Skip to main content

Module Reading List

Africa and the Atlantic World: History, Historiography and the Visual Arts, 2021/22, Semester 1
Dr Will Rea
Tutor information is taken from the Module Catalogue

Week 1. Introduction - Modernity Africa and the Short Twentieth Century

This is the introductory week – there are no set readings although the readings that you will encounter next week are useful. You might also want to look at the FT report on Nigeria 50 years on (on VLE) as well as O Enwenzor (ed) 2001 The short century: independence and liberation movements in Africa Prestel. You may also want to look at Simon Gikandi’s review of Enwenzor (VLE).

 The key text for this course.Reading the contemporary: African art from theory to the marketplace: a critical anthology of writings on contemporary African visual culture / edited by Olu Oguibe and Okwui Enwezor. London: INIVA, 1999. 432pp. illus. N7380.R43 1999 AFA. OCLC 43338909.    

Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield. Contemporary African art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1999. 224pp. illus. (pt. color), bibliog. (pp. 214-217). (World of Art). OCLC 42039553.    

Contemporary Art exhibitions  

Exhibitions in the 2000s  

Top of page

Week 2. In My Father's House / From primitivism to ethnography

In the first week we discuss some of the distinctive features of the region and summarise the main themes of the course. The readings cited are worth catching up on as they inform whatever else happens during subsequent weeks. Appiah deals with many of the (possibly tendentious) issues around tradition (what is handed on) and identity (who are you, thereby, the same as). Fardon develops some of this in his essay dealing with society/culture, local/global. Sidney Kasfir effectively deconstructs the notion of tribe (even as we still hanker for its "convenience packaging").

** Picton, J., 2013, Modernism and Modernity in African Art, eds.) Salami, G., and Visona, M. Blackmun, A Companion to Modern African Art, Wiley Blackwell, 311-329     

** Appiah K. A, 1992: In My Father's House, preface and chs 4, 7, 9.

** Fardon R, 1995: Introduction, Counterworks, (ed Fardon), pp 1 18

* Kasfir S, 1984: One tribe, one style. . ., History in Africa , pp 163 187     

** Gikandi 2003 Picasso, Africa and the schemata of difference Modernism/modernity 10  

Our concern is with the complex relationships between aesthetic and social categories in contrast to the simplicities of the "tribal art" view of Africa. There are indeed two kinds of problem with this: the first (a topic of relevance to the African Art I course) is the manner in which it privileges sculpture; and the second, relevant here for its social and historical implications, is that it supports a view of history and society in Africa that is factually untenable for the very reason that it denies the manner in which art work, as a form of social practice, provides for the constitution of tradition, community and identity.

Articles in African Arts 41(4) 2008 

 You need to look at all the articles 

For the "traditional" view of African art see:

Fagg W, 1965: Tribes and Forms in African Art , pp 11 18, 29 43 (the best succinct statement of the view that is argued against here)    OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 22/10/2019) 

Elisofon E & W Fagg, 1958: The Sculpture of Africa (still the best of this genre)

Bacquart J B, 1998: The Tribal Arts of Africa: surveying Africa's artistic geography

For further reading against this position see:

Picton J, 1991: On artifact and identity..., African Arts, XXIV, 3, pp 34 49, 93 94  

Brain R & A Pollock, 1971: Bangwa Funerary Sculpture , pp 25 32, 83 86, 107 110, 117 136 Available online

Much of the interest in African art was generated within the first decade of the century by artists in Paris and elsewhere in Europe who saw in its schematisations the possibilities of a return to ways of making art untrammelled by the sophistications of the 19th century. It was this to which the term "primitive" was given; but art in Africa cannot be reduced to the status of an atavistic footnote to the history of art in Europe, and it is certainly not primal (as if Africa represented earlier stages in human development, an idea long since thoroughly discredited in anthropology).

Barson, T., 2010, Moderrnism and the Black Atlantic, (eds.) Barson, T., and Gorschluter, P., AfroModern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic, Tate, 8-25   Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Forge A [ed], 1973: Primitive Art & Society, esp Forge, intro, pp xiii xxii

Hiller S, 1991: The Myth of Primitivism, esp papers by: Miller pp 50 71; Lloyd pp 91 112; Brett pp 113 136; Araeen 158 182; Coombes pp 187 214  

Baldassari A, 1997: Picasso and Photography: the dark mirror, pp 45 61    OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 22/10/2019) 

Phillips T et al, 1995: Africa: the Art of a Continent.

Rubin W [ed], 1984: "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art esp. 'Modernist Primitivism', pp 1 81; and if you can, 'Picasso', pp 241 333

Coombes A, 1994: Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture

Lomas D, 1993: A canon of deformity: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and physical anthropology, Art History, 16, 3, pp 424 446

Rhodes C, 1994: Primitivism and Modern Art

Fry R, 1920 (reprinted 1981, 1990): Vision and Design,

The art of the Bushmen (1st published 1910); and, Negro sculpture, pp 60 73

The collections of African art in the ethnographic departments of European and American museums could be said to be the obverse of "Primitivism". Indeed their curators would claim to be working against perceptions of the "primitive"; and yet each has its origins in a modernism in which Europe saw itself, so to speak, as the dominant partner. The process of collecting so often accompanied the colonial enterprise and the objects were exhibited in ways that bore little relationship to the complex social and metaphysical conditions of their originary circumstances; if, indeed, that could ever be possible. Yet, if context is not a fixed property of art, when Africa's thing is in Europe's showcase: whose art is it? what does it signify? is it the same thing at all?

** McLeod M, & J Mack, 1985: Ethnic Sculpture, chs 1 pp 6 15, 5 pp 60 70

* Mack J: 1991: Emil Torday and the Art of the Congo, esp chs 1 2, pp 8 31

* Shelton A, 2001: Introduction: the return of the subject, in Shelton (ed), Collectors: expressions of self and other, Hornman Museum, pp 11 22

Shelton A, 1995: Museums: holds of meanings, cargoes of recollections, in G Hilty, D Reason & A Shelton [eds], Hold: Acquisition, Representation, Perception: Work by Shirley Chubb, Art Gallery and Museums, Brighton, pp 12 25

Nettleton A & D Hammond Tooke [eds], 1989: African Art in Southern Africa pp 7 13

Clifford J, 1988: The Predicament of Culture: ch 1, On ethnographic authority, pp 21 54; & ch 10, On collecting art and culture, pp 215 252

Karp I & S D Lavine [eds], 1991: Exhibiting Cultures: part 5, Other cultures in museum perspective, esp ch 20, Objects of ethnography

Piper K, 1997, Relocating the Remains, Institute of International Visual Arts, London; and for a selection of recent ethnographic accounts see:

Arnaut K, 2000: Introduction: re visioning collections and ethnography, in Arnaut (ed), Re Visions: new perspectives on the African collections of the Horniman Museum, pp 13 22

Notwithstanding the critical responses to the idea of "tribal" art, the paradigm survives. Firmly established by William Fagg, the great pioneer of African art studies in this country, it remains embedded within the institutional structures of the major auction houses in London. Bacquart, for example, used to head the Tribal Art dept of Sotheby's. However, for their first ever sale of so¬ called contemporary African art, Africa found itself located in the Contemporary Art dept. Meanwhile, in the same week, Christie's Amsterdam problematised the notion of `Africanist.' Then, in September 2000, Bonham's `Tribal Art' dept auctioned a well balanced and well-researched collection of Modern and Contemporary African Art.

Elisofon E & W Fagg, 1957: The Sculpture of Africa Fagg W, 1960: Nigerian Tribal Art

Bacquart J B, 1998: The Tribal Arts of Africa

Sotheby’s London, 24.6.99: Contemporary African Art (the first ever such sale)

Christiies Amsterdam 22.6.99: The Africanists

* Bonham's Chelsea, 13.9.00: Modern and Contemporary African Art

Top of page

In recent years the term `popular' art has come to suggest a discrete category of practice; and in the years since Magiciens de la Terre (Paris 1989), some writers and collectors have privileged certain kinds of apparently `popular' practice attributing to them a Neo Primitivist "authenticity" as if these alone were the acceptable face of a modern or contemporary African art (eg in Ghana, Ga coffin making, and Ewe and Anlo funerary monuments; and the work of some of the now ubiquitous signpamters throughout the continent): This created a resentment among artists who had come through the Fine Art departments of West African universities, and who sometimes began to write or speak as if we should thus omit these forms of practice from consideration as `art.' Susan Vogel's 1991 Africa Explores was criticised in precisely this way, for placing artists who were in some sense part of an international art world in the same space with signpainters. Indeed, one might have all sorts of reasons for being critical of it, but one achievement of Africa Explores was to show that the diverse forms comprising the category `popular' had little or nothing in common, other than their location in a largely urban environment; and yet, in practice, printmaking, sign painting, photography, masquerade, textile design, etc, may well subsist as parts of a common set of visual environments; and yet, while possibly functionally inter related within local art worlds at some level (e.g. one medium as source material for another), each will have its own developmental trajectory. We might deconstruct the notion of `popular' but we should not discard the artists responsible for the work.

 Arnoldi, Mary Jo. "Rethinking definitions of African traditional and popular arts," African studies review (Atlanta) 30 (3): 79-83, September 1987.  

Barber, Karin. "Popular arts in Africa," [and] "Response," African studies review (Atlanta) 30 (3): 1-78 [and] 105-111, September 1987. notes, bibliog. (pp. 113-132).     

 Vogel S, 1991: Africa Explores, chs II & III, pp 94 175; also Cosentino, `Afrokitsch', pp 240 255   OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 22/10/2019) 

Barber K, 1997: Readings in African Popular Culture, esp intro pp 1 9,    

Newell and Okome Eds. 2013 Popular art in Africa : the episteme of the everyday 

* Jewsiewicki B, 1991: Painting in Zaire ... in Vogel Africa Explores, reprinted in Barber

* Jewsiewicki B, 1999: A Congo Chronicle: Patrice Lumumba in Urban Art

* Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 1991, Cheri Samba: a retrospective

* Secretan T, 1995: Going into Darkness: Fantastic Coffins from Africa, esp 3 23

* Fabian J, 1996:Remembering the Present: painting and popular history in Zaire, ch 4 pp269 296

* Sukuro E, 1990: Art to the people, in J Agthe, Wegzeichen Signs, pp 139 148 (although concerned with Nairobi, and thus, perhaps, beyond the remit of this course, this text is important for its demonstration of the political utility of the visual arts.

Picton J, 1992: Desperately seeking Africa, N Y 1991,Oxford Art Journal, 15, 2, pp 104 112     

Picton, John. "In vogue, or the flavour of the month: the new way to wear black," Third text: Third World perspectives on contemporary art & culture (London) 23: 89-98, summer 1993. illus., bibl. refs. NX1.T445 AFA.   Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Picton J, 1991: Nigerian images of Europeans: commentary, appropriation, subversion, in South Bank Centre [Deliss, Malbert et al] Exotic Europeans pp 25 27

Poppi C, 1991: From the suburbs of the global village .... Third Text, 14 Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Brett G, 1986: Through Our Own Eyes: popular art and modern history, intro pp 7 26, and ch 3, No Condition is Permanent, pp 83 111

Howell S, 1995: Whose knowledge and whose power? in R Fardon [ed] Counterworks (account of the political dimension that art exhibitions can entail).

In this context, for the particular problems of South Africa see:

Younge G, 1988: Art of the South African Townships;

Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1990: Art from South Africa, D Elliot et al,

Haywood Gallery Africa Remix catalogue 2005

Top of page

Week 4. “Observers are Worried”

The great majority of works in the sometimes and so called "classic" traditions, many of which might also be called "traditional", are of this century; and whatever we reckon about the temporal status of a given tradition, all too often this has yet to be proven given the fragmentary nature of the art historical record. In any case, it is manifest, even in the material already considered, that traditions are hardly static, and an evolving tradition can seem as if it were the agent of other forms of development as well as their representation. Moreover, if we limit our attention only to those traditions, whether in art or in other forms of social practice, inherited from the past then we are guilty of inventing an "African Art" that bears only limited resemblance to the diversity of extant and contemporary visual practice. We have already encountered the problem of naming (week 1), and we shall find similar problems in some of the texts that now follow. There are, you might think, more serious issues to be reckoned with, as, indeed, there are; but naming, categorisation, may serve to elevate certain artists and forms of practice, and diminish others. Yet whose categories are they? Having answered this, it will be evident that a simple narrative cannot be written (neither for Africa nor for African America where we shall find an identity with Africa is a means to assert a distinctive American identity). Two issues are of immediate concern: first, the developments; and second, attitudes thereto. The slogan `Observers are Worried' is taken from a painting of a lorry by Ghanaian artist, Ato Delaquis, a slogan that sums up the difficulties many connoisseurs of African art seem to have with 20th century developments. Yet, our concern here is with the art people do, not the art we might prefer them to do. In the readings suggested here, those that start from categories are contrasted with those that begin with the artists: try to read at least one of each; but first, some critical commentaries:

Hassan S, 2000, The modernist experience in African art: visual expressions of the self and other cross cultural aesthetics, in O Oguibe & O Enwezor [eds], Reading the Contemporary (Invaluable collection of papers, well worth having and all worth reading: Appiah, Kasfir, Diawara, Koloane, Richards, both editors, etc)   Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Kwami, Atta, 1956- Kumasi realism 1951-2007: an African modernism. London: Hurst & Co.; Accra: Ghana Denmark Cultural Fund, 2013. 430pp. illus.    

We face forward: art from West Africa today / Maria Balshaw, Natasha Howes, Alan Rice, Christine Eyene, Koyo Kouoh, Lubaina Himid. Manchester: Manchester City Galleries: Whitworth Art Gallery, [2012]. 128pp. illus. (some color), portraits, bibl. refs    

** Njami S, 2000: El Tiempo de Africa, see: Africa's Time, esp pp 261 277

** Enwezor E (ed), 2000: The Short Century: independence and liberation movements in Africa 1945 1994 esp intro pp 10 16    Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

** Subiros P, S Njami [et al ], 2001: Africas: the artist and the city, Barcelona

** Hassan S M & O Oguibe et al, 2001: Authentic Ex centric: conceptualism in contemporary African art, Venice Biennale, and Forum for African Art, Ithaca

* Picton J, 1992: Desperately seeking Africa, New York 1991,Oxford Art Journal, 15, 2, pp 104 112  

1998: Observers are Worried: the "Tribal Image" is No More, in Internationales Afrikaforum, 34, 3, pp 281 289 Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Picton J, 2000: In Vogue, or the flavour of the month: the new way to wear black, in Oguibe & Enwezor Reading the Contemporary: pp 114 126    

* Njami S, 1992: Anthropometric vision, Revue Noire, 4, p 5 Available online

* Court E, 1999: Africa on display: exhibiting art by Africans, in E Barker [ed],

Contemporary Cultures of Display

pp 147 173

* Kunsthalle Bern, 2000: South meets West [O A Bamgboye, K Geers, A Kwami, et al]

For the approach from categories external to the art see:

* Vogel S et al, 1991: Africa Explores, Foreword, and Digesting the West, pp 8 31

* Graburn N, 1976: Ethnic and Tourist Arts, pp 1 32

* Beier U, 1960: Art in Nigeria 1960, pp 1 24

For approaches that begin with the artists, see:

* Fosu K, 1986: 20th Century Art of Africa, esp 1 37 [NB the Nigerian pioneers]   

* Onabolu D, 1963: Aina Onabolu, Nigeria Magazine, 79, pp 295 298 see also exhibition reviews by Cyprian Ekwensi and Babatunde Lawal OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

* Studio Museum in Harlem, 1990: Contemporary African Artists: changing traditions, essays by: Soyinka; Conwill; Stanislaus, jegede

For other surveys and commentaries, see:

Brett G, 1986:Through our own eyes: popular art and modern history, pp 7 26, 83 111

Beier U, 1968: Contemporary Art in Africa

Deliss C (ed), 1990: Lotte.or.the.transformation.of.the.object, Graz, Austria, pp 2 22  

Deliss C, 1991: Cultures . . . objects . . . identities, Exotic Europeans, South Bank Centre

Deliss C, 1992: Blueprint for a visual methodology, Third Text, 18 Available online

Kasfir S, 1992: African art and authenticity: a text with a shadow, African Arts, XXV, 2, 40 53; see also the commentaries in African Arts, XXV, 3, which followed Kasfir's paper

Kennedy, J, 1992: New Currents, Ancient Rivers

Mount M, 1973/1989: African Art: the Years since 1920

Okita S I O, 1986: African culture in search of an identity, Nigeria Magazine, 54/1, pp 55 60 OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

Picton J, 1990: Transformations of the artifact, in C Deliss [ed], Lotte ....

Picton J, 1991: Africa and the two art worlds, African Arts, XXIV, 3, pp 83 86

Picton J, 1997: Tracing the lines, in J Picton [ed],

Image and Form: prints, Drawings and Sculpture from Southern Africa and Nigeria


Picton J, et al, 1998: El Anatsui: a sculpted history of Africa

Much of the discussion surrounding 20th century African art began with the selection of supposedly self taught visionaries for inclusion within the 1989 Paris exhibition, Magiciens de la Terre. This effectively privileged a kind of Neo Primitivism as the acceptable face of a contemporary African art. The problems in this included the fact that artists deemed not to fall into this category were excluded from consideration; and, more significantly, the very idea of the self taught visionary was, with one or two exceptions, wrong; for almost all of the African artists in Magiciens were the products of a well-controlled apprenticeship, and their blatantly naive visual qualities invariably derived from advertisements. However, three more publications have emerged in the last few years, from Japan, which are not caught up in these diversions, perhaps because Japan is not party to the same histories of modernity/primitivism/neo primitivism as Africa, Europe and European America. For this reason they shed an interesting light on these matters.

Kawaguchi Y [ed], 1995: An Inside Story: African Art of Our Time Setagaya Mus. 

Tokyo Yoshida K & J Mack [eds], 1997: Images of Other Cultures Ethnological Museum, Osaka (a publication concerned with global misperceptions: Africa, South Seas, Japan, Europe) 

Shimuzu T [ed], 1998: Africa, Africa: Vibrant New Art ... Tobu Museum of Art

Top of page

Week 5. Nigeria and Senegal

Essays: [i] Discuss briefly the more significant differences between Nigeria (and Natural Synthesis) and Senegal (and Negritude) in the development of a modern African art

[ii] To what extent is ethnicity a relevant factor in the development of 20th century sub Saharan visual practice?

The modern state of Ghana achieved Independence in 1957 soon to be followed by most other countries in sub Saharan Africa, Nigeria and Senegal, for example, in 1960. In Nigeria in the late 1950s a group of students in Zaria at the very first tertiary level institution of fine art in Nigeria, led by Uche Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya and others, formed the Zaria Art Society and set about criticizing their teaching programme for its lack of attention to the indigenous art traditions of the country. They believed, and continue to believe, that Yoruba, Igbo, Edo, etc. could enrich a modern Nigerian art, and thereby a common national identity; but before the decade was out Nigeria was riven by civil war. To what extent, therefore, has that vision been carried through the thirty years since the Nigerian defeat of Biafra. In Senegal its first President, Leopold Sedar Senghor continued to promote his philosophy and aesthetic of negritude, originally formulated in 1930s Paris. Try to read at least one ** reference for Nigeria and one for Senegal:


Okeke-Agulu, Chika 2018 Natural synthesis: Art, theory and the politics of decolonialisation in mid-Twentieth Century Nigeria. In Harney E and Phillips Mapping Modernisms : Art Indigenity, colonialism. Duke University Press      

Okeke-Agulu, Chika, 2015, Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonisation in Twentieth Century Nigeria, Duke University      

 Adenaike, A. Omotayo. "The influence of uli art on contemporary Nsukka school painting (part l)," Nigeria magazine (Lagos) no. 143: 38­52, 1982. illus.,   OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

Adepegba, Cornelius O. "Modern Nigerian art: a classification based on forms," Kurio Africana; journal of art and criticism (Ile-Ife) 1 (2): 111-137, 1989  

Ottenberg S, 1997: New Traditions from Nigeria: seven artists of the Nsukka group, esp pp 1 47 & pp 125 153

Beier, Ulli. "Contemporary Nigerian art," Nigeria magazine (Lagos) no. 68: 27­51, March 1961   OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 


Ebong I, 1991: Negritude: between mask and flag; Senegalese cultural ideaology and the `Ecole de Dakar', in S Vogel, Africa Explores, pp198 209

Axt F & El Hadj M B Sy [eds], 1989: Anthology of Contemporary Fine Arts in Senegal esp L S Senghor, Introduction, pp 19 20

** Deliss C et al, 1995: Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa esp C Okeke [no relation of U], The quest: from Zaria to Nsukka, pp 38 75 & El Hadj Sy, Objects of performance, pp 76 101. See also: Recollections from Nigeria, pp 190 215 Recollections from Senegal, pp 216 237 Notes, by E Court, esp pp 292 293, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, & movements, centres, workshops, collectives, esp pp 298, 300

** King C & N Durbridge, 1999: Modern art in Nigeria: independence and innovation, in C King [ed],in Views of Difference: Different Views of Art pp 201 228 (the most recent and comprehensive survey of this topic)

** Ebong 1991, and Okeke 1995 are both in Oguibe & Enwezor, 2000, Reading the Contemporary

** Enwezor O & O Oguibe, 2001: Lagos 1955 1970, in I Blazwick [ed], Century City: art and culture in the modern metropolis Tate Modern, London, pp 42 69, 274, 278 280

* Udechukwu O et al, 1993: So Far: drawings, paintings, prints 1963 1993

* Jari J [ed], 2000: Accident & Design: Gani Odutokun and his friends, esp pp 12 25   

Harney E, 2005: In Senghor’s Shadow: Art, politics and the Avant-Garde in Senegal

Grabski, J., 2006, Painting Fictions/Painting Histories: Modernist Pioneers at Senegal’s Ecole des Arts, African Arts, 39, 1

2013, The Ecole des Arts and Exhibitionary Platforms in Postindependence Senegal, (eds.) Salami, G., and Visona, M. Blackmun, A Companion to Modern African Art, Wiley Blackwell, 276-293.  

Bruce Onobrakpeya, internationally the best known of the Zaria art society artists, has published three volumes of autobiographical documentation of his work.

Onobrakpeya B, 1985: Symbols of Ancestral Groves 1988: Sahelian Masquerades 1992: The Spirit in Ascent. See also: * Onobrakpeya B, 1997: Exerpts, taken from these publications reprinted in J Picton [ed], Image and Form: prints, drawings and sculpture from southern Africa and Nigeria pp 21-24  

Uzo Egonu lived the greater part of his life in self imposed exile in London, yet his work manifests qualities that Oguibe could identify as related to a village Igbo sense of line, form and space: Oguibe O, 1995: Uzo Egonu

More than any other single writer, Ulli Beier has documented the developments in Nigeria, thereby promoting the work of artists emerging from Zaria as well as from the Oshogbo workshops that he instituted to give the experience of art making to people who had missed out on formal education. 1960: Art in Nigeria 1960

1961: Contemporary Nigerian art, Nigeria Magazine, 68, pp 27 51 Beier U, OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

1962: Nigerian folk art, Nigeria Magazine, 75, pp 26 32 OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

1964: Idah an original Bini artist, Nigeria magazine, 80, pp 4 16 OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

1965: Experimental art school, Nigeria Magazine, 86, pp 199 204 OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

1966: Naive Nigerian art, Black Orpheus, 19, pp 31 32, 39 OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

1968: Contemporary Art in Africa

1991: Thirty Years of Oshogbo Art

Jess Costello Contemporary Nigerian art in Lagos private collections: new trees in an old forest / edited by Jess Castellote. Ibadan, Nigeria: Bookcraft, 2012   

For further reading about Senegal and Nigeria see:

Harney E, 1996: The Legacy of Negritude: a history of the visual arts in post independence Senegal unpublished PhD thesis, SOAS. Available online See also her paper in the Oxford Art Journal, 19, 1

Vogel S, 1991: Africa Explores, ch IV, pp 176 197, 210 229

Revue Noire, 7

McEvilley T, 1993: Fusion: West African Artists at the Venice Biennale

Museum for African Art, 1993: Home and the World: Architectural Scultpture . . .

Willis E, 1997: Uli Painting and Igbo Identity unpublished PhD thesis SOAS Available online

Okita S I O, 1986: African culture in search of an identity, Nigeria Magazine, 54/1, pp 55 60 OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

Senghor's philosophy of Negritude was formulated in inter war Paris. Wifredo Lam, the Cuban artist of part Yoruba descent was there too, as we have already noted, but returned to the Carbbean in the early 1940s in search of a cultural identity,

* Linsley R, 1988: Wifredo Lam: painter of Negritude, Art History, 11, 4, pp 527-544 Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Top of page

Week 6. No Lecture

Persona & Professional Development week. See your timetable for scheduled workshops

Top of page

Week 7. Art in South Africa

Art in South Africa comprises ‘... a corpus of art that constitutes, presupposes and presents a complex set of contrasts and intersections: rural and urban, black township and white suburb, local tradition and a wider art world, community project and university department, painting (and assemblage and collage and drawing [and printmaking]) and sculpture, figurative and non-figurative, material and conceptual, and so on and so forth; but they do not add up to form a simple pattern or a single paradigm, beyond loyalty to a country with a history so traumatic that it is beyond the imagination of those who have not lived it. This is art-making that defies classification, just as, whether in subject matter or in the free exercise of artistic imagination, it defied the savagery of apartheid; and even now, though apartheid is supposedly at an end, it reminds us that there is still work to be done in the cause of justice and peace ... the ethnicities of modern Africa are among the elements that constitute local modernities. In West Africa these evolved in the contesting of colonial rule, a movement that also made necessary the consideration of local identity. In South Africa the very emergence of apartheid, for a time South Africa's own brand of modernity, was founded upon a traumatic nineteenth-century narrative of population growth, land hunger, duplicity, slavery, genocide, fratricide, warfare, and internment. These were the factors that stoked the furnace in which the ethnicities of modern South Africa were forged, Afrikaner as well as Zulu as well as all the others. Modern ethnic identities are, in other words, precisely that: modern; neither `traditional' nor `primitive,' let alone ‘savage' (and to whom, after all, does the epithet `savage' best apply in the circumstances of the internment camps of a hundred years ago for which, in this reflexive era, even the Queen of England herself has sort-of apologised).' (J P in J Picton & J Law [eds], 2000, Cross Currents: contemporary art practice in south Africa pp 7-9)    Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1990: Art from South Africa, D Elliot et al    

Being there: South Africa, a contemporary art scene / catalogue directors, Suzanne Pagé and Angeline Scherf. Paris: Éditions Dilecta, 2017. 167 pp. illus.

Liberated voices: contemporary art from South Africa / edited by Frank Herreman, assisted by Mark D'Amato. New York: The Museum for African Art; Munich; New York: Prestel, 1999.    

Peffer, John. Art and the end of apartheid. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 2009.

Richards, Colin. "About face: aspects of art, history and identity in South African visual culture," Third text: Third World perspectives on contemporary art & culture (London) 16-17 double issue: 101-133, autumn-winter 1991   Available as an Online Course Reading in Minerva 

Williamson, Sue. South African art now. New York: Collins Design, 2009.   

Oguibe O & O Enwezor [eds], 2000: Reading the Contemporary ... see papers by Koloane, Timm, Richards, Enwezor, pp 328-399

Sack S, 1988: The Neglected Tradition   

Younge G, 1988: Art of the South African Townships

Njami S et al, 1993: South Africa, Revue Noire, 11. OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (IK 23/10/2019) 

Williamson S, 1989: Resistance Art in South Africa

Williamson S, & A Jamal, 1996: Art in South Africa: the future present

Berman E, 1993 (and earlier editions): Painting in South Africa

Nettleton A & W D Hammond-Tooke, 1989: African Art from South Africa

Johannesburg Art Gallery, 1991: Art and Ambiguity

Koloane D, 1995: Moments in art, in C Deliss et al, Seven Stories [see week 14] pp 143-157

Till C et al, 1995: Africus: Johannesburg Biennale   

Arnold M, 1996: Women and Art in South Africa

Enwezor Oet al, 1997: Trade Routes: History and Geography 2nd Johannesburg biennale

Herreman F [ed] 1999: Liberated Voices

Picton J [ed], 1997: Image and Form: prints, drawings and sculpture from southern Africa and Nigeria see Schneider, Koloane, Rankin

Picton J & J Law [eds], 2000: Cross Currents: contemporary art practice in south Africa

Law J & J Picton [eds] 2001-2002: Divisions and Diversions: the visual arts in post-apartheid South Africa   

Top of page

Week 8. Photography

Photography, the first of the modern arts in sub Saharan Africa, was brought to Freetown in 1845 by Augustus Washington, one of the very earliest African American photographers; and in Africa as in African America, traditions of portraiture and documentation develop in ways that differ from Europe, avoiding the exoticising and primitivising to which European photographers were prone. It is also obvious that the history of photography coincides with the history of collecting African sculpture for the ethnographic and `Primitive Art' collections of Europe and America; but if the two kinds of image making exist side by side, so to speak, one wonders if there is any relationship between them. For example, is it just the artefact of incomplete documentation that a stiffer tradition of photographic portraiture is maintained in those parts of West Africa characterised by naturalistic sculptural traditions, while a more relaxed tradition develops in places such as Senegal and Mali where figurative sculpture is either absent or highly schematic? Either way, photography is clearly popular as a means of enabling self representation: most houses are full of photographs articulating the realities and choices of fashion, status, modernity and tradition; but in South Africa, local photographers were more concerned with photo-journalism, and the brutal realities of apartheid.

Morton C 2015 (co-edited with Darren Newbury),  The African Photographic Archive: Research and Curatorial Strategies. London: Bloomsbury.  

Gore, C., 2013, Neils Walwin Holm: Radicalising the Image in Lagos Colony, West Africa, History of Photography, 37, 3, 283-300.     

** Schneider, J., 2013, Portrait Photography: A Visual Currency in the Atlantic Visualscape, (eds.) Pfeiffer, J., and Cameron, E., Portraiture and Photography in Africa, 35-66

**Revue Noire, 1998 [English ed 1999]: Anthology of African and Indian Ocean Photography, esp Beginnings, pp 34-75, Portrait photographers, pp 78-168 ARTF3168 Africa and the Atlantic World 12    

**Diawara M, 2000: Talk of the town: Seydou Keita, in O Oguibe & O Enwezor [eds] Reading the Contemporary ..., pp 236-242

** Bigham E, 1999: Issues of authorship in the portrait photographs of Seydou Keita, African Arts, XXXII, 1, pp 56-67, 94-95     

**Sprague S, 1978: Yoruba photography: how the Yoruba see themselves, African Arts, XII, 1, pp 52-59     

* Haney, E., 2010, Photography and Africa, Reaktionbooks

Lamuniere, M., 2001, You Look Beautiful Like That: The Portrait Photographs of Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe Anderson, M., and Aronson, L., 2011, Jonathan A. Green: An African Photographer Hiding in Plain SAight, African Arts, 44, 3.

** Oguibe O, 1996: Photography and the substance of the image, in Clare Bell [et al] In/sight: African photographers, 1940 to the present, pp 231 249, Guggenheim Museum

** Revue Noire, 1998 [English ed 1999]: Anthology of African and Indian Ocean Photography, esp Beginnings, pp 34 75, Portrait photographers, pp 78 168

** Diawara M, 2000: Talk of the town: Seydou Keita, in O Oguibe & O Enwezor [eds] Reading the Contemporary ..., pp 236 242

* Willis R, 2000: Reflections in Black: a history of Black photographers, 1840 to the present

* Schadeberg J et al, 1994: Softown Blues: images from the black '50s

Magnin A [ed], 1997: Seydou Keita

Bigham E, 1999: Issues of authorship in the portrait photographs of Seydou Keita, African Arts, XXXII, 1, pp 56 67, 94 95

Sprague S, 1978: Yoruba photography: how the Yoruba see themselves, African Arts, XII, 1, pp 52 59

Wendl T & H Behrend [eds], 1998: Snap Me One! Studiofotografen in Afrika

Geary C, 1988: Images from Bamum ( sympathetic colonial photography)

Baldassari A, 1997: Picasso and Photography: the dark mirror, pp 45 61 (a revealing look at European popular photographs of African people, and the sources of Les Demoiselles)

Bouttiaux Ndiaye A M, 1994: Senegal Behind Glass (glass painting)

Top of page

Week 9. The Diasporas

Brazil and Suriname

The Actress, the Bishop and the Carnival Queen is a video recording filmed in Recife, Brazil, that in documenting the contest between rival carnival queens, reveals the complex stucturing of identities through cult and performance; but as Tania Tribe demonstrates, there is more to Black Brazillian art than carnival or Candomblé the Yoruba derived cults known especially in the city of Salvador in the Bay [Bahia] of All Saints.

** Omari M S, 1984: From the Inside to the Outside: the Art and Ritual of Bahian Candomble Crowley D, 1984: African Myth and Black Reality in Bahian Carnaval

* Tribe T, 1993: Saints and orixás: popular uses of religious syncretism in contemporary Brazillian painting, in S Rostas & A Droogers [eds] The Popular Uses of Popular Religion in Latin America, pp 53 70

* Tribe T,1996: The mulatto as artist and image in colonial Brazil, Oxford Art Journal 19, 1

pp 67 79

* Benton T & N Durbridge, 1999: `O Aleijadinho': sculptor and architect, in C King [ed]

Views of Difference: Different Views of Art

pp 146 177

Thompson R F, 1993: With the assurance of infinity: Yoruba Atlantic altars, Face of the Gods pp 146 280    

Crowley D & D Ross, 1981: The Bahian market in African influenced art, African Arts XV 1

Verger P, 1957: Dieux d'Afrique, a photographic essay about Yoruba cults in Brazil

For further readings on carnival see:

Nunley J & J Bettleheim [eds], 1988: Caribbean Festival Arts, ch 1 and at least one other

Turner V, 1987: Carnival, ritual and play in Rio de Janeiro, in A Falassi [ed], Time out of Time: Essays on Festival

Owusu K & J Ross, 1989: Behind the Masquerade... Notting Hill Carnival     

Arts Council, 1986: Masquerading: the Art of the Notting Hill Carnival

In the 18th century communities of escaped slaves developed in the forests of Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana), and by the 1760s they had forced the Dutch colonists to grant them autonomy. They developed distinctive visual and ritual practices, `a new world of art and architecture, creatively complicating remembered fragments of a sub Saharan past by absorption of additional techniques gleaned from plantation experience and contact with Amerindians' (Thompson 1993, p 118). Among the traditions that developed was the use of textiles cut into narrow strips, which inevitably raises questions about a likeness to the forms and aesthetic values of woven textiles in West Africa.

** Price R & S, 1981: Afro American Arts of the Suriname Rain Forest chs 1 2 at least

Thompson R F, 1993: The face of the past: staff shrines and flag altars, Face of the Gods pp 110 143

Haiti and Cuba

While ritual traditions from many sources (Kongo, Dahomey, Yoruba, etc) have been reconfigured to comprise the religions of Haiti and Cuba, to consider these, together with their associated visual traditions, only in terms of those sources would be to miss the point ie of understanding their coherence and relevance within local contexts. After all, insofar as elements of West African practice survived the evils of the Middle Passage, they have not done so in order to provide us with things to be historical about. Rather, their survival has been promoted by their utility in the forging of senses of cultural worth and social identity in contexts of disadvantage compounded by brutality. In Haiti, the first Black state to fight for and achieve an independence from Europe, local ritual traditions entail the use of painting and textile design, both now produced (since 1945) for an external patronage. In Cuba, the Sino Yoruba painter, Wifredo Lam, returns from Modernist Paris in the early 1940s to confront in art the ritual/performance tradition known as Santeria, setting a pattern for later generations of Cuban artists (if you have seen the film, The Buena Vista Social Club, you may remember that Ibrahim Ferrer is a Santeria priest).

** Poupeye V, 1998: Caribbean Art, esp ch 3, popular religion etc, pp 81 110

** Linsley R, 1988: Wifredo Lam: painter of negritude, Art History, 11, 4, pp 527 544   

* Stebich U, 1978: Haitian Art: see also Crowley review in African Arts, XIII, 3

* Rozelle R, A Wardlaw et al [eds], 1990: Black Art, Ancestral Legacy,

* Studio Museum in Harlem, 1993: Wifredo Lam and his contemporaries (a number of other biographies exist in the Brotherton)

Baddeley O & V Fraser, 1989: Drawing the Line: Art and Cultural Identity is Contemporary Latin America, ch 4, the surrealist continent

Top of page

Week 10. African American artists, from slavery to renaissance

In those parts of the course concerned with the African diaspora that is caused by transatlantic slavery, there are three themes: first, those elements of visual and social practice carried across the Atlantic in the memories of those taken into slavery; second, the emergence of new identities as African people in the Americas; and third, the documentation in art of the experiences of being Black and African in a strange land. Our concern is not with finding an `authentic' African culture preserved against all the odds. This is not a course about Eurocentric concerns with preservation; and the essentialising of `African culture' is part of that problem. The idea did not work in West Africa, so it certainly will not help understand the complex ethnicities reconstructed, reconfigured and reinvented in the transatlantic world. Elements of West African social practice were of course carried across the Atlantic, and here Thompson is the outstanding and pioneering documentary genius (see especially 1984, The Flash of the Spirit, eg ch 1, Yoruba, and/or ch 3, Fon/vodun; and 1993: Face of the Gods, Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas pp 20 30 & 284 306). Yet there are also locations where a sense of identity, for example as Yoruba, is a latter day invention. The reconfiguring is part of the history; and if in Africa ethnic identity is not so much a given as a fluid process, how much more is that likely to be the case following the brutal dismembering of peoples and practices that constituted the transatlantic slave trade. There is, moreover, an interesting parallel between the emergence of modern ethnicities in contesting European colonialisms and the emergence of an Africentric contesting of white American hegemonies (a process also entailing the Nation of Islam, and Black Christianities).

African American painters from the late 18th and through the 19th centuries were largely concerned with portraits, landscapes, biblical episodes and so forth. The first to represent a distinctively African ¬American theme was Henry Ossawa Tanner's painting of an old man teaching a small boy the banjo. This, together with the early Africentric and pan African interests of W E B Du Bois, Meta Warrick Fuller's sculpture Ethiopia Awakening, and the New Negro movement of Alain Locke ushered in the inception of the first self conscious coming together of African American intellectuals and artists, such as the painter Aaron Douglas, and the photographer James Van Der Zee in a movement aimed at redefining their place in American society. Subsequently, Jacob Lawrence developed the painting of extensive series illustrating the lives of leading African Americans, beginning with Toussaint I'Ouverture in 1937 1938, and documenting African American experience. Read Lippard and at least one other ** reference:

Godfrey M and Zoe Whitley 2018 Soul of a Nation Tate Publishing   (A catalogue full of interesting papers).  

** Lippard L, 1990: Mixed Blessings: Art in a multicultural America esp Mapping pp3 17   OCR REQUESTED BY LIBRARY (HT 11/05/2021) 

** Vlach J, 1978: The Afro American Tradition in Decorative Arts, intro pp 1 5, and at least one of basketry, pp 7 19; wood carving, 27 43; quilting, 44 75; pottery , 76 96

** Driskell D, 1987: The flowering of the Harlem renaissance, Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America, pp 104 154

** Patton S F, 1998: African American Art ch 1, pp 19 49, also 67 71; chi, pp 105 181

** Powell R [ed], 1989: The Blues Aesthetic: Black Culture and Modernism

** South Bank Centre, 1997: Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance esp R Powell Re/Birth of a Nation; H L Gates Jr Harlem on our Minds

* Rozelle R, A Wardlaw et al [eds], 1990: Black Art, Ancestral Legacy, pp 17 34, 35 52, 53 74

* Perry R, 1993: Free Among Ourselves Joshua Johnson p 95,

* Wahlman M, 1993: Signs and Symbols, African Images in African American Quilts chs 1 & 2

Boime A, 1990: The Art of Exclusion, ch 6

Omari M S, 1991: Completing the circle, African Arts, XXIV, 3

There is, as one might expect, no simple or single narrative. Jacob Lawrence continues his documentary work. Romare Bearden develops the use of collage in his exploration of African¬American experience:

** Perry R, 1993: Free Among Ourselves pp 29 35, 127 133

* Wheat E H, 1986: Jacob Lawrence, American Painter,

* Studio Museum in Harlem, 1991: Memory and Metaphor: the Art of Romare Bearden, pp 18 70

J M Basquiat was a controversial figure who became well known in a jaded late 20th century New York art world through his graffiti like paintings and by his acquaintance with Warhol; but is his work at all relevant to a study of the art of Africa? Renee Stout on the other hand draws explicitly upon what she sees as her Kongo inheritance, constructing urban `fetishes' from casts of herself.

** Patton S F, 1998: African American Art pp 183 273

* Rozelle R, A Wardlaw et al [eds], 1990: Black Art, Ancestral Legacy, references to Renee Stout

* M Harris, 1993: The art of Renee Stout, in W MacGaffey & M Harris, Astonishment and Power

* Cooke L, 1991: The resurgence of the night mind: primitivist revivals in recent art, in S Hiller [ed], The Myth of Primitivism, pp137 157, esp147 149

* Marshall R, et al, 1993: Jean Michel Basquiat [Whitney Museum retrospective]

Meanwhile, through the 20th century there are self taught and often visionary artists recording their experiences in painting, drawing and sculpture:

** Rozelle R, A Wardlaw et al [eds], 1990: Black Art, Ancestral Legacy, esp references to Bessie Harvey & William Edmundson

* Perry R, 1993: Free Among Ourselves

W Edmundson, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Minnie Evans Livingston J & J Beardsley, 1982: Black Folk Art in America   

Stein J E, 1993: I Tell My Heart: the Art of Horace Pippin

Thompson R F, 1993: A chart for the soul: the Kongo Atlantic altar Face of the Gods, pp 48-95

Top of page

Week 11. Black Britain and The Other Story

Black and African people have lived in Britain for several centuries (John Blank, the Black trumpeter at the court of Henry VII was surely not the first) and with the inception of transatlantic slavery most would have arrived via the Caribbean. Our knowledge of visual artists only begins in the 20th century. The first, as far as we know, was Ronald Moody who came to study dentistry, but took to sculpture instead. However, in the years immediately following the end of World War II, Caribbean people were encouraged to settle here to meet the labour needs of this country; and it is not surprising that many of their children would have gone through the British art educatiion system. Sonia Boyce, Veronica Ryan and Eddie Chambers are cases in point. One hardly needs reiterate the racism still encountered in British society; and Rashid Araeen's 1989 exhibition, The Other Story, was intended todraw attention to the difficulties people of Asian and African descent have had entering the mainstream of a British gallery network. In addition, there are also artists who have had to choose exile, such as Gavin Jantjes from South Africa; while others are part of a later freely chosen diaspora, first generation artists such as Sokari Douglas Camp, Magdalene Odundo, Osi Audu, Taiwo Jegede, and second generation, including Yinka Shonibare and Chris Ofili, both well known for breaking through to international recognition, both featuring in the Royal Academy Sensation show. It seemsI that The Other Story is no longer the whole story.

** Araeen R, 1989: The Other Story, the Hayward Gallery     

Araeen R, 1990, The presence of Black consciousness in contemporary art in Britain, in C Deliss [ed], Lotte or the transformation of the object

** Tawadros G, 1997: Sonia Boyce: speaking in tongues

** Caribbean Cultural Center, New York, 1997: Transforming the Crown: African, Asian & Caribbean artists in Britain 1966 1996

** Ikon Gallery, 1999: Yinka Shonibare: Dressing Down

** Southampton City Art Gallery & Serpentine Gallery London, 1998: Chris Ofili

* Chambers E, 1988: A History of Black Artists in Britain

Chambers E, 1988: Black Art: Plotting the Course   

Chambers E, 1991: History and identity, Third Text, 15, reprinted in G Tawadros & V Clarke [eds] Annotations S: run through the jungle: selected writings by Eddioe Chambers pp 97 101

* Walmesley A, 1992: The Caribbean Artists' Movement, ch 1

Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1986: Between Two Worlds   

Owusu K [ed], 2000: Black British Culture & Society: a text reader

Roberts J, 1990: Postmodernism, Politics and Art, esp ch on the critique of ethnicity

Button V, 1997: The Turner Prize, pp 142 145, 199

Hynes N & J Picton, 2001 papers on Yinka Shonibare in African Arts

This list was last updated on 17/09/2020