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Kenyan Scholar Seeks New Approach To Marketing African Arts


Ebere Chibuzor

Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Museums of Kenya, Lydia Gatundu Galavu, has, in a paper she presented at the Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation, (OYASAF) centre in Lagos, Wednesday, urged African artists, curators and art collectors to focus more on displaying traditional art in contemporary African form, in order to make it attractive for potential big business, arts connoisseurs and enthusiasts as well as novice to appreciate the aesthetics, thematic relevance of such works.

She urged curators to focus on creating understanding and engendering interpretation of such arts.

In her presentation titled: “Displaying Traditional Art In Contemporary African Time”, she noted that western arts and natural history museums are not compatible with the contexts from which most traditional African arts emerged, hence, the need to pay more attention to critical analysis on the best practices for contextualizing traditional arts within Africa.

She stated that most of the traditional African arts in museums and galleries in the West, are displayed outside their original cultural context making it lose or distort its full identity and meaning.

Galavu, who was in Nigerian to conduct a pre‐study programme at OYASAF, in respect of Kenya’s first permanent art gallery, Nairobi National Museum, however urged curators and artists to avoid similar display methods for most  traditional African works, as it is done in Europe.

According to her most of the African works are not always interpreted correctly by foreigners, because they don’t have a full understanding of the intention of the artist.

She further revealed that contemporary African arts are currently at the centre of world’s attention, but with the prejudicial neo-colonial perceptions derived from early study of traditional African art persisting today, most of the works face the same predicament of misinterpretation.

In describing how Africa can use her fast growing art establishments to reform the current African art history, she disclosed that this can be facilitated through scholarship: sponsoring of students, artists, historians and curators from all over the world. This according to her will encourage the awareness and appreciation of African arts.

She also noted that art history can be propagated through patronage, by gathering art works for home museum. She said, “Artists and collectors must learn to donate to museums as a form of helping the public to develop an art appreciation culture. it can stimulate the museums cultivate in growing minds. Art history can arouse the importance of heritage and thus serve as the direct link between culture and economic development.

She however stated that arts works can be domestically promoted through education, adding that art education enhances creative thought and thus improves critical thinking in all subjects.

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