Through a broad perspective on arts, combining visual and performing arts and literature, this panel is aimed at gathering scholars and artists to think critically on the circulation and dissemination of new ideas through creations, in the contemporary age or in the past. From the margins of the social orders, through interactions with local and/or foreign elites, artists challenge and transform the aesthetic and moral values of the societies they belong to. They do so by following their own fantasies, but also by absorbing and adapting the influences of international vogues and new technologies. In other words, phrased by two prominent theoricians of African contemporary arts: “They affirm, in our continuous at self-definition new relationships between home and elsewhere, (...) they import complexity into our discourses and in so doing transform the ways in which we approach questions of subjectivity and creative agency” (O. Oguibe & O. Enwezor, Reading the Contemporary, 1999: 10). This role and consciousness of avant-garde by the artists has to be counter-balanced by two major trends: on the one hand artists may be trained and employed to enhance conservative positions; on the other hand they can develop between themselves an inclination to conformism by copy pasting each other and by matching their works to the requirements of the market and the dominant taste.
Not only will the artists and their production be examined, but the panel will also insist on the roles played by the actors of the artistic milieu: gallerists, publishers, producers, curators, critics, and so on, who are the necessary (despite often shadowed) workers behind the machinery of art and book markets. The panel will also attract papers on the structures of mediation (museum, galleries, bookshops, cinemas, theaters) between the artists and the public.
Finally, the panel will discuss policies of representation and self-representation that are implemented through the showcasing, distribution and airing of works of arts. These processes involve narrations that may be widely relayed by systems of education. Attention could also be paid to the artistic representations of Ethiopia and the Horn by foreign artists, and how these external representations interact with the moulding of new ones.