Toward an Understanding of "Ashé" as an Aesthetic Condition

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Arturo Lindsay


As an artist and cultural investigator specializing in contemporary art theory and practice, my area of research is centered on African spiritual and aesthetic retentions, rediscoveries and reinventions in the African diaspora. As an educator, my pedagogical interest is in constructing new and innovative teaching methods to critically analyze works of art. I was therefore eager to introduce the concept of ashé as an aesthetic criterion to my students and colleagues but needed to test my hypothesis. To that end I created a research project to assess the viability
of my hypothesis.

The results of my investigation led to the creation of a series of four weekly workshops that challenge participants to conduct critical analyses of works of art using ashé as a criterion along with the accepted formal elements of art and principles of design. To date, I have conducted these workshops with a diverse population of students from Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Emory University and Colgate University. Spelman College’s African Diaspora and the World program (ADW)1 has embraced my project and a number of faculty members have used it in the classroom with promising results. The primary purpose of this essay is to introduce the project to a broader audience of students, educators, and scholars.


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Author Biography

Arturo Lindsay, Spelman College

Arturo Lindsay, PhD, is an artist/scholar/educator whose work is informed by the scholarly research he conducts on African spiritual and aesthetic retentions, rediscoveries, and reinventions in America. His research findings are manifested in works of art, as well as books, scholarly essays andlectures. Lindsay is the editor of Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art a pioneering text that explores the legacy of the Yoruba aesthetic from antiquity to contemporary art theory and practice. He is professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Spelman College in Atlanta. He holds a doctor of arts (DA) degree from New York University (1990). His dissertation title is Performance Art Ritual as Postmodern Thought, an Aesthetic Investigation. Lindsay also holds a master of fine arts (MFA) degree in painting from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1975) and a bachelor of arts (BA) degree from Central Connecticut State College (1970.) He was the 2006 Distinguished Batza Family Chair at Colgate University and in 2005 he was named the Kemp Distinguished Visiting Professor at Davidson College in Davidson, NC. In 1999 Lindsay served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the University of Panama.