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Zimbabwean stone sculpture: The invention of a Shona tradition

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Title: Zimbabwean stone sculpture: The invention of a Shona tradition
Author(s): Zilberg, Jonathan Leslie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Gottlief, Alma
Department / Program: Anthropology, CulturalHistory, AfricanArt History
Discipline: Anthropology, CulturalHistory, AfricanArt History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Anthropology, Cultural History, African Art History
Abstract: This thesis details how Zimbabwean stone sculpture has been creatively conceived in terms of a "tribal" renaissance by the first director of the National Gallery in Harare, Zimbabwe, Frank McEwen. Despite the complexity belying the movement's history, McEwen initiated the Shona sculpture discourse through drawing upon theories about artistic revivals developed by French art historian Henri Focillon as well as the pedagogical techniques of the nineteenth century symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. In doing so, McEwen presented the works created during his tenure (1957-1973) as the reemergence of an ancient Shona tradition. He heralded Shona sculpture as a cultural revival that would stimulate a return to the spiritual in modern European art which he construed as hopelessly trivialized. Through a critical analysis of his writings, the dissertation reveals the complexity subsumed in the construction of a tradition rooted in essentialist conceptualizations of ethnicity and history and heavily inflected by early modernist and symbolist ideas of art as sacred.In contrast to the McEwen's widely accepted conceptualization that there have been no foreign influences on this tradition, the dissertation demonstrates African influences other than Shona. In addition to revealing these influences and the links to early modern European art through McEwen's inspirational role, the dissertation describes how the tradition is linked to the British Arts and Crafts Movement through the life-works of Canon Edward Paterson, an Anglican missionary who trained the first modern Zimbabwean stone sculptors.The dissertation situates Shona sculpture in a specific relation to the study of tourist art as Frank McEwen defined it to be the unique historical antithesis of tourist art--or, as he termed it, "airport" art. Hence this study details an ongoing debate over the need to differentiate "real" from "fake" Shona sculpture. Beyond problematizing the issue of authenticity, the thesis concludes that while many artists do perceive their works to be expressive of Shona culture, others struggle to transcend the ethnic label so as to be accepted in the modern art world as contemporary international artists in their own right.
Issue Date: 1996
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/23660
ISBN: 9780591089479
Rights Information: Copyright 1996 Zilberg, Jonathan Leslie
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog: AAI9702727
OCLC Identifier: (UMI)AAI9702727
 

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