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In and Out of Africa
This extraordinary documentary is one of the most intelligent, perceptive, and engaging films ever made on African culture and art. It explores with irony and humor issues of authenticity, taste, and racial politics in the transnational trade in African art.
Interweaving stories of Western collectors, Muslim traders, African artists and intellectuals, and the filmmakers themselves, the film focuses on a remarkable art dealer from Niger named Gabai Barre. It follows him all the way from the rural Ivory Coast to East Hampton, Long Island, where he bargains for a sale. The film shows how (through occasionally hilarious and frequently fantastic tales about the art objects) he adds economic value and changes the "meaning" of what he sells by interpreting and mediating between the cultural values of African producers and Western consumers.
For Baare and the other African art traders, the animist "fetishes" they sell are simply commodities, bought and sold like any other. Or so they say. For Western collectors, the best, most "authentic" pieces are considered Art (with a capital A), and their economic value is purely coincidental. Or so they say.
"In and Out of Africa" is a classic work that will richly repay viewing in a variety of courses in African studies, cultural anthropology, and art. It was produced by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Taylor; it features Gabai Baare; and it is based on original research by Christopher Steiner.
"The film's thematic unity, perceptive subtitling, and reflexive irony make it a groundbreaking masterwork. Its ethnographic authenticity and its humor make it unforgettable. It advances the art of ethnographic filmmaking to new heights." -- Prof. Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Director, African and African American Studies Project, Univ. of California, San Diego
"Masterful! This film shatters all naivetes about closed and open societies…. A must for all students and scholars of human cultures." -- V.Y. Mudimbe, Prof. of Cultural Anthropology, Duke Univ., author of The Invention of Africa
"A unique and daring film and a first-rate addition to the curriculum of all courses and educational programs on African art and culture." -- Enid Schildkrout, Anthropology Curator, American Museum of Natural History
"A superb film for provoking classroom discussion! This is essential viewing in both introductory cultural anthropology classes and graduate seminars alike. Indeed, it speaks to many disciplines in the humanities and human sciences beyond anthropology per se." -- Shelly Errington, Prof. Of Anthropology and Prof. Of Art History, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz
"A superbly thick description of the trade in African art. Nothing is taken for granted, least of all the very idea of art itself, as we follow the trade that transforms bois into $2,000 objets d'art. The trade between use value and exchange value, the expectations that such art must fill in the minds of dealers and collectors to earn the title 'authentic,' and the gradual ascension of this art to museum status while the makers and intermediaries fade in a nebulous haze of mystified origins: these are but a few of the themes pursued in this intriguing documentary." -- Bill Nichols, Prof. of Theater Arts, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz
- Royal Anthropological Institute Commendation
- Society for Visual Anthropology honoree
- American Anthropological Assn. honoree
- African Studies Assn. honoree
- Chicago Intl. Film Festival Award
- Natl. Educational Film Festival Award
- American Film Festival Award
- Margaret Mead Film Festival honoree