||A History of Art in Africa
This comprehensive work considers and presents the arts of Africa as art history, rather than as expressions of anthropological and societical impulses and traditions. The book's aim is to animate the study of African art, showing how it has continuously developed from evolving beliefs and traditions, complex cultural interactions, historical and economic realities and gifted individuals. Every corner of the continent, including Egypt, is explored from pre-history to present day, with equal treatment given to all the arts. The Islamic influence and the Christian arts of Ethiopia and Nubia are examined, as are tourist arts and arts that have risen from interaction with Europe. Contemporary art forms are also explored, including the art of the African diaspora.
A History of Art in Africa is part of Thames & Hudson's distinguished list of books on African Art, which includes Jean-Baptiste Bacquart's The Tribal Arts of Africa and Frank Willett's African Art. However, A History of Art in Africa, with its contributions from some of the most distinguished American art historians working on the subject, is probably the most comprehensive and standard book currently available for the general reader on African Art. Lavishly illustrated with 700 illustrations, 120 in colour, what raises this book above the many others on the subject is its comprehensive range and the quality of its writing. The book quite rightly rejects what it sees as "an inaccurate sense of Africa as a place of monolithic artistic practice", and places its stress on regional innovations, whilst also remaining aware of "the broader cross-cultural traits that link them". As a result the book is broken down into five discrete sections--"From the Nile to the Niger", "Western Africa", "Central Africa", "Eastern and Southern Africa", and a final, particularly commendable section "The Diaspora", dealing primarily with art in the context of slavery and displacement. The sections are then broken down into smaller chapters written chronologically, allowing interesting comparisons in the section on West Africa between, for instance, Akan and Yoruba art. Ranging from the prehistoric to the postmodern in African Art, the book also has a refreshing focus on "architecture and everyday life", avoiding the usual pitfalls of ethnographic approaches, whilst retaining a sense of the complex cultural differences that motivate so much of the extraordinary art reproduced in this excellent book.