Course Spotlight: Intro to African Art and Architecture

Course Description

Yoruba Gelede masqueraders in performance, 1978. Photo by Henry John Drewal.
Yoruba Gelede masqueraders in performance, 1978. Photo by Henry John Drewal.

This course examines the rich heritage of African arts and architecture as they shape and have been shaped by the histories and cultural values (social, political, religious, philosophical, and aesthetic) of African peoples. Classes, organized either chronologically or thematically, will include: artists’ demonstrations, films, guest speakers, museum visits, and performances. We will make extensive use of the African art displayed in the expanded Chazen Museum of Art, as well as others in the Object Study room of the Museum.

Sample readings

Various topics are covered on a weekly basis.  The required text is a course reader to be purchased at Bob’s Copy Shop, 616 University Avenue, 257-4536. Other required readings are in Visona et. al. A History of Art in Africa. Due to the high cost of this textbook, there are five copies (3-hour reserve) in this course’s College Library reserves, listed under the author’s name. If you’re interested in purchasing your own copy, you might try some good websites for discount books: or

Enrollment details

Afro-American Studies/Art History 241
3 credits
MW 2:25-3:15pm, L140 Conrad A. Elvehjem Building
Fall 2014

About the instructor

Henry John Drewal, Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies, has spent more than 8 years living and working in Africa, primarily among Yoruba peoples. He considers himself an arts historian, interested in music, dance, and performance as well as the visual arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture. he became a student of African arts after apprenticeships with two Yoruba sculptors — experiences that changed his life.