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Introduction to the Arts of Africa

Research Sources & Tips







Overviews and Visuals

Reserves and Books

Journal Articles and Popular Press

Writing and Citing Sources

I. Overviews and Visuals

   Definitions and Overviews

   Introductory Texts


Course Reserves (textbooks/readings)

Oxford Art Online

73 Thematic Essays on African Art (with images and bibliographies).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A Companion to Modern African Art / edited by Gitti Salami and Monica Blackmun Visona.

The Continuum Encyclopedia of Native Art: Worldview, Symbolism, and Culture in Africa, Oceania, and Native North Amerca Hope B. Werness; line drawings by Joanne H. Benedict, Tiffany Ramsay-Lozano, and Hope B. Werness; maps by Scott Thomas.
Bookstacks: E98.A7 W49 2000

Tracing Memory: a Glossary of Graphic Signs and Symbols in African Art and Culture. Clémentine M. Faik-Nzuji.
Oversize: NX650.W75 F35 1996

A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art

African Art in Detail / Chris Spring.
Oversize: N7380 .S67 2009

African Art: an Introduction / Frank Willett.
Oversize: N7380 .W5 2003

A History of Art in Africa / Monica Blackmun Visonà ... [et al.]; introduction by Suzanne Preston Blier; preface by Rowland Abiodun.
Oversize: N7380 .H54 2001

An Anthology of African Art: the Twentieth Century. edited by N'Goné Fall and Jean Loup Pivin.
Oversize: N7391.65 A5713 2002

Making Art in Africa 1960-2010 / edited by Polly Savage with a foreword by Sir Anthony Caro and essays by Robert Loder, John Picton and Polly Savage.





National Museum of African Art



Art Museums


New York Public Library Picture Collection


New York Public Library Web Gallery of Images


II. Reserves and Books

   A. Use Library Catalogs for Reserves and Books

   B. Sample Searches:

   (note the search pattern; modify to your own needs)



1. Course Reserves


2. Tufts Libraries Catalog

3. BLC WorldCat (beyond Tufts)


Path of Discovery in the Catalogs

1. Find a title/author (assigned readings/Course Reserves);

2. Note the descriptive language of the Catalog record.

3. Use that language in further searches


e.g. Click on subject/author in the record to see further results and related topics.



Kasfir, Sidney Littlefield.


Contemporary African Art .


New York, N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, 2000.


New genres: inventing African popular culture -- Transforming the workshop -- Patrons and mediators -- Art and commodity -- The African artist: shifting identities in the postcolonial world -- The idea of a national culture: decolonizing African art -- Migration and displacement.


Art, African -- 20th century..


Broader Context:

Art -- Africa (the continent)



Narrower Focus:

Art -- Ghana (a country)



Specific Interests:

Sculpture -- Africa (a particular medium).

Architecture -- Africa.




"Yinka Shonibare"


Types of Documents

Art, African -- Catalogs.

Art, African -- Exhibitions.

Exhibition and Museum Catalogues are uniquely valuable sources, which include:

*Fundamental data on each work of art;

*Official images of the artworks;

*Curatorial statements/essays;

*essays by art critics/historians;

*list of scholarly publications on the art,

*sometimes, artists’ interviews,

*and more.


Following are examples from the Library collections:

book coverAfrican Art: a Century at the Brooklyn Museum
William C. Siegmann; with an essay by Joseph Adande; and contributions by Kevin D. Dumouchelle.
Oversize: N7380.5 .B76 2009

book coverAfrica: Arts and Cultures
edited by John Mack.
Oversize: N7380 .A34 2000

book coverDiaspora Memory Place: David Hammons, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Pamela Z
edited by Salah M. Hassan, Cheryl Finley.
Oversize: N7380.5 .H36 2008

book coverArt of the Senses: African Masterpieces from the Teel Collection
edited by Suzanne Preston Blier; essays by Suzanne Preston Blier, Christraud M. Geary, Edmund Barry Gaither; catalogue by William E. Teel with Suzanne Preston Blier.
Oversize: NB1091.65 .A77 2004


III. Journal Articles

   A. Subject Databases for Journal Articles

   B. Tips:

   C. A Few Notable Journals




1. and 2. Two favorite collections of core journals of all disciplines.




Project Muse



3. Combinations of Databases; search across groups of databases or search each separately:


Academic Search Premier, Africa-Wide and Art Full Text

Limit Your Results


Academic Search Premier, Art Full Text, Africa-Wide, Communication & Mass Media, Film & Television Literature Index,  and Women's Studies International

Limit Your Results


ARTbiliographies Modern, International Bibliography of Art, and Architecture (the Avery Index)






4. When use GoogleScholar, set your Library Links to access Tufts full texts.


1. Reviews of recent books and other types of review articles in major journals in a discipline are likely to summarize the current state of research in an area.

Two examples:

Okeke-Agulu, Chika, John Picton, Colin Richards, Peter Probst, Ikem Okoye, Sidney Kasfir, Okwui Enwezor, et al. "NKA Roundtable: Contemporary African Art History and the Scholarship." NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art no. 26 (2010): 80-151.


Vogel, Susan. "Whither African Art? Emerging Scholarship at the End of an Age." African Arts 38, (2005): 12-17, 91.



2. More Articles like this "perfect" one


Search, in Arts and Humanities Citation Index, for the article you have read.

For example:

Roberts, Allen F. "Chance Encounters, Ironic Collage + Recycled Objects as Contemporary African Art." African Arts 25: 2 (1992) 54-63+97-98.
References: 54 Times Cited: 5

You can, then, look up, in the record, the 54 references that Allen F Roberts cited for his article and, in turn, 5 articles (so far) that cited his. The assumption is that these articles address related issues.



1. Not every single article is cited;
2. Influential authors are cited more often;
3. More recent publications take time to be cited.


Architectural History

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians


The Art Bulletin.

Art History

Art Journal


African Arts

Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art


   D. Popular Press

   E. Tips

   F. Finding Full Text



Book, Movie, Music, Play, And Video Reviews (in LexisNexis)

Factiva (more international coverage)




African Newspapers, 1800-1922


Times Digital Archive  (1785 - 1985)

New York Times Online Archive
(1851 - 3 years before current date)

Readers' Guide Retrospective (1890-1982)

African American Periodicals (1825-1995)

American Periodicals (1740 - 1940)

British Humanities Index (1962- )
British Periodicals (1680s - 1930s)


Exhibition Reviews in Popular Press

As we discussed earlier, for some current/of-the-moment artists, there may not be much scholarship on their works yet. You are more likely to find exhibition reviews in popular press and trade publications.


Exhibition reviews in popular press are likely opinion pieces. Ask yourself if these reviews are seeking to promote the artist, to criticize him/her, to judge his/her work, or simply to inform. Have the reviews changed over time? Why? How would you use these "public receptions" with other scholarly criticism?


Two sample reviews:

Tuchman, Phyllis. "Review: Rothko Rising." Art Journal 58, no. 1 (Spring, 1999): pp. 110-112.

Johnson, Ken. "ART IN REVIEW; Mark Rothko -- 'A Painter's Progress : The Year 1949'." The New York Times, February 6, 2004, sec. E; Part 2; Leisure/Weekend Desk.


Source of the two samples: Barnet, Sylvan, A Short Guide to Writing About Art (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2011), p169.

1. Click on the findIt@tufts button button in your search results screen to a window of three sequential options:

a. link to the digital full text when available;

b. link to a Library Catalog search for the print journal;

c. link to ILliad for requesting the article when the above two options are negative.

2. Search for a journal directly here:

a. Tufts Library Catalog (including e-journals)

b. Electronic journals list

c. Use ILliad to request your article, if Tufts does not have your journal.


IV. Writing and Citing

   Writing Help

   Citing Sources


A Short Guide to Writing about Art by Sylvan Barnet

Writing about Art & Art History (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)


Tufts Academic Resources Center -- Writing Tutors


Chicago Style Manual