SOAS University of London

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

The Art of the African Diaspora

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course follows the development of the art of people of African descent outside the African continent from colonial times to the present, with particular focus on Brazil, the Caribbean, the United States and Britain. From the 17th to the 19th century, Black and Mulatto artists played an increasingly important role in the art of the Americas, gradually creating artistic worlds of their own within the white-dominated societies. 

The 20th century has seen the establishment of African identities in the Americas and in Europe. In the context of these general issues, specific topics to be discussed in the course may include: colonial Brazil, the representation of African religions in Brazilian and Haitian painting, art and black politics in the United States, recent developments in Britain, and the work of several individual artists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate:  

  • Familiarity with the history of the expansion of slavery in the Americas, from its beginnings in the 16th century and abolition in the 19th     to the present day.
  • An understanding of the issues of identity generated by the presence of slaves and their descendants in the Americas, and familiarity with the key forms of cultural expression resulting from such presence.
  • An understanding of the political, religious and social contexts that generated the rich forms of hybrid cultural heritage deriving from the presence of Africans in the Americas.
  • An ability to analyse the particular forms of visual production associated with these hybrid cultural forms - looking at their role and function of over the centuries, and considering how different media – paintings, film, photography, performance – have conveyed these hybrid processes and contributed to identity-building throughout the Americas.
  • An awareness of the resources available for future research and of the current trends in scholarship in exploring and understanding this cultural heritage.  
  • An understanding of the theoretical issues and methodology required for assessing and using  the various kinds of source material, both visual and literary, associated with this course


One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Method of assessment

  • One 2 000 words book review (worth 30%)
  • One 3 500 words essay (worth 50%)
  • One seminar (worth 20%)

Suggested reading

  • Ades, D., 1989, Art in Latin America.
  • Areen, R., 1989, The Other Story, London.
  • Consentino, D. (ed.), 1996, Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou, Los Angeles.
  • Lippard, L., 1990, Mixed Blessings, New York.
  • Mintz, S.W. and Price, R., 1992, The Birth of African-American Culture.
  • Perry, R., 1993, Free Among Ourselves.
  • Price, S., and Prince, R., 1980, Afro-American Arts of the Suriname Rain Forest, Los Angeles.
  • Rozelle, R.V., Wardlaw, A. and McKenna, M.A. (eds.), 1989, Black Art, Ancestral Legacy: the African Impulse in African-American Art, Dallas.
  • Shaw, D.A., 1975, Jamaican Art.
  • Stebich, U., 1978, Haitian Art.
  • Thompson, R.F., 1993, Face of the Gods, New York.
  • Thornton, J., 1992, African and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1680.
  • Walmsley, A., 1992, The Caribbean Artists Movement, 1966-1972.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules