The African Aesthetic: Keeper of the Traditions

The African Aesthetic: Keeper of the Traditions

The African Aesthetic: Keeper of the Traditions

The African Aesthetic: Keeper of the Traditions

Synopsis

While the field of aesthetics has long been dominated by European philosophy, recent inquiries have expanded the arena to accommodate different cultures as well as different definitions. In this volume, scholars and teachers in the fields of African and African American studies advance the debate over the nature of African aesthetics, approaching the subject from a broad range of disciplines. Dance, music, art, theatre, and literature are examined in order to appreciate and delineate the specific qualities and aspects of African aesthetics; additionally, theoretical concepts and issues are discussed to define more clearly the meaning of an "African aesthetic."

Excerpt

After nearly twenty years of studying African aesthetics I am still amused when someone asks me about the relevance of examining African American popular culture. The particular African American approach to clothes, hair, ornamentations, music and dance is at the very center of our culture. Little real understanding of the concepts, myths and rituals of the African American society can be achieved without an appreciation of the importance of popular culture.

African American culture constitutes one of the most powerful elements for beauty and innovation in the American society. It is, of course, an extension of the African aesthetic itself. Therefore, as in many traditional African languages, the word for "good" and "beauty" is the same word. Perhaps far more important than the sociological context for African Americans is the pattern of connections that emerge when we examine the link between the African and African American aesthetic.

It is arguably an affirmation from the ancestors and an acclamation of "blood memory," as Larry Neal calls it, that the Africans in America have retained significant essences of African aesthetics and developed, embellished and recontextualized them. In cultural areas where retention has been weak, African Americans have had to recreate the form. A case in point has been naming traditions: "Tamika," "Shaqueeta," "Nikia," "Shaquan" carry the imprint and sound of an African aesthetic without its original form or meaning.

We have reclaimed ourselves, become reattached to the African source and refamiliarized ourselves with the theater, music, dances and art of Africa as they come straight from the continent. This reclamation is accomplished alongside the new African culture that has been spawned in America. The phenomenon that continues to take place is the synthesis, fusion and reconstruction that is a vital part of the African American aesthetic.

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