How are exchanges between urban and rural spaces interwoven with traditions of cultural expression? This panel will illuminate how artists build, take part in, and experience networks of cultural production and meaning-making, focusing on changing perceptions of urban and rural identities.
This panel seeks to explore how processes of exchange between urban and rural spaces at the level of individuals, communities, and nations are interwoven with traditions of cultural expression. Whether in their practice or in trade, many African art forms simultaneously cross (spatially) and maintain (conceptually) the boundaries between urban and rural. As artists, collectors, and objects travel, and as images, songs and videos fly from phone to phone, rural spaces and urban zones become less differentiated while the mythologizing of the rural and its residents as a repository of traditional cultures seems to intensify. At the same time, participation in arts activities furnishes, and often depends upon, opportunities to travel (tours, residencies, trainings, sales opportunities) with personal networks often facilitating such exchanges, so that dynamics of interpersonal exchange are bound up with larger trends such as Fair Trade, cultural/ethical tourism, and migration. We are interested in papers that illuminate how artists and artisans build and experience networks of opportunity and meaning-making. What are the reciprocal impacts of urban and rural imaginaries on aesthetic activities and bodies of knowledge? How do actors (artists, marketers, organizations, governments) in the artistic sphere cultivate or resist these tropes? Topics of contemporary or historical scope are invited; papers highlighting the roles of women or young people in creative activity are particularly welcome.