Rowland Abiodun, the Paul C. Newton Professor of History of Art and Black Studies, Amherst College, and an indisputable authority in Yoruba and African art, has come out with a new book, Yoruba Art & Language, published by Cambridge UP. I have only browsed the book, the e-book edition of which is out--the print version is due next month. And I can say that it promises to be a game-changer in the way we think and write about classical and traditional art of the Yoruba. A key argument in the book, one which seems so obvious that--with hindsight, we had been waiting for the someone to make it so compellingly, since Babatunde Lawal's Gelede book--is that it is impossible to appreciate the complexity and depth of the Yoruba artistic imagination, stylistic conventions and critical discourse, without recourse to that vast body of verbal text called oriki. Now, it takes someone who has an impeccable mastery of the language to make sense of oriki, and then to apply it to the kind of aesthetic analyses evident in Abiodun's book. But who says that such scholarship belongs to what one might call the "academic everyman"!
Anyway, I eagerly look forward to reading the whole book, and hopefully to robust debate about its place in our scholarship.
The book can be found on Amazon.
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