The History of African Art


This introductory guide explores the art of the African continent from its early origins over 150,000 years ago to the contemporary, set in the context of post-colonial debates, the restitution of cultural objects and artefacts, and the challenges of the present.

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The History of African Art

This guide is structured chronologically into manageable and meaningful chapters covering ancient art, the Middle Ages, travel and trade, encounters with Europe in the age of exploration, the colonial era, the rebuilding of the continent in recent times, and contemporary art. It addresses core, continent-wide themes in African visual and cultural expression, from the life-cycle (motherhood, children, initiation, religion) to the body and representations of power dynamics. Important regional artistic expressions are also explored, such as the cultures of Mali (the Western Sudan), Nigeria (the lower Niger and Benue area), the Congo Basin and various nomadic populations across the continent.

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