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Tydskrif vir Letterkunde

On-line version ISSN 2309-9070
Print version ISSN 0041-476X


DU PLESSIS, Hester. Oriental Africa. Tydskr. letterkd. [online]. 2008, vol.45, n.1, pp.87-100. ISSN 2309-9070.

Arab culture and the religion of Islam permeated the traditions and customs of the African sub-Sahara for centuries. When the early colonizers from Europe arrived in Africa they encountered these influences and spontaneously perceived the African cultures to be ideologically hybridized and more compatible with Islam than with the ideologies of the west. This difference progressively endorsed a perception of Africa and the east being "exotic" and was as such depicted in early paintings and writings. This depiction contributed to a cultural misunderstanding of Africa and facilitated colonialism. This article briefly explores some of the facets of these early texts and paintings. In the first place the scripts by early Muslim scholars, who critically analyzed early western perceptions, were discussed against the textual interpretation of east-west perceptions such as the construction of "the other". Secondly, the travel writers and painters between 1860 and 1 930, who created a visual embodiment of the exotic, were discussed against the politics behind the French Realist movement that developed in France during that same period. This included the construction of a perception of exoticness as represented by literature descriptions and visual art depictions of the women of the Orient. These perceptions rendered Africa as oriental with African subjects depicted as "exotic others".

Keywords : Oriental Art; Africa; Orientalism; cultural perceptions.

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