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:
Academic Support Hours:
Thursdays, 10am-12pm


Polly Savage teaches modules on art theory, curating, and the visual arts in Africa and the African diaspora. After graduating in the History of Art and Archaeology programme at SOAS in 2001, she worked for five years as Assistant Curator at the October Gallery, before completing an MA at Goldsmiths and a PhD in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art.  She has held teaching posts at Leeds, Goldsmiths and Birkbeck, as well as SOAS. Her most recent research focuses on Cold War relations and decolonisation in Lusophone Africa.


Royal College of Art, October Gallery


Programmes Convened
Modules Taught
BA modules

Convened and taught:

  • Approaches to Modern and Contemporary Arts of Africa
  • Curating Global Arts
  • Introduction to Art and Archaeology of Africa (2009-2010)
  • Theory and Method in the Study of Art and Archaeology (convened 2009-2016)
  • Theory for Art and Archaeology (convened 2016-2019)
  • Visual Arts of Africa and the Atlantic World
  • Introduction to Art and Archaeology of Africa (2008-2016)
  • Themes in the Art and Archaeology of Africa (2016-2019)
MA modules

Convened and taught:

  • Contemporary Art and the Global
  • Cross-cultural Approaches to Aesthetics
  • Modern and Contemporary Arts of Africa


  • Critical Readings in Arts and Cultures (2016-2019)
  • Art and Society in Africa (2008-2009)


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


Authored Books

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


This list was last generated on Sunday, 18th April 2021, 07:22 Europe/London.