Synopses & Reviews
This book combines ethnography with the study of art to present a fascinating new vision of African history. It contains the paintings of a single artist depicting Zaire's history, along with a series of ethnographic essays discussing local history, its complex relationship to forms of self-expression and self-understanding, and the aesthetics of contemporary urban African and Third World societies. As a collaboration between ethnographer and painter, this innovative study challenges text-oriented approaches to understanding history and argues instead for an event- and experience-oriented model, ultimately adding a fresh perspective to the discourse on the relationship between modernity and tradition.
During the 1970s, Johannes Fabian encouraged Tshibumba Kanda Matulu to paint the history of Zaire. The artist delivered the work in batches, together with an oral narrative. Fabian recorded these statements along with his own question-and-answer sessions with the painter. The first part of the book is the complete series of 100 paintings, with excerpts from the artist's narrative and the artist-anthropologist dialogues. Part Two consists of Fabian's essays about this and other popular painting in Zaire. The essays discuss such topics as performance, orality, history, colonization, and popular art.
"This is an extraordinarily original, powerfully argued book; provocative in the best sense of the word. The sheer juxtaposition of the terrible history of Zaire as painted by a Zairean popular artist who lived through some of the worst of it, the artist's precise and eloquent explications of his work, a bluntly factualist account of the events depicted, and Fabian's searching ethnographical commentary, without privileging any of these so different types of discourse over any of the others, raises some of the most fundamental and most difficult questions in history, art, and anthropology. Remembering the Present is a major step forward in both the presentation of cultural materials and in their analysis."Clifford Geertz
About the Author
Johannes Fabian is Professor and Chair of Cultural Anthropology and Non-Western Sociology, University of Amsterdam, and author of Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (1983), Language and Colonial Power: The Appropriation of Swahili in the Former Belgian Congo (California, 1991), and many other works. Tshibumba Kanda Matulu worked as a self-taught artist in the mining towns of southeastern Zaire. He thought of himself as a historian and educator of his people; his History of Zaire was intended to help them overcome the trauma of colonization. Many of his paintings have been exhibited in Europe and the United States.
Table of Contents
pt. 1. The history of Zaire as painted and told by Tshibumba Kanda Matulu -- pt. 2. All was lost : ethnographic essays on Tshibumba's History of Zaire.