206 Chapters
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10. Artesãos da Nossa Pátria: Makonde Blackwood Sculptors, Cooperatives, and the Art of Socialist Revolution in Postcolonial Mozambique

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Alexander Bortolot

On a sunny day in northern Mozambique in 1973, the British journalist Iain Christie interviewed Samora Machel, the political and military commander of FRELIMO, or the Mozambican Liberation Front, and future president of Mozambique. Christie had come to the northern province of Cabo Delgado to write about FRELIMO’s “liberated zones,” areas where the political movement’s armed rebellion had largely pushed out the Portuguese and established autonomous territories in anticipation of eventual national liberation. A declared Marxist-Leninist vanguard party, FRELIMO intellectuals in Tanzania had early on adopted socialism as an alternative to both the capitalist colonialism of the Portuguese overseas empire and what it termed the “feudal tribalism” of precolonial societies. When war broke out in 1964, Machel and the party leadership sought to erect a new society within its liberated zones based in a materialist dialectic of class struggle and collective production.

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4 Zombie Media

Edward P Comentale Indiana University Press ePub

We are the hostages of news coverage, but we acquiesce secretly in this hostage-taking.

Jean Baudrillard, Virtuality and Events

The news is always horseshit.

Tony, Diary of the Dead

Taken as a whole, George A. Romero’s body of work has most often been thought to mark shifts in cultural anxieties—anxieties around the Vietnam War and the civil rights era, the rise of a consumer economy, the relation of science and the military during the Cold War, the war in Iraq, and the irruptive spectacle of terrorism—anxieties that his films not only embody but also critically respond to, and all of which have been well documented. Yet, by regarding these films as markers of cultural anxieties or repressions, such readings either implicitly or explicitly tend to use psychological models, often ones that have been transposed to a cultural level.1 Such frameworks, while certainly useful, also tend to domesticate the zombie.2 Under such models, the zombie becomes safe and familiar, immanently legible as political allegory and cultural construct. In the end, it all comes back to us humans.

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2. Follow the Wood: Carving and Political Cosmology in oku, Cameroon

Edited by Sidney Littlefield Kasfir and Indiana University Press ePub

Nicolas Argenti

The . . . mask is made to look like an animal. But it is not an animal; it is a secret.


(quoted in McNaughton 1988:129)

The kingdom of Oku, made up of three dozen villages spread over the highest peaks of a mountainous landscape, is a hierarchical polity headed by a king (or ∂bfon) and a complex palatine retinue. Within the Grassfields region, Oku is one among several dozen small kingdoms or chiefdoms, each with their own languages and ruling dynasties. Although these polities all share many cultural traits and myths of common origin and ancestry, they have each specialized forms of production for export over the centuries (Warnier 1985), and Oku has become renowned (not only in the region but among museum curators and collectors too) as one of the foremost centers of carving in the region. Although some of the objects produced by its carvers—mainly ceremonial items of palace regalia including the throne-stools of kings—are destined for export within a regional elite sphere of exchange restricted to the ruling elite of the Grassfields, others are used locally by the palace kwifon regulatory society and by Oku lineage elders. Some of the most arresting objects produced by Oku carvers are the masks used by dancing groups both within the kingdom and throughout the Grassfields. These masks represent male elders wearing gigantic interpretations of their characteristic tasseled caps, beautiful young women, and wild forest animals—some of them unidentifiable, all of them as sinister and alarming to bystanders as they are attractive and exciting. The masks (or headdresses, known as “helmet masks” because they are worn on the top of the dancer’s head) are used by the masking groups (k∂kum) of the palace secret societies and the ruling lineages of Oku (Argenti 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007).

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6. Warrior Theatre and the Ritualized Body

Sidney Littlefield Kasfir Indiana University Press ePub



The body of a warrior is both an aesthetic locus and a site of signification, bridging what often appears to be a conceptual discontinuity by blurring the structurally imposed boundary between nature (the body experienced as an anatomical fact) and culture (the body as aesthetic object and signifier). Moving from artisan back to warrior again, this chapter explores the issue of how not only certain objects (masks, spears) but also the decorated, mutilated, or sexually androgynous body as an artifact of culture acquires meaning in relationship to the institution of warriorhood. Both Idoma and Samburu warriors were deeply enmeshed in their own ritual systems and their respective systems of objects that structured cultural practice at the beginning of the twentieth century. These two systems were linked through a series of performative practices that included dancing and masquerading for the Idoma, dances and lmugit ceremonies for the Samburu, and of course warfare itself, also a type of performance. The most ritually marked objects were (at least so far in this reading) Samburu spears and Idoma enemy heads and mimetic carved representations of such heads.

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CHAPTER TWO: Early Years and Education, 1924–1949

Olive Jensen Theisen University of North Texas Press PDF

Early Years and Education, 1924–1949




ohn Thomas Biggers was a true child of the South. Born April 13, 1924, and raised in Gastonia, North Carolina, his ideas, values, memories, and talent were formed by his home and the circumstances of his birth. Growing up as a black child in a racially segregated time in the southern half of the United States deeply influenced his view of the world. Biggers’s drawings are filled with references to aspects of life that are far removed from our current preoccupation with technology and political and global matters. Yet these drawings speak so strongly of the human condition that they cannot be forgotten.

The early drawings of John Biggers centered on family and community in the rural South in the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war era of the

1950s. He was a gifted African American artist who came to adulthood in the decades preceding the historic civil rights movement. He is best understood as one of the African American pioneers in the visual arts who developed his career despite the conditions that made the fight for civil rights inevitable.

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