In October 2009, the University of East Anglia established a Centre for African Art and Archaeology to reflect the strong convergence of research and teaching interests related to Africa, in the School of Art History and World Art Studies.
Currently, seven members of the School of Art History and World Art Studies and the Sainsbury Research Unit (SRU) belong to the Centre, with primary research interests in the visual and material culture of Africa. African arts also play a major role in the collections of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA), which share the School's home in the Norman Foster-designed Sainsbury Centre building. The Centre for African Art and Archaeology coordinates this assemblage of interests, bringing together the activities of staff and students to foster the development of research and teaching on the arts, archaeology, and cultural heritage of the African continent.
Dr Nick Brooks is an environmental scientist who specialises in human-environment interactions and human adaptation to climate change. He combines consultancy work on the implications of climate change for human development with research into how human societies responded and adapted to severe and abrupt changes in climate in the past, with a focus on the Middle Holocene period. This research focuses on how the reorganisation of the global climate between about 6400 and 5000 years ago may have influenced cultural trajectories in the northern hemisphere subtropics and contributed to the emergence of the world's earliest civilisations. Nick co-directs the Western Sahara Project with Joanne Clarke, and has been conducting field-based research into the archaeology and past environments of Western Sahara since 2002. Prior to that he conducted geoarchaeological work in the Fezzan region of Libya. Nick has a PhD in climatology from UEA's Climatic Research Unit, which examined the links between climate change, land use and drought in the African Sahel.
Dr Jo Clarke, an archaeologist with extensive fieldwork experience in Western Sahara, Cyprus, and Israel. Her most recent research is concerned with current approaches to the study of long-term changes in the technologies of early agricultural communities, specifically basketry, plaster and pottery. Presently she is co-directing a multi-disciplinary project in the Western Sahara, examining the long-term adaptation of human populations to the drying of the environment in the mid Holocene
Professor Anne Haour, an archaeologist who focuses on the archaeology of Sahelian West Africa, has conducted excavations in Niger and in Bénin exploring the creation and maintenance of boundaries, the interrelation of archaeological and historical data in descriptions of 'empires', and the materialisation of contacts through artefacts. She has also researched topics relating to present-day Africa, such as religion and change among the Hausa, modern-day learning networks, or depictions of Africa in schools and the media. Her latest book, an edited volume setting out the results of her five-year European Research Council project in Bénin, was published in October 2018.
Dr Ferdinand de Jong, an anthropologist whose teaching and research interests concern the anthropology of art and material culture, memory and heritage, has conducted extensive fieldwork in Senegal. For his dissertation he researched the practice of secrecy as constitutive for the production of locality. He is currently writing a book on heritage and memory in postcolonial Senegal, focusing on UNESCO World Heritage sites and the commemorations performed there, a project funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship. He also leads (with Paul Basu as Co-Investigator) the AHRC Research Network on Utopian Archives: Excavating Pasts for Postcolonial Futures.
Professor John Mack FBA was formerly Keeeper of the Ethnography Department of the British Museum and Director of the Museum of Mankind. He was President of the British Institute in Eastern Africa from 2005-2011. His research has focused on Congo, South Sudan, Kenya, Madagascar and Zanzibar, taking a broadly anthropological approach to art, material culture and archaeology. Most recently he has led an AHRC-funded research project looking at religious change in northern Kenya. Recent books have discussed questions of memory and art (2003), the process of miniaturisation (2007) and experiences of the sea (2011). He is currently working on a study of the relationship between art and death in sub-Saharan Africa.
Professor Christina Riggs is a historian of archaeology, photography, and ancient Egyptian art. She is interested in how different people, at different times, have imagined, studied, and represented the culture we know as ‘ancient Egypt’. Most recently, she has been working on the photographic archive from the 1920s excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb – and the impact those photographs had both at the time and up to the present day. She is currently extending this research to other photographic archives and collections, for two reasons: first, to explore the history of colonial-era archaeology in Egypt, and second, to investigate the ways in which the dissemination of images and objects shaped ideas about ancient Egyptian art.
Dr Chris Wingfield has previously worked at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology in Cambridge, the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. His current research, 'Re-collecting the Missionary Road', focuses on the material culture of the southern African interior during the nineteenth century. Chris is also a co-Investigator on a major AHRC grant Museum Affordances, led by Paul Basu at SOAS. This is focussed on the collections made by Northcote Thomas, first government anthropologist in Nigeria, and their significance and potential today.
Members of academic staff in the School who are affiliates of the Centre include: