Headgears and Headways
Africa’s representation in the dominant media, especially through plethoric, apocalyptic narratives of deprivation, desperation and destitution have, for so long, lodged the continent in a spectral realm but has, also, inspired African cultural workers concerned with establishing alternative reference points. It is, no surprise then that the ‘Crown of Thorns… An African Halo’ project’s conceptual framework, imaginative verve, and discursive scopes advocate deliberations, debates, dialogs and, crucially, epistemological revisions about the continent’s past, present, and prospects.
Cogently, subjecting the crown, a symbol of regal dignity, privilege and power, to a radical configuration invests it, here, with scriptural, political and historical subtleties. In this context, the halo, a fascinating icon is, arguably, not about wistful innocence but a transcendental spotlight, metaphorical of hope and a renaissance. So, while the ellipsis in the project’s title, however benign it may seem, initiates an enigmatic appeal, it highlights a charged threshold, a richly symbolic space of passage and transformation. Seen this way, the ellipsis is not about hesitation but reflexive of ‘missing’ parts of African history whose acknowledgment initiates, a purposeful journey to restoration of autonomy, identity, agency and dignity.
In a way, the project, from the title and material components, invites exploration of the relationship between lived experiences and the complicated layers of African cultural production; more so, as furniture, with its relationship to the household, the quotidian, the utilitarian, the artisanal, for example, is situated within and among various craft traditions. Pertinent also, are the contexts out of which and against which African art practices are invested with meanings. Hence, in juxtaposing violence on, violation and vilification of a continent, through the ‘crown of thorns’, to a vindicating aura, the project expands the frontiers of socially engaged art practices.
Hence, in juxtaposing violence on, violation and vilification of a continent, through the ‘crown of thorns’, to a vindicating aura, the project expands the frontiers of socially engaged art practices.
Beyond the tropes of suffering, recuperation and redemption, this percipient project, so laden with symbolic and historical import, could be seen as an endeavor to articulate a question: If African art practices have been immured, in dominant discourses, within the domain of antiquity, the ritualistic, folkloric, exotic, ornamental, and depreciatory hierarchies of worth, in what ways can such anachronisms and the ideologies that undergird them be abrogated?
Jude G. Akudinobi, PhD
University of California, Santa Barbara.