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Art & Art History
University of Mississippi

AH 330/530: Medieval Art: Crosscurrents of Pre-Modern Africa

AH 330/530: Medieval Art: Crosscurrents of Pre-Modern Africa
T TH 3:30 PM – 4:45 PM; taught by Dr. Brigitte Salami

This course explores pre-modern African societies’ cross-cultural commercial interactions and associated artistic exchanges.

Africa’s Middle Ages can be variously delineated, but largely coincide with the arrival of Islam during the 7th century and ending with the arrival of Europeans during the 15th century. In West Africa, formidable empires formed where the Trans-Saharan trade routes met the river transport available on the Niger. Along the Swahili Coast in East Africa, an equally lively long-distance trade involved African, Arab, and more indirectly, Indian, and Chinese merchants. All the while, Christians in the highlands of Ethiopia built cathedrals and embellished their liturgical paraphernalia in artistic styles derivative of Byzantium.

Architecture, mosques, tombs, palaces, libraries filled with scrolls and illuminated manuscripts, and luxury items made of gold and ivory will be the subject of our investigations, albeit that the bulk of the material culture derives from archaeological ruins – a potsherd here, a glass bead there – and the sources of information consist of sparse written documentation (most of it in Arabic) and oral traditions.

This course is partially based on lectures and partially revolves around a collaborative class project. It is reading-intensive and requires active input from students.

Required Text:
Francois-Xavier Fauvelle. 2018. The Golden Rhinoceros. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Other readings will be provided as PDF files and consist of scholarly articles, and book chapters.