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Art and Museums in Africa

Cambridge/Africa Collaborative Programme 2012 - 2013

Art and Museums in Africa

With support from the Leverhulme Trust and the Isaac Newton Trust

Convened by Professor Nicholas Thomas

African art has long been globally famous but has also been controversial both intellectually and politically. Most obviously, the scramble for African art engaged in by western museums and art collectors has been condemned as an appropriation, as has the borrowing of forms and motifs derived from African arts by European modernist artists. Within disciplines such as art history and anthropology, there has been much argument about appropriate methods and concepts for the study of African art traditions. In the epoch of decolonization efforts were made to establish new museums in African states, relevant to local aspirations and new national cultures. Over the same period efforts have been made to revive customary art practices, and to create new craft industries, sometimes in the context of post-conflict and AIDS-prevention community projects. Over the last 50 years modernist and contemporary arts have also emerged and have gained increasing international recognition, while typically lacking secure financial or institutional support within African states.
This theme aims to support a wide range of interests in historical and contemporary arts in Africa and in changing practices in local and national museums and art institutions.

Elected Fellows

Dr Ahmed Adam
Department of Archaelogy, Khartoum University

Dr Atta Kwami
(Ghana) - Independent artist, art historian and curator

Ms Nessa Leibhammer
Curator, traditional southern African art at the  Johannesburg Art Gallery, SA

Dr Ohioma Pogoson
Senior Research Fellow, honorary curator of the Museum of the Centre of African Studies, Ibadan University

Dr Mathias Alubafi
Department of History of Art, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SA

Collections and Collaboration: Art and Museums in Africa

End of project workshop

Wednesday 13 March 2013, 1 - 5.30 pm, Babington Room
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing Street, Cambridge
Followed by a reception in the museum


  • Nicholas Thomas: Welcome and introduction
  • Mathias Alubafi, The Treasures of the Bambui Fondom, Grassfields, Cameroon
  • Ahmed Adam, The Museum of Aba Island, Sudan - the current prospects
  • Nessa Leibhammer, Curator, traditional southern African art at the Johannesburg Art Gallery: Pins, Politics, People and Performance: the archive of southern Natal c. 1850 -1910 at the MAA
  • Ohioma Pogoson, Northern Edo bottle tops in the regional carving history
  • Atta Kwami, Collecting Ghanaian art for the Grace Kwami Library and Museum, Ho, Ghana
  • Annie Coombes and Michael Rowlands: Responses and discussion

Art and Museums in Africa Conference

The conference took place in Accra and on 16 & 17 September and was followed by a field trip to Kumasi on 18 & 19 September 2013.

Atta Kwami and Pamela Clarkson showed paintings in the joint exhibition 'Grace' from October 2012 to March 2013 in the Alison Richard Building.