For our Language Arts conference for high school Black boys, we coordinated a session where students got the chance to browse books featuring African art.
[Related: A photo-review of African Art Book Browsing]
The students browsed the following books:
All of the books are published by Yale University Press.• Maternity: Mothers and Children in the Arts of Africa• Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara• The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art• Speaking of Objects: African Art and the Art Institute of Chicago• The Language of Beauty in African Art• Kongo: Power and Majesty
The students spent time browsing through the books, viewing images of sculptures and reading about the items. The guys also spent time sketching images of artwork that they found especially notable.
Many of the attendees acknowledged that this was the first time that they got a chance to peruse African art books. The books gave the students opportunities to consider a range of artwork, and just as important, they got the opportunity to consider regions well beyond southern Illinois.
Many years ago, when I was preparing to make my first trip to West Africa, I recall coming across a statement about African markets, which I was studying. "Go the market," the line read, "see the world." The point was that the markets included so many far-flung items and products that it gave visitors opportunities to glance at materials from all over. Similarly, browsing those African art books gave students a chance to see aspects of other worlds.
The guys seemed to really enjoy the activity. Although I initially scheduled 20 minutes at the browsing station, a number of the students stayed well beyond that and returned to the African art books later in the day.