Afrophilia and Afrophobia in Switzerland and Germany 1917-1937

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Abstract / Description of output

Chronologically, this essay picks up where Weikop’s last Image of the Black essay left off, and for the first time in the scholarship on the German avant-garde throughly explores Dadaist responses to African tribal art. Weikop argues that while some of their ethnographic sources may have been the same, the ‘Negrophilia’ of the Dadaists was of a different nature to that of Expressionism, and manifested itself through performance and new media rather than through more traditional art forms, often with the intention of shocking audiences out their bourgeois complacency. The essay explores how the Dadaists seemed to syncretize tribal mask forms with the grotesque masks used in Swiss carnival parades, as well as those seen in Greek tragedy, and considers the motivations for this ‘masking’. Weikop moves his analysis from Zurich to Berlin Dada, and he especially focuses on Hannah Höch’s critique of the vogue nègre of the European avant-garde. The very title of her photomontage series, ‘From an ethnographic museum’, reveals a reflexive understanding that ‘primitivism’ as a guiding principle for avant-garde artists had become a cliché by the mid-1920s. Weikop closely investigates the deconstructive nature of her photomontages, which anticipate by many decades some of the central tenets of postcolonial theory. Weikop’s essay also considers the work of George Grosz, Otto Dix, Irma Stern, Kees van Dongen, Josephine Baker, August Sander, Christian Schad, Ernst Neuschul, and others working in the Weimar era, in relation to prevalent discourses on Africa, and especially colonialist ideas of ‘primitive’ hypersexuality. Additionally, the essay explores the National Socialist purging of the Afrocentric avant-garde art of the Weimar period. Weikop argues that the Nazis objected not so much to African culture per se, but to the assimilation of what they saw as inferior non-Western cultures by German artists, in a way that they considered to be a contamination of German tradition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Image of the Black in Western Art
Subtitle of host publicationVol. V: The Twentieth Century
EditorsDavid Bindman, Henry Louis Gates Jr.
PublisherHarvard University Press
Pages153-174
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2014

Publication series

NameImage of the Black in Western Art

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