Straddling the Past and the Future: Traditional Art, Contemporary Artists, and Pan-African Cultural Policy

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
Intellectual property
Cultural heritage
Cultural appropriation
Cultural commodification
Indigenous people
Heritage management
African art

This presentation is an initial exploration into the question of how pan-African cultural policies, which have adopted international discourses of heritage protection and cultural diversity, have been implemented in ways that have led to the commodification of "traditional" African art forms. In particular, Nicole is concerned with how a post-colonial emphasis on "heritage" in the newly developing field of cultural policy in Africa generally, and South-Africa in particular, has resulted in a tension between contemporary artists who wish to become participants in the growing global creative industries, and policy strategies that continue to equate "African art" with the informal sector of "traditional" cultural expression. Despite the fact that contemporary artists continue to express African identities and values through their artwork, policy support for integrating these artists into the global arts industry has remained elusive. Nicole explores some of the recent policy critiques being made by local artists and activists and then examine some of the civil society initiatives that are developing as activists attempt draw attention to the specific cultural and economic needs of local artists whether they are "traditional" or not.


Nicole Aylwin is a PhD Candidate in Communication and Culture at York University and Academic Coordinator for the York Centre for Public Policy and Law. Nicole is an IPinCH Associate.


This talk was presented at the IPinCH Cultural Commodification, Indigenous Peoples & Self-Determination Public Symposium held on May 2, 2013 at the University of British Columbia.

Document type: 
Conference presentation
You are free to copy, distribute and transmit this work under the following conditions: You must give attribution to the work (but not in any way that suggests that the author endorses you or your use of the work); You may not use this work for commercial purposes; You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. Any further uses require the permission of the rights holder (or author if no rights holder is listed). These rights are based on the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License.