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The History of African Art (Art Essentials)

Suzanne Preston Blier


A concise, accessible and up-to-date overview of the arts of Africa from prehistoric times to the present day

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Art historian Suzanne Blier surveys over 75,000 years of African art, set against the changing history of the continent, customs and religions, postcolonial debates and the challenges of the present. Core themes in African visual and cultural expression are examined in detail, including trade, empire expansion, gender, the body and representations of power, across meaningful chapters spanning ancient art, the Middle Ages, Early Modern, the colonial era and contemporary art.

Written from an inclusive, modern perspective, focusing not only on royal traditions but also on the broader global history of the continent and its artistic practices, The History of African Art explains the complexity and multiplicity of an underexplored but essential subject of art history, and offers an indispensable introduction to the arts of Africa.

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'Highly engaging, entertaining, and delightfully instructive … a must read for any of us seeking to explore the unique ways of seeing emerging from the continent to which each of us can trace our ancestry'
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

'A visually stunning and long-overdue global historical treatment of African art from the entire continent. Its carefully curated images and daring insights take us into comparative realms that encourage greater familiarity with the many themes and changing character of African artistic expression over time. Brava!'
Dr. Candice Goucher, Professor Emerita of History, Washington State University

'Suzanne Preston Blier highlights the extraordinary richness of Africa’s visual culture … I applaud the extraordinary artists and creativity featured here'
King Aderemi Adedapo (Yoruba, Nigeria); Convener General, Council of Traditional African Leaders

'Blier’s breadth and depth of knowledge affords a timely introduction … at its heart are highpoints of the dazzling artistry that reflect unparalleled cultural dynamism that has flourished across the continent'
Alisa LaGamma, Pulitzer curator for Arts of Africa and Curator in Charge of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

'This slim, chronological overview captures the vast richness of cultures across geography and time'
The New York Times Book Review

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 21.6 x 13.8 cm

Extent: 176 pp

Illustrations: 121

Publication date: 12 October 2023

ISBN: 9780500296257

About the Author

Suzanne Blier is Professor of Fine Arts and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, and a leading expert on African art, architecture and culture. Her many books include A History of Art in Africa (co-author, 2000), Royal Arts of Africa (2012), Art and Risk in Ancient Yoruba (2015) and The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art (with David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2017).