SOAS University of London

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

Dr Polly Savage

BA (SOAS), MA (Goldsmiths), PhD (RCA), FHEA
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications


Polly Savage
Department of History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Lecturer in the Art History of Africa

Dr Polly Savage
Email address:
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Fridays 9.30-11.30


Polly Savage teaches and writes on art theory, curating, and the visual arts in Africa and the African diaspora. She has worked on a range of curatorial and research projects across Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean over the last two decades, and held a curatorial post at London's October Gallery for five years. She has an MA in Postcolonial Studies from Goldsmiths and a PhD in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, and has taught at several other universties including Leeds, Goldsmiths and Birkbeck. Her most recent research focuses on the visual cultures of decolonisation and the Cold War in Lusophone Africa.


Royal College of Art, October Gallery


Programmes Convened
Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Arjmand Aziz Ahmad, Exhibiting Australian Aboriginal Contemporary art in Britain: the case of two galleries in London
  • Katy Shahandeh, Rising from the Ashes: The Semiotics of Subversion in the Works of Contemporary Iranian Women Artists of the "Burnt Generation" (working title).
  • Arjmand Aziz, Contemporary Indigenous Australian art and private display histories in London
  • Richard Gray, Through the Eyes of the Crocodile: decisive passages in the trajectory of the artist Malangatana Valente Ngwenya (1936-2011, b Mozambique)
  • Kiyoko Mitsuyama-Wdowiak, Space, Matter and Politics: A Narrative of Installation Work in Post-war Japan
  • Joy Onyejiako, The cultural interactions of West African carving relief imagery (Luso ivories) in the decorative arts and architectural designs of notable English Tudor Mansions. (1550 - 1560)


Curating Global Arts
Introduction to the Art and Archaeology of Africa
Theory and Method in the Study of Art and Archaeology
Theory for Art and Archaeology
Contemporary Art and the Global
Cross-cultural Approaches to Aesthetics


Critical Readings in Arts and Cultures
Key Concepts in Cultural Theory
Theory and Method I
Theory and Method II
Theory and Method in Art History
Art and Society in Africa
Asia and Africa on Display
Arts, Culture and Commodification: Themes in the Global Creative and Cultural Industries


My research projects have shared a concern to critically analyse the relations between art and political power in Africa. Most recently, my work has explored the visual subjectivities of decolonisation, transnationalism and socialism in Africa, with particular focus on Lusophone Africa. My forthcoming book Um So Povo: Art, Solidarity and the Mozambican Revolution comprises the first in-depth study of Africa’s Cold War visual art networks. Analysing the aesthetic geographies of solidarity with Mozambique’s liberation struggle, it focuses on the mobilisation of images in the context of conflict and revolution, and considers how Mozambican artists responded to the pedagogies and curatorial appropriations of the socialist world. My first book, Making Art in Africa 1960-2010 (Lund Humphries, 2014) compiled first-hand accounts from artists and curators in 13 countries across Africa, offering a broad overview of contemporary practice on the continent.


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Available for
Regional Expertise
  • Latin America
  • Africa
Country Expertise
  • Angola
  • Brazil
  • Haiti
  • Madagascar
  • Mozambique
  • South Africa


Authored Books

Savage, Polly and Blackmore, Kara (2021) Art, Autonomy and Parasites: Visual Strategies for Public Health in East and Southern Africa. London: LSE.

Savage, Polly (2008) Nnenna Okore : Ulukububa Infinite Flow. London: October Gallery.

Savage, Polly and Hawes, Chili (2006) El Anatsui 2006. London: David Krut.


Savage, Polly (2010) 'The Germ of the Future? Ghetto Biennale, Port au Prince, Haiti'. Third Text, (24) 4, pp 491-495.

Savage, Polly (2005) 'El Anatsui: Texts, Contexts, Textiles and Gin'. Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, (5) 1, pp 173-175.

Edited Books or Journals

Savage, Polly, (ed.), (2014) Making Art in Africa 1960-2010. London: Lund Humphries.

Book Chapters

Savage, Polly (2019) 'Avenida Mao Tse Tung (or how artists navigated the Mozambican Revolution)'. In: Galimberti, Jacopo and Haro García, Noemi de and Scott, Victoria H. F., (eds.), Art, global Maoism and the Cultural Revolution. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp 249-268.

Savage, Polly (2016) 'Reading Between the Lines: African Students in the USSR'. In: Nash, Mark, (ed.), Red Africa: Affective Communities and the Cold War. London: Black Dog Publishing, pp 35-43.

Book Reviews

Savage, Polly (2021) 'London / Accra: James Barnor at The Serpentine'. Source: Thinking Through Photography, (105).

Savage, Polly (2016) 'Revolution Embodied: Omar Victor Diop’s ‘Liberty / Diaspora''. Source: Thinking Through Photography 96.


This list was last generated on Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 17:58 Europe/London.