Showing posts from April, 2009
Alright, there is nothing much exciting to tell you at the moment only ...

... well I just came across this nice page which might be interesting with regard to the prints I've been discussing below. Here is the link to an exhibition of popular images in the wider Muslim world ... just to put Nigerian practices, not only the old prints I mentioned before but also more recent trends, a bit into context so if you're interested go and check it out: Devotion in Pictures, at the Bryggens Museum, Bergen, Norway, 2-16 April 2000.

... and then there is the website of the website of the Tasveeer Ghar, Global Popular Muslim Iconography Project at the University of Heidelberg who have a great collection of links (to articles and websites), they are particularly interested in popular imagery in South Asia but as a means of comparison, again, why not check it out if you're interested in popular prints and posters. Here you go.

Aerosol Arabic

Alright, that's even more out of the actual subject matter of my research and that blog but as I'm currently trying to write up a bit about (religious) murals in Kano I was pretty intrigued when I coincidently came across a documentary about this Birmingham based graffiti artist. From what transpired in the spot he seems to have quite a political and religious agenda in his works, at the same time I still perceive of graffiti largely (and despite the recent commercial and main stream success of artists such as Banksy) as an expression of a somehow anti-mainstream, anti-conformist subculture. Hence, I'd be terribly interested to know how my friends in northern Nigeria would feel about his works.

Anyway, for the moment check out his picture collection on Flickr and videos on YouTube.

Spot on Dak'Art at the IFA gallery, Berlin

Yes, I'm still writing and I'm still not being as efficient as I wish I was. Nevertheless, the occasional distraction can't do much and, in particular, if it involves some art - so off we went yesterday to check out the current exhibition at the gallery of the Institute für Auslandsbeziehungen (short: IFA) in Berlin: Spot on Dak'Art.

The exhibition is showcasing works from last year's Dak'Art with a particular focus on African video art - and I have to say I was real impressed by the works on show. So, it's really a shame that I can't just post a link to the videos here. But if you happen to be in Berlin, there will be a Long Night of African Video Art on May 7, 2009. The exhibition's curator Akinbode Akinbiyi as well as some of the artists will be around. And if you got any interest in African arts and their perception in Germany you should attend next day's (Re)presenting contemporary art in Germany, a podium discussion with Yvette Mutumba, author of the study, Dr. Uschi Eid, member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs at the German Bundestag, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Dr. Britta Schmitz, curator at the Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Elke aus dem Moore, director of the Visual Arts department of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations. Anyway, for further information check out their website.

And, although I obviously couldn't just record and (re-) publish any of the videos here are a few impressions from the exhibition as stills.

some Egyptian colour prints ... and their relevance for studying visual culture in Kano (and beyond?)

I have to confess something: I have allowed myself to get seriously distracted from writing up my thesis. Alright, this is not the first time this has happened but this time it is kind of related to my research, though nothing I will be able to discuss in any depths in my thesis ... thus, I thought I bother you with it ...

Remember the religious prints I mentioned here a bit more than half a year ago? The ones I was shown at Kurmi Market in Kano and bought? - I have recently come across a German scholar who has just finished her PhD thesis on prints and poster in the Muslim world. Unfortunately her thesis has been published so recently that its not yet available in any of the libraries I have access to. However, when I mailed her she suggested some articles for me to look at and, having been written in German, I have used my time in Germany to actually get hold of them. And, believe it or not, for almost all of the prints I bought in Kano last summer I have found a reproduction of an almost identical print acquired by the author(s) or some other collector in Cairo some time between the early 20th century and the 1970s!

(Left: Photograph of the Nigerian print depicting sheikh of Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani I collected in Kano, summer 2008, Right: Print collected by Kriss & Kriss-Heinrich in Cairo in the 1950s.)

This is amazing, because it suggests that these prints continued to be locally reproduced almost one-to-one for at least the last fourty years, probably longer, in Kano. While motifs probably imported from Persia where successively 'localised' from one edition to the other in Cairo (one of the authors, Peter Schienerl, here particularly refers to the background's composition and the architecture of the mosque depicted in the al-Buraq images), no such attempts seem to have been made in Kano. I think this is quite interesting. I mean, I'm pretty sure that local artists would have been able to do so if they wanted or were commissioned to do so. After all, enterprising traders have invented and adapted other motifs to supply a flourishing modern market for religious (and profane) posters. Here a few more examples, left the prints I collected in Kano in 2008 and to the right reproductions I found in the below listed literature.

Left: Photograph of a colour print depicting al-Buraq collected in Kano, summer 2008, Right: Print collected by Centlivres & Centlivres-Demont in Cairo, n.d. but prob. 1950-60s.

Left: Photograph of a colour print depicting Ibrahim's attempted sacrifice of Ismael collected in Kano, summer 2008, Right: Print collected by Centlivres & Centlivres-Demont in Cairo, n.d. but prob. 1950-60s.

Left: Photograph of a colour print depicting Ali with his sons, Hassan and Hussein collected in Kano, summer 2008, Right: Print collected by Centlivres & Centlivres-Demont in Cairo, n.d. but prob. 1950-60s.

Be that as it may, it reminded me of an observation David H. Heathcote noted in his 1979 thesis on Hausa embroidery: a tendency to preserve the 'foreign flavour' of certain kinds of textiles and dresses over extended periods of time, a tendency that could only be explained by a conscious choice of customers and tailors. If I recall correctly (and I'll have to double check this) this particularly concerned dresses associated with religious and, an extent, wordly authority. But that only as a remark at the side. It, anyway, raises more questions than it answers, e.g. as to who bought/buys these colour prints as opposed to the target audience of modern, shiny religious prints designed and commissioned in Kano but mass printed in China apparently. All extremely interesting ...

P.S. I've uploaded a few more of examples to Flickr and if you're interested have a look here. Obviously I'd appreciate it if you treated the pics according the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License. (cf.

Literature/Image References:

Pierre Centlives & Micheline Centlivres-Demont (1997): Imageries Populaires en Islam. Geneve: Georg Editeur.
Rudolf Kriss & Hubert Kriss-Heinrich (1960): Volksglaube im Bereich des Islam. (Popular Belief in the Sphere of Islam.) Vol. 1. Wiesbaden: Harrossowitz.
Peter W. Schienerl (1985a): Volkstümliche al-Buraq Darstellungen aus Ägypten. (Popular Al-Buraq Depictions from Egypt) In: Archiv für Völkerkunde. No. 39. 181-97.
Peter W. Schienerl (1985b): Zur Darstellungsweise Ali's auf alteren agyptischen Buntdrucken (Regarding Depictions of Ali in older Egyptian Colour Prints) In: Annals of the Naprstek Museum. No. 13. 178-86.
Peter W. Schienerl (1986): Koranisches Erzählgut im Spiegel volkstümlicher Buntdrucke aus Ägypten. (Quranic Narrative Motifs in Popular Egyptian Colour Prints) In: Baessler-Archiv. Neue Folge. Band XXXIV. 305-332.