Ndinga i Sinsu: A Quest for Kongo Art

Ndinga i Sinsu: A Quest for Kongo Art

Professor Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz will deliver the African Studies Center Coleman Memorial Lecture. After the lecture and Q&A, there will be a reception with Senegalese food.



The lecture will focus on agency in Kongo society, exploring a complex state of social development in which legal, political, religious and visual systems motivate responses to and interpretations of Kongo cultural principles in the Atlantic world. Martinez-Ruiz will argue that the myriad forms of communication known as Ndinga i Sinsu seamlessly integrate into a wide range of audio and visual communicative techniques that he terms ‘graphic writing systems’. Such systems also include proverbs, mambos, syncopated rhythms, a large variety of written symbols, and oral traditions that are rich sources of cultural and social histories, religious beliefs, myths, and other expressions of the shared Bakongo worldview. The lecture will incorporate key examples gathered through fieldwork among the Kongo people in northern Angola, southern Democratic Republic of the Congo and within Kongo-based religious traditions in the Americas.

Bárbaro Martínez-Ruiz
Tanner-Opperman Chair of African Art History in Honor of Roy Sieber
Indiana University
University of Oxford
Senior Research Associate
School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography

Harvard University
Research Senior Fellow
Hutchins Center for African & African American Research

University of Cape Town
Honorary Distinguished Professor
Michaelis School of Fine Art
Martinez-Ruiz earned his B.A from the University of Havana in 1994 and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2004. He is an Art Historian with expertise in African and Caribbean artistic, visual and religious practices, whose work challenges traditional disciplinary boundaries and examines the varied understandings of – and engagement with – ‘art’ and ‘visual culture’.

Following professorships at Havana’s High Institute of Art from 1993-1997, the Rhode Island School of Design from 2002-2004 and Stanford University from 2004-2013, Martinez-Ruiz joined the University of Cape Town, where he has served as the head of the Art History and Discourse of Art Department from 2013-2017. He was the 2017-2018 recipient of the Leverhulme Visiting Professorship, hosted by Oxford’s School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, and a Senior Fellow at St Anthony’s College and Trinity College.

His books include Kongo Graphic Writing and Other Narratives of the Sign, Temple University Press, 2013 (English) and El Colegio de México, 2012 (Spanish); Faisal Abdu’Allah: On the Art of Dislocation, Atlantic Center of Modern Art Press, 2012 and Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds, Yale University Press, 2007, for which he received the College Art Association Alfred H. Barr Award.

In addition to his research and teaching, Martinez-Ruiz is an active curator, whose shows have explored issues of visual communication, dislocation and hybridity in the work of contemporary artists across the African diaspora. He also serves as an editor for the Cuban Studies Magazine and Harvard's Transition Magazine, and was a researcher for Pacific Standard Time AL at the Getty Foundation and the Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles California from 2014-16. Mark Claster Mamolen Fellowship at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University in 2020-2021 and currently senior research fellow from 2021 to the present. Recipient of the Creative Capital Award, NYC in 2022 and co-curate and wrote a book with Professor Alejandro de la Fuente “El Pasado Mio/My Own Past: Afrodescendant Contributions to Cuban Art.” Etherbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art at the Hutchins Center in September 2022.

Lecture followed by a reception with Senegalese food catered by Mame Mbaye
RSVP requested to africa@international.ucla.edu
More info: click here

Published: Friday, January 27, 2023