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Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire Paperback – December 19, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A unique style of painting developed among Zairean artists during the late colonial and postcolonial period. Often labeled "tourist-art," this emergent painting tradition has evolved considerably in recent years, moving beyond simple decorative landscape scenes to subjects of more indigenous interest. Fabian (chair, cultural anthropology and non-Western sociology, Univ. of Amsterdam) focuses on a remarkable cycle of 101 paintings that tells the modern history of Zaire from the perspective of artist Tshibumba Kanda Matulu. The volume is divided into two parts: the first reproduces the paintings together with Matulu's personal commentary, while the second offers the author's anthropological analyses of issues raised by Matulu's work. A unique study of an important development in modern African art that should be of great value to scholars, this is highly recommended for academic libraries; but it may be too narrowly focused for public libraries.?Eugene C. Burt, Art Inst. of Seattle Lib.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

"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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 385 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (December 19, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520203763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520203761
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,337,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anthropologist Johannes Fabian performed an outstanding service in sponsoring painter/historian Tshibumba's unique vision of his country's history. His words and the paintings themselves offer a rather romantic look at precolonial life, but a searing indictment of the epoch of Belgian rule. The interpretation of the Mobutu period is more equivocal, partly due to living under the authority of that regime, but also because Tshibumba genuinely admired some of Mobutu's achievements. Our painter vanished (presumably deceased) in the mid to late 1970s just as the tyrant's control began to go sour; it would be fascinating to read and see how Tshibumba assessed Mobutu's decline and fall.
His history operates on three levels---through his startling folk images, his own words, and the dialogue which emerges out of interviews with Fabian. The result is probably the most fully realized popular interpretation of the history of any African country, though oriented toward Tshibumba's home province of Katanga (Shaba). Fabian's essays in Part II further enhance our understanding of their joint project, though some are dense enough to deter some students and lay readers, thus 4 1/2 stars. Overall, a stunning and memorable collaboration. If only we had more like it....
For another indigenous perspective on many of the same events, by a Katangan girl who grew to womanhood during the Mobutu era, see Suruba Wechsler, "By the Grace of God," less penetrating but rather more accessible. Useful background material is also available in works by Eduard Bustin, Crawford Young, and Phyllis Martin and David Birmingham.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Chimonsho on November 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anthropologist Johannes Fabian performed an outstanding service in sponsoring artist/historian Tshibumba's unique vision of his country's history. His words and the paintings themselves offer a rather romantic look at precolonial life, but a searing indictment of the epoch of Belgian rule. The interpretation of the Mobutu period is more equivocal, partly due to living under the authority of that regime, but also because Tshibumba genuinely admired some of Mobutu's achievements. Our artist vanished (presumably deceased) in the mid to late 1970s just as the tyrant's control began to go sour; it would be fascinating to read and see how Tshibumba assessed Mobutu's decline and fall.
His history operates on three levels---through his startling folk images, his own words, and the dialogue which emerges out of interviews with Fabian. The result is probably the most fully realized popular interpretation of the history of any African country, though oriented toward Tshibumba's home province of Katanga (Shaba). Fabian's essays in Part II further enhance our understanding of their joint project, though a couple are dense enough to deter some students and lay readers, thus 4 1/2 stars. Overall, a stunning and memorable collaboration. If only we had more like it....
For another indigenous perspective on many of the same events, by a Katangese girl who grew to womanhood during the Mobutu era, see Suruba Wechsler, "By the Grace of God," less penetrating but rather more accessible. Useful background material is also available in works by Edouard Bustin, Thomas Kanza, Crawford Young, and David Birmingham & Phyllis Martin.
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this is a fascinating contribution to these fields. the book follows a dialogue about images, painting and history between a Zairean painter and the ethnographer. it anticipates current discussions on anthropology and art practices. Tshibumba, the painter, is granted the position he deserves as a creative image-maker, and a vernacular historian.
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Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire
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