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African Visual Arts from an Art Historical Perspective

  • Monni Adams

Extract

This overview assesses the study of sub-Saharan art by art historians in the United States, as a complement to the earlier examination by Paula Ben-Amos (1987) of African art studies from an anthropological perspective. Academic status for African art history, focused on sub-Saharan Africa, began in the 1950s, when a small group of scholars assigned style categories and broad social functions to works of West and Central African sculpture. With the expansion and development of the field, linked to the use of anthropological methods, the emphasis in research has shifted towards adopting multiple perspectives of analysis and seeking African categories in relation to varied artistic production. Nevertheless, study of sub-Saharan art has achieved only a marginal status in the disciplines of art history and anthropology. This essay examines the problems of these relationships, the types of changing scholarly activities that have characterized the field of sub-Saharan art, and considers options for the future.

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