New Currents, Ancient Rivers: Contemporary African Artists in a Generation of Change by Jean Kennedy

from the dust jacket

Although modern African literature and music have become well known in the West, through the contributions of such famous authors as Chinua Achebe and Bessie Head and such popular musicians as King Sunny Ade and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the continent's vast body of modern visual arts has been little explored.

In New Currents, Ancient Rivers Jean Kennedy surveys African art of the last forty years, offering an expansive perspective on the visual arts of the continent. Just as ancient rivers flow through the modern African landscape, so too do the rituals and traditions of the past run deeply through modern African art. The past is able to coexist in vibrant synthesis with the present largely because of a critical constant in African culture, the acceptance of change.

The culmination of twenty years' research, New Currents, Ancient Rivers is the largest survey of contemporary African art, presenting nearly 150 artists of sub-Saharan Africa, primarily from Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and South Africa-painters, sculptors, fiber artists, printmakers, and filmmakers. As Kennedy examines their artistic development, she shows the many ways the artists meld elements from modern life, the legacy of colonialism, foreign technology, the natural world, and the past to create art that may be divorced from the original purposes of ritual but that still embraces traditional rhythms. The author also briefly discusses the influence of the oral and literary traditions on the visual arts.

New Currents, Ancient Rivers is a tribute to the vitality and diversity of a continent and its peoples. This progressive book recognizes individual artists, many of whom are virtually unknown in Europe and the United States.

Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992
Includes extensive bibliographic references and index.
204 pages, 11" x 8", 18 color plates, 170 b&w photographs