Frank Davis Memorial Lecture

On the Spot! The African Contribution to Colonial Art in Early Modern French Empire

Speaker: Anne Lafont - Professor and Directrice d’études, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

This lecture will explore the ‘decentering’ of Art History by the artistic and visual material made by colonial artists in the French West Indies in the early modern period. These works testify to the encounters between Europeans and Africans (mostly) and, to a lesser extent, with indigenous people. This visual archive, ambiguous because of the European canonical and academic style used by artists in the making of it, enables us to access forms of African subjectivity, both enslaved and free ones. In this lecture, I will share a virtually unknown corpus of artworks (drawings, paintings, etchings) manufactured in situ  – on the spot – and then I will examine them from the point of view of the colonial understanding of Africans’ lives, and try to understand how symbolic forms of African creation (from plastic art to carnivals) in a creole and colonial context could exist, to trace the transmission of these works from their creation to the present. From this perspective, images are instrumental to the writing of history.

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6:30pm, 29 Oct 2018

Monday 29th October 2018, 6.30pm - 7.30pm


The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London