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Some figural works created in ancient African cultures such as the Nok and Ancient Ife in Nigeria share similar head-to-body proportions known as “African proportion.” Is this coincidence or the result of one culture influencing another?

Required text for this class: Monica Blackmun Visonà, Robin Poynor, Herbert M. Cole, “A History of Art in Africa,” Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2008.

Please follow these guidelines:
• All papers should be typed double-spaced on 8.5” x 11” paper, in 12 pt. font, and stapled. Put your name, “Midterm Exam,” the class and the date on the first page. Number your essays as they are here.
• Avoid using verbatim quotes. Put understandings from the texts in your own words instead and then cite the source with a proper citation such as footnotes, endnotes or parenthetical citations. Use one of the Style Guides (see Specialized Guides) located on the Gund Library web site for citations.
• When discussing a work of art, identify it as it is in he textbook or assigned reading. Be sure to point to specific parts of the work to back up your assertions.
• It is not necessary to provide illustrations in your paper. Refer instead to the page number on which the image appears in the textbook or article. Example:

Works such as Saltcellar, Sapi, c. 1490-1530 were designed by Sapi artists for Portuguese patrons (Visonà, et al. 171).

• In order to get the highest possible grade make sure you do the following:
• Write clearly. Your ideas should flow logically from one to the next. A list of disjointed ideas does not make a good essay even if you answer the questions.
• Use your own words whenever possible. Avoid letting the authors speak for you. If you do use a verbatim quote follow it with an explanation of what it means in the context of your essay.
• Avoid short, choppy answers. Make sure your answers convey in summary form the complexity of the arguments in the texts. Answer all of the questions in the essays you choose.
• Check for typos and grammatical errors.
• Your grade will depend on the degree to which you follow these guidelines and the clarity, thoughtfulness and thoroughness of your answers.

Type about three (3) pages for each of the following two essay questions. You will have a total of six (6) pages. All readings are in the textbook or in the “Readings” folder on Schoology.

Essay #1

According to the introduction of your textbook, several features are common to many cultures of sub-Saharan African art despite the great variety of art produced on the continent. Four of these features are “visual abstraction”, “sculptural primacy”, “performance”, and “multiplicity of meaning”. Choose at least two works, including a Sande Society mask from Sylvia Boone’s chapter “The Good Made Visible” and a work from Germaine Dieterlen’s article “Masks and Mythology Among the Dogon” and discuss them in relation to the four features above. You may also consult the sections of the textbook that also discuss works by the Mende and Dogon. See the syllabus and appropriate hand-outs for page numbers in the textbook (Visonà, et al.)

Essay #2

Some figural works created in ancient African cultures such as the Nok and Ancient Ife in Nigeria share similar head-to-body proportions known as “African proportion.” Is this coincidence or the result of one culture influencing another? Explain what “African proportion” is, who developed that idea, where it developed first in Africa as a “canon”, and how it spread according to Bernard de Grunne. Choose a work from Ancient Ife discussed in the textbook and in John Henry Drewal’s article “Ife: Origins of Art and Civilization” (see Drewal2.pdf in the “Readings” folder) and describe how it fits the canon of African proportion. Do all Ancient Ife works fit this African canon of proportion? If not, identify and describe an example. How do scholars know when an ancient work was created? Do scholars depend only on archaeology to determine the probable use or identity of artifacts or do they also employ other means to support their findings? Explain

 

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