PRINT May 1989


Cultural Interrogations

WITHIN BLACK STREET CULTURE, “fresh” is a word used to express esthetic evaluation of the unnamed forces behind a style, a concept, that adds something new to our way of seeing—enhancing the visual experience of the look, the gaze. In Radiance from the Waters, art historian Sylvia Boone writes about the place of nėku, “freshness,” as one of the core concepts within the esthetic culture of the Mende peoples of Sierra Leone and Liberia. A critical cultural tension emerges between this African sense of “freshness” and the African-American esthetic. Different cultural locations evoke links, sensibilities, and longings contained within diverse structures of representation and meaning. These connections raise issues regarding race and culture similar to those James Clifford writes about in his recent book, The Predicament of Culture. Appearing at a time when race is the “hot” topic, the “in”

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