Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Dedication

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xvi

Books have their own stories quite apart from their published contents. When I first began putting together the ideas for this one in 1994, I wanted to address some of the big questions in African art that had surfaced since my graduate school days. The dominant ideas from the 1960s and ’70s were about theories...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xviii

The research for this book has spanned almost my entire career, so my indebtedness is to many people and institutions. My early intellectual mentors Nelson Kasfir, James Fernandez, and John Picton guided me to and through graduate school and my initial Idoma fieldwork. In Nigeria, the late Ajene...

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INTRODUCTION: Colonial Power and Aesthetic Practice

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pp. 1-24

Where does the new come from in an artist’s practice? In this book, I explore an unexpected source, colonial authority, and trace the ways widely different late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European impressions of Kenya and Nigeria and the subsequent British colonizing policies toward their...

PART 1. Warriors

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1. Maa Warriorhood and British Colonial Discourse

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pp. 27-58

The Samburu (Lokop)1 are Maa-speaking pastoralists who herd cattle, sheep, goats, and sometimes camels in the remote mountain fastnesses, temperate highlands, and hot dry lowlands of the Great Rift Valley corridor and its surrounding ranges south and east of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.2 Their social relations...

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2. Idoma Warriorhood and the Pax Britannica

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pp. 59-96

By contrast with that of the East African pastoralists, Idoma warriorhood in central Nigeria was inscribed within a much more widespread and formulaic colonizing discourse: barbarism that had to be eradicated in order to bring civilization in Africa. David Livingstone, the nineteenth century’s most popular explorer-missionary, summed up the more benign representation...

PART 2. Sculptors and Smiths

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3. Colonial Rupture and Innovation: The Colonizer as Inadvertent Patron

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pp. 99-132

Narrating warriorhood in early colonial Kenya and Nigeria invoked parallel stories of what the British referred to as “spearblooding” and “headhunting.” In both situations, the British colonial administration directly intervened to contain (in Samburu) or suppress (in Idoma) a cultural practice that seemed to flagrantly undermine what the colonizers saw as their civilizing mission...

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4. Samburu Smiths, Idoma Maskmakers: Power at a Distance

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pp. 133-188

There is a creative tension between representation1 (a likeness called up in the mind by description) and identity (the condition of being something described or asserted): the first is used to construct the second. But since identity is partly self-constructed and partly fabricated by others (e.g., Waller 1993,...

PART 3. Masks, Spears, the Body

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5. Mask and Spear: Art, Thing, Commodity

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pp. 191-208

In this chapter I reach the core of the book’s second and more aesthetically focused set of arguments, which concern the interpretations, both indigenous and exogenous, of the masks and spears of my historical narrative. In earlier chapters (1 and 2), I argued that missionaries’ and explorers’ accounts, novels, the popular press, and colonial government reports created a discursive field...

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6. Warrior Theatre and the Ritualized Body

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pp. 209-246

The body of a warrior is both an aesthetic locus and a site of signification, bridging what often appears to be a conceptual discontinuity by blurring the structurally imposed boundary between nature (the body experienced as an anatomical fact) and culture (the body as aesthetic object and signifier). Moving from artisan back to warrior again, this chapter explores the...

PART 4. Commodities

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7. Idoma Sculpture: Colonialism and the Market for African Art

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pp. 249-278

The next two chapters describe the bridging from the colonial to the postcolonial phase in the trajectories of certain objects as they became collectible commodities. But first I clarify what I mean here by “the postcolonial” as a historical phase versus an experiential condition, how clearly it can be distinguished...

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8. Samburu Encounters with Modernity: Spears as Tourist Souvenirs

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pp. 279-300

This chapter concerns the interplay between commodified and noncommodified forms and the situating of Samburu cultural practice within the creative tension between representation and identity. The souvenir, an object that both represents and identifies, operates at the intersection of memory and experience. More specifically, souvenirs commodify a particular type...

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9. Samburu Warriors in Hollywood Films: Cinematic Commodities

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pp. 301-316

Prior to the 1970s, the Samburu living in the closed Northern Frontier District of Kenya were known only to their fellow pastoralists and a few district administrators and traders. Like Papua New Guinea highlanders, their entry into the global flow is recent, so their exoticism quotient is still high. The way they have been represented in commercial feature films and...

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REPRISE: The Three C’s: Colonialism, Commodities, and Complex Representations

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pp. 317-324

It remains to summarize these changing representations and practices within the particular historical circumstances the book describes. There were many colonialisms operating simultaneously in sub-Saharan Africa following its partition among the European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885. British colonial policy, following the implementation of Lord...

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CODA: From Spears to Guns in the North Rift

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pp. 325-330

This book has asked: What happens to a complex representation when the cultural script undergoes a major change? The original context was British colonialism, but just such a thing has occurred again during the decade in which this book was researched and written. In this last section, I attempt an updated reading on the fighting spear in Samburu culture, the evidence...

Notes

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pp. 331-352

Bibliography

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pp. 353-372

Index

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pp. 373-396