Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Africa, Huh? --- Day 235

Walk: Cantor Arts Center (Stanford University), Sacramento Street
Distance:  3 miles

Went down to Stanford today with a group of docent friends to see an exhibition of African art.  Most of what we saw was truly artistic - less utilitarian in terms of eating and storage vessels - than other cultures I've studied.  Many of the carvings and copper works were almost astonishingly fine.  But  no matter how good the signage and written explanations are at these exhibitions of
'primitive' art there is the frustration (for me) of leaving with more questions than answers.  How do these objects relate to the culture I'm viewing?; if ceremonial, when/what were the ceremonies?; were the artists a separate group supported by the tribes to produce art?; etc.  I believe my viewing experience would be comparable to a Nigerian coming to Rome and viewing Christian art in a museum.  They probably wouldn't understand the iconography or how it related to the society in which it was produced - and even if they came up with the right questions, they wouldn't be able to grasp the whole of Christianity and its place in the world and the hearts, minds and rituals of the people impacted by it.

Not saying I shouldn't go.  There is a stimulation in encountering things one cannot (easily) grasp, but my frustration at trying to do so anyway (my impatience too) can lead (literally) to headaches. Probably all the more reason to go.

Most likely I'll return and take a docent tour before the exhibit closes.

event image
Central Nigeria Unmasked: Arts of the Benue River Valley
Ongoing every day from May 16, 2012 through October 14, 2012. Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University
A comprehensive view of the arts from along the river that flows across the center of Nigeria, joining the great Niger River on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  Reveals arts and cultures of 25 diverse tribes/peoples who are far less known and studied than those of the majority populations in Nigeria's northern and southern regions.

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