Art, Crossing Cultures #252

Art reflects the culture from which it is created. This is especially important when a culture is irreparably changed by the forced movement—through situations such as slavery and war—of its people. Today we discuss this with African art and culture scholar, Aimée Bessire, and with internationally-acclaimed children’s book illustrator, Daniel Minter

CALL & RESPONSE by Daniel Minter


Aimee Bessire

Aimée Bessire received her Ph.D and M.A. in History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University and has a M.A. in Ancient Near Eastern and 20th century art from NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts. She teaches courses on African art and culture, the African Diaspora, American culture, cultural and critical theory, gender studies, popular culture, and the history of photography. Her publications include “Utamaduni: Sukuma Art, Culture and Heritage in Northwestern Tanzania,” in Shangaa: Art of Tanzania (2013); “The Power of Ephemera: Permanence and Decay in Protective Power Objects,” (African Arts Autumn 2009); “Sukuma Figures, Boundaries and the Arousal of Spectacle,” (African Arts Spring 2005); “Critical Voices in Contemporary African Art,” In The Future of Africa (New York Society for International Affairs); “See:She,” Pamela Johnson, Exhibition Catalog (Bates College Art Museum); “Iké Udé’s Beyond Decorum: The Poetics and Politics of Fashionable Selves,” in The Photography of Iké Udé, (MIT Press). She received a Getty Fellowship to support her research and work on Sukuma culture in Tanzania. Currently, Aimée Bessire is working with Sukuma healer practitioners conducting research on objects containing empowering substances and their contextualized practices. Inspired by her long-term association with the village of Ntulya in Tanzania, she founded the non-profit “Africa Schoolhouse,” which is dedicated to building sustainable school communities in rural Africa for children without educational opportunities. Africa Schoolhouse completed the Ntulya Primary School for 600 children in 2010 and in 2011 opened a medical clinic in rural Tanzania. They have also completed the large-scale renovations of Mwaniko Secondary School and Shilanona Primary School. Their next project is to build the first Girls Boarding School in Misungwi, Tanzania.

Daniel Minter

Born in Ellaville, a small rural community in southern Georgia, Daniel Minter has illustrated nine children’s books, including Ellen’s Broom, written by Kelly Starling Lyons, Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis, and The Riches of Oseola McCarty by Evelyn Coleman. Minter’s paintings and sculptures have also been exhibited internationally at galleries and museums including the Seattle Art Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, Bates College, Hammonds House Museum, and the Meridian International Center. Daniel Minter’s art work is a study of memory and the many ways in which memory is embedded into our past, present, and future. It is the interconnection of time that contains the essence of what memory has left behind. These concepts are the inspiration for Daniel Minter’s paintings and sculpture. Using archetypes, symbols, icons, and folklore steeped in the context of African-American and African- Diaspora culture, Minter creates a visual vocabulary. Metaphors take shape out of chairs, houses, snakes, and trees, infusing the energy of emotion, action, and place to everyday life, everyday being.