Course Spotlight: African Art and Architecture

Course Description

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, both past and present, on the continent where humanity — and art — began. Topics include: artists and creative process; an historical overview of five major traditions (26,000 BCE to 1900 CE); textiles, decorative, and body arts; architecture; and contemporary expressions. Museum visits, artists’ demonstrations, and films supplement the course. Requirements include 1 short paper (analysis of an African art object); mid-term exam; 2 Africa-related event reviews; and final exam. Extra-credit arts-related projects are encouraged, and an African arts festival concludes the semester.

An artist with his shrine mural in Benin. (Photo by Henry Drewal)

Enrollment Details

Afro-American Studies/Art History 241: Introduction to African Art and Architecture
3 credits
Monday/Wednesday 2:30-3:45PM
Fall 2017

About the Instructor

Born and raised in Brooklyn and Hempstead, NY, Henry John Drewal received his BA from Hamilton College majoring in French and minoring in Fine Arts. After graduation he joined the Peace Corps, taught French and English, and organized arts camps in Nigeria. During his two years in Nigeria he apprenticed himself to a Yoruba sculptor – a transformative experience that led him to interdisciplinary studies at Columbia University in African art history and culture, receiving two Masters’ degrees and a PhD in 1973.

Since 1991 he has been the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at UW-Madison. He has published several books, edited volumes, exhibition catalogues, and many articles on African and African Diaspora arts. As Adjunct Curator of African Art at the Chazen Museum of Art of UW-Madison, he curated the permanent African art gallery there, and most recently – Double Fortune, Double Trouble: Art for Twins among the Yoruba at the Fowler Museum-UCLA. He has also produced a number of films documenting African and African Diaspora arts, and lectured widely on these topics (see his website).