There are a few ideas I am hoping we would consider as we conclude this historic conversation. The first has to do with the materials we use for teaching courses in contemporary African art. What sorts of resources do we have at our disposal? I ask this because, often, colleagues wishing to develop courses in the field often complain about scarcity of published sources and visual materials. Is it that people are just lazy to find the materials or does this speak to a familiar reality? I remember a few years back, there was intense movement in some quarters to develop a text book for teaching modern/contemporary African art (which I thought was a wrongheaded thing to do at this point in the life of our discipline), but it seems the supporters of the text book project were ostensibly trying to provide solution to the problem of teaching resources for the field. Does anyone have any thoughts on these issues.
Up to this point we have navigated around and confronted many issues relevant to our experience as scholars (teachers and researchers) in the field of "contemporary African art." But what exactly do we mean by this field? (Betsy had earlier questioned whether the field actually exists); And Okwui had mentioned, in passing, that there is a difference between "modern" and "contemporary" African art, despite that some have used both terms interchangeably. So my question is this: what is/are our idea(s) of what Contemporary African art history means, refers to, represents?
There is another view to the problematic suggested by the second question. In his penultimate post, Ikem insinuated the struggle within Africanist scholarship some years ago between partisans of traditional/classical and modern/contemporary African art history. We have also seen the tensions bubble up in the pages of African Arts. Apart from the fact that the initial resistance to contemporary African scholarship among many Africanists had to do with anxiety of the new, which is quite natural, there is, it seems to me, a more fundamental question of (in)compatibility (can the classical and contemporary belong in the same discursive space?) and methodology (are tools, theories, and modes of analysis developed in the one useful or relevant in the other?). That is to say, do both sub-fields speak the same or similar art historical language? Or do you have to be critically bilingual, to push the metaphor, to engage simultaneously with classical and modern/contemporary African art in our research and teaching?
-Chika Okeke-Agulu, Princeton University