Histories of illustration in Africa

Isabelle de Rezende's picture


I'm currently doing some research for a chapter on a forthcoming undergraduate textbook that will consider the "history of illustration" in Africa. I wonder if I might ask for help with the following:

First, I'm trying to map out the ways that urban spaces, and particularly walls (whether the actual walls of houses, or walls that demarcate boundaries within urban spaces), have been painted and illustrated. I am mostly familiar with Kinshasa as a very visually rich urban landscape, but I know this varies greatly on the continent.

I am looking for recommendations for readings about contemporary and historical wall art and illustration in different African cities.

Second, I am also looking for literature on the histories and practices of comics/graphic novels/bandes dessinnees in Africa.

Many thanks for your help.


Isabelle de Rezende
Postdoctoral Fellow in Visual Studies and Public History
Department of History
University of the Western Cape, South Africa


If you don't already know it, check out David Hecht & Maliqalim Simone, Invisible governance: the art of African micropolitics. NY: Autonomedia (1994)

For some examples from Mozambique, look for information on the artist Malangatana, who was responsible for many murals in Maputo.  And see these publications:

Albie Sachs, Moira Forjas, and Susan Maiselas. Images of a Revolution: Mural Art in Mozambique. Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1983.

Malangatana Valente Ngwenya, edited by Júlio Navarro; translated from the Portuguese by Harriet C. McGuire, Zita C. Nunes and William P. Rougle. Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota, 2003.

Elizabeth Ann Schneider, "Malangatana: Artist of the Revolution," African Arts 21, 3 (May 1988).

Articles by Mia Couto on Malangatana, Albie Sachs on murals, and Berit Sahlstrom and Antonio Sopa on posters, in the exhibit catalog Mozambique!, Stockholm, Kulturhuset 1987.

Berit Elisabet Sahlstrom, Political Posters in Ethiopia and Mozambique: Visual Imagery in a Revolutionary Context. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1990.

And for cartoons, search on Xiconhoca, who was the cartoon exemplar of counter-revolutionary activities and attitudes; there are many reproductions in various publications, but see:

Lars Buur, “Xiconhoca: Mozambique’s Ubiquitous Post-Independence Traitor,” in Traitors: Suspicion, Intimacy, and the Ethics of State-Building, ed. by Sharika Thiranagama and Tobias Kelly (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009)

Also, another cartoonist:

Sérgio Zimba, Riso Pela Paz. Maputo: NORAD, 1993.

Sérgio Zimba, Ri amor. Maputo, 2005.

On murals in Dakar see: Allen Roberts & Mary Nooter Roberts (2003), A Saint in the City: Sufi Arts of Urban Senegal, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California Press, Los Angeles.

You may also find the following articles useful:

Schneider, Jürg. "Speaking in Bubbles. Press Cartoons and Comics in Cameroon." In African Media Cultures. Transdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Frank Wittmann and Rose Marie Beck, 59-81. Köln: Rüdiger KöppeVerlag, 2004 and in the same volume Böll, Verena. "Wall Paintings in Ethiopean Churches." Pages 83-98.

For a useful overview, see Massimo Repetti's "African Wave: Specificity and Cosmopolitanism in African Comics," African Arts 2007, 40 (2), 16-35.

A. F. Roberts, UCLA

Thank you so very much for all your replies.

I can also be reached directly at: iderezen@umich.edu