My research in Owo, Nigeria, revealed to me three broad ways ancestors were remembered there. In the ako ceremony hundreds of pieces of commemorative cloth were woven and a life-sized effigy of a recent ancestor was carried through the streets before it was buried (Poynor 1987) (Fig. 1). Commemorative rituals at paternal ancestral shrines (oju'po) venerated several generations of named ancestors. A retablo carved or modeled in relief backed the altar, and sculpted heads (osanmasinmi) decorated it (Fig. 2). Annual egungun masquerade events entertained and honored unnamed ancestors in general through the performance of masquerade (Poynor 1978a) (Fig. 3). Each family created its remembrances in its own way.
In this issue of African Arts, several elders have chosen to remember, through different means, those who paved the way for our own explorations of the histories of the African arts—our academic ancestors. We recognize our predecessors from many places and over great spans of time. We are indebted to generations of African elders who not only passed information from one generation to the next but also shared their knowledge with those who visited their communities inquiring about the art, performances, rituals, and practices they created.1 Another set of antecedents includes those European colonial officers, missionaries, and eventually scholars, who provided a wealth of information in colonial reports, travel writing, mission accounts, academic papers, publications, and other sources that formed a strong foundation on which to build our investigations of the arts of Africa.2 However, for this issue in celebration of the fifty years of African Arts, we limit our discussion to individuals who were working fifty years ago and the preparation of their students—the precise time African Arts made its appearance. It was a time marked by the end of the colonial era in Africa and the beginning of African independence.
We chose to limit our study to these “ancestors” for several reasons. It is that generation that was active in North American academia at the time. For the most part the scholars discussed here trained a large number of students who carried out fresh research on the continent. Arnold Rubin's vision for African art studies is acknowledged in Monica Visona's First Word. Roy Sieber's impact is remembered by Roslyn Walker. Herbert Cole reminisces about Douglas Fraser's career. Lisa Aronson acknowledges Joanne Eicher's role in looking at the arts of textiles and dress. Although he was not working in the United States at that precise period, Ekpo Eyo, as Director of the Nigerian Department of Antiquities, welcomed great numbers of American researchers to Nigeria and encouraged their work. He also emboldened young Nigerians to pursue graduate studies in the United States. One of those, Babatunde Lawal, pays homage to him in this issue. Finally, Henry Drewal and Danny Dawson have solicited oriki (praise poems) that honor Robert Farris Thompson. We trust that in remembering these ancestors, memories of other elders and ancestors will be evoked.
In preparing for dissertation research in Nigeria, I planned to study leadership arts as indexes of change, connecting the court of the eastern Yoruba kingdom of Owo to that of ancient Ife and the Edo court at Benin. My proposal had been inspired by Ekpo Eyo, whose recent excavations at Owo demonstrated that the oral histories of ancestral connections to Ile-Ife were backed up by terra cotta objects found at Igbo ‘Laja3 (see Figs. 8a, 9b, and 10 in Lawal, this issue.) Eyo talked with me at Indiana and convinced me that I might use objects, performances, and oral histories to investigate those relations. On arrival in Nigeria, however, I realized that political realties required me to change topics. I recognized that an array of arts memorialized the lives of ancestors, connecting them to elders, who in turn linked living progeny to forebears (Poynor 1978b). Ancestors and elders played vital roles in that culture even into the late twentieth century, and their importance, memories of them among the living, and links to the spirit world were still experienced through ritual, performance, and art.
In discussing the importance of ancestor veneration in Africa, Igor Kopytoff pointed out that “the African emphasis is clearly not on how the dead live but on the way they affect the living” (Kopytoff 1971). In considering the “ancestors” of our discipline(s), we too look at the different ways in which our academic forebears have affected us—providing foundations on which to build, expanding the range of arts we investigate, influencing our thinking and our methodologies. While this anniversary issue explores those scholars who were working at the time of the journal's introduction, I also argue that they worked at a time when a new world order had only recently been forged and explore how they used it and took advantage of many forces at work beyond the academic world.
I was privileged to come into one of the disciplines (art history) at this precise moment—1967. I thus bore witness, sometimes unconsciously, to those numerous factors. Fresh from completing a BFA in sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute, I was ignorant of both art history as a discipline and of African studies as a focus.4 In my first African art history class at Indiana University I sat shoulder to shoulder with a young Nigerian, Babatunde Lawal. Our position at the center of the first row demonstrated our intentions to listen closely to Roy Sieber, a driving force in African humanities at Indiana. At the end of one class, Sieber distributed subscription cards for a new publication: african arts/arts d'afrique. I subscribed, and the first issue arrived in my mail soon after (Fig. 4). Little did Tunde and I know that history was in the making—that the magazine would become the major academic journal for the young discipline, that our instructor would be recognized as one of its ancestors, or that the two of us might one day be among its elders.
While we benefitted fifty years ago from a wide range of circumstances, we did not fully understand them or question them. What was it that brought together clusters of Africanist academics to explore such a wide range of topics in the African humanities? We accepted that specialists in African art history, anthropology, ethnomusicology, history, literatures, linguistics, and folklore were in place, but we did not wonder why or how these scholars had come together at Indiana or had been funded. We accepted NDFL and Fulbright fellowships, but we did not question how or why they were available. We took advantage of weekly speakers and enrolled in courses taught by internationally known visiting scholars, but we assumed this was standard for any ranking university. But the scholars researching and teaching African expressive culture in the decade in which African Arts made its appearance were not only connected to the academic study of the visual arts on the continent, but they were also part of a dizzying set of political, ideological, and international phenomena.
The era in which the journal entered my consciousness was one that saw the culmination of events that dramatically changed the world over several decades: the end of World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Cold War. And Vietnam was still something students thought about on an almost daily basis. The period preceding the 1960s had evidenced shifting global political, economic, and military alliances. It seemed the map of Africa was in constant change. By the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, almost all African nations had wrested independence from colonial overseers. The prevailing emphasis within these countries was self-determination; each newly independent nation focused on nation building, its own survival, and achieving unity within its own borders. But it was apparent that cooperation across national boundaries was essential to development as well. Global and regional organizations quickly emerged to address political, economic, and security concerns. Moreover, the United States and the Soviet Union were entangled in a contest over the ideologies and allegiances of nonaligned nations, especially those just gaining independence.
The purpose of this article is not to critique the roles of Africanists within the framework of the Cold War, but those circumstances do raise some questions. Were Africanists merely agents of hegemonic American imperialism? Were our ancestors merely tools on one side of the Cold War? Were our disciplines' beginnings compromised by their association with the nation's military goals in relation to the Soviet Union? I think not, although I did wonder why my study of the Yoruba language was through a “National Defense” fellowship.5 The Africanists and students in African Studies that I knew were genuinely interested in the pursuit of scholarly enlightenment and were deeply intrigued by African peoples, African history, African nations as they freed themselves from the bonds of colonization and, in my case, the captivating visual cultures of the continent. We were not merely pawns in a new type of cultural imperialism. If anything, we saw ourselves as idealists, out to improve the world. In fact, many of my fellow grad students had just returned from stays in Africa sponsored by the Peace Corps, and it was that venture that attracted a large number to our campuses (Fig. 5).
GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES FOR AFRICAN STUDIES
The Peace Corps was among the signature achievements of President John F. Kennedy. Established in 1961, its purpose was to provide opportunities to serve the country and the world. Great numbers of idealistic college graduates volunteered. Their experiences in other lands, mingling with people of different cultures, exposure to other languages, led many returnees to enter graduate programs at universities that offered art history, anthropology, history, folklore, or environment and design to learn more about the cultures they had experienced. Among the Peace Corps returnees who studied with me at Indiana were Anita Glaze and Judy Perani in art history, Bill Siegmann in history, and Phil Peek in folklore.6
However visionary the intentions of academics and students were, the political aspects of the coming of age of African Studies loomed large, and the circumstances of the Cold War did provide funding for those interests. In my own naïve mind at the time, the abundance of financial backing for centers, faculty research, international education, language study, or research travel was not political. I thought it had to do with an American emphasis on education, on extending knowledge beyond boundaries, in creating bonds with other peoples.
Ironically, it was space exploration that emerged as a major area of contestation between the Super Powers during the Cold War and brought about funding for our academic studies of Africa. The 1957 launch of Sputnik suddenly focused attention on the development of sophisticated technologies that could place satellites into orbit. Western nations trembled at the prospects of Russia as an international security threat. Catching up to the Soviets in science and related fields became the mantra for American politicians. It was indeed “the race into space.” Fears of a technological gap and threats of superior performance by the Soviets brought a deluge of funding—for aerospace activity and for technical and scientific educational programs. In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA). But NASA was not the only thing to come from this new inferiority complex imposed by Sputnik. Part of the scramble for a position in the international scuffle was the enactment of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), also in 1958, providing funding to prepare a generation of students to vie for supremacy in science and technology.
NDEA did not, however, address scientific and technological concerns alone. It established funding for developing and building foreign language and area studies programs. A major focus of the American government was developing relationships with nonaligned nations in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, South America, and the Caribbean. NDEA thus provided funding to establish international studies centers under Title VI of the act. Title VI centers brought together clusters of scholars interested in various aspects of African Studies, encouraging interdisciplinary cooperation. Most centers addressed material culture and the expressive arts, some through anthropology, others through history, some through archaeology, and still others through art history or environment and design. While scholars in these various disciplines interacted on their own campuses, perhaps more importantly, they met colleagues at conferences and symposia.
In 1961, Senator J. William Fulbright succeeded in persuading Congress to pass the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, or Fulbright-Hays, which supported Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, Faculty Research Abroad, Group Projects Abroad, and Foreign Curriculum Consultants. The Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad program allowed doctoral candidates who had already acquired language and area expertise to carry out overseas research. With their expanded knowledge, they would be ready to become part of a pool of highly qualified international experts. At the time that I received a Fulbright Hays fellowship to work in Nigeria for a year, nine other students in the Indiana program received them as well. Among those studying the arts were Judy Perani and Fred Smith in art history, Bill Siegmann in history, Norma Wolff in anthropology, and Phil Peek in folklore.
UNIVERSITIES ADVANCING AFRICAN STUDIES THROUGH TITLE VI
Indiana University had developed its African Studies Program through a five-year grant from the Ford Foundation beginning in 1961. The program quickly grew, and in 1965 it was funded as a Title VI National Resource Center. Gus Liebenow, then the driving force behind Indiana African Studies, began to develop Indiana as a program with a strong humanities component. In 1962 he was successful in recruiting two of the most promising Africanists specializing in African art and ethnomusicology, Roy Sieber and Alan Merriam.
Sieber had been the first person to earn a PhD in African art at an American university. He tied the study of the object and its style to linguistic groups and to the cultural complexities that led to their production. His investigation of the body as an armature for ornament and decorative manipulation and his study of dress and textiles and crafts helped to expand the boundaries of what we consider art.
Always addressing “the object” before exploring its ramifications, Sieber was constantly involved in the museum. His students could explore objects first hand in the Indiana University Art Museum collection and curate exhibitions.7 Sieber produced more PhD students specializing in African art history than any other Africanist, but he also mentored students in folklore, anthropology, archaeology, and history, and most of them have been involved with exhibitions and curatorial practice8 (Fig. 6).
Alan Merriam specialized in both Native American and African music, developing a theory and method for studying music from an anthropological perspective as outlined in his book The Anthropology of Music (1964). Merriam's fieldwork in Central Africa among the Songye and the Bashi of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) in the 1950s and in Burundi in 1973 established him as a driving force in African ethnomusicology.
Students in history, art history, folklore, anthropology, and archaeology participated in weekly humanities seminars under the direction of Sieber and Merriam. As Sieber's assistant, I shepherded Daniel Biebuyck, Leon Siroto, Robert Farris Thompson, Daniel McCall, Frank Willett, and others from and to the Indianapolis airport. In addition to sponsoring weekly seminar speakers, the African Studies Program also brought key scholars in for semester-long stays. Thus, I studied African anthropology with Daniel Crowley, African folklore with Wande Abimbola, African linguistics with David Dalby, and African architecture with Libby Prussin. Later additions to the faculty at Indiana in the arts of Africa include Thompson's student Patrick McNaughton in art history, who shared many graduate committees with Sieber.9 Paula Girschick, who had completed her work at Indiana, returned to serve on the faculty of the anthropology department.
Although my personal experience was primarily through interactions at Indiana, my education in African Studies was broadened and enriched by exchanges with scholars and students from many of the universities in which Africa was actively being studied. Many of them I met when they participated in the weekly humanities seminars or served as visiting faculty. The following recollection is based thus to a large extent on personal connections.10
Yale boasts that its interest in African studies can be traced back to the late eighteenth century with the study of African languages. Prior to World War II, Yale had already incorporated African subject matter into the mainstream curriculum. Perhaps the best known of those involved in African humanities there during the period in review was Robert Farris Thompson. He had completed the PhD at Yale in 1965 and stayed on as faculty. His interest in specific cultures on the continent, notably Yoruba and Kongo, led him to trace the trajectory of descendants of those peoples across the Atlantic to tease out ways the visual antecedents explode creatively in the Caribbean and the Americas. Thompson's dramatic and performative presentations inspired not only students of African art but also great numbers of descendants of Africans outside the academic study of the arts.
Thompson mentored many students at Yale,11 but his support for grad student research went beyond the halls of that institution. When Thompson visited Bloomington, he advised me on ways to approach my intended research. Having visited Owo himself, he named specific rooms in the palace that would be of interest for my research. He graciously shared Yoruba slides with me.
Another center for African Studies that traces its interests in the continent from quite some time ago is that at Howard University. Although I did not have contact with Howard when I was a student, I learned of its programs through graduate students of my own who had studied there (Shaw 2011). The university's interest in Africa was evidenced more than a century ago, when Alain Locke joined the faculty in 1912. Locke's thinking on social issues and ethnicity was embodied in his concept of cultural pluralism. James Porter, head of the art department there, had studied in Paris at the Sorbonne and had done an art history MA at NYU. Despite having met West Africans and seen and appreciated African art while in Europe, Porter found himself in disagreement with Locke on whether African American artists needed to look toward the heritage of African art or whether they should consider themselves Americans first. In fact, he published an attack on Locke's views in Art Front in 1937. However, after Porter toured West Africa and Egypt himself from 1963 to 1964, visiting museums and interviewing artists, he began to be much more expressionistic in his paintings and introduced African themes. Photographs of art and architecture he had taken on his tour became the basis for his course on African art and architecture, but he used African art primarily to motivate students to be proud of their heritage (Davis 1985).
Another Howard artist, however, had heeded Locke's advice much earlier. In fact, Lois Mailou Jones had turned her interest to Africa and had incorporated African masks in her paintings in the early 1930s. On meeting Jones on her return from study in Paris in 1937, Locke urged her to paint black subject matter and to respond to African forms. Jones recalled,
When I came back from France, the first person I met on the campus at Howard University was Dr. Alain Locke … But he insisted that black artists have to do more with the black experience and, especially, with their heritage. He brought up the fact that Matisse and Modigliani and Picasso and so many of the French artists were getting famous by using the African influence in their work and that it was really our heritage and that we should do something about it (Rowell 1989).
By 1938 Jones had completed thirty illustrations for Carter G. Woodson's book African Heroes and Heroines. The same year she painted Les Fétiches, inspired by African subject matter and forms12 (Fig. 7).
At Columbia University, Paul Wingert had expanded the art history curriculum in the 1930s to include study of the arts of Africa, Oceania, and Native America under the heading of “primitive art.” His student Douglas Fraser joined him in 1955 and produced a number of students who specialized in the arts of Africa, Pre-Columbian America, Indonesia, and Oceania. Upon his early death, several scholars, sometimes coming from museums in the area, worked to keep the momentum going. Enid Schildkrout of the American Museum of Natural History and Susan Vogel, founder of the Museum for African Art, taught classes and mentored students. Polly Nooter taught at Columbia briefly before going to Iowa. Suzanne Blier was at Columbia for a decade, 1983–1993, before going to Harvard. Zoë Strother joined the Columbia program in 2000.13
The anthropologist Melville Herskovits and his wife Frances founded the first major interdisciplinary American program in African studies at Northwestern University in 1948 (Fig. 8). Herskovits was perhaps the most powerful voice in academia at the time to suggest that African culture continued across the Atlantic. Among their many interests were the arts as expressed in African cultures on both sides of the Atlantic. A cohort of young anthropologists trained at Northwestern continued Herskovits's interest in Africa, the Diaspora, and the humanities. They firmly established African and African American Studies in American academia. Some of Herskovits's students, such as Simon Ottenberg, Daniel Crowley, and Justine Cordwell, specialized in the study of the visual arts in culture. After completing his PhD at Iowa, Roy Sieber spent a year at Northwestern to absorb Herskovits's ideas.
Herskovits's students made a significant impact on my own development.14 My anthropology course in grad school was with Crowley when he visited Indiana for a semester. But it is perhaps Cordwell who sticks most firmly in my mind. She had carried out research in Nigeria the late 1940s and had spent time in Owo, where I did research some quarter century later. Like so many “ancestors,” she was generous with her knowledge, as I know from my own experience. She was always ready to talk on the phone. After we discussed my research, she sent me a Kodak box full of 8 × 10 glossies from her time in Owo to use as I saw fit (see Figs. 1–3).
Robert P. Armstrong, another Herskovits student, directed Northwestern University Press from 1960–1973. His interest in African art was manifested in research, in collecting art, and in writing. His book The Affecting Presence: An Essay in Humanistic Anthropology (1971) provided possible alternatives for looking at the arts of Africa, ideas he shared with Sieber students.
The archaeologist Frank Willett arrived at Northwestern in 1966 to serve as professor of African art and archaeology for a decade after having served at the Nigerian Department of Antiquities for some years.15 His close observation of objects from Nok, Ile-Ife, and Benin, coupled with excavations at Ile-Ife, resulted in publications that attempted to reconstruct a history for African art and place it in time (Willett 1967). Willett had a collegial spirit, and he, like Cordwell, wrote to me about his 1958 visit to Owo, clarified information he had published on Owo, and even conceded that some of my contradictory findings superseded his information. He printed photographs taken there to send to me. While some of the photographs documented objects he had encountered on his trip to Owo, he also included images that documented fellow “ancestors,” such as William Fagg, at work in the field (Fig. 9). Willett invited me to participate in a CAA panel16 and to contribute an article on Edo culture and its impact to his guest-edited issue on the arts of Benin for African Arts (vol. 9, no. 4).
The African Studies Center at Boston University, founded in 1953, was championed by Daniel McCall, an anthropologist who joined the department of sociology in the 1950s. By 1967 he was successful at founding the anthropology department. There he nurtured an ethos in which historical approaches were foremost, combining ethnology, historical linguistics, archaeology, and biological anthropology (Fig. 10). Although his fieldwork had been in Asante in Ghana, he was interested in old connections between the Sahel and North Africa. Not content to dwell in the “ethnographic present,” McCall addressed the importance of chronology and history in anthropology. His Africa in Time Perspective (1964) greatly influenced not only his own discipline but the whole field of African studies. Among McCall's many interests in anthropology was the role of art. He published African Images: Essays in African Iconology (1975), which included contributions by seasoned scholars like Vinigi Grottanelli and Philip Dark. But like many of the Africanists of the time, he was generous as a scholar, sharing the editing of the publication with his student Edna Bay and offering a chance for beginning scholars recently returned from fieldwork to publish. Among them were Bay, Herbert Cole, Perkins Foss, Rene Bravmann, Paula Girschick (then Ben-Amos), Terenz Walz, and Babatunde Lawal.17
UCLA's African Studies Program, dating into the 1950s, encouraged interest in the many expressions of the arts in Africa. It was here that John Povey and Paul Proehl founded the journal african arts/arts d'afrique in 1967. UCLA's School of the Arts and Architecture sponsored the Museum of Cultural History (now the Fowler Museum), which explored not only global arts but the cultures that produced them.18 The Fowler's intention was to enhance the understanding and appreciation of diverse peoples, cultures, and religions. Through its collections, exhibitions, and publications, the museum has been a driving force in the study of African humanities.
Arnold Rubin began teaching at UCLA in 1967. His examination of the arts of the Benue River Valley in Nigeria was based on four years of on-location research, from 1964–1966 and again from 1969–1971. Rubin encouraged students to look at the production of art in other cultures from a Marxist perspective. For his brief tenure at UCLA (he died in 1988 at the age of 50), he produced a great number of students not only in the study of African and Diaspora art but also in Pre-Columbian and Native American arts.19 Rubin led a later generation to examine body art, resulting in Marks of Civilization (1992). His innovative teaching encouraged students to look not only at “exotic cultures” but also to examine their own culture, leading them on projects examining American tattoo, Pasadena's Tournament of Roses, and the decoration of cemeteries on Memorial Day (Fig. 11). Having heard of some of Rubin's methods for making students think in terms of parallels between the purposes of African art making and that in their own cultures, I began to use some of them in my own classes.20
Rubin was an early editor of African Arts, planned exhibitions for the Museum of Cultural History and, with Sieber, co-curated an exhibition of the Tishman Collection for the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (Sieber and Rubin 1968) and founded the Arts Council of the African Studies Association and served as its president.21 After Rubin's death, UCLA did not replace him until 2000, when both Zoë Strother and Steven Nelson were hired.22
UCLA's offerings in the humanities went beyond art history. The Department of Dance had been founded in 1962. The Ethnic Arts program was established in 1972, bringing talent from anthropology, art history, dance, folklore and mythology, music, and theater. The program emphasized the development of interdisciplinary, intercultural perspectives on the arts. The Ethnic Arts program was eventually renamed World Arts and Cultures; in 1995 it merged with the Dance Department, and in 2001 faculty and staff from the Interdepartmental Program in Folklore were added. Those addressing the arts of Africa included Polly Roberts (art history), Allan Roberts (anthropology), Don Cosentino (folklore), and Chris Waterman (ethnomusicology).
Established in 1961 by Philip D. Curtin and Jan Vansina, the African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin served as a leading center for research, teaching, and outreach. Known for its strength in African languages and literatures, Wisconsin gradually developed as a powerhouse for the study of the visual arts as well. Vansina, both historian and anthropologist and an authority on Central Africa, was a major figure in incorporating historical methodology in the study of the arts. Like McCall at Boston, Vansina challenged the ethnographic present, demanding attention to history and chronology. His Art History in Africa provided a systematic method whereby an historical understanding of art is achieved, placing it in a framework that explains how artistic change has taken place over time (Vansina 1964). Henry Drewal joined the Department of Art History in 1991 as Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies.23
Michigan State University claims its commitment to Africa began over fifty-five years ago, partnering with the future Nigerian president Nnamdi Azikiwe in founding the University of Nigeria-Nsukka. Through this endeavor, Joanne Eicher developed her research on Nigerian dress and textiles and returned to teach at MSU. She had matriculated MSU as an undergrad and remained for graduate studies in sociology and anthropology. From the late 1960s until 1977, Eicher taught in the Department of Human and Environmental Design, where she developed a cadre of grad students, advising or co-advising twenty-three graduate projects.24 Eicher advanced the study of textiles, dress, and apparel with great enthusiasm and recruited avid participants from other disciplines to participate in panels and symposia. After attending a panel she chaired at ASA, I offered her my scant notes on textiles in Owo. Her response was that I had enough for a paper and invited me to join her panel the next year (Poynor 1980).
African Studies at the University of Florida began in 1964 with only two faculty—one each in political science and economics. UF received its first Title VI funding in 1965, and African Studies grew rapidly. By 1976 the core faculty had three anthropologists, two specialists in literature, and one each in economics, history, humanities, languages and linguistics, and political science. Although not associated with the Center, Jack Flam, a Modernist art historian doing research on French Expressionism, taught in the Art Department from 1966 to 1972. He occasionally addressed the arts of Africa and curated exhibitions for the University Gallery, and was an early contributor to African Arts (Flam 1971). Jean Borgatti, hired as visiting assistant professor through Title VI funding in 1975, worked with Roy Craven, director of the University Gallery, to improve the quality of the collection and curated a traveling exhibition titled “Concepts of Self” (Anon. 1978), which traveled throughout the southeast for three years. When Borgatti returned to Massachusetts in 1978, I was hired to replace her. While I advised on the expansion of the collection, I also developed a graduate program in African art and was joined by Victoria Rovine in the department in 2005. Rebecca Nagy had arrived in 2002 as director of the university's Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art and brought Susan Cooksey as curator of African art.25
The University of Illinois established an African Studies Program in 1970 with the support of both state and federal funding. Anita Glaze joined the art department and cooperated with the Krannert Art Museum on campus to explain its African collection.26
At the University of Minnesota several departments had introduced African Studies in the 1960s and the department of African American and African Studies was begun in 1969 after student demonstrations demanded change in the academy. In 1972, the art department on the Duluth campus added me as art historian and the Minneapolis campus hired art historian Fred Smith. In 1977, the Department of Textile and Cloth lured Joanne Eicher to Minnesota.27 The department thrived under Eicher's leadership.28
AFRICANIST HUMANITIES ELSEWHERE
Although NDEA Title VI centers brought about great interactions in African Studies through clustering specialists with similar interests, many scholars forged ahead on their own. For example, Robert Goldwater taught at NYU, and although he was a Modernist, his interest in the African impact on Modernism led him to the study of African art. Designated director of the Museum of Primitive Art in 1957, his exhibitions “Bambara Sculpture from the Western Sudan” (1960) and “Senufo Sculpture of West Africa” (1963) were likely the earliest exhibitions focusing on the arts of specific African peoples.29
In New Jersey, Phil Peek, a folklore mentee of Sieber, teaches at Drew University and Sarah Brett-Smith, a Thompson student, at Rutgers.30 Nearby in Connecticut, Sieber student Amanda Carlson teaches at the University of Hartford.
In Massachusetts, Eugenia Herbert taught history at Mount Holyoke. Her interest in the history of metal-working in Africa led her to interact with anthropologists, archaeologists, and art historians. She published Red Gold of Africa: Copper in Precolonial History and Culture (1984) and Iron, Gender, and Power: Rituals of Transformation in African Societies (1993). James Fernandez, who had studied with Herskovits, began at Smith. His work in the Fang region resulted in numerous publications, some addressing the connections between Fang philosophy and their visual art traditions. In addition, he played a significant role in training Peace Corps volunteers.31 John Pemberton III addressed African art and religion at Amherst, beginning in 1958. His research on art forms used in ritual helped to bring about understanding of Yoruba culture. In 1989 he was joined by Rowland Abiodun, who worked with Pemberton and others on many publications addressing Yoruba art history in the context of culture.
One of the most exciting developments in the study of African art history in the US is the fairly new program at Harvard, where Suzanne Blier is the Allen Whitehill Clowes Chair of Fine Arts and of African and African American Studies.32
In Pennsylvania Wyatt MacGaffey, teaching anthropology at Haverford College, explored Kongo and related peoples in Central Africa. He published pertinent information on the religion and arts of the Kongo and helped to redefine the meaning and the role of minkisi in Central Africa.33
Daniel Biebuyck, who taught at the University of Delaware, worked for long periods of time in Central Africa, especially among the Lega. His many publications on the arts of eastern Zaire (now DRC) were requirements for students of the expressive cultures of Africa.34
In the Midwest, several colleges and universities hosted groups or individuals addressing the arts of Africa. Although Sieber had earned the first American PhD in African art history at the University of Iowa, for years after he left, no Africanist specializing in the arts played a role until Christopher Roy arrived in 1978. Roy was eventually joined by a group of anthropologists and art historians that made Iowa a major center for the study of African arts for a while. William Dewey joined Roy in art history from 1990 to 2000. Allen Roberts in anthropology arrived in 1988, and Polly Nooter Roberts in art history joined him in 1994, continuing consulting for museums and curating exhibitions. Victoria Rovine served as curator of the Stanley Collection in the museum.35 Norma Wolff taught at Iowa State.
While Ohio did not have a major cluster of scholars at any one university, several individuals worked at various schools there. John C. Messenger taught at the Ohio State University. His work among the Anang Ibibio, beginning in 1951, addressed the visual and the performative arts. Okechukwu Emmanuel Odita joined the OSU art history program in 1970.36
In Illinois, Sieber student Arthur Bourgeois taught at Governor's State. Marilyn Houlberg became a force at the Art Institute of Chicago with her vibrant teaching based on fieldwork both among the Yoruba in Nigeria and on Vodou in Haiti.37
James Bellis trained in archaeology at Indiana, taught at Notre Dame. His exploration of terra cotta memorial heads in the Akan region of Ghana helped to sort out styles and kingdoms.38
At Michigan State University, Ray Silverman taught both African art and museum studies from 1988 to 2002, researching the art of Ghana and Ethiopia. Over the past twenty years he has concentrated on art of the Ethiopian Christian Orthodox Church. Silverman moved to the University of Michigan in 2002.39
In the South, Hampton Institute in Virginia developed a program in African Studies in the 1870s, not long after its 1868 founding. The College Museum was founded the same year, with examples of African art. Its African holdings grew with the 1911 gift of William Henry Sheppard's material collected on his 1890–1910 stay in the Congo. Richard Long taught English and French but also directed the College Museum. It was there, in 1968, that Long hosted the first Triennial Symposium on African Art. Elsewhere in Virginia, Babatunde Lawal began teaching African and Diaspora arts at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992, having taught at the University of Ife (Awolowo University).40
Another Nigerian scholar who arrived to teach after a distinguished career in Nigeria was Ekpo Eyo, who joined the faculty at the University of Maryland in 1986. Eyo had already made an impact through his work in Nigeria as an archaeologist and as director of the Department of Antiquities.
In Georgia, a cluster of scholars addressing African art studies in different ways found their ways to Emory. Two anthropologists were associated with the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts. McCall student Edna Bay, who addressed the arts of the Fon peoples of Dahomey also worked on broader historical issues of culture from that region. Ivan Karp broke new ground in museum studies and public scholarship. In the anthropology department Corinne Kratz also addressed museums, exhibitions, cultural display, and performance. In the Art History Department Sidney Kasfir explored ritual and representation based on work in the Benue River region of Nigeria and in East Africa.41 Michael D. Harris, a Thompson student, has taught African American art history since 2007 but also addresses the arts of the Yoruba in the department of African American Studies.
Prior to going to Emory, Michael D. Harris taught African and African American art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1996 through 2006. More recently, Carol McGee, Victoria Rovine, and Lyniese Williams joined Chapel Hill's art history program and are developing a graduate program there.42 At the University of Tennessee, Rosalind Hackett has taught the study of African religion, addressing the important roles art plays in it, since 1986.43
On the West Coast, several branches of the university systems in California were home to small groups or individual Africanists researching the arts of Africa and the Diaspora. William Bascom, Herskovits's first student, taught at UC Berkeley beginning in 1957. There he served as director of the Lowie Museum of anthropology and founded the folklore program. His book African Art in Cultural Perspective (1973) addressed the correlations between the creation of art objects and the cultures for which they were created. Although not directly addressing the arts, his Ifa Divination: Communication between Gods and Men in West Africa (1969) informed a generation of Africanists on the importance of the divination system and its related art forms. Daniel Crowley, trained in both art history and anthropology (also at Northwestern under Herskovits's direction), was hired at UC Davis as professor in both art history and anthropology. Crowley, like Herskovits, researched both in Africa and on this side of the Atlantic, carrying out fieldwork in the Bahamas, Trinidad/Tobago, and St. Lucia. He wrote on Bahamian carnival, exploring African myth and black reality, and on African folklore in the new world.44
Several individuals taught at the University of Washington. Simon Ottenberg, another student of Herskovits, taught anthropology. His work in Nigeria and Sierra Leone especially made an impact. His colleague in the School of Art + Art History + Design was Rene Bravmann, who addressed the ways in which Islam and art reconciled in West Africa. In the architecture department, Libby Prussin, a practicing architect and art historian, explored traditional architecture in West Africa.45
Warren D'Azevedo, also trained by Herskovits, taught at the University of Nevada; his concentrated research among the Gola beginning in 1956 and lasting for several decades seriously contributed to Liberian studies. In editing The Traditional Artist in African Societies (1973), which he first addressed in a conference at Indiana University in 1964, he turned the emphasis from technical aspects of art-making to the human element, precisely the role of the artist in society and culture.46
While many anthropologists are adept at unraveling webs of kinship and social relationships that are important in the lives of families, those who focus on the arts are normally rescued from such agony. This exercise of sorting out a generation of ancestors and the elders who were in training at the time of the first decade of African Arts and acknowledging some of their descendants demonstrates just how complex, complicated, and messy genealogies can be. Trying to understand the ancestors who were working fifty years ago proves that searching through relationships can be a chaotic endeavor, but in the end, it demonstrates that we share many connections and that tracing our own scholarly ancestors and kin makes us aware that we are indeed of a family.
While the work of American and European scholars depended on the wisdom and knowledge of African cognoscenti who lived in the communities where research was being carried out, we had no access to the written work of African scholars except on rare occasions. Traditional knowledge from African elders was interpreted by intellectual middlemen. As suggested in the last two issues of African Arts, it is hoped that the voices of more African scholars, artists, and critics will be represented in the pages of the journal in the future.
My initial idea for introducing the ancestors of our disciplines had been to recount the contributions of European scholars in the first half of the twentieth century and to lead into those working in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.
I had earned a BA with a major in art in the small college in my hometown. I then went to California for a BFA in sculpture. The only art history I had in both programs was a one-semester survey of Western art history and a one-semester survey of Renaissance art. My interest in non-Western art was inspired by reading Thor Heyerdahl's Aku Aku (1958). Thinking a third BA, in anthropology, would not be wise, I decided to blend my training in art with courses in anthropology and art history. I discovered that Roy Sieber at Indiana had already paved the way.
National Defense Foreign Language funds (now FLAS) were allotted to Title VI universities to hold their own competitions to determine recipients. My own NDFL fellowship allowed me to study Yoruba in a Summer Language Institute followed by two years of intermediate and advanced language study.
A number of Peace Corps Volunteers followed—Chris Roy, Mary Jo Arnoldi, and Chris Mullen Kreamer. Others I eventually met through conferences—Don and Henrietta Cosentino, Allen Roberts, Henry Drewal, Suzanne Preston Blier, Tom Seligman, Elsbeth Court, Fred Lamp, Joseph Nevadomsky, and Robert Soppelsa. In a few instances, Peace Corps funding allowed some who had already carried out graduate studies to travel to Africa for research. For example, Marcilene Wittmer was assigned to the museum at the Kingdom of Bamum, where she was able to both work at her assigned duties and carry out her research at the same time.
In 1970 Sieber recruited me to choose objects, write catalogue entries, and tour a small exhibition throughout the state of Indiana. Patricia Darish organized an exhibition titled “African, Pacific, and Pre-Columbian Art in the Indiana University Art Museum” and oversaw the catalogue, which offered essays by Sieber, Douglas Newton, and Michael D. Coe. Diane Pelrine, now curator of the African collection at the museum, organized an exhibition of African art from the Rita and John Grunwald collection.
Sieber's MA and PhD students and those he mentored in other disciplines are enumerated in Walker's article in this issue.
McNaughton and Sieber co-chaired Kristyne Loughran's committee. McNaughton chaired committees for Rebecca Green, Vicki Rovine, Alice Burmeister, Kathleen Bickford Berzock, Teri Sowell, Tavy Aherne, Joanna Grabski, Suzanne Gott, Amanda Carlson, Heather Shirey, Elizabeth Perrill, Candace Keller, Paul Davis, Genevieve Marie Hill-Thomas, Stephanie Beck-Cohen, Kitty A. Johnson, Teresa Wilkins, and Brittany Sheldon.
I have tried to be inclusive in looking broadly at the ancestors and the students they mentored. If I have inadvertently left some out, please understand and forgive.
Among Thompson's students were Labelle Prussin, Perkins Foss, Patrick McNaughton, Sylvia Boone, Maude Wahlman, Sara Brett-Smith, Judith Bettelheim, Ramona Austin, David Doris, Zoe Strother, Michael D. Harris, Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, Petra Richterova, Lyniese Williams, and David Brown.
Other artists at Howard expressing interest in African art and committing themselves to interaction with African artists were Winnie Owens-Hart and Jeff Donaldson. Owens-Hart worked in ceramics, her work inspired by both Ghanaian and Nigerian sources. She traveled to Ile-Ife, where she was a visiting artist at Awolowo University. Jeff Donaldson, a cofounder of the AfroCobra movement, attempted to create what he referred to as a “transAfrican style,” characterized by high-energy color, rhythm, linear effects, and flat patterning. Donaldson served as head of the North American committee for FESTAC'77, deemed the largest ever Pan-African cultural event.
Following Douglas Fraser's death, Susan Vogel advised a number of students, including Kevin Dumouchelle, Risham Majeed, Giulia Paoletti, Joshua Cohen, Sandrine Colard, and Dan Leers. In addition, she worked with Kathryn Wysocki Gunsch at NYU-IFA. Suzanne Preston Blier mentored a number of students while at Columbia, among them Shaalini Ranasinghe, John Peffer, Gary Van Wyk, Alisa Lagamma, Dominique Malaquais, Sarah Travis and Mary Nooter. Giulia Paoletti is a lecturer at Columbia now.
I met many of the Herskovits students when I was in grad school. Ottenberg, D'Azevedo, James Fernandez, Armstrong, and others visited Indiana to participate in the humanities seminars and to meet with students of Roy Sieber and Allan Merriam. Later, William Bascom advised me and served as a consultant on an NEH project I worked on in the 1980s.
Among Willett's students were Olufemi Richards from Sierra Leone and Sharon Patton, who would later become director of the National Museum of African Art. Several students were with him when he returned to the United Kingdom to direct the Hunterian Museum. Kate Ezra who completed the PhD with Suzanne Blier and was eventually curator of African art at the Metropolitan Museum. Maude Wahlman continued under Robert Thompson at Yale. Bill Dewey transferred to Indiana to study with Sieber.
For the CAA meetings held in Chicago in 1976, Willett organized the panel to look at the impact of Edo culture but also to begin to think in terms of synthesis. Several young scholars, some still working on the PhD, were invited to participate. Among them were Jean Borgatti, Phil Peek, Nancy Neaher, Perkins Foss, and Robin Poynor.
McCall visited Florida soon after I arrived there. On one walk and chat about my research, he invited me to stay at his house in Boston for the upcoming ASA meetings.
Staff of the museum have made an impact on the study of African visual studies, among them Ralph Altman, George R. Ellis, Doran H. Ross, Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts, Marla C. Berns, Gemma Rodrigues, and Betsy D. Quick.
Rubin's PhD students included Mildred Monteverde, Barbara Blackmun, Mikelle Smith Omari, Mark Graham, Amelia Trevelyan, Carolee Kennedy, Nii Quarcoopome, Rachel Hoffman, Rosalinde Wilcox, Marla Berns, and Zena Pearlstone. Those who did the MA were Rosemary Greene, Nancy Wall, Marion Cox, Mary Loy Franz, Judith Bettelheim, David Lytton, Sonja Berkic, Rosalind Pastor, Carolann Paul, Francine Farr, William Cohen, Jeri Williams, Elisabeth Cameron, and Paulette Parker,
In one instance, Rubin had asked students to consider an African object, its physical form, its material presence, its purpose for existing. Then, they were to translate those ideas into a contemporary American equivalent. His example was an Asante akuaba. Made of wood in a “craft” society, its forms embodied ideas of fertility, wealth, and beauty. What would be equivalent in a plastic-based, assembly line culture that did not carve wood? A twentieth century equivalence would be the use of a ready-made, plastic object in an assemblage of other telling materials. A Barbie doll?
Roy Sieber served as past-president of the new organization while Rubin served as president.
Steven Nelson cochaired Africanist PhDs Susan Gagliardi and Lisa Homann with Zoe Strother. Others he chaired include Sean Sheridan Anderson, Dwight Carey, Erica Jones, and Michelle Craig,
Drewal's students include Moyo Okediji, Cynthia Becker, Kimberly Miller, Shannen Hill, Nichole Bridges, Bolaji Campbell, Cheryl Sterling, Janine Sytsma, Susan Curtis, and Gaelle Beaujean Baltzer.
Among her Africanist students at MSU were Betty Wass, Ila Pokornowski, and Ruth Neilsen.
Poynor and Rovine shared PhD committees. Those chaired by Poynor are Jordan Fenton and Courtnay Micots. Rovine chaired MacKenzie Moon Ryan, Meghan Kirkwood, Amy Schwartzott, Christopher Richards, and Daniel Jakubowski. Poynor's MA students were Barbara Thompson, Susan Cooksey, Ann Baird, Jody Berman, and Jaime Baird. Rovine's MA students were Rebecca Steiner, Carlee Forbes, Kimberly Morris, and Ashleigh Lynch. Elsewhere in Florida, Marcilene Wittmer taught from 1970 until retirement at Miami University. Maude Southwell Wahlman taught at the University of Central Florida until her move to the University of Memphis. A number of scholars have taught at the University of South Florida, each for a short time. Among them are Daniel Biebuyck, Elisabeth Cameron, Olu Oguibe, Amanda Carlson, and David Doris. Courtnay Micots is at Florida A & M, and MacKenzie Moon Ryan teaches at Rollins College and is part of the University of Florida editorial team for African Arts.
Dana Rush taught at Illinois for a number of years, and most recently Prita Meier joined the faculty in 2012.
The Department of Textile and Cloth was eventually renamed the Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel.
Marla Berns was director of the Goldstein Museum of Design prior to leaving for California.
Two students of African art that Goldwater mentored were Susan Vogel and Sylvia Williams. Both went on to museum careers. Vogel started at the Museum of Primitive Art with Goldwater and followed the Nelson Rockefeller Collection to the Met. Then she founded the Museum for African Art, where she published a prodigious number of books and mounted cutting-edge exhibitions. Williams was the first director of the Museum of African Art when it became a part of the Smithsonian Institution. Elsewhere in New York, Christopher Richards teaches at Brooklyn College. In Ithaca, Risham Majeed teaches at Ithaca College. Joshua Cohen and Cheryl Sterling teach at CCNY Others working in New York included Salah Hassan at Cornell, and far to the north, at Alfred University, Martha Anderson, a Sieber-trained art historian who worked on the art and culture of the Ijo peoples of southern Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Chike Okeke-Agulu teaches at Princeton, and John Peffer is at Ramapo College.
Fernandez moved to Dartmouth and eventually to the University of Chicago. Also in Massachusetts, Jean Borgatti taught at Clark University and Kimberly Miller at Wheaton College.
Blier has produced a great number of students since her tenure at Harvard. Those completing the PhD in African art include: Aimee Bessire, Randall Bird, Mark Delancey, Lauri Firstenberg, Cecile Fromont. Janet Hess, Genevieve Hyacinthe, Jessica Levin Martinez, Leora Maltz, Prita Meier, Steven Nelson, Dalila Scruggs, Ruth Kerkham Simbao, Teresa Sims, and Kristina Van Dyke, Blier shared some committees with colleagues both in art history and in other disciplines. Among the students with shared chairs are Sarah Byala (with Caroline Elkins) and Erin Moseley (with Caroline Elkins). In addition, Gemma Rodrigues completed the MA with Blier.
MacGaffey worked on the exhibition of minkisi and shared the accompanying book with Michael D. Harris (MacGaffey et al. 1993), who addressed the sculpture of the American artist Renee Stout for the same exhibition. Others in Pennsylvania included Perkins Foss, who taught at Penn State, and William Dewey, who joined him there in 2010.
Ikem Okoye is currently in the art history department at the University of Delaware. Bolaji Campbell, a Drewal student, is at RISD in Rhode Island.
Iowa PhD students include Barbara Thompson, Susan Cooksey, Karen Milbourne, David Riep, Manuel Jordan, Dana Rush, Carol Thompson, and Emily Hanna. When Dewey left for the University of Tennessee in 2000, Sarah Adams joined the Iowa group.
Sarah Van Beurden is currently at OSU. Henry Drewal taught for a while Cleveland State, and that position eventually was filled by Kathy Curnow. At Ohio University, Judy Perani taught and curated exhibitions, beginning in 1972. Fred Smith at Kent State has combined African art history and museum studies. A number of younger scholars are teaching at Ohio institutions now. Andrea Frohne currently has a joint appointment in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and the School of Art at Ohio University. Jordan Fenton teaches at Miami University, Joanna Grabski at Dennison, and Matthew Rarey at Oberlin.
Roslyn Walker began teaching at Illinois State in 1975 and stayed until she joined the staff of the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian in 1983. Martha Ehrlich, a specialist in Ghanaian gold who trained with Sieber, taught at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
DePauw University offered African art history through the presence of Sieber student Tavy Aherne until she returned to IU as Andrew W. Mellon and Anthony J. Moravec Senior Academic Officer in the IU Art Museum in March 2017.
Silverman's colleague David Doris began teaching at Michigan in 2003. Also in Michigan, Wayne State University in Detroit has had several Africanists: Daniel Mato in the late 1960s, Prita Meier from 2010 to 2012; presently Samantha A. Noel addresses the African Diaspora.
Elsewhere in Virginia, James Madison University has tried to provide courses on African art from time to time. Tavy Aherne was there before going to DePauw. Currently Aderonke Adesanya, who earned the MA and PhD at the University of Ibadan, focuses her research on feminist theory and art in the School of Art Design and Art History at James Madison. Ramona Austin is at Old Dominion University.
Susan Gagliardi now teaches in art history at Emory. Abayomi Ola teaches at Spelman College in Atlanta.
The University of North Carolina has joined UCLA, the University of Florida, and Rhodes University in the editing consortium for African Arts. Lisa Homann teaches at the Charlotte campus and joins the UNC group in the editing effort. Amy Schwartzott is at North Carolina A & T.
Hackett (1996) specifically explored art in the context of religion. William Dewey joined her in art history from 2000 through 2010 before going to Penn State. Maude Southwell Wahlman taught African and Diaspora arts at the University of Memphis. In neighboring Kentucky, Robert Boyce, who did the MA with Sieber, taught architectural history and offered courses in African art at Berea College, and Monica Blackmun Visona currently teaches at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Janine Sytsma, a student of Henry Drewal, is visiting at the University of Arkansas.
Crowley and his wife Pearl translated Olbrecht's book on Congolese sculpture (1982). Crowley boasted of traveling to every country in African (in fact every country in the world except Iraq) although he was wheelchair-bound. Others in California included Barbara Blackmun teaching at Mesa College in San Diego. Her work was on the Kingdom of Benin. Elisabeth Cameron teaches at UC Santa Cruz. Judith Bettelheim taught at San Francisco State and addressed Africa and African Diaspora arts, especially as expressed in the Caribbean. Dolores Yonker, who specialized in Haitian art, taught at California State University, Northridge. Zena Pearlstone teaches at California State, Fullerton.
Both Ray Silverman and John Nunley did their PhD work at Washington. Mark Auslander teaches anthropology at Central Washington University.
In Colorado, David Riep teaches art history at Colorado State University and Michael Coronel at University of Northern Colorado. Mikelle Smith Omari-Tunkara taught at the University of Arizona.