Exchange

By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Winiama peoples, Burkina Faso, sun masks. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

In other cases, artists may invent a new motif or masquerade to satisfy expectations and stereotypes on the part of tourists and art collectors. Christopher Roy documented that Konate carvers—who carve 80 percent of all the tourist art in Burkina Faso, but who also produce traditional works of art—invented a sun motif after a European dealer had insisted that there was such a motif in Burkina Faso. The dealer had offered artists a large sum of money to find a “sun” mask similar to one seen in a dealer's catalogue, and instead they made one, and then another, until there were hundreds of sun masks for sale on the market in Burkina Faso. The invention of a genre does not diminish the integrity of a people's own art forms, but serves to illustrate how receptive African artists can be to demand. If there is a market for a theme, then why not create it?