Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson, 1893, oil on canvas, Hampton University Museum.
The Black Atlantic – a direct result of the transatlantic slave trade and Western colonialism – has generated a wide array of artistic achievements in the modern era: from the architectural phenomenon of the American porch, to the strip-unit aesthetic in quilts and new world textiles; from blues to reggae; and from the paintings of Henry Ossawa Tanner to the video installations of Sonia Boyce. This course explores the philosophical and social forces that have shaped a black diasporal presence in world art: specifically, the utility of West and Central African art forms and religions in shaping the arts, religions, and philosophies of peoples of African descent in South America, the Caribbean, the United States, and other parts of the world. The course readings and lectures will address architecture, sculpture, painting, decorative arts, and cinema from this broad sweep of African American history. Tracing icons and philosophies from major African civilizations (re: Kongo, Yoruba, Fon, Mande-Akan, and Niger Delta) to their deployments throughout the West in the modern era, this course argues for the cultural persistence and adaption of these African tradition, albeit in a new context and in hybrid forms.