Visiting Scholar to Share, Discuss African Art and its History

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Columbus State University will stage a lecture by a visiting curator presenting Africa-related artwork and describing how it’s evolved from colonization and been presented and interpreted around the world.
Shannon Fitzgerald, right, a scholar-in-residence this fall with CSU’s art department, presents “Contemporary African Art and Art of the African Diaspora,” 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31 in Carpenters Hall. The facility at 9th Street and Broadway is part of Columbus State’s RiverPark campus in downtown Columbus. The program is free, and parking is available in the RiverPark parking garage.

Fitzgerald arrived from Oklahoma City, where she has worked as an independent writer and curator. She is teaching a fall semester course related to the Aug. 31 presentation to CSU students as part of a residency program that began in 2009-2010.

Regarding the public presentation, Fitzgerald said the audience will gain insight into  “vital and exciting” work from contemporary artists connected to Africa and negotiating that relationship often outside the continent in the global art scene. “The presentation will include images of work and a discussion of timely issues and contexts related to global art practice, to include a brief history of the rise in visibility of a contemporary Africa and what that means today in creating exhibitions and art history,” said Fitzgerald, who holds a master’s degree in art history and museum studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and previously served as chief curator for the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis.

Fitzgerald will open her program by discussing “Scramble for Africa,” a sculpture by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. “It’s a powerful piece to begin the discussion, as it refers to the critical historic moment when Africa was literally divided between the main powers of Europe in 1884,” she said.Yinka Shonibare's Scramble for Africa

The period resulted from what is now known as the Berlin Conference, which regulated colonization and trade, as all but three countries in Africa lost their independence and most existing forms of African self-expression were eliminated.

The sculpture, left, depicting the European powers as headless and looking over a map of Africa engraved on the wood table, reflects both beauty and irony as it addresses African representation, power and authority in a poignant and relevant way, said Fitzgerald.

“Shonibare’s subjects are wearing 19th Century suits made from ‘African’ fabric to represent authenticity. However, the dye-pattern fabric depicted actually was Dutch-Indonesian in origin — made in Holland and England and traded to West Africa,” she said. “Full consideration of contemporary art in and outside of Africa must be considered within and from the context of colonialism, and this piece effectively gets us there.”

Fitzgerald's presentation and other programming from the CSU Department of Art is made possible by the support of the Norman S. and Emmy Lou Illges Foundation, the Fort Foundation, CSU student activity fees and Friends of Art. For more information, call 706-507-8301 or go to http://art.colstate.edu/Residency.asp.