"AFRICA IN THE INDIAN OCEAN WORLD - THE PROBLEM OF MARGINS IN ART HISTORY"
Prita Meier, NYU
Part of the Silsila Fall 2020 Lecture Series, Islam in Africa: Material Histories
The Swahili coast of eastern Africa is a Muslim cultural complex that is very much maritime oriented and a place of many crossroads. Its visual culture has confounded art and architectural historians. Where does it “belong” on the art historical map of the world? Is it African, Asian, or Islamic art? This talk revisits the 2019 exhibition World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the Indian Ocean (curated by myself and Allyson Purpura), which used the Swahili coast as a springboard to consider what it means to see the world and its arts not in terms of borders of continents or nations, but in terms of migration and mobilities. I consider the exhibition’s critical reception, impact, and also its blind spots.
Prita Meier (Associate Professor at NYU) is an Africanist art and architectural historian who explores the cultural dimensions of globalization. She is the author of Swahili Port Cities: The Architecture of Elsewhere and co-editor of World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts across the Indian Ocean. She has also written about issues of historiography, modernism in African art history, and postcolonial architecture and infrastructure in Africa. She is currently working on a book manuscript about the oceanic in photography, provisionally titled Sea of Things: A History of Photography from the Swahili Coast.