In October 2009, the University of East Anglia established a Centre for African Art and Archaeology to reflect the strong convergence of research and teaching interests related to Africa, in the School of Art History and World Art Studies.
Image: House painting in Senegal
Currently, nine members of the School of Art History and World Art Studies and the Sainsbury Research Unit (SRU) belong to the Centre, with primary research interests in the visual and material culture of Africa. African arts also play a major role in the collections of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA), which share the School's home in the Norman Foster-designed Sainsbury Centre building. The newly developed Centre for African Art and Archaeology will coordinate this assemblage of interests, bringing together the activities of staff and students to foster the development of research and teaching on the arts, archaeology, and cultural heritage of the African continent.
Africanist members of staff who are part of the Centre include:
Dr Nick Brooks is an environmental scientist who specialises in human-environment interactions and human adaptation to climate change. He combines consultancy work on the implications of climate change for human development with research into how human societies responded and adapted to severe and abrupt changes in climate in the past, with a focus on the Middle Holocene period. This research focuses on how the reorganisation of the global climate between about 6400 and 500 years ago may have influenced cultural trajectories in the northern hemisphere subtropics and contributed to the emergence of the world's earliest civilisations. Nick co-directs the Western Sahara Project with Joanne Clarke, and has been conducting field-based research into the archaeology and past environments of Western Sahara since 2002. Prior to that he conducted geoarchaeological work in the Fezzan region of Libya. Nick has a PhD in climatology from UEA's Climatic Research Unit, which examined the links between climate change, land use and drought in the African Sahel.
Dr Jo Clarke, an archaeologist with extensive fieldwork experience in Western Sahara, Cyprus, and Israel. Her most recent research is concerned with current approaches to the study of long-term changes in the technologies of early agricultural communities, specifically basketry, plaster and pottery. Presently she is co-directing a multi-disciplinary project in the Western Sahara, examining the long-term adaptation of human populations to the drying of the environment in the mid Holocene.
Dr Anne Haour, an archaeologist who focuses on the archaeology of Sahelian West Africa, has conducted excavations in Niger and in Bénin exploring the creation and maintenance of boundaries, the interrelation of archaeological and historical data in descriptions of 'empires', and the materialisation of contacts through artefacts. She has also collaborated with anthropologist colleagues on topics relating to present-day Africa, such as religion and change among the Hausa, modern-day learning networks, or depictions of Africa in schools and the media. These are all questions to be considered in an ongoing five-year project in Bénin, funded by the European Research Council. Her latest book, concerning outsiders and liminal people in West African archaeology, will be out with OUP this summer.
Dr Ferdinand de Jong, an anthropologist whose teaching and research interests concern the anthropology of art and material culture, memory and heritage, has conducted extensive fieldwork in Senegal. For his dissertation he researched the practice of secrecy as constitutive for the production of locality. He is currently writing a book on heritage and memory in postcolonial Senegal, focusing on UNESCO World Heritage sites and the commemorations performed there, a project funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship. He also leads (with Paul Basu as Co-Investigator) the AHRC Research Network on Utopian Archives: Excavating Pasts for Postcolonial Futures.
Professor John Mack FBA was formerly Keeeper of the Ethnography Department of the British Museum and Director of the Museum of Mankind. He was President of the British Institute in Eastern Africa from 2005-2011. His research has focused on Congo, South Sudan, Kenya, Madagascar and Zanzibar, taking a broadly anthropological approach to art, material culture and archaeology. Most recently he has led an AHRC-funded research project looking at religious change in northern Kenya. Recent books have discussed questions of memory and art (2003), the process of miniaturisation (2007) and experiences of the sea (2011). He is currently working on a study of the relationship between art and death in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr Sada Mire‘s research interests are in the Horn of Africa's indigenous institutions, religions, art, archaeology and cultural heritage management. She has also carried out research into social exclusion and cohesion amongst the Horn of Africa Diaspora in in Northern Europe and their views on identity and heritage. In the last 7 years, Dr Mire and her Somaliland team have made numerous archaeological discoveries, which feature in her numerous articles and chapters, in international scientific publications, such as the African Archaeological Review and Antiquity. She is a TED-Speaker, recently on the topic of cultural heritage as basic human need. Previously Mire worked on zoo-archaeology in Kenya, analysing subsistence strategies in the Stone Age/Iron Age Lake Victoria region. Mire published the first articles on the Somali shield, the Wagar sculpture and fertility stones. Currently, Mire is working on two book projects on Somali heritage and identity as well as ritual practices linked with "sacred landscapes" and associated material culture of the Horn of Africa.
Dr Sam Nixon, an archaeologist specialising in the early Islamic era in West and North Africa, with a particular interest in the societies associated with early Islamic trans-Saharan trade. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the SRU, working on the Crossroads project led by Anne Haour, as well as completing research on earlier excavations at the trans-Saharan trading centre of Tadmekka in northern Mali, and developing new field projects in southern Morocco.
Dr Christina Riggs, Dr Christina Riggs is a specialist in ancient Egyptian art and is interested in how ideas about ancient Egypt have been formulated in the history of scholarship (including 'alternative' Egyptologies, such as Afrocentrism) and through museum and collecting practices. She has recently edited the Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt and is completing a monograph entitled Unwrapping Ancient Egypt: The Shroud, the Secret, and the Sacred, which considers the wrapping of mummified bodies and sacred images in ancient Egypt, and offers a critical analysis of their unwrapping in modern times.
Dr Fiona Savage is a former Africa curator at the British Museum and currently the Sainsbury Research Unit 25th Anniversary Post-Doctoral Fellow. She has previously conducted archival research in Ghana and specialises in Asante culture and art, pre-colonial West African travel literature and imagery and the past and present display of African ethnography. She recently published an online research catalogue entitled Asante Gold Regalia on the British Museum website and is soon to complete a second catalogue entitled African Gold-weights. She is also preparing a monograph for publication entitled Golden Illusions: Thomas E. Bowdich a Life and Legacy which will be an important addition to the growing literature on the construction and re-presentation of non-Western cultures and peoples in the era between the loss of the America colonies in the 1780s and the succession of Queen Victoria in the 1830s.
Members of academic staff in the School who are affiliates of the Centre include:
Dr Simon Dell (20th century: the reception of African Art in Europe)
Professor Sandy Heslop (‘Traditional' and contemporary African Art)
Enquiries about the Centre and its programmes may be made to its Secretary, Dr Anne Haour, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Past events include:
• Vincent Hiribarren (Kings College London). Dividing and Reconstructing African Space: Borders and Territory in Borno, Nigeria
• Kerryn Greenberg (International curator at Tate Modern). Tate’s collecting and display of contemporary African Art
• Professor Timothy Insoll (University of Manchester). Miniature Possibilities? Reconsidering the Archaeological Figurines of West Africa
• Sokari Douglas Camp CBE. Artist's talk.
• Atta Kwame. Artist's Talk.
• Enid Schildkrout (Chief Curator of the Museum for African Art, New York). In conversation.
• Ceri Ashley (British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University College London). Migration, Missionaries and Contact: Recent research on the archaeology of the Khwebe Hills, Botswana.
• Lisa Binder (Assistant Curator for Contemporary Africa at the Museum for African Art, New York). The life and times of a young curator in New York City.
• Sam Nixon (UCL Institute of Archaeology). Tadmakka : The archaeology of an early medieval Muslim merchant town on the trans-Saharan trail to West Africa (Republic of Mali).
• Laurence Douny (UCL Department of Anthropology). Wild silk of West Africa: the production of silk indigo wrappers of Dogon and Marka Dafing people of Mali and Burkina Faso
• Alexandre Livingstone-Smith (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium). Not a mere lump of clay in the potters hands: pottery traditions and social boundaries in Katanga (Democratic Republic of Congo)
- • Kevin MacDonald (University College London). Sorotomo: Oral Tradition and Archaeology of a Malian Centre of Power (AD 1200-1500)