2008-09 Annual Awards - Awards

2008-09 Annual Awards

Award for Outstanding Catalogue

The Midwest Art History Society Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Art and Power in the Central African Savanna: Luba, Songye, Chokwe, Luluwa is the winner of the Midwest Art History Society Award for Outstanding Catalogue for 2008. It was the unanimous decision of the Outstanding Catalogue committee to present this award to the Cleveland Museum of Art. The catalogue was judged on the basis of scholarly contributions to the field, the quality of writing and design. Art and Power in the Central African Savanna: Luba, Songye, Chokwe, Luluwa is exemplary on all accounts.

Graduate Student Presentation Award

The Midwest Art History Society's Graduate Student Presentation Award is granted to the best paper presented by a graduate student at the MAHS annual conference. Candidates are nominated by their panel chairs and the winning paper is selected by a committee of MAHS board members. The prize is a book in the winner's field of interest in art history.

The paper selected for the award at the 2008 conference in Chicago was by Matthew Rarey, an M.A. candidate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, for his paper entitled "Adrift on the Kalunga: The Transculturation of Kongo Minkisi"

The paper examined the transcultural influences affecting the development of nkisi nkondis (power figures) of the Kongo. These include Christian theology, Kongo religion, and colonial politics. Rarey discussed the emergence of nkondis during the struggle between Christianity and Kongo religion at the end of the 15th century; their use as a symbol of Kongo national identity during the Congo Free State period in the late 19th century; and the nkisi's positioning as a "fetish" in 20th century museum exhibitions. Emphasis was placed on the nkondi's religious function as a mediator between the land of the living and the land of the dead (mpemba).

The award committee noted the ease and finesse with which the paper negotiated difficult territory, bridging African and European realms of understanding. It delved into issues of fetishism and identity and considered violence and destruction as much as creation. The ideas behind the paper were found to be "complex and exciting" and the visual material "captivating". Also commended were the speaker's engagement in very current areas of inquiry, such as the impact of Europeans on the formation canonical African art forms. Finally, the paper presented challenges to certain long–held assumptions, for example, the notion of timelessness of African art, and the status of authenticity falsely attributed to certain works based on the absence of a European presence. Another award panelist wrote, "I thought this well–written and convincingly argued. The topic obviously addresses issues of broad concern".