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Disrupting the Discourse of the Other: a Transformative Learning Study of African Art

Description: The primary question of this study is: How does the disruption of African art discourse influence a group of university students’ perceptions of African aesthetics? This inquiry developed from previous studies on the exclusion of modern and contemporary African art in Western art museums. Through the theoretical lens of Postcolonial Theory and Critical Multiculturalism, this research conceptualizes the dominance of traditional African art in art museums, art history, and art education as a Western hegemonic discourse that normalizes perceptions of Africa and African aesthetics as the fixed primitive Other. Thus, this research applied Action Research (AR) methodology coupled with Transformative Learning Theory (TL) to disrupt the discourse of African art; with the purpose of affecting positive changes in perceptions of African aesthetics. The participants for this study were 10 students in a course (Art 1301 Honors Art Appreciation) I instructed at the University of North Texas in the fall (September–December) 2013 semester. Data was collected, analyzed, and interpreted from participants’ assignments and my research journal. This study comprised a dual enquiry on: 1. Discourse and Meaning-making; and 2. Disruption and Transformation. First, the study analyzed students’ perceptions of African aesthetics from their learning experience of traditional African art in an art museum. The findings affirmed traditional African art at the museum as a discourse of Africa as the Other of the West. Secondly, the study analyzed how students’ perceptions were influenced from their experience (in my classroom) of learning histories of modern and contemporary African art that disrupt the authenticity of traditional African art. The findings revealed that 80% of participants developed positive transformations. This research demonstrates how art education grounded in critical theory and transformative learning subverted African art as the discourse of the Other, developed students’ understandings of the multiple realities of Africa and African aesthetics, and encouraged ...
Date: May 2015
Creator: Nangah, Mary Mbongo
Partner: UNT Libraries