Who taught you about art? Who defined it for you? Who pulled you in the direction of what you know? I ask you to reflect on these questions. As for me, the American school system taught me about art. I learned that the greatest artistic and creative minds came from Europe. In my naivety, I didn’t question why we never spoke on the “Other”. I remember sitting in World History and learning about the Renaissance. My teacher taught me, it was a revival of culture and that Europeans were the first to embark on such a journey. My teacher taught me, Europeans created the blueprint and the blueprint was our global truth. What a lie.
As you read this, I’m here to introduce a different perspective. We live in a society where Western culture has a monopoly over the arts scene. Rarely does global art history include the happenings of Africa. What were Africans doing while the Europeans were having their Renaissance? I’ll tell you this, Africans were creating. Ironically, evidence of such creations exist in Western museums all throughout the world and remaining artifacts in Africa point to this truth. Africans were creating. Yet, even with this truth, classical European art is often considered the most advanced, and therefore, superior. Even though Africa has a rich history of art to contribute to the art history narrative, its contributions tend to be classified as primitive and irrelevant.
How did this narrative spread across the globe? Well, the narrative is controlled by who writes the story. This single narrow minded narrative, has been passed from generation to generation. And as such has entered into the algorithm of our technology. If you were to ask who are the greatest artists of all time, Google would populate names like Leorando Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rembrandt van Rijn and so forth. You think I’m wrong? Do the search yourself. While I believe these artists have produced brilliant pieces of art, they aren't the only legends. There are more. And these legends live in Africa and across the Diaspora.
With this said, I believe the narrative can change. The game changer is globalization and the age of the Internet. Globalization is the process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide and it has brought forth enormous potential when it comes to art. Nish McCree, a contemporary art writer states “ it’s never been easier to promote art, design and cultural experiences to the global marketplace. Here’s why: We live in the Age of Connectivity spurred by the internet and social media, and in the Age of Connectivity, we have a chance to engage with the global marketplace through our smartphones and digital devices in a matter of minutes.” Whereas barriers to access such as money, social connections or geographic limitations may have played a role, that has changed with the emergence of the Internet. I champion the belief that a new way of engaging art in our global art history can take permanent roots. This is why I believe in Odyssey Artisans, with our mission to share Africa’s vibrant, rich, and diverse cultural heritage with the world through contemporary art and décor art.
Now that you have food for thought, what will you do with this information? We encourage you to support organizations who are looking to change the narrative and to read mre upon this topic. I invite you to join in on the journey and be part of the story. If you look around you, disruptive change is occurring in the art industry. Let’s learn from the past and write our stories for ourselves and the future generation.