HISTART 194-003

First Year Seminar: The Elements In/Of African Art

210 Tappan
TTh 1:00-2:30pm
3 Credit Seminar

Ever notice the earth beneath your feet, and think about how large it is? How old? Or what of the water that pours from the tap to refill your S'well bottle? It doesn't pour from every tap, though it covers three-quarters of the planet's surface, rising and falling through air in a cycle that existed long before human beings ever did. The elements—Earth, Air, Water, and an energy that, for now, we'll call Fire—are so vast and ordinary we rarely recognize them as being there at all, let alone think about them. Yet they are material things we can perceive and engage; they surround us, dwell inside us, unite and separate us, and challenge our imaginations. This course will introduce you to a few of the many and diverse ways African people imagine the elements, and how they transform them (and are transformed by them, too) into objects and images more readily scaled to human perception and experience. The objects and images speak of death and rebirth, power and suffering, ancestors, gods and monsters. They detail the events of past and future histories, and mark the shifting, anxious present, as humans engage their changing environment. Some of these objects, like their creators, propose to reckon with perceptions of time and space that extend beyond the human—as if the earth, say, were to think about you and your S'well bottle.

This course fulfills the LSA Humanities distribution requirement.