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Interview with African Art Online by Ricardo Martinez

Ricardo is a student attending Pasadena City College, USA.
His professor assigned them to read a blog regarding African Art,

Ricardo says
"Well I found that your blog is the most interesting one so I picked it to do my assignment on.

I was wondering if you could answer a few questions regarding your role with African Art. I hope it does not take too much time of your schedule.

1. How did you become involved with African art.
2. Did you receive a degree from a school for African art or is it just a hobby?
3. Are you currently working on any papers or shows or exhibitions or conferences regarding African art?
4. How long have you been in the field?
5. Where do you get your info you post on the blog? like do you have sources or you do your own research?”

We where very honored and glad to help answer Ricardo’s questions.

Attached is the final version of his essay, which he received an A.

Well done Ricardo. :)

Ricardo Martinez

Kris Schomaker

Art 2 250

November 1, 2010

Humanitarianism Through Art

Stepping foot on any part of Africa is like stepping into an art gallery. There is art to be taken in with every blink and every breath. With a little imagination and creativity anyone can share this art gallery with the world. Such is the case with modern information technology and more precisely the Internet and art. There is virtually no place that the Internet isn’t or at the very least, can’t inform on. Today’s diaries are no longer being written on paper and for the writers eyes only—they are being written in the form of blogs or web logs. Blogs are reverse chronological posts on a website about any one topic or many. Individuals use this method to put out diverse pieces of information for anyone with an Internet connection to find. One such person is Tania Bale of blog.AfricanArtOnline.com. Her contribution to the Dark Continent is to promote its art to the world and to help those whose hands help paint, mold, carve or otherwise define their culture.

Tania Bale is a New Zealand citizen who became interested in African art during her trips to Tanzania, a country on the western part of Africa. Her in-laws live there and naturally family visits led her to the continent. Once there she says she “[fell] in love with the arts and the culture”. It is not surprising that the outsider would fall in love with Tanzania when the motto on her in-laws Meserani Snake Park is “arrive as stranger, leave as friend”. Mrs. Bale’s reason for beginning her blog was to promote her favorite style of African art, the Tanzanian native form Tingatinga art, aptly named so after the original master, Eduardo Saidi Tingatinga. Tingatinga art is best known for the use of vibrant colors of bicycle paint on masonite, a type of hardboard. This type of art often has animal as well as human subjects depicted with colors not natural to it. Mr. Tingatinga’s art can be considered cartoonish but the pieces are considerably more complex. Mrs. Bale’s adamant passion of Tingatinga art is helping her pursue an ambassadorship to the art form for New Zealand.

Tania Bales efforts to promote Tingatinga art are also leading her, I believe, to a more humanitarian role than ambassador. Though not specifically stated by her that she is on a mission, her actions definitely define her as a type of humanitarian through art. As stated previously the motive for her blog was to promote Tingatinga’s art form, but now she promotes and sells various forms of African art. She does this because native artists don’t have the resources to promote their own art to the world, Mrs. Bale states “It can be extremely difficult for the artists in Africa to showcase their work, so with our help, we now help the artists provide for themselves and their families. It’s a great feeling.” In Tanzania local artist depend on the word of mouth from tourism, and even then only if they buy local art. By promoting other artist’s art she is ensuring that they become known and sought after and in return they receive income for their art. Mrs. Bale also donates ten percent of all proceeds to Maasai Land community services as well as the Meserani Snake Park which is not only a sanctuary for snakes but also a clinic for the local snake bite victims as well as other ill patients.

African Art Online blog’s timeline begins on March 2008 with at least one post per month after that. The first post addresses the love for Tingatinga’s art by giving a brief summary of the man himself and how the art survived through a few disciples of his. She often introduces new artists along with their art for the readers to view and have a better understanding of why his/her art is how it is. Following the post from the original date one can take a look inside her mind and see what motivates the blogger. Not only is art a motivation for her but also the people and culture which can be seen as art itself. Elspeth Huxley said it best, “Africa is a cruel country; it takes your heart and grinds it into powdered stone – and no one minds”, I can only assume this is how she feels about Tanzania. It has taken her by the heart and she doesn’t mind. The artists and the people of Tanzania are her motivation, one that makes her want to help them in any way she can. The area in Tanzania where she spends most of her time while in Africa is home to the Maasai people. In one of her posts she relays the London Marathon event in which six Maasai warriors ran the marathon in order to raise money for water wells and lines to carry potable water for their people. Empathetic posts like this and about the help the Meserani Snake Park provides, along with diary-like personal posts are found throughout the blog; all of which address the need to be human and allow others to share in that emotion.

American psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized in his “Theory of Human Motivation”, that in order for a person to become self-actualized—meaning to fulfill such needs as being creative and moral—a person had to fulfill the needs in the lower parts of his hierarchy of needs. The lowest echelon of his hierarchy could only be satisfied by the physiological needs of breathing, eating and having water to drink. Africa is a land in which fulfilling those basic physiological needs can sometimes feel and be impossible. And though nourishment is sometimes not met as it is here in America, the resilient people of Africa do get to be artistic and creative and moral sometimes at the cost of the middle echelons of basic human needs. Though the blog does not touch on political injustices or subjects, one can infer that Mrs. Tania Bale is very in touch with the realities of the continent. There is no doubt that blogs such as hers are launched in response to the needs of the people and for the desire to be one to make a difference. The hearts that have been turned into powdered stone have not only just felt emotions, they have grown arms and fingers and decided to make difference even if it is with a simple gesture of bringing art to the world by the way of a blogimage

All the best

Tania Bale

African Art Online.Com

Filed under African Art African Blog