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Authorship, Audience, and Authenticity: Strategies of Meta-Representation in Contemporary African Arts


“Authorship, Audience, and Authenticity: Strategies of Meta-Representation in Contemporary African Arts” examines the ways artists, filmmakers, and authors from Cameroon, Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo represent themselves, their art, and the influence of their work within a contemporary, global network of the arts in Africa. As an interdisciplinary study at the intersection of cultural studies, film studies, art history, and literary analysis, this project draws from a broad range of contemporary media such as literature, academic essays, interviews, works of philosophy, documentary film, YouTube videos, and painting so as to understand how strategies of meta-representation are used to depict the pressures of authenticity and the process of artistic production in contemporary African works. A comparative methodology that combines multiple mediums of artistic production allows for broader discussion of the challenges of authenticity in African art. Additionally, such an approach responds to a gap in current scholarship on African metafiction and studies that consider the techniques of meta-representation across art forms. The first chapter analyzes three novels— La Promesse des fleurs by Patrice Nganang, African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou, and Je vous souhaite la pluie by Elizabeth Tchoungui—in order to understand how these authors employ metafictional devices to depict the production, reception, and objectives of literature. The second chapter examines the films of Jean-Marie T�no, Jean-Pierre Bekolo, and various Internet and television productions to demonstrate how African filmmakers use representations of cinema in order to grapple with the future of filmmaking on the African continent. Finally, the third chapter studies paintings included in two exhibitions, Beaut� Congo and Jeunes Regards Urbains II, to demonstrate how works of contemporary African art represent their own history and reception in an international art market. Looking to works of literature, art, and film that stage artistic production, I argue that representations of the arts found within African cultural productions provide the viewer or reader privileged access to the artistic process and offer a distinctive and multifaceted vision of the literary, cinematic, and artistic environments in Africa today.

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