African American novelist, anthropologist, and essayist Zora Neale Hurston explains how expression in African American arts and culture in the early 20th century departed from the art of white America. Using material collected on anthropological expeditions to the South, Hurston describes a creative process that is alive, ever changing, and largely improvisational. At the time African American art was often criticized for being unoriginal and for copying white culture. To Hurston, this criticism misunderstands how African American art works. White European tradition views art as something fixed. By contrast, Hurston maintains that African American art works through a process called "mimicry", where an imitated object or verbal pattern, for example, is reshaped and altered until it becomes something new and novel.
Hurston says that black art does not only include traditional styles, like poetry or music. Anything can inspire its artistic creativity. Furthermore, black art is dynamic. It allows its artistic creations to change according to how their creators and performers want to express themselves at any particular moment.
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