Introduction Introduction

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, nine 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 (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.

People People

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. Much of Nick's consultancy work is focused on Africa, and recent collaborative research has addressed the implications of climate change for tangible and intangible African heritage. 

Dr Jo Clarke, is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art History and World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia. She is an archaeologist with extensive fieldwork experience in Western Sahara, Cyprus, Lebanon and Gaza. She researches the archaeology of marginal environments. Her current research focuses on mobile communities and early agriculturalists in arid and marginal environments and particularly where it pertains to their responses and adaptations to climatic change. She is contributing author to the heritage section of the Africa chapter for the upcoming IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

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 Keeper 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, and the islands of the western Indian Ocean (especially Madagascar), taking a broadly anthropological approach to art, material culture and archaeology. Recent books have discussed questions of memory and art (2003), the process of miniaturisation (2007) and experiences of the sea (2011) and the relationship between art and death in sub-Saharan Africa (2019).  He is currently working on a comparative study of coastal cultures including chapters on the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean coasts of Africa. 


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.


William Carruthers is a historian of archaeology, heritage, and decolonisation in their global contexts. Focusing on Egypt, Sudan, and India, his research traces the ways in which archaeological practice and the development of heritage as a global phenomenon dovetailed with post-war moves to independence, at the same time as dealing with the consequences of this process today. Trained in archaeology (BA and MA, UCL) and the history and philosophy of science (PhD, Cambridge), he is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in UEA's Department of Art History and World Art Studies, working on a project called 'Making Global Heritage: Afro-Asianism and the Archaeological Survey of India'.


Bea Leal is an art historian with research interests in the late antique and early Islamic Mediterranean and North Africa, particularly focusing on architectural and other non-figure motifs, and uses and perceptions of materials. She is currently finishing work on a postdoctoral research project, based in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford, about medieval Islamic mosaics in the \great Mosque of Damascus, and their counterparts in the Levant, Arabia, and Egypt. She is also part of an archaeological and art historical project investigating the early medieval church of Sant'Ambrogio in Montecorvino Rovella in southern Italy.


Abigail Moffett received her doctorate in archaeology from the University of Cape Town and has undertaken extensive archaeological fieldwork and archival work in southern Africa. Her doctoral research used the examination of a copper craft production locale in northern South Africa to explore themes of power, political economy, craft and gender in precolonial communities in the region. In her recent work she has become particularly interested in exploring the biographical value of traded objects and the nature and impact of frontiers and entanglements across the African continent. She is currently pursuing this through the British Academy Newton International Fellowship project entitled ' Commodity circulation, consumption patterns and early global trade networks: a study of the cowrie shell in African archaeological contexts'.

Members of academic staff in the School who are affiliates of the Centre include: 

Dr Simon Dell (20th century: the reception of African Art in Europe)
Professor Sandy Heslop  (‘Traditional' and contemporary African Art)


Enquiries about the Centre and its programmes may be made to its Secretary, Prof Anne Haour,

You can also follow us on Facebook: @centreforafricanartandarchaeology