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Open Cultural Studies

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Concerning “the Eurocentric African Problem” (Meschac Gaba)

Mischa Twitchin
Published Online: 2019-05-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2019-0025


Even as it is often eclipsed by reference to the “contemporary,” modernity is widely celebrated in European museums and galleries. When refracted through the commitments of an avowedly Black artistic agenda, how might these institutions reconceive their understanding of modernism in light of African, diasporic, or Afropean perspectives? How might concerns with African agency be enacted in these cultural spaces as they project historical narratives and produce a “public” memory in their own image? What are the implications of the fact that critical resistance to modes of cultural appropriation may, nonetheless, reproduce a discourse that attempts to immunise itself from the association of modernism with colonialism? In the formation of modernist canons, what role might an example of African conceptual art have to play, even when consigned to a museum’s storage space? This paper explores such questions through the paradoxes engaged by Mechac Gaba’s reflections on his 1997-2002 project, “Museum for Contemporary African Art,” now owned by Tate Modern. In particular, it considers the dichotomy between “modern” and “traditional” as this has been constitutive of twentieth-century art history, informing a sense of the African presence within European museums. How might reference to the “contemporary” here relate to the potentials of decolonial cultural politics within such spaces?

Keywords: modernity; hybridity; tradition; ethnography; art

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About the article

Received: 2018-07-30

Accepted: 2018-11-19

Published Online: 2019-05-13

Published in Print: 2019-01-01

Citation Information: Open Cultural Studies, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 276–285, ISSN (Online) 2451-3474, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2019-0025.

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© 2019 Mischa Twitchin, published by De Gruyter Open. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License. BY 4.0

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