Connectivity, Transcultural Entanglements and the Power of Aesthetic Choices in Africa

Abidemi Babatunde Babalola, University of Cambridge,

Vera-Simone Schulz, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut,

Following the transcultural and global turns in the humanities and social sciences, studies of issues of connectivity, transcultural interactions, processes of exchange and long-distance entanglements have been key contributions to the fields in the past 15 years, when also the mobility of objects and artistic responses to imported artefacts from the medieval to the contemporary period gained more and more prominence throughout the disciplines. When it comes to the African continent, however, such questions are often deeply problematic, since the humanities still have to deal with the weight of colonial discourses, racist concepts and rhetoric.

This session seeks to sound out ways of how to study connectivity, transcultural entanglements, and the role of and artistic responses to imported artefacts from 500 CE to the present-day in Africa without seeing Africans as passive beings ‘influenced’ by people and objects from afar. The session will provide a platform for transdisciplinary dialogue between art history, archaeology, anthropology and history. It will investigate issues of connectivity and mobility both across and beyond the continent, often evident in complex networks of proximity and distance. It will illuminate the impact of imported objects and the key role of local production. It will also unpack issues such as mimesis, inventiveness, the use of imported artefacts, their adaptations and transformations, creative responses to possibilities and challenges, and the power of aesthetic choices by means of case studies to probe methodologies and conceptual innovations for new studies on Africa’s multiple entanglements with the wider world.


Visualizing Kingship in Early Solomonic Ethiopia
Jacopo Gnisci (University College London)

On the Mimetic Qualities of Bowls, Coins, and Mosques on the Medieval Swahili Coast
Jeffrey Fleisher (Rice University)

Southern Africa and Indian Ocean Interactions: What We Know, What We Think We Know and What We Don’t Know 
Shadreck Chirikure (Oxford University)

Photographic Entanglements: Doric Column Imperial Studio Backdrop in Cameroon
Valentine Nyamndon (De Montfort University)

Defiant Devices: Querying African Aesthetics, Hybrid Identities and Photographic Expression Across Africa
Clare Patrick & Stephani Müller (University of Cape Town)

Interwoven Entanglements: How Dyula Weavers are Finding Creative Roots in the Past, Aesthetic Adaptations in the Present, for Design Responses in the Future
Emma Wingfield (Goldsmiths University)

Dynamics from the West: Elements of West Street-Carnival in the Celebration of Oranyan Festival
Emmanuel Bola Akinpelu (Federal College of Education, Oyo, Nigeria)

Aesthetic Influences of Cultural Nationalism and Decolonization in Nigerian Contemporary Art
Jonathan Adeyemi (Queen’s University Belfast)





















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