Indiana University Press

African Expressive Cultures

Published by: Indiana University Press

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African Expressive Cultures

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Masquerading Politics

Kinship, Gender, and Ethnicity in a Yoruba Town

John Thabiti Willis

In West Africa, especially among Yoruba people, masquerades have the power to kill enemies, appoint kings, and grant fertility. John Thabiti Willis takes a close look at masquerade traditions in the Yoruba town of Otta, exploring transformations in performers, performances, and the institutional structures in which masquerade was used to reveal ongoing changes in notions of gender, kinship, and ethnic identity. As Willis focuses on performers and spectators, he reveals a history of masquerade that is rich and complex. His research offers a more nuanced understanding of performance practices in Africa and their role in forging alliances, consolidating state power, incorporating immigrants, executing criminals, and projecting individual and group power on both sides of the Afro-Atlantic world.

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New Francophone African and Caribbean Theatres

John Conteh-Morgan with Dominic Thomas.

John Conteh-Morgan explores the multiple ways in which African and Caribbean theatres have combined aesthetic, ceremonial, experimental, and avant-garde practices in order to achieve sharp critiques of the nationalist and postnationalist state and to elucidate the concerns of the francophone world. More recent changes have introduced a transnational dimension, replacing concerns with national and ethnic solidarity in favor of irony and self-reflexivity. New Francophone African and Caribbean Theatres places these theatres at the heart of contemporary debates on global cultural and political practices and offers a more finely tuned understanding of performance in diverse diasporic networks.

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Oliver Mtukudzi

Living Tuku Music in Zimbabwe

Jennifer W. Kyker

Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi, a Zimbabwean guitarist, vocalist, and composer, has performed worldwide and released some 50 albums. One of a handful of artists to have a beat named after him, Mtukudzi blends Zimbabwean traditional sounds with South African township music and American gospel and soul, to compose what is known as Tuku Music. In this biography, Jennifer W. Kyker looks at Mtukudzi’s life and art, from his encounters with Rhodesian soldiers during the Zimbabwe war of liberation to his friendship with American blues artist Bonnie Raitt. With unprecedented access to Mtukudzi, Kyker breaks down his distinctive performance style using the Shona concept of "hunhu," or human identity through moral relationships, as a framework. By reading Mtukudzi's life in connection with his lyrics and the social milieu in which they were created, Kyker offers an engaging portrait of one of African music's most recognized performers. Interviews with family, friends, and band members make this a penetrating, sensitive, and uplifting biography of one of the world’s most popular musicians.

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Osogbo and the Art of Heritage

Monuments, Deities, and Money

Peter Probst

Why has the home of a Yoruba river goddess become a UNESCO World Heritage site and a global attraction? Every year, tens of thousands of people from around the world visit the sacred grove of Osun, Osogbo's guardian deity, to attend her festival. Peter Probst takes readers on a riveting journey to Osogbo. He explores the history of the Osogbo School, which helped introduce one style of African modern art to the West, and investigates its intimate connection with Osun, the role of art and religion in the changing world of Osogbo, and its prominence in the global arena.

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Performance and Politics in Tanzania

The Nation on Stage

Laura Edmondson

In Performance and Politics in Tanzania, Laura Edmondson examines how politics, social values, and gender are expressed on stage. Now a disappearing tradition, Tanzanian popular theatre integrates comic sketches, acrobatics, melodrama, song, and dance to produce lively commentaries on what it means to be Tanzanian. These dynamic shows invite improvisation and spontaneous and raucous audience participation as they explore popular sentiments. Edmondson asserts that these performances overturn the boundary between official and popular art and offer a new way of thinking about African popular culture. She discusses how the blurring of state agendas and local desires presents a charged environment for the exploration of Tanzanian political and social realities: What is the meaning of democracy and who gets to define it? Who is in power, and how is power exposed or concealed? What is the role of tradition in a postsocialist state? How will the future of the nation be negotiated? This engaging book provides important insight into the complexity of popular forms of expression during a time of political and social change in East Africa.

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Performing Trauma in Central Africa

Shadows of Empire

Laura Edmondson

What are the stakes of performance in a time of war? How is artistic expression prone to manipulation by the state and international humanitarian organizations? From the standpoint of empire, Laura Edmondson explores cultural production that responds to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the twenty-year civil war in northern Uganda, and regional conflict in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She examines memorial ceremonies, plays, indigenous performance, NGO media campaigns, and contemporary dance to reveal how artists and cultural workers challenge state and humanitarian narratives in the shadow of empire and how empire, in turn, infiltrates creative capacities. Carefully contextualizing these narratives within the charged political terrain of the Great Lakes Region, Edmondson deepens our understanding of the role of creative expression and cultural agency in conflict and postconflict zones.

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The Politics of Dress in Somali Culture

Heather Marie Akou

The universal act of dressing -- shared by both men and women, young and old, rich and poor, minority and majority -- has shaped human interactions, communicated hopes and fears about the future, and embodied what it means to be Somali. Heather Marie Akou mines politics and history in this rich and compelling study of Somali material culture. Akou explores the evolution of Somali folk dress, the role of the Somali government in imposing styles of dress, competing forms of Islamic dress, and changes in Somali fashion in the U.S. With the collapse of the Somali state, Somalis continue a connection with their homeland and community through what they wear every day.

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Portraiture and Photography in Africa

Edited by John Peffer and Elisabeth L. Cameron

Beautifully illustrated, Portrait Photography in Africa offers new interpretations of the cultural and historical roles of photography in Africa. Twelve leading scholars look at early photographs, important photographers’ studios, the uses of portraiture in the 19th century, and the current passion for portraits in Africa. They review a variety of topics, including what defines a common culture of photography, the social and political implications of changing technologies for portraiture, and the lasting effects of culture on the idea of the person depicted in the photographic image.

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Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics

Akin Adesokan

What happens when social and political processes such as globalization shape cultural production? Drawing on a range of writers and filmmakers from Africa and elsewhere, Akin Adesokan explores the forces at work in the production and circulation of culture in a globalized world. He tackles problems such as artistic representation in the era of decolonization, the uneven development of aesthetics across the world, and the impact of location and commodity culture on genres, with a distinctive approach that exposes the global processes transforming cultural forms.

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Public Art in South Africa

Bronze Warriors and Plastic Presidents

KIM MILLER

How does South Africa deal with public art from its years of colonialism and apartheid? How do new monuments address fraught histories and commemorate heroes of the struggle? Across South Africa, statues commemorating figures such as Cecil Rhodes have provoked heated protests, while new works commemorating icons of the liberation struggle have also sometimes proved contentious. In this lively volume, Kim Miller, Brenda Schmahmann, and an international group of contributors examine statues and memorials as well as performance, billboards, and other temporal modes of communication, considering the implications of not only the exposure but also erasure of events and icons from the public domain. Revealing how public visual expressions articulate histories and memories, they explore how such works may serve as a forum in which tensions surrounding race, gender, identity, or nationhood play out.

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