The invented collective African artist

In a recent issue of Art South Africa, Achille Mbembe articulates on the factors constraining contemporary African culture. Among those factors, he identifies ‘The conflation of African art, culture and aesthetics with ethnicity or community or communalism’:

The dominant but false idea – shared by many Africans and many donors – is that the act of creativity is necessarily a collective act; that African artistic forms are not aesthetic objects per se but ciphers of a deeper level of the ‘real’ that is fundamentally ethnographic and expressive of Africa’s ontological cultural difference of ‘authenticity’. It is this African ‘difference’ and this African ‘authenticity’ donors are keen to find, support and, if necessary, invent.

Achille Mbembe ‘Art and Development’ Art South Africa 8/3 2010 pp.70-74

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