Amanda Maples gives a seminar and a conference paper at the University of Basel, Switzerland

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Amanda M. Maples

In preparation for an article she recently submitted for publication in NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, Amanda Maples gave a seminar at the University of Basel in Switzerland entitled "Reinscribing the Museum Text: Examining Fixity and Ambivalence in African Arts Labels." The article and presentation apply Bhabha's notion of fixity in colonial discourse and its tendency towards “typing” to show that the language and display of the arts of Africa are inextricably bound up in an imagined identity, rendered invisible by its normalization in language and display. The position of the curator, the maker, and the visitor are questioned in an effort to bring deeply rooted generalizations and stereotypes to light, and further, eliminate them. The presentation and article argue that if museums are to continuously challenge generalizations and fixities, and decolonize the arts while remaining relevant, then the language of display and the bounded nature of the idea of “art” and who artists are must be agitated and shifted.

Later that week, she also gave a paper entitled "Inclusion/Exclusion: Mobilizing Youth Masquerades from the Margins of Freetown" for the University of Basel's workshop/conference Re-Imagining African Cities: The Arts and Urban Politics. The paper explores the locality of Freetown and how its historic specificity allowed for the unique youth masquerade phenomenon of Ode-Lay to emerge; a masquerade which is then mobilized by the populace for political and/or social goals. The paper also considers youth urban masquerade as an essential aspect to the lived experience of the city's extreme political, economic and cultural landscape since the early days of the colony's founding. In their bodily performance of urban masquerade, Freetown's youth are actively creating and negotiating the dynamic, imagined, social and political landscape of Africa to create their own, mutable, forms of power.