Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

A Greek Slave and a Manga Figure by Ali Altaf Mian

Ali Altaf Mian is a friend and a fellow blogger. Dwellings of Thought is the place where he shares insightful and delightful reflections on everything from Lady Gaga to Hegel. He is also a graduate student of Religion at Duke University. Last week I made a post, Geishas and Graffiti, showcasing graffiti pieces by a UK-based street artist named HUSH. Ali noticed the historical narrative embedded in the artwork and left a comment, initiating a conversation that we then continued on Facebook.  Ali’s deep thoughts on the artwork was not something I could keep to myself, so at some point in the conversation, I had to stop and ask him to write a short response that I could post on Brittle Paper, which he kindly did.  Enjoy Ali’s wise reading of HUSH’s fascinating graffiti as a historical account of the feminine.

Dis-grace-D I by HUSH

The work of art titled “Dis-grace-D I” by HUSH invokes both history and subjectivity. The four figures depicted here trace a genealogy of representation of the feminine. The manga figure, which is the centerpiece of the work, looks away from all three. While the three in the background, so to speak, do not have a singular gaze either. The perspectival look of each is different. Moreover, all four differ in their positions, highlighting “position” as one of the 9 Aristotelian accidents that individuates units within the same form. The one to the left of the manga figure is modeled on “The Greek Slave” by Hiram Powers (1851), which might be based on the “Venus de’ Medici” in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Greek Slave Hiram Powers (1851)

I see the Greek slave and the manga figure creating a dialectic of female bondage and freedom, with the two other ones looking down upon, and participating in, this dialectic in their own ways. The one directly atop, yet slightly to the right, of “The Greek Slave” is most likely evocative of modernity, while the one juxtaposed next to it, in the upper right hand corner, is suggestive of early modern, or even late medieval, representations of the feminine countenance. I say that the “The Greek Slave” and the manga figure create the two poles of the dialectic because if you look at the respective directions of their faces, the Greek figure’s face is most turned away from us, while the manga figure’s face is most readily available to us. The other two create fields of vision that intersect with the dialectic of subjectivity being orchestrated here. In its own way, this work invites us to see where our vision intersects with this historical genealogy of the feminine. It makes sense, then, to title the piece, “Dis-grace-D I,” which invokes all of the following possibilities for those affected by this piece through engaging it:
1) feeling disgrace
2) feeling grace
3) Being disgraced
4) Being graced

Tags: , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “A Greek Slave and a Manga Figure by Ali Altaf Mian” Subscribe

  1. Chibuzor 2011/06/16 at 16:42 #

    Quite Insightful!

  2. Boye 2012/01/30 at 15:27 #

    Thanks for revealing what I only previously looked at.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Mid-Life Crisis of a Major God II | Stanley Princewill McDaniels | Poetry

3259071082_152e3078b0_o

– As for life turning out to be all what no one ever wanted it to, how we surely confuse […]

Sudanese Fiction: 5 Books Recommended by Leila Aboulela

season of migration to the north

Leila Aboulela has recommended five books for readers seeking familiarity with Sudanese fiction. Aboulela’s own work is often used as an […]

Elnathan John Among Judges for 2019 Man Booker International Prize

elnathan john

Nigerian novelist Elnathan John is among the judges for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize. The panel includes writer, translator and president […]

My Greatest Inspiration in Filmmaking: Kunle Afolayan | Onyeka Nwelue

onyeka nwelue - bella naija

As the Africa Film Trinidad & Tobago opens tomorrow, my first fictional Igbo Language feature film, Agwaetiti Obiuto, will screen on 24 July […]

Paging The God of Small Things Fans | Arundhati Roy is Coming to Cape Town and Johannesburg

Author Arundhati Roy photographed by Chiara Goia

Arundhati Roy, famous Indian activist and bestselling author of the Booker Prize winning The God of Small Things and the […]

Opportunity for East African Writers | Fellowship for Early Career Writers and Publishers

african writers trust publishing fellowship

In the wake of Nigeria’s Dusty Manuscript Contest, it is encouraging to see Africa Writers Trust rolling out a fellowship […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.