Friday, November 8
Sculptors from Zimbabwe display their skills and artwork in botanical gardens in Europe, North America, and the Middle East - and at the same time must field questions on politics, trade and culture. African Art on the Move in YaleGlobal Online addresses the challenge: "debate continues on culture, style and authenticity – is art global because it sells overseas or because artists respond to customer demands? Must African art be made in Africa, and must it address poverty and politics?"
Any work of art should be assessed on its own quality. Too often critics, amateurs and even professionals, are quick to dismiss work for any number of peripheral details: the style of art, national origins and geographical positioning, too much or too little authenticity, global versus local outreach, the level of academic training with mentors who are too influential or not influential enough, corporate or government support, functional or non-functional design, or an artist's own motivation to describe beauty versus conflict and poverty. "Rejection of artists because of borrowed or political themes, a mentor’s background, or a promotion style that’s too delicate or pushy – any number of reasons – can be as restrictive as commercialization," the article concludes.
Critics are particularly sharp in challenging creators who venture outside traditional boundaries, whether it's sculptors from Zimbabwe carving on the grounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Canada or a journalist in Michigan who decides to write about Afghanistan. Some readers want to read descriptions and analysis only from native writers or those well traveled in a region. But this insistence means that connections can go missed as outsiders quietly compare values and use a new setting to relay cultural conflict in their own homeland.
Some artists comply, narrowing their study, and others resist by extending their reach.
Photo of Zimsculpt sculpture at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario, courtesy of Doug Olsen