and Negritude philosophy, the exhibition of and scholarship addressin
African arts have proliferated and matured. Since th
1990s, a number of significant publications, exhibitions, journals, and doc
toral dissertations have emerged to help shape an exciting, vibrant critic
discourse. I write these words as the first curator of contemporary arts in th
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution—a position th
is clear evidence of the expansion and growing acceptance of this field.
These developments have served not simply to challenge archaic defin
tions of authenticity, artistry, and identity within the field of African ar
history but also notably to affect considerable shifts within the mainstrea
art world, opening up new spaces and possibilities for contemporary Afr
can artists. Most scholars would agree, however, that the avenues throug
which these artists enter the global art world remain limited, inconsisten
and, at times, highly politicized and contentious.
While I cannot possibly address all the changes that have occurred sinc
the early 1990s in this book, I believe that there has been a certain coales
cence of events in the first years of this new millennium making this stud
quite timely. On 20 December 2001, Léopold Sédar Senghor died in No
mandy, at the age of ninety-six, after years of quiet retirement from publ
life. Not surprisingly, his passing led many to reflect on his intellectual, artis
tic, and political accomplishments. As a poet, statesman, and philosophe
who lived through and contributed to the changes of a century, Sengho
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