SOAS University of London

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

Dr Tania Tribe

MD (UGF Rio de Janeiro), MA (Federal University, Rio de Janeiro), PhD (University of Essex)
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications



PhD Students supervised
  • Annwen E Bates, (The Buchu Edit: Representations of Africa and residues of empire in the wellness and wellbeing industry with special reference to the Cape of Good Hope)
  • Helena Cantone, Decolonising the Visual Archive of Salvatore Fiume (1915-1997): Italian Encounters with Postcolonial Africa
  • Katy Shahandeh, Rising from the Ashes: The Semiotics of Subversion in the Works of Contemporary Iranian Women Artists of the "Burnt Generation" (working title).
  • Laurie Lijnders, Motherhood Across Borders (working title)
  • Pascale Pean, The Taste of Home: Identity and Resistance in Haitian-American Food


The art, architecture and material culture of Christian Northeastern Africa, from Early Christianity to the 18th Century; contemporary African painting; the arts of the African Diaspora in the Americas; multidisciplinary problems in the study of visuality and visual culture. Particular theoretical interests: cultural encounters; place, time and embodiment, particularly in relation to the study of religious art and architecture; the relationship between word and image.

Current Research

Dr Tribe's current research mainly focuses on the cycles of Christian wall-paintings and manuscript illustrations produced in Northeastern Africa (early Christian to the eighteenth-century). In particular, she seeks to situate the compositions painted during that period in the Christianized areas of Egypt, Old Nubia (present-day Sudan) and Ethiopia within the wider trade and cultural networks of their time - the African-Mediterranean corridor, the Silk Route and the Red Sea trade. Her work assesses these paintings in relation to the visual production of politically and culturally dominant centres like Byzantium, Cairo or Indo-Portuguese Goa, moving away from simplistic models of cultural influence to concentrate on reception as an active process and on the comparative examination of key visual themes: place and space, religious imagery, apocalypticism, the body, kingship and gender, time and narrative. She also seeks to contextualize these cycles of wall-paintings within their wider cultural and archaeological context. In order to do this, she has invited a team of archaeologists to work with her on the site of the thirteenth-century dynastic rock-cut church of Gannata Maryam and related churches.


Tania Tribe graduated in Medicine in Brazil and then went on obtain an MA in Art History and Criticism at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and a PhD in Art History and Theory at the University of Essex. She joined SOAS while concluding her PhD, which focused on the study of eighteenth-century cycles of tile paintings in Portugal and Brazil, taking into consideration the social groups that commissioned these works, including African slaves and their descendents. Since taking up her duties in the Department of Art and Archaeology, she has been funded by SOAS and the AHRB to conduct fieldwork into African art, in particular the Christian arts of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

She also has a specialist interest in contemporary African painting, in the arts of the African Diaspora in the Americas and in theoretical issues relating to the study of the visual arts and material culture, particularly interdisciplinary and cross-cultural studies. While postgraduate tutor, she developed a research training course for the graduate students in the Department of Art and Archaeology, seeking to identify areas of common theoretical interest and build a solid philosophical basis on which they may best be explored within a multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural perspective. Such concerns remain very much part of her own research activities. In 2001 she curated the exhibition Heroes and Artists: Popular Art and the Brazilian Imagination for the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, as part of a worldwide series of major events dealing with Brazilian art. 

As part of her wider ongoing project in NE Africa she co-organized with Dr Manuel J. Ramos (ISCTE - Lisbon) the exhibition entitled The Indigenous and the Foreign: Art and Architecture of 17th Century Ethiopia, held in the Brunei Gallery (SOAS, 19 July-3 August 2004), and the international workshop that accompanied this exhibition, entitled Cross-Cultural Encounters: Portugal and Ethiopia in the 16th and 17th Centuries, held in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS (19 July 2004). She has been visiting lecturer in Art History at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF) and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (URGS), in Brazil, and has established Erasmus exchange links with the Centre for Eastern Christian Studies, University of Leiden, and ISCTE-Lisbon.


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Available for
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Regional Expertise
  • Africa
Country Expertise
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia
  • Sudan
  • Amharic
  • Arabic
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
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  • Spanish



Jump to: Articles | Book Chapters |

Tribe, Tania (2018) 'Investigating Dynastic Change in the Highlands of Ethiopia in the 12th–14th Centuries: the Solomonic-Zagwe Encounters Project'. Meroitica. [Forthcoming]

Tribe, Tania (2013) 'Slavery to Hiroshima and beyond: African-American art and the apocalypse'. Word & Image, (29) 3, pp 354-384.

Tribe, Tania (2009) 'Holy Men in Ethiopia: The Wall Paintings in the Church of Abuna Abraham Dabra Tseyon (Gar'alta, Tegray)'. Eastern Christian Art, (6), pp 7-37.

Tribe, Tania (2007) 'Visual Narrative and the Harlem Renaissance'. Word & Image, (23) 4, pp 391-413.

Tribe, Tania (2007) 'Narrative in the Harlem Renaissance'. Word and Image.

Tribe, Tania (2007) 'Iconography of Eshu in Brazilian Art'. Yoruba Cultural Memory in Africa and the Americas.

Tribe, Tania (2004) 'Icon and Narration in Eighteenth-Century Christian Egypt: The Works of Yuhanna al-Armani al-Qudsi and Ibrahim al-Nasikh'. Art History, (27) 1, pp 62-94.

Tribe, Tania (1999) 'Memory and Wonder: Our Lady Mary in Ethiopian Painting, 15th - 18th Centuries'. Memory & oblivion : proceedings of the XXIXth International Congress of the History of Art, held in Amsterdam, 1-7 September 1996, pp 625-635.

Tribe, Tania (1996) 'The Mulatto as Artist and Image in Colonial Brazil'. Oxford Art Journal, (19 No), pp 67-79.

Book Chapters

Jump to: Articles | Book Chapters |

Tribe, Tania (2004) 'Place, Space and Representation in 18th-Century Gondarine Painting'. In: Ramos, M. J. and Boavida, I., (eds.), The Indigenous and the Foreign in Christian Ethiopian Art. On Portuguese-Ethiopian Contacts in the 16th-17th Centuries.. Farnham: Ashgate Press, pp 61-72.

Tribe, Tania (2004) 'Towards an Archaeology of Ethiopian Monasticism: Contexts and Themes'. In: Insoll, Timothy and Finneran, Niall, (eds.), Belief in the Past. The Proceedings of the 2002 Manchester Conference on Archaeology and Religion.. Oxford: Archaeopress. Publishers of British Archaeological Reports., pp 63-73.

Tribe, Tania (2001) ''Popular Culture and the Arts of Twentieth-Century Brazil', and 'Brazilians and their Art''. In: Tribe, Tania, (ed.), Heroes and Artists: Popular Art and the Brazilian Imagination. Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum ; BrasilConnects, pp 9-41 & 72.

Tribe, Tania (2000) 'Candomble Shrines'. In: Arnaut, Karel, (ed.), Revisions: New Perspectives on the African Collections of the Horniman Museum. London: Horniman Museum & Gardens /Museu Antropol, pp 125-141.

Tribe, Tania (1997) 'The Word in the Desert: the wall-paintings of Debra Maryam Korkor (Ger''alta, Tigray)'. In: Fukui, Katsuyoshi and Kurimoto, Eisei and Shigeta, Masayoshi, (eds.), Ethiopia in broader perspective : papers of the XIIIth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Kyoto, 12-17 December 1997.. Kyoto: Shokado Book Sellers, pp 35-61.


This list was last generated on Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 23:02 Europe/London.