Art and Politics in Africa

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Arts & Department of History of Art and Archaeology

Module overview

How might we understand art as a site of politics? In this module we consider how visual artists and art collectives have taken positions on political change in Africa since the early 20th century, spanning from anti-colonial resistance and the struggle against apartheid to the Arab Spring and Rhodes Must Fall movement. 

Through case studies ranging from early portrait photography in West Africa to recent live art protests, we think through aesthetic approaches to the political. How, for example, did artists critically engage with ideas of Négritude, African Socialism and International Solidarity to negotiate new national subjectivities in the wake of independence? How have artists outlined new approaches to decolonisation, understood not only as a political rupture, but as an on-going process of critical reflection and action? And how artists have confronted the legacies of state violence in Africa to develop new visual practices for today’s global struggles? 

Students on this module will work collectively to produce a special issue for the online journal ‘Art and Politics in Africa’.   

Objectives and Learning Outcomes  

On successful completion of this module students will be able to

  • Demonstrate broad knowledge of art and politics in a range of historical contexts in Africa.
  • Understand, and contribute to, contemporary debates about art and politics in Africa.
  • Apply critical analysis to case studies of visual art, with reference to broader political, theoretical and art historical context in Africa.
  • Develop collaborative skills applicable to art historical writing, editing, curating and publishing. 

Method of Assessment

  • 1500-word essay (60% of marks) 
  • 500-word critical reflection on the collaborative journal (40%) 


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.