Simon Gikandi in this essay argues that Picasso, a canonical master of modernist art, has ‘insensitively’ refused – and perhaps even doing so with deliberate contempt – to acknowledge what the former claims as a pivotal constituent of modernity: Africanism. The paradox lies in how Africa’s alleged primitivism has to be the anti-thesis to the cultured white men’s civility (thesis) but can not take credit for its synthesis of modernity. The blacks, in short, are always the ‘uncanny’ Other – a ‘threat’, ‘contaminant’, a disembodied image.
This essay questions my assumed knowledge of ‘modernism’. How much more realistic is a modernist work of art? How convincing would it be to argue that this term might merely be a taken-for-granted ‘re-appropriat[ion]’ of the Other ‘in its own image’?