Anthropology and Contemporary Visual Arts from the Black Atlantic: between the art museum and the ethnological museum in the Global North. Hannover 14. – 18. April 2020

Niklas Wolf's picture
April 14, 2020 to April 18, 2020
Subject Fields: 
African American History / Studies, African History / Studies, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Atlantic History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies

Anthropology and Contemporary Visual Arts from the Black Atlantic:

between the art museum and the ethnological museum in the Global North


Hannover 14. – 18. April 2020


An ongoing Series of three Summer Schools to be held in Dakar, Senegal (2019), Hannover (2020) and Salvador da Bahia (2021)


For a couple of years now, it seems that anthropology and art history have entered a phase of conflicting relationships. Paradoxically, this has arisen from the lifting of barriers between the disciplines, with anthropology stepping onto the terrain of art history and art history – inspired by anthropological research – questioning western aesthetical categories which fail to grasp objects and practices embedded in types of logic that escape them. Anthropology has made its urban turn, so that ‘ethnographical investigation’ – a term that assimilates the creative process to knowledge production – addresses contemporary global issues, while multidisciplinary, collective or individual artistic practices today ask for a non-formalist approach to art thus allowing for its (re)insertion into social processes. We will connect with anthropological approaches focusing on agency or the relationship between cosmovision and image production. Anthropology is put into task when addressing classic African art history or, in the case of the diaspora arts, when it comes to religious aspects, while contemporary research relies heavily on notions like performance, identity, agency, memory and diaspora, concepts developed by anthropologists and theorists of cultural studies like Stuart Hall.


The project discusses the established conventions and shortcomings of collaboration between both disciplines, in the light of the specificities of Black Atlantic visual arts and practices on both sides of the ocean. Beyond the scope of Paul Gilroy's seminal Black Atlantic, we define these arts as being produced by artists living either in the Americas and Europe, or in sub-Saharan Africa using a wide range of media, techniques and/or compositional principles located both inside and outside canonized western formal languages. Enmeshed in the problematic but deeply entangled history and presence of Atlantic interrelations, contemporary African and African diasporic artworks – a notion to be critically assessed during our Summer Schools –bespeak the plurality of the Black Atlantic while sharing a cultural agenda. Being permeated both along north-south and south-south axes, the Atlantic space is a site of contestation, exchange and transformation of an increasingly worldwide or ‘globalized’ nature.


Thus bringing under one umbrella African arts and its diasporas we consider bilateral approaches – frequently undertaken and certainly essential ­– as fragments of the wider framework of the Black Atlantic arts, neither racially nor regionally determined. We  ask for the relationships between, on one hand, art historical discourse and methodology, and on the other, anthropological approaches to the contemporary arts of the Black Atlantic. In a second step, it takes issue with the status of contemporary art of the Black Atlantic between ethnographic museums and art museums in Europe and the United States, questioning established museographic conventions and scrutinizing future potentialities of collaboration between art history and anthropology in the light of the specificities of Black Atlantic visual arts and practices on both sides of the ocean. 



The Hannover sessions, hosted by the Kunstverein, will address curatorial issues dealing both with temporary exhibitions and Museum collections in Europe and specially Germany. Which place for the arts of the Black Atlantic: "traditional" arts in the Ethnological Museum, "contemporary" art in the Art Museum? What could be the criteria for such assignments? And how to provide for continuity – i.e. a historical account – or threads of continuity in the face of the prevalent modernist "rupture paradigm"? How to integrate interventions by contemporary artists in ethnological museums? And what about the "hybridization" and renewal of the ethnological museums rebaptized Museums of World Cultures? 

The two keynotes will be delivered by El Hadji Malick Ndiaye, Artistic Director of the Dak'art Biennial 2020, who will present his project for its 2020 edition, and by Romuald Tchibozo, Benin, specialist of  the reception of African Art in post-war Germany 


Project directors


-        Prof. Dr. Marcelo da Cunha, Director of the Museu Afro-Brasileiro, Federal University of Salvador da Bahia

.        Dr. El Hadji Malick Ndiaye, Art Historian and Curator, Université Cheikh Anta Diop / Musée Théodore Monod, Dakar

-      Prof. Dr. Pinther, Kerstin, Art Historian, Curator, Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich 

-        Prof. Dr. Reinwald, Brigitte, African History, Leibniz University Hannover, Historisches Seminar, Centre for Atlantic and Global Studies 

-        Prof. Dr. Singler, Christoph, Literatures and Visual Arts in Latin America, Université Bourgogne-Franche-Comté  Besançon 

-      Dr. Tchibozo, Romuald, Senior Lecturer, Deputy Director of the Institut National des Métiers d'Art, d'Archéologie et de la Culture, Université d'Abomey-Calavi 

-        Dr. Ulysse, Sterlin, Assistant Professor, Director of Institut d'Histoire de l'Art / Université d'État d'Haiti, Port-au-Prince