Material Journeys: Mamluk Metalwork in West Africa

Speaker: Raymond Silverman - Professor, History of Art, African Studies, Museum Studies University of Michigan

Africa south of the Sahara has received little attention from scholars studying global exchange networks before what Abu-Lughod has referred to as the era of European hegemony. There is, however, compelling material evidence that Africa played a significant role in the world economy, especially during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This lecture considers a number of Mamluk (Syrio-Egyptian) brass bowls and basins that have been documented at various sites in what is now central Ghana and northern Nigeria. Their presence thousands of miles from where they were made raises a number of provocative questions. How, when and under what circumstances did these objects leave Egypt and arrive at the sites at which they are today located? What meaning and impact did they have in the societies that adopted them? And what can they tell us about transcultural dialogue in and beyond Africa prior to the arrival of Europe?

Raymond Silverman is the founding Director of the University of Michigan’s Museum Studies Program and serves on the faculties of History of Art and Afroamerican and African Studies. His research focuses on the visual practices, both historical and contemporary, of Ethiopia and Ghana and on museum and heritage discourse in Africa. Recently, Silverman has been exploring the material culture of precolonial West Africa, specifically the migration of objects as evidence of transcultural exchange. His publications include, Museum as Process: Translating Local and Global Knowledges (2015), Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw (2005), Ethiopia: Traditions of Creativity (1999), and the soon to be published, Painters, Patrons and Purveyors: Contemporary Art and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and National Museums in Africa: Reflections on Memory, Identity and the Politics of Heritage.

Organised by Dr Sussan Babaie (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and Dr Scott Nethersole (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

The Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series is one of two annual distinguished lecture series at The Courtauld. This series was established in 1989, as a result of a bequest from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, in honour of Frank Davis, who was a critic for Country Life magazine. The bequest has allowed The Courtauld to invite internationally renowned scholars to come to the institute to speak about their work in a public forum.

6:30pm, 12 Nov 2019

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London