Volume 7, Issue 1, June 2015
Joseph Situma, Fred Atoh, Juma Ndohvu
Mapping out the Identity of African Arts and Aesthetics
This article utilizes the hermeneutic theory of Paul Ricoeur and its concepts of text, historicity, distance, narrative and metaphor to map out the salient features of African arts and aesthetics. It also uses the Ricoeurian concept of metaphor to demarcate the boundary between art and popular art. The focus of this mapping out is literature, visual arts, music and art criticism. The identity of African literature bears imprints of various indigenous and foreign languages, and pertinent to Ricoeur, the deployment of metaphor. Thematic concerns are patently African by virtue of the historicity of the discourses that feature in the novels, poems and plays. On the other hand, art criticism in contemporary Africa manifests a lack of responsibility, and its practitioners would enhance their capacity by drawing from Ricoeur’s philosophy of interpretive responsibility. Although discourse is significantly valuable in mapping out identity in the African novel, its applicability to the identity of painting, poetry and music is slightly constrained. Furthermore, Ricoeur’s concept of textual autonomy is of least value in dealing with the identity features of symbolic painting and symbolic arts.