Monday, June 17, 2013

African Women Artists and Culture

1.0 Introduction Contrary to the common depictions of the African continent as a land plagued with civil strife, poverty and a myriad of many other crises, the land of Africa is alive and comprised by vibrant female artists who make use of their art to pass across messages, values, beliefs and practices all which embody the African culture. The 1960s characterized a period of time in Africa in which many states had already attained independence from their European colonizers. As the men engaged in efforts aimed to constructing African modern states, the African women were tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding African tradition and culture and passing it on to the next generation. Owing to the fact that a majority, it not all, of the nations in Africa are patriarchal and that for many years the boy child was illuminated at the expense of the girl, many female artists emerged who- at the time- could only voice their condemnation of the discrimination of the woman through their art. In spite of the fact that the women artists in Africa are indeed surrounded by very difficult circumstances and a very judgmental society, Fall (p. 5) points out that the female artists in Africa have been able to create a space of freedom for themselves where they can come up with artistic pieces which respond to different issues that affect them in society. African women artists in the modern day make use of their art not only to banish oppressive taboos but also reveal dark secrets of oppression that are rarely mentioned by word of mouth. Since the initial existence of human civilization different forms of art have been used to pass across a myriad of messages. This paper wild discuss two renowned female artists from Africa— Sokari Douglas Camp from Nigeria and Tracey Rose from South Africa- as well as the manner in which they have positively impacted their cultures so as to give a better name for African women and lead to the positive advancement of their societies. 2.0 Sokari Douglas Camp and Her Contributions Walshak (p. 2) describes Sokari Douglas Camp as a female sculptor who was born in Buguma, Nigeria in the year 1958. Buguma is a region on the eastern part of the Niger Delta. When she was barely past her childhood Sokari relocated to England and later completed her course work at the Central School of Art in the year 1983 and later pursued a master in art in the Royal College of Art in 1986. Sokari is amongst the most renowned African female artists particularly recognized for her large metal figurines. Moreover, Sokari has also featured in many group and solo artistic displays in different parts of Europe as well as the United States of America. According to Walshak (p. 2) Sokari’s artistic works are mostly inspired by her Kalabari culture as well as the traditional practices and beliefs that the Nigerian people residing in Kalabari region incline towards. The cultural inspiration in Sokari’s work also emanates from the aesthetics which characterizes her Kalabari cultural roots as well as the traditional dances, textiles and numerous other traditional rituals that she has experienced. A majority of Sokari’s sculptures are kinetic and made of steel. Walshak (p. 15) reveals that Sokari makes use of her sculptors as the main subjects of her work and then she adorns the figurines as indicated in the figure below. Sokari Douglas Camp was in the year 2005 awarded with one of the most important awards in the British honors framework when she was made a Commander of the British Empire for her contributions in art and sculpture. Sokari has a tendency to depict in her art issues that she feels very strongly about; these are mostly the political and social dilemmas that her motherland, the African nation, is confronted with. Walshak (p. 11) reveals that one of the reasons that Sokari decided to remain in Europe even after completing her education is the fact that since she is a woman her background as a person from Kalabari would have disallowed her to become a sculptor in Nigeria. As in many nations of Africa, Fall (p. 2) points out that Nigeria at this time was clouded with a high level of gender disparity and women were perceived as being “owned” by the men. In order to get their wishes, women in Africa learnt to use the art of seduction and make use of their bodies so as to attain some dominance over the males, however temporary it might be. Through her artistic work Sokari has thus rose against the discriminatory manner in which many women in Africa are treated due to their sex and gender. In addition to this, Walshak (p. 11) claims that by use of her artistic work which is very political, Sokari has contributed positively to the nation of Nigeria by voicing her concerns about the violence in Nigeria as well as other pertinent issues that surround the oil industry in the Niger Delta. 3.0 Tracy Rose and her Contributions Tracy Rose was born in the year 1972 in South Africa in the Durban region. Tracey Rose then studied at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where she pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree on Fine Arts in the year 1996. Currently she teaches at the University of Witwatersrand as well as Vaal Triangle Technikon in South Africa’s Vanderbijl Park. Most of Rose’s artistic pieces are paintings, drawings photographs and sometimes sculpture. She has a particular preference for using ink or oil on paper and canvas respectively. Rose has taken part in a number of solo artistic displays such as The Project in New York and The Goodman Gallery Art Exhibition in Johannesburg both in the year 2000. Many of Tracey Rose’s works are a depiction of the circumstances that she had to gow up in South Africa. In spite of the fact that she was better of than most South Africans in her time and she even received a good education, it was not easy to live in this nation where a rape was estimated to occur in every 83 seconds (Fall, p. 2). In addition to this, the woman in Africa at this time was not only discriminated upon in favor of the man but also exposed to a very high level of disempowerment. Consequently, the only alternative that Tracey Rose had so as to be heard and make her early works receive the attention that they required so that she could pass on her message was provocation. According to Fall (p. 3) Rose, in most of her early works utilized her body as the main medium of art and presented it to her audience as a symbol of Oppression. For Tracey Rose her body was both the subject and medium through which she could pass across her messages on women empowerment as well as convince her male dominated society to give the female in Africa a chance. In the video Ongetiteld, Trace Rose films herself as she shaves completely unashamed of the fact that she is naked. In Span 2 she pulls another naked stunt but this time not shaving; rather she is enclosed in a glass case and is depicted as knitting her hair as indicated in the diagram below (Fall, p. 3). Although many in these early days find Tracey Rose’s work quite disturbing and difficult to understand, Bedford 92004) claims that Rose was making use of her body and depicting messages about the woman in Africa by making use of nakedness, voyeurism and relationship. By using her own body as both the medium and subject of her artistic works, Tracey Rose was trying to effectly respond to the gender disparity and inequitable status of women, not only in South Africa but in the rest of the African Continent. According to Fall (p. 3) Tracey Rose has also done quite a lot using her art to react to the mental and bodily alienation that the woman in Africa is confronted with. Despite her radical manner, Rose responds to the sexism and racial discrimination in South Africa in particular and Africa in general causing many policy makers and leaders to give a second thought to the social and civic strategies of governance that they formulate and use. 4.0 Conclusion Since the initial existence of human civilization different forms of art have been used to pass across a myriad of messages. In sharp contrast to the common depictions of the African continent as a land plagued with civil strife, poverty and a myriad of many other crises, the land of Africa is alive and comprised by vibrant female artists who make use of their art to pass across messages, values, beliefs and practices all which embody the African culture. As in many regions through out the world, the artists in Africa make use of their art to respond to different political, social, religious and cultural issues that affect them. This paper has described the African female artists, their art and how they have made use of it to contribute positively to their society. The female artists that have been studies in this paper are Tracey Rose from South Africa and Sokari Douglas Camp from Nigeria. These two women have attained a number of accomplishments through their art. It is well known that despite the very important roles that they play in society, African women in many parts of the world lack a voice in their societies. As a consequence of being disallowed the power of the word, many women remain silent observers of the events and occurrences that affect them. These two African female artists however, have contributed greatly in changing these circumstances since they make use of their art to communicate different issues of concerns- particularly those affecting the women in Africa- and thus agitate relevant policy makers and leaders in the society to rectify them. Another interesting aspect of the art by Female African artists is the fact as depicted by the pieces of Sokari is the fact that such art not only passes across certain messages but also ensure the conservation of African culture and traditions for instance the modes of dressing and religious rituals. The African female artists are in the modern day become very influential and their representations which have political or/and social connotations can no loner be ignored. This is particularly so when such artistic depictions are representative of reminisces of lost battles as well as the aborted dreams of many African women who came before them as a consequence of gender, racial and ethnic discrimination. 3.0 Work Cited Bedford, Emma: Tracey Rose in 10 years 100 artists: art in a democratic South Africa, ed. Sophie Perryer, Struik, (2004) Fall, Ngone: Providing A Space of Freedom: Women Artists From Africa, in Global Feminism: New Directions in Contemporary Art, Brooklyn Museum (2007), pp 1-5 Walshak, Liz: Contemporary Artist Profile: Sokari Douglas Camp http://www.clarku.edu/~jborgatt/smfa/sokari.pdf (2008), p. 2-16 [Accessed on 10th April 2012]