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Dead Leaves Between Pages: an Essay on the Definition of Art

Ramenga Mtaali Osotsi


Many attempts within Western scholarship to define art have been centered around the confusion of art for the objet d’art. This has led to sundry endeavors in looking for definitions that would either incorporate many disparate objects or exclude certain objects for not satisfying the current aesthetic requirements. However, when these attempts at definition have to cope with increasingly complex reality based on, among other factors, politics, race, gender, and class, the definitions have tended to falter. For example, Western scholarship finds it easy to overlook art from other cultures because it does not fit “our” almost non-existent and definitely problematic definition of art. The reasons for this dismissal are hard to justify on grounds of aesthetic expectations or logic. This paper advances the idea that there is a need to redefine art by shifting the center of interest away from what may be perceived as art objects (paintings, sculptures, etc.) or audiences (high or low, informed or uninformed). A new definition that incorporates the three -- artist, art object and audience - will more accurately define for us what art is by examining or highlighting the relationship linking these three into one total experience. Art, this paper contends, is the relationship forged between an artist and an audience in the process of contemplating any object created in any medium. This paper espouses the idea that art be understood not as an object but as a process, and in the true nature of processes, never static, always changing.

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Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editor: Nkiru Nzegwu; Film Review Editor: Phyllis J. Jackson; Exhibition/Curator & Book Review Editor: Azuka Nzegwu

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