Art and Life in Africa

By Jaja, Cheedy | Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Art and Life in Africa


Jaja, Cheedy, Teaching History: A Journal of Methods


Art and Life in Africa. CD-Rom Program with Teacher's Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa, 1999. Macintosh & Windows (95/98NT compatible). CD-Rom $50.00 (20% discount for 10 or more); Teacher's Guide $10.00; S&H $5.00 for up to 4 copies; $10.00 for more. Order from Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, University of Iowa, 134 Oakdale Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-5000.

The Art and Life in Africa CD-Rom is an interactive program designed to involve teachers and students in the rich culture and history of ethnic Africans. The use of art as the medium for this engagement is a winning formula because art is as valuable a resource as are the written documents of the past for understanding different social, religious, economic, educational, and cultural systems. For much of human history, people have used art to represent their systems of beliefs, and to record important events in the lives of individuals and their communities. By studying the art of a particular culture, one is able to understand a great deal about why people do the things they do.

However, with regard to African art, many American students, probably because of popular media depictions of African cultures view African art as strange, abstract, and exotic, and invariably they fail to discern the meaning and ideas that African art communicates. The purpose of the Art and Life in Africa CD-Rom program is to de-exoticize African art, to increase appreciation of the power and beauty of African art, and to foster better understanding of Africa and its ethnic peoples.

This innovative CD-Rom is arranged in multimedia modules. One module contains eleven thematic chapters (e.g., "Abundance," "Governance," "Education/Initiation," and "Healing") written by specialists in the field of African cultural studies. These chapters depict the various life contexts in which art objects function in African societies. Another module contains thirty-seven essays by leading scholars drawing from their fieldwork in various aspects of African art history. The thematic chapters and field research essays provide the textual component of the CD, but are beautifully illustrated with high-quality field and museum photographs. Some of the essays contain video and music clips. In fact, the CD-Rom contains 10,000 images of 600 objects, 750 field photographs, 107 ethnographies, 27 ethnographic maps, and 1400 bibliographic entries. Country Database, People Database, Bibliography Database, Image Catalog, and Media Catalog are additional modules

A Teacher's Guide is also available to augment the content of the CD-Rom; it contains several sample lesson plans and glossaries. For K- 12 teachers with internet access, a web site is available (http:www.uiowa.edu/~africart/) with a Teacher's Forum, within which an electronic version of the Teacher's Guide is available with additional lesson plans for classroom instruction. Furthermore, teachers are able to submit their own lesson plans, participate in a password-controlled discussion, and visit a chat room for scheduled discussions with African art historians. …

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