SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

African Art III: the Art and Architecture of North Eastern Africa

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

The course discusses the art and architecture produced by oral and literate cultures in Northeastern Africa, analysing their relationship to religion, social organization and identity. In particular, it examines developments in Ancient and Coptic Egypt; Christian Nubia and Ethiopia; and the Islamic culture of this region. 

Basic art historical notions like style, periodization and authorship will be reassessed.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On completion of the course, students will have a thorough understanding and conceptualization of the following key theoretical issues: 

  • the role played by the arts in Ancient Egyptian funerary painting and among the revealed religions of the area (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), in contrast with the more loosely structured pastoral and agricultural groups; 
  • the relationship between word and image - for instance in Ancient Egyptian wall-painting, Coptic and Ethiopian icons and manuscripts, and Islamic calligraphy; 
  • forms of spatial use and understanding;
  • the visual construction of history, identity and gender; 
  • the use of metaphor and narrative in the visual arts; 
  • and concepts of modernity in the arts of this region.

Method of assessment

The written exam will count for 70%. 3 pieces of coursework will count for 30% (10% each) towards the final mark.

Suggested reading

  • Chojnacki S.,1983. Major Themes in Ethiopian Painting.
  • Davis W., 1989. The Canonical Tradition In Ancient Egyptian Art.
  • Doxiades E.,1995. The Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt.
  • Faris J.C., 1972. Nuba Personal Art.
  • Fowler B.H., 1989. The Hellenistic Aesthetic.
  • Frishman M. and Khan H.U., (eds.), 1994. The Mosque.
  • Gerster H.G., 1970. Churches in Rock: Early Christian Art in Ethiopia.
  • Heldman M. (with S. Munro-Hay), 1993. African Zion, the Sacred Art of Ethiopia.
  • Hondelink H. (ed.), 1990. Coptic Art and Culture.
  • Kemp B., (1989) 1991. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization.
  • Kubiak W.B., 1987. Al-Fustat, its Foundations and Early Urban Development.
  • Michalowsky K., 1974. Faras, Wall-Paintings in the Collection of the National Museum in Warsaw.
  • Middleton J., 1992. The World of the Swahili, An African Mercantile Civilization.
  • Nasr S.H., 1987. Islamic Art and Spirituality.
  • Schimmel A., 1984. Calligraphy and Islamic Culture.
  • Spear T. and Waller K., (eds), 1993. Being Maasai.
  • Watterson B., 1988. Coptic Egypt.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules