The Value(s) of African Art

Cadbury Research Library, Muirhead Lower Ground
Tuesday 18 October 2011 (13:15-14:00)

Admission is free but please contact Jenny Childs to book a place

Talk exploring the place of traditional African sculpture, such as that held by the Danford Collection within the University, within a range of discourses about ‘value’.

Professor Martin Stringer is a collector, an anthropologist and a traveller with a passion for West Africa; he is also a writer on post-colonial urban studies focusing on religion in our inner-urban neighbourhoods. 


Any one item in the Danford Collection may be worth many thousands of pounds at a top auction in Paris or New York, but who is it that determines such monitory value and how does this relate to the value such an item has for the social group that produced it, or their great grandchildren now living in Birmingham? Such objects attract to themselves many different interpretive narratives and each implies a different understanding of ‘value’. Many of these narratives are also contested and the ethics of collecting, owning and displaying such objects raises significant questions of their own. 

Does the context of the University, therefore, and the promoting of such objects as part of Black History Month, suggest a new, educational, value for such objects and can this ever be divorced from the many other discourses and narratives that surround them?

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