The History of African Art



ISBN: 9780500296257 Category:

Suzanne Preston Blier


A concise, accessible and up-to-date overview of the arts of Africa from prehistoric times to the present day.

This indispensable introductory guide explores the art of the African continent from its early origins over 150,000 years ago to the contemporary, set in the context of post-colonial debates, the restitution of cultural objects and artefacts, and the challenges of the present. This enormous and complex field of study, once under-appreciated by the Western art world, is now of global importance and an essential subject of education in art history.

For ease of reference and analysis, this indispensable guide is structured chronologically into manageable and meaningful chapters covering ancient art, the Middle Ages, travel and trade, encounters with Europe in the age of exploration, the colonial era, the rebuilding of the continent in recent times, and contemporary art. It addresses core, continent-wide themes in African visual and cultural expression, from the life-cycle (motherhood, children, initiation, religion) to the body and representations of power dynamics. Important regional artistic expressions are also explored, such as the cultures of Mali (the Western Sudan), Nigeria (the lower Niger and Benue area), the Congo Basin and various nomadic populations across the continent.

Written from an inclusive modern perspective, focusing not only on royal traditions but also the broader global history of the continent and its artistic practices, this is an excellent introduction for students, museum visitors and anyone with an interest in fine art, African history and cultural studies.

Additional information

Weight 424 g
Dimensions 13.9 x 21.6 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 12 October 2023
Number of pages 176
Format Paperback / softback
Dimensions 13.9 x 21.6 cm
Weight 424 g


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Suzanne Blier is Professor of Fine Arts and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, and a leading expert on African art, architecture and culture. Her many books include A History of Art in Africa (co-author, 2000), Royal Arts of Africa (2012), Art and Risk in Ancient Yoruba (2015) and The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art (with David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2017).