AFRICAN ART: INTUITION AND SCIENCE

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Mbaye Diop  Babacar

by Babacar Mbaye Diop

2015-03-23
 
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It seems that Black African art does not lend itself to a strictly scientific study. This is because it is deeply rooted in religion and all that is religious is irrational. In other words, it would not be worth subjecting African art to scientific testing. African artistic production is functional and connected with society, sensations and emotion. Its domain differs from that of understanding, and the comprehension of its activity and its outcomes require some organ other than that of scientific thought.

But we all know that “artistic language” cannot exist “without the language of science”. We cannot “conceive of a bronze Yoruba sculpture, and a wooden Ashanti mask without thinking of the scientific and technical knowledge of the artist who has not chosen a random stage of the smelting of the metal to work, nor any old wood to create his shapes.”[1]

We have always contrasted reason and imagination, discursive knowledge and intuitive knowledge. Since Descartes, the West has been trying to rationalise art. However, artistic work is never devoid of emotion. In the symbolic reception of works of art, emotion and reason give us knowledge and understanding of the artistic objects. It is always in a sensitive, emotional form that we experience a beautiful work. What moves the African who contemplates a work of art is not so much the appearance of the object as its deep-seated reality, its “surreality”, not so much its “sign” as its “meaning”. What moves the African, for example, in a dance mask, is the unaccustomed sight of the god transmitted through image and rhythm.

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