Ritual Poetics in African Diasporic Expressivity
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‘ASHÉ: Ritual Poetics in African Diasporic Expressivity' is a collection of interdisciplinary essays contributed by international scholars and practitioners. Having distinguished themselves across such disciplines as Anthropology, Art, Music, Literature, Dance, Philosophy, Religion, and Theology and conjoined to construct a defining approach to the study of Aesthetics throughout the African Diaspora with the Humanities at the core, this collection of essays will break new ground in the study of Black Aesthetics. This book will be of great interest to scholars, practitioners, and students interested in tracing African heritage identities throughout the African Diaspora through close examination of a variety of discourses directly connected to expressive elements of cultural production and religious rituals.
Table of Contents
Paul Carter Harrison
Theophus "Thee" Smith...THE GLOBALIZATION OF AFRICANA AESTHETICS
PART I: ASHE' CONCEPTUAL FRAME
FRONTSIEPIECE: Wangechi Mutu, Riding Death in my Sleep
Ch 1. Pellom McDaniels....LIKE ECHOS ACROSS THE CONTINUUM: WANGECHI MUTU’S
NEW HORIZONS IN AFRO-COSMOLOGY
Ch 2. Clyde Taylor…SALT PEANUTS: SOUND AND SENSE IN AFRICAN/AMERCAN ORAL/MUSICAL CREATIVY
Ch 3. Rowland Abiodun.........ASHE': THE EMPOWERED WORD MUST COME TO PASS
Ch 4. Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde...SEEING AS A RITUAL FOR A GOOD DEATH: THE SPIRITUAL CONSTRUCTION OF ALAIN GOMIS’ FILM, TEY
PART II: ASHE' CULTURAL FRAME
FRONTSIEPIECE: Eric Waters, Medicine Man
Ch 5. Michael D. Harris...........ERIC WATERS: CAPTURING THE CULTURE IN PHOTOS
Ch 6. Michael McMillan...............DUB IN THE FRONT ROOM: MIGRANT AESTHETICS OF
THE SACRED AND SECULAR
Ch 7. Oliver Lee Jackson......SENSIBILITY AND THE AFRICAN CONTINUUM
Ch 8. Marta Moreno Vega..........I WILL NOT BE ERASED
PART III: ASHE' AND ARTS DISCIPLINES
FRONTIESPIECE: Oliver Lee Jackson, UNTITLED (5.21.95)
Ch 9. Paul Carter Harrison.....AESTHETICS OF BEAUTY: IN AN AFRICANA MODE
Ch 10. Michael D. Harris..........UNDONE: BOTTLES, TREES, CHARMS, & FLASHING SPIRITS
Ch 11. Gregory Tate...........BEBOP, HIP HOP AND CONDUCTIVITY
Arturo Lindsay........ASHE AT THE CROSSROADS: Aesthetic Criteria, Glossary, Terms, and Bibliography
Michael D. Harris is an Associate Professor Emeritus of African American Studies at Emory University; he holds a BA in Education, BGSU; MFA in Painting, Howard University; MA in African American Studies, Yale, MA, MPhil, and Ph.D. in History of Art from Yale University. He taught African American Art History and Yoruba Art and Culture.
Dr. Harris was named to the list of curators and scholars, "25 Who Made a Difference," in the fall 2001 issue of International Review of African American Art. The list includes David Driskell, James Porter, Samella Lewis, Richard Powell, and Jeff Donaldson, among others.
Currently Prof. Harris has a book-length manuscript, Sanctuary: Conjuring an Africana Art Aesthetic in production at Duke University Press. Also, he has written contributions for the African Art textbook, A History of Art in Africa (2000, 2007), and was co-author of the important book, Astonishment and Power (1993), which accompanied the exhibition of the same name at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. His recent book, Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation, won two national awards.
In addition to doing curatorial work at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Art and Culture in Charlotte, Prof. Harris worked as a curatorial consultant for five years at the High Museum in Atlanta, and has worked independently as a curator for the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service, and the High Museum.
Additionally, Prof. Harris is a practicing artist and a long-time member of the artist collective, AfriCOBRA He has exhibited his work across the United States, in Europe, and in the Caribbean and is represented in many public and private collections. He serves on the National Board of the National Conference of Artists, on the Editorial Board of the International Review of African American Art based at Hampton University, and has been a board member for ACASA (Arts Council for the African Studies Association).
Paul Carter Harrison is an award-winning playwright/director/theorist who has spent the last 50 years of his prodigious career as artist and scholar pursuing ritual expression in the African Diaspora.
Exemplary of the ritual stylization of text and music was the Negro Ensemble Company production of one of his most significant works for stage, The Great Macdaddy garnered an Obie Award in the early Seventies. Also, in the same period, became the author The Drama Of Nommo, a collection of essays that has had a seminal influence in the exploration of ritual stylization for contemporary playwrights and directors in Black Theatre, as well as the volume of defining texts co-edited with playwright Gus Edwards and Producer/Scholar Victor, a volume of collected essays, Black Theatre: Ritual Performance In The African Diaspora that has amplified the aesthetics of Black Theatre practice. The recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for American Playwriting, a National Endowment of the Arts Playwrights Fellowship, and two Meet-the-Composer/Reader’s Digest Commissions for the development of his two operettas, Goree Crossing and Doxology Opera: The Doxy Canticles, which was reimagined as a Dance Theatre piece, Doxy Ringshout. He is served for 5 years as a Visiting Artist/Scholar at Emory University, where he guided a research project on Critical Vocabulary for African Diasporic Expressivity which culminated in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Faculty Institute and led to this anthology volume.
Pellom McDaniels III
Prior to becoming a highly esteemed scholar, McDaniels had been a reliable force as a Defensive Lineman in the National Football League (NFL). Following a successful career (1991-98) a trait of relentless pursuit he exhibited in his scholarship, McDaniels retired from the NFL and began his pursuit of a graduate degree at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia where he received both a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in American Studies. He then went on to become an Assistant Professor in History at the University of Missouri - Kansas City. He then returned to Emory where he became an Assistant Professor of African American Studies and faculty curator of the African American collection in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University.
In 2014, he was instrumental in writing and winning an NEH (National Endowment of the Humanities) grant to support a 3 week Summer Institute at Emory campus for College and University Teachers under the rubric of Black Aesthetics and African Centered Expressions: Sacred Systems in the Nexus between Cultural Studies, Religion, and Philosophy, and served as the bulwark co-chairman along with Paul Carter Harrison. He soon after became a Professor and Curator of African American Collections at Emory University’s Rose Library. In 2015, McDaniels became one of the six recipients of the 2015 Silver Anniversary Awards, presented annually by the NCAA to outstanding former student-athletes on the 25th anniversary of the end of their college sports careers. The award is based on both athletic and professional success.
An accomplished poet and essayist, his publications included: "The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy" (2013); So, You Want to be Pro (2000), My Own Harlem (1998); "We're American Too: The Negro Leagues and the Philosophy of Resistance" in Baseball and Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter's Box (2004); reviews in Hampton University's International Review of African American Art related to the work of artists Kadir Nelson and Hale Woodruff.
McDaniels, who passed suddenly in 2020, was an adherent of the Baháʼí Faith, utilizing its teachings and principles to perform acts of service, promote education and value for culture, and engage in community-outreach endeavors.
Maria Hamilton Abegunde is a Cave Canem, Sacatar, and Ragdale fellow. She is the founding director of The Graduate Mentoring Center and a visiting faculty member in African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Excerpts of The Ariran’s Last Life, her ancestral memory work about the Middle Passage, have been published in Best African American Fiction, The Kenyon Review, and Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue. Her work has also been published in The Massachusetts Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Jane’s Stories, Rhino, and COGzine.
Rowland Abiodun is John C. Newton Professor of Art, the History of Art, and Black Studies at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts. He is the author of Yoruba Art and Language: Seeking the African in African Art (2014), What Follows Six Is More than Seven: Understanding African Art (1995); co-author of Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought (1989), Yoruba Art and Aesthetics (1991), and Cloth Only Wears to Shreds: Yoruba Textiles and Photographs from the Beier Collection (2004); and co-editor of Ifá Divination: Knowledge, Power and Performance, 2016 and The Yoruba Artist: New Theoretical Perspectives on African Arts (1994).
Oliver Lee Jackson, a retired Professor of Art at State University of California, Sacramento, is an expressionistic visual artist whose oil work on canvas, sculptures carved in marble, or metals processed in printmaking the results are grounded in figuration, though not in pursuit of Black Body representation. In the late Sixties, Jackson spearheaded the multi-arts activities of The Black Arts Group (BAG), an arts collective in St. Louis along with his closest collaborator, Composer/Arranger, Julius Hemphill. His works have been collected in many museums including the Museum of Modern Art, The National Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Dr. Arturo Lindsay is an artist/scholar/educator who researches African spiritual and aesthetic retentions, rediscoveries and re-inventions in America. His research findings are manifested in works of art, scholarly essays and lectures. A native of Colon, a seaport city on the Caribbean coast Panama. Lindsay is also Professor Emeritus and former chair of the Department of Art & Art History, Spelman College.
Michael McMillan is a London based writer, dramatist, artist/curator and academic. His plays and performance pieces have been produced by the Royal Court Theatre, Channel 4, BBC Radio 4 Drama, across the UK and internationally.
His curatorial work includes the The West Indian Front Room installation-based exhibition, which was at the Geffrye in 2005-06 with over 35,000 visitors. Subsequent iterations of The Front Room have been in The Netherlands (2007-08), Curacao (2008), Johannesburg (2016), and France (2019). It is also the basis of the BBC4 documentary, Tales from the Front Room (2007) a book The Front Room: Migrant Aesthetics in the Home (2009). The Front Room is planned as a permanent period room in the reopened Museum of the Home (2020), and as part of the Oceans Apart group exhibition at Tate Britain (2021).
Theophus "Thee" Smith is an emeritus faculty in the field of religious studies at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He now serves as an Episcopal priest at the Cathedral of St. Philip in the Diocese of Atlanta. His 1994 book, Conjuring Culture: Biblical Formations of Black America, won the American Academy of Religion award for excellence that year. Since retiring from university teaching in 2018, he is learning Spanish while gradually relocating offshore to South America (e.g., Quito, Ecuador; Antigua, Guatemala).
Greg Tate is a writer, musician and cultural provocateur. He was a Staff Writer at The Village Voice from 1987 to 2004. His books include Flyboy in The Buttermilk, Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader, Midnight Lightning:Jimi Hendrix and The Black Experience, Brooklyn Kings/New York City’s Black Bikers (w/photographer MartinDixon), and Everything But The Burden—What White People Are Taking From Black Culture. His writings have also been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Artforum, Rolling Stone and VIBE. Since 1999 Tate has led the conducted the Improv big band, Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber.
Clyde Taylor is Professor Emeritus of New York University, following an academic specialty in Interdisciplinary Studies and whose writings and cultural activism might be defined as cultural history. His major book publication is The Mask of Art. He wrote the script for the American Experience documentary Midnight Ramble about Oscar Micheaux. He has been granted multiple awards and fellowships, including Ford, Whitney Museum, Fulbright and one from the Gwendolyn Brooks National Institute of Black Writing.
Dr. Marta Moreno Vega is recognized globally for her contributions as a respected scholar, producer, activist, educator, author, professor, and Yoruba priestess. Dr. Moreno Vega, is the second director of El Museo del Barrio, the cofounder of the Global Afro Latin and Caribbean Initiative and founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and Creative Justice Initiative. Dr. Moreno Vega, has taught at Hunter College, New York University, Rutgers University, Centro de Estudios Avanzado de Puerto Rico y el Caribe. She is author of When the Spirits Dance Mambo and Altar of My Soul. She is presently working in collaboration with community organizations in Loiza, Puerto Rico in the development of Corridor Afro.
Paul Carter Harrison is an award-winning playwright, director, and theatre theorist who has had a long artistic association with the Negro Ensemble Company.
Pellom McDaniels III was the curator of African American collections in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University, USA.
Michael D. Harris is an arts scholar and artist who has exhibited nationally and internationally, is represented in public and private collections including those of David Driskell, Hampton University Museum, Howard University, The Paul Jones Collection at the University of Delaware and the University of Alabama, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and many others.