Books about Africa

McEvedy, Colin. The Penguin Atlas of African History. Penguin, 1995.
This reference work provides a succinct account of the development of African society from the first appearance of man to the complex polity of today. Kingdoms and Empires are only part of the story. The Atlas covers the development of modern man, the differentiation and spread of African languages, the first crossings of the Sahara, the exploration of the Niger, and the search for 'the fountains of the Nile'. Gold and ivory lure traders from far away; Christendom and Islam compete for African attention. Colin McEvedy outlines this progress with the aid of sixty maps and a clear, concise text. Though his synthesis will be especially useful to those involved in the teaching of African history, its broad perspectives will undoubtedly appeal also to the general reader. 144 pages, and sixty maps.

Diop, Cheikh Anta. Precolonial Black Africa. Lawrence Hill Books, 1987.
Diop compares the political and social systems of Europe and black Africa from antiquity to the formation of modern states. Throughout, his intent is not to provide a history as such, but rather guidelines for historians and others who seek a scientific understanding of precolonial societies in Africa, the Mediterranean, and Europe, and their links with the earliest known stages of human development. Students and scholars of Africa and world history will be challenged by Diop's original, though controversial, analysis of the similarities and striking differences between black Africa and the West. 236 pages, charts and a bibliography.

Diop, Cheikh Anta. The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality. Lawrence Hill Books, 1974.
This edition is the one volume translation of C.A. Diop's two books, Nations negres et culture and anteriorite des civilizations negres, which have profoundly influenced thinking about Africa around the world. Dr. Diop's main thesis is that historical, archeological and anthropological evidence supports the theory that the civilization of ancient Egypt, the first that history records, was actually black in origin. 316 pages, includes a bibliography, glossary, and over fifty illustrations.

Laude, Jean. The Arts of Black Africa. University of California Press, 1973.
A thorough analysis of when and where African art began, its progress through the centuries, and its present development. Includes a comparative survey of important events in African and world history. 290 pages, with bibliography and black & white illustrations throughout.

The Yoruba Artist. Edited by Rowland Abiodun. Smithsonian, 1994.
The cultural legacy of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin is one of Africa's oldest and richest, extending for more than nine centuries. Documenting the full spectrum of Yoruba culture, this definitive book extends beyond the visual arts into chant, dance, and other artistic expressions. With essays by eighteen of the world's foremost Yoruba cultural historians accompanying color and black-and-white illustrations, this book offers the most complete exploration of Yoruba artists and their work to date. 275 pages, 27 color illustrations and 81 black and white photographs.

Kerchache, Jacques et al. Art of Africa. Abrams, 1993.
Embracing the overwhelming diversity of artistic production of the entire African continent south of the Sahara, Art of Africa provides a close-up view of the skills and beauty of masterpieces from Mali to Madagascar, the Gold Coast to the Indian Ocean. Altogether more than a thousand pieces of art are illustrated in this handsome volume along with in-depth discussions of more than a hundred art-making ethnicities. Opening the door to an appreciation of the flavor and aesthetics of African art, this book is an essential reference for both collectors and scholars and a visual delight for all. 619 pages, over 1,000 photographs with 248 color plates and 6 maps.

Connah, Graham. African Civilizations. Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Urban settlements and states were a feature of precolonial societies in many parts of Africa. In this study, Graham Connah uses the direct evidence provided by archaeological investigation to demonstrate the complexity of these urban societies, and to understand their origins, their economic basis and social structure. Well-illustrated chapters deal with African civilizations in Nubia, Ethiopia, the West African savanna, the West African forest, the East African coast, the Zimbabwe plateau and Central Africa. 259 pages, includes a biography, and illustrations throughout the text.

Taylor, John H. in association with the British Museum. Egypt and Nubia. Harvard Univ Press, 1991.
The ancient land of Nubia was a meeting place of many different cultures. It was the main commercial link through Egypt to the Mediterranean and south to tropical Africa. But while the Nubians profited from the resulting trade, their geographical position made them susceptible to the domination of stronger powers. Here, the author concentrates on the indigenous inhabitants and their contacts with their Egyptian neighbors. This long-term relationship left a lasting impression on the cultures of both lands and is illustrated by many pieces of jewelry, pottery, sculpture and textiles chosen largely from the British Museum's collections, and by monuments still surviving in the Sudan. They show the diversity and vitality of Nubian art and highlight the two great cultural and political flowerings which took place during the Kerma and Meroitic periods. 72 pages, with 43 full color and 54 black-and-white illustrations throughout plus maps.

Boyd, Herb. African History for Beginners. Writers and Readers Publishing, 1994.
This work explores the rich history of this continent of contrasts. Discover the glory of the Pharaohs and Towers of Zimbabwe, the cosmology of the Yoruba, the courage of the Masai and the golden wonder of Mali, the art treasures of the Bushongo and the sophistication of the Egyptians. It is a unique documentary portrait of the Africans' struggle to preserve their cultural heritage and homeland. Recent archaeological discoveries indicate that Africa was the birthplace of humankind. 126 pages, illustrations throughout the text, and bibliography.

Seven Stories: About Modern Art in Africa. Catalogue from the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. Flammarion, 1996.
This highly illustrated catalogue, which accompanies a ground-breaking exhibition organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London before an international tour, is a unique document, presenting the history of modern African art through the painting, sculpture and theatrical installations of over sixty artists. The seven sections of the exhibition-covering works from Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda-appear as stories told by the artist and co-curators of the exhibition; their testimonies present personally informed interpretations of the political and artistic movements that have significantly shaped Africa's art in the twentieth century. 317 pages, with color photographs of numerous pieces of African art and bibliography.

Meyer, Laure. Art and Craft in Africa. Terrail, 1994.
There is nothing arbitrary about an African object: each one draws upon the fundamental myths of the collective experience, while respecting aesthetic and symbolic norms, and they are almost always the product of ancestral techniques. Presented by theme, the magnificent objects in this book, chosen from more than a hundred ethnic African groups, express a wealth of aesthetic and technical solutions. Each object, whether a ceremonial or household instrument, has its roots in the collective memory. 206 pages, full color illustrations and photographs throughout.

Black Athena Revisited. Edited by Mary R. Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers. University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
In this collection of twenty essays, leading scholars in a broad rage of disciplines confront the claims made by Martin Bernal in Black Athena: The Afro-Asiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. In that work, Bernal proposed a radical reinterpretation of the roots of classical civilization, contending that ancient Greek culture derived from Egypt and Phoenicia and the European scholars have been biased against the notion of Egyptian and Phoenician influence on Western civilization. The contributors to this volume argue that Bernal's claims are exaggerated and in many cases unjustified. Topics covered include race and physical anthropology; the question of an Egyptian invasion of Greece; the origins of Greek language, philosophy, and science; and racism and anti-Semitism in classical scholarship. In the conclusion to the volume, the editors propose an entirely new scholarly framework for understanding the relationship between the cultures of the ancient Near East and Greece and the origins of Western civilization. 522 pages with 4 maps.

Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. Vintage Books, 1983.
This landmark book shows how five African civilizations - Yoruba, Kongo, Ejagham, Mande and Cross River - have informed and are reflected in the aesthetic, social and metaphysical traditions (music, sculpture, textiles, architecture, religion, idiogrammatic writing) of black people in the United States, Cuba, Haiti, Trinidad, Mexico, Brazil and other places in the New World. 317 pages, with over 164 black-and-white illustrations.

Lawson, E. Thomas. Religions of Africa. HarperCollins, 1985.
Concise, expert, and fully accessible, this is an excellent introduction to the complex, diverse religious traditions of Africa practiced by peoples with vastly different cultures and languages. Lawson outlines and clarifies the historical development of indigenous African belief systems and discusses the impact of colonization, Christianity, Islam and liberation movements on religious evolution. 106 pages, 12 black and white illustrations and a glossary.

Davidson, Basil. The Lost Cities of Africa (Revised Edition). Little, Brown, 1987.
Combining archaeological evidence and scholarly research, this study traces the exciting development of the rich kingdoms of the lost cities of Africa, fifteen hundred years before European ships first came to African shores. Davidson presents an outline of what is known and what is reasonable to believe about some leading aspects of African life and civilization during the pre-colonial era, and thus contributes to our understanding of the origins and background of Africa today. 366 pages.

Meyer, Laurie. Black Africa: Masks, Sculpture, Jewelry. Terrail, 1992.
Masks, pottery, bronze, ivory, gold, statues of ancestors, reliquaries and jewelry all express the influence of myths on the daily life and inventive genius of a variety of African ethnic groups. This magnifcently illustrate book covers each medium or craft in turn and examines in a clear and accessible manner the entire range of Black African art from aesthetic and ethnological points of view. 224 pages, over 170 color illustrations.

Guggenheim Museum. Africa: The Art of A Continent: 100 Works of Power and Beauty. 1996.
Inspired by a landmark exhibition held by the Guggenheim Museum in 1996, this book provides an accessible overview to the great art traditions of Africa. A hundred masterworks in wood, bronze and stone are organized into seven geographical areas: Ancient Egypt and Nubia, eastern Africa, southern Africa, central Africa, western Africa and the Guinea Coast, Sahel and Savannah, and northern Africa. Also included are a foreword by Cornel West and essays by Kwame Anthony Appiah, Suzanne Preston Blier, Ekpo Eyo, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Peter Mark on such subjects as the concept of art in African traditions, the relationship between Northwestern Africa and the rest of the continent, the impact of Christianity and Islam on African art, and the reception of African art in the Western world. 191 pages, 100 full-color photographs.

Knappert, Jan. African Mythology: An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend. 1995.
This alphabetical guide to African mythology provides a comprehensive overview of the beliefs, myths and cosmology of African peoples. It deals not only with traditional stories woven around a pantheon of gods and mythical figures but also with legends, fables and more general subjects that played a part in African religion and life. The wide range of entries include religious concepts, prophets, the best-known tribes, mystical phenomena, spirits and demons, and many animals that played such a large part in African mythology. 272 pages.

Additional Resources on Africa

The Outreach Program
African Studies Center, Boston University. For information, contact 270 Bay Road, Boston, MA 02215, (617/353/7303).
Provides resource material for schools and other organizations. Its library collection focuses on materials of use to classroom teachers and includes an extensive audio-visual collection (materials from the latter may be borrowed through the mail).

Where Camels Are Better Than Cars.
Birmingham Developmental Education Center, Birmingham, England, 1992.
This social studies curriculum provides an extensive, comprehensive picture of life in Mali.

Reading the World: Africa.
David Henderson and Barbara Elleman, Book Links, January, 1996, pp. 42 - 48.
A great annotated bibliography of children's books (Gr. pre-K - 8) about Africa. The bibliography is organized by country and includes both fiction and non-fiction.

African Art Teacher Packet.
Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, 1998. (Cost: $20. To order call 404/727-0519)
This resource introduces objects from several African cultures through slides of the Carlos African collection. Includes classroom activities, vocabulary, and bibliography.

Africa: Beyond the Myths.
Society for Visual Education, Chicago, 1992
This resource includes a filmstrip with audio cassettes and activity sheets for grades 2 to 4 and grades 5 to 8. It provides an overview of the African continent.

Celebration! African Art and Tradition.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta. 2nd edition, 1996. (Cost: $15. To order by phone or receive order forms call 404/733-4468)
This learning packet features slides of 8 artworks from the High Museum collection that are used in celebrations. Includes information about each object, discussion ideas, classroom activities, a glossary, and a list of resources for further study.

African Art: An Essay for Teachers.
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 1993. 72 pp, includes 18 color slides. (Cost: $39.95. To order by phone or receive order forms call 404/733-4468)
A curriculum handbook with an essay on African art, lesson plans, a slide presentation, and bibliography.

© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
For more information please contact
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