Street, Providence, RI

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