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New Currents, Ancient Rivers: Contemporary African Artists in a Generation of Change by Jean Kennedy
Foreword by Robert Farris Thompson

For many years Jean Kennedy has devoted mind and spirit to the cause of modern African sculpture and painting. Here, at last, is a culminating work that I am sure will be referred to for as long as scholars and persons interested in the vitality of art made and painted south of the Sahara seek some sense of what is going on in a critical cockpit of world creativity.

The world conquest of African modern-traditional music, the songs of Sunny Ade, Franco, Mbelia Bel, Zao, and many, many other women and men is a fait accompli. The corresponding visual dimension to this upsurge is palpably demonstrated in the gathering of works of art surveyed here by Jean Kennedy. Latin blurred into the rise of potent vernacular languages that we now call French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. Similarly, postcolonial Africa has taken on world art history and is "bending" the received forms of paint and easels and pedestals and busts in favor of new, dynamic, vernacular transforming languages, which will take us some time fully to explore and estimate. Meanwhile, operating by analogy with all this creolizing brilliance, there are African-Americans moving in directions similar to those illustrated in this text.

One of the leading dance bands of Haiti now records in Lingala, lingua franca of Kinshasa and Brazzaville, as well as English and Creole. Similarly, American artists, especially those of African descent, will build on New Currents, Ancient Rivers and find themselves confirmed.

Ancient constants in creative battle with forces stemming from the so-called modern world form part of the subject matter of this book. But surely the richest meaning has to do with spiritual discernability, extensions of the orisha and the minkisi and other traditional forces, in a vast minting of fresh alphabets of moral visual discourse. Open this book, witness.

Robert Farris Thompson
Professor, History of Art
Timothy Dwight College
Yale University