NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 40

In Akan metaphysics we are instructed that the human being is an “ encapsulated spirit … encased in flesh ,” thus , “ what is is in the first place spirit ,” a quality rather than simply matter , the latter being a quantifiable aspect of naturalistic property — the province of secular art — while the former is the custodian of moral values , ethics , and intelligence ( Abraham , 50-51 ). While decorative arts and ornamental artifacts had a place in most traditional cultures of Africa , art experienced as a quality — directed toward the spirit as opposed to the corpus — was a cosmic enterprise , rather than a representation of experience , to reinforce ethical and moral values that would strengthen the communal spirit of the community . Abraham observes that a common characteristic of traditional African art has been a “ moral-philosophical preoccupation ” that revealed , in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment , forces of the world , as opposed to crafting the naturalistic details of life experiences found in secular art ( 111 ). Unlike the ephemeral pleasure of prettiness and delightfulness of Artisan Crafts and Decorative Arts that titillates the senses of popular culture thereby requiring art-work to be crafted as an accessible commodity to satisfy an insatiable desire for comforting sensations , quality Art — as in aesthetically heightened — stuns the senses , suspends a desire to consume it , causes one to surrender to the aura of its exalted capacity to reveal the power of God-spirit in the illumination of experience .
Contrary to the African paradigm is the dominant persuasion of the Western paradigm advanced by the 19th Century aesthetician , Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , who notes in his Lectures on Aesthetics , Vol 1 that “ Aesthetics means , more precisely , the science of sensation , of feeling ” except that experienced by “ the beauty of nature ,” which is inert , thus unconscious ; whereas “ man is a thinking consciousness ” with the capacity to reveal himself as spirit in the process of making art , proclaiming “ the beauty of art is higher than nature ,” since “ even a useless notion that enters a man ’ s head is higher than any product of nature , because in such a notion spirituality and freedom are present .” Thus , for Hegel , art is an anthropomorphic creative achievement of Geist , or otherwise , the internal spirit of an individual , which is revealed as art . As a result , a crafted object of Beauty — as well as a human being discerned as beautiful — becomes a contemplative manifestation of human apprehension of “ a distinctively sensuous form of human self-expression and self-understanding ,” the image revealing a subjective expression of the spiritual freedom owned by human beings , a divergence from the inertia of nature ( Hegel , Lectures 1 ).
Regrettably , African Diasporic artists , emerging from a long history of Slavery and Colonial subjugation , have been swayed by the Hegelian paradigm , which has held the origins of their sense of beauty in hostage , distracting them from Abraham ’ s discernment that “ the essence of ( Western ) humanism consists in the replacement of God the creator with man the creator .” The daunting dilemma for the African Diasporean has been , and remains , the social impediments that inhibit the construction of a world view of Beauty and Aesthetics that is intelligible within the cultural sediment of the African Diasporean — complicated by creolization — when one has been displaced from one ’ s spiritual origins , yet remains psychically tethered to the place of distant memory — a malady recognized as the DuBois double consciousness — a conflict which leads , as described by Abraham , to ” cultural ambiguity , not cultural ambivalence … accompanied by misgivings .”