Bay draws from the colonial archives and her own deep scholarly engagement with Dahomey over the past thirty years to trace the changing historical role of a single object type - the iron Asen staff - from its first appearance in the colonial texts, where it was sometimes correctly identified as a tool to venerate and communicate with ancestral spirits, but more typically portrayed simply as a "fetish" or religious "idol." [...] with colonialism came a new religious tradition (Christianity) along with interest in new types of religious objects.
Book Reviews 217 Klein on a number of minor issues. For example, while the profligacy of “FESTAC 77” (The 1977 Lagos World Festival of African Arts and Cul- ture) is unquestionable, it is not entirely correct to suggest that the event served mainly to promote Nigeria as a model of African or black culture; the diversity and scope of cultural activity at the festival do not justify this observation. And although nostalgia was palpable, many events at the festi- val clearly reflected and celebrated the existential reality of life in modern Africa. I also think that the significance of overseas collaboration has been exaggerated in this book. As the author admits, the sustenance of indig- enous musicians and their art is more crucially dependent on a sustained local patronage than on sporadic gains from overseas trips. Klein’s prose is readable, while her analysis is penetrating and refresh- ing. Her narrative is spiced with ethnographic testimonies that take the reader right into the heart of Yoruba life and culture. And by focusing on the practice of collaboration rather than on the products of that encounter, she privileges the processual nature of human interaction and the agency of local participants who construct survival strategies in response to the evolving nature of their social and political environment. Bode Omojola Mount Holyoke College South Hadley, Massachusetts Edna g. Bay. Asen, Ancestors and Vodun: Tracing Change in African Art. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008. xiv + 186 pp. Photographs. Maps. Figures. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $40.00. Cloth. Edna Bay’s voice is important among the dedicated chorus of scholars of the Dahomey kingdom. Now part of the territory comprising modern-day Benin on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, Dahomey served as one of the major West African trading and export partners for Europeans before and during the colonial era. Bay draws from the colonial archives and her own deep scholarly engagement with Dahomey over the past thirty years to trace the changing historical role of a single object type—th
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