This study focusses on the exhibition of the Tree of Life, a sculpture made in Mozambique of decommissioned, dismantled weapons, created to celebrate peace and commissioned by the British Museum, chosen to be the symbol of the “Africa 2005” season of cultural events and exhibited in its Great Court between February and October 2005. This artwork was first exhibited in Maputo before being dispatched to Britain and it is presently on display at the Sainsbury African Galleries of the British Museum, in London.
This dissertation moves along two converging routes: the articulation of the meaning(s) produced within the exhibition and the role of exhibitionary institutions in the creation of social knowledge. A central topic of discussion is the different practices and sites of exhibition of the Tree of Life sculpture in Britain and in Mozambique, in an endeavour to illustrate/establish the differences which determine and/or condition the specific approaches used in the two distinct cultural contexts within which it was exhibited.
The discussion evolves towards exploring how a new discourse on the exhibition of contemporary African art questions and challenges both curatorial practices and cultural concepts of collecting, displaying and interpreting art objects and negotiating meaning.
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“The Tree of Life is an important symbol in many cultures and has different ways of being perceived and represented according to time. Until recently, there were no cultural approaches to the symbol and the present work deals with various ways of decoding the representation not only in its specific African environment but also in the context of a museum – the British Museum. The selected perspectives include also ways of theorizing the interdisciplinary dimensions of the work as well as the various ways of displaying it. This book will appeal to anyone interested and doing research in Cultural Studies and Museum Studies, as well as in Contemporary African Art.”—Professor Teresa Malafaia, Academic Coordinator: Culture Studies, Media and Culture Studies, Alameda da Universidade
Maria Emília Duarte Nunes da Fonseca was born in Mozambique, graduated in Arts at the University of Natal (Durban, South Africa), has a degree in English Studies from the Faculty of Letters, University of Porto, and a Masters Degree in Cultural Studies from the Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon, where she has also been a Lecturer of English Language and Culture. She is presently a Researcher at the University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies (ULICES).She has taught Culture Studies and English at several institutions of higher education and has published articles within the fields of the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language at University Level, Multicultural Studies, Cultural Studies and Visual Culture. She has been a member of several institutional organs within the Universities in which she has worked, and participated in a number of International Conferences and Congresses.