This is a course that considers the arts of Africa in their local contexts within communities, regions and intercontinental flows. The emphasis is on local and regional trajectories of historical, modernist and contemporary arts within Africa through the use of selected case studies as well as how these intersect with intercontinental discourses on global arts. The course considers the interrelationships between aspects of the visual arts mainly of the regions south of the Sahara, mostly through West Africa, Central Africa to South Africa and its various multiple extensions/interactions to the new world and beyond. It highlights different approaches to understanding the arts and the many different and diverse artworlds found within Africa and the associated issues raised in the relevant literature.
In this course we will critically approach some of the misconceptions about African art and will discover the complex histories and diversity of art traditions in Africa.
What will you experience?
The sessions will be a mixture of presentations and interactive discussions in real time – with direct interaction with the lecturer and other participants.
Why study this course?
This course will introduce participants to the little known history of African art from various perspectives. It will provide the groundwork for further studies in the art and culture of particular African countries and enable participants to more greatly appreciate the context in which African art works within the global art market.
Who should take this course?
Anyone who is interested in the history of African art. Those thinking of starting an African art collection or have a collection and would like to learn more about it. People who would like to incorporate this new information into their knowledge of global art history.
- Students will gain a solid understanding of the development of history in relation to Africa from the very emergence of humans until the present day
- Students will develop their own professional and personal interests through participation in the course.
- Students will be able identify and compare different approaches and issues to understand various art traditions in Africa
- Students will be able to assess critically the materials and themes explored in the course
- Students will develop a range of skills relevant to an understanding of African art and to independent research and study skills through participation in the course.
- Based on specific case studies centered around physical objects, students will be able to identify particular styles within the broader domain of African art
1. Representing Africa, Human Origins, First Tools, Rock Art
In this lecture we will start by discussing some of the key terminology, misconceptions, the ways in which Africa has been represented, and how some of the categories have shifted over time. We then explore early tool-making, consider the importance of making things with formal visual interest in emergence of humanity and examine some aspects of rock art in the regions of Sahara and Southern Africa.
2. Pre-Dynastic Egypt, Dynastic Egypt & Nubia
This lecture considers the beginnings of settled societies along the Nile River, the consequent emergence of the first centralised states and the dynamic relations between ancient Egypt and Nubia. We will examine the art and architecture of dynastic Egypt as well as the persistence of some of the figurative conventions.
3. Kingdoms of West Africa: Benin & Asante
This lecture will take us to West Africa in order to consider the development of iron and copper alloy technologies (along with pottery sculpture), which provides the context for a discussion of the diverse range of artefacts produced in support of centralised structures of authority. We will look at Benin bronzes and open a discussion about exhibition practices, modes of display, and the issues of art repatriation.
4. Kongo Kingdom, TransAtlantic World, Power Figures Of Central Africa
In this lecture we consider the visual culture of the Kingdom of Kongo, its relations to Europe and Americas, and the dispersal of related ideas and material culture through the vectors of the transatlantic slave trade. We will closely look at a particular genre of African art: Central African power figures: Nkisi (Minkishi pl.)
5. Masking Traditions
We will consider a variety of masquerade practices and masking traditions throughout the continent, particularly in the Western and Central Africa. Closer attention will be paid to a Sande Society, an only masquerade organised and practiced exclusively by women.
6. Art in South Africa
This lecture will examine the trajectories of various traditions of art making and the developments in the visual arts in South Africa and considers the role of resistance arts during the Apartheid regime. Then we will look at the post-Apartheid era until the present day.
7. Nationalism / Independence: Senegal & Nigeria
This lecture will look at the age of Independence in Africa with a particular emphasis on Nigeria and Senegal. We consider how artists in various countries approached these challenges from different angles. Using their agency, artists draw on other local traditions of art as well as regional and intercontinental in a whole range of both incremental and innovative ways.
8. Photography in Africa This lecture will explore the fact that until relatively recently, photography by African photographers remained outside of the purview of the disciplines of photography and art history. In Euro-American art histories, discussions regarding photographic practices in Africa were often limited to a brief geographical overview, largely denying the individual agency and creative input of African photographers. Our case study will examine the work of a Bamako based photographers Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe.
9. History of Collecting African Art, Primitivism
This lecture will examine the various stages of forming institutional and private collections and will consider the impact of European avant-garde artists on the (mis)understanding and collecting of African arts.
10. Contemporary Art Worlds in Africa, Art Market Today
A ten week course of 1 ½ hours per session which includes a lecture with slides and Q&A.
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For any queries about this course please contact
London Courses Department
+44 (0)207 665 4350