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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: African Photography: Core Themes (HIAR10206)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course focuses on the major themes that define the history and meaning of photography in the African context since the late nineteenth century. It covers the colonial experience, anti-colonial struggles, construction of modernist visions, and articulation of personhood by means of the medium. It also engages with metaphysical and gender questions. Through seminar discussions, these themes are explored by studying specific practitioners, archives, concepts and projects (including exhibitions).
Course description This course explores photography in Africa, beginning from its early history as a tool of imperial expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the present time when conversations around colonial histories are strong. The colonial period was marked by extensive use of the medium to picture, objectify, document and dominate African peoples and to appropriate the geographical spaces they lived in. Physical type, landscape and hunting photography are some of the modes of depiction through which we understand colonial domination. Each week we will look at selected case studies of the anthropological, administrative, cultural and archival productions that organised photographic practices in the colonial era. As Africans gained access to the visual technology, they began to exploit it in response to colonial representation and oppression, creating their own political and artistic imaginaries, as in the case of exposure of Apartheid violence in 1980s South Africa for instance. We engage with how African photographers (such as Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibe, and Okhai Ojeikere) created modernist imaginations through studio portraiture. They made photographs of the way they saw themselves rather than how they were seen by others. We examine how this vision of modernity produced photographic practices that reinforced local assertions of power, self-fashioning and construction of conviviality. These and other narratives about African photography are studied along with the archival possibilities they accord. We also explore how the medium came to constitute pictorial mediation of the metaphysical in Africa, from spiritism to healing and harming. Beyond the incorporeal, the course addresses themes about the body that can be examined through questions of gender and sexuality in the photography of Rotimi Fani-Kayode (Nigeria), Tracey Rose (South Africa) and Lalla Essaydi (Morocco). The course concludes with the representation of socio-political conditions which in the contemporary time transforms our understanding of genres like documentary and street photography. This includes the continent's experience of political violence, disease, and more.

Teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lecture, discussion and student presentation in two-hour seminars. These may include occasional visits to relevant collections in Edinburgh. Students will be encouraged to organise weekly one-hour peer learning groups to discuss readings and images.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: History of Art 2A Reason, Romance, Revolution: Art from 1700 to 1900 (HIAR08027) AND History of Art 2B From Modernism and the Avant-Gardes to Postmodernism and Globalisation (HIAR08028)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who have passed at least 60 credits of Architectural History at Level 8 can also take these courses. If the pre-requisites cannot be met, entry to this course can be negotiated in consultation with either the Course Organiser or Programme Director (History of Art).
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  21
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Revision Session Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 50 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1 x 2,500-word essay 50% - submitted weeks 8-10
1 x 3-hour online exam 50%
Feedback Students are given feedback on FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT as follows:

Mid-Point Feedback: You will submit a one-page essay outline by week 5. Feedback will be given in Week 6, in the form of a 15 minutes per student one-to-one (online or in-person) session on your outline. This is intended to give you adequate time to make use of the feedback prior to assessment at the end of the course.

SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT: There will be an essay and an exam, equally weighted. Written feedback on student essays will be provided as per University regulations.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)3 hour online examination3:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a range of 19th- and 20th-century African photographic practices, within contexts of image culture, exhibitions and modes of distribution.
  2. Articulate knowledge and understanding of African contexts and ideas associated with nation states, political histories, colonialism, de- and post-colonisation.
  3. Apply an awareness of art historiographical methodologies, visual analysis, representation, social context and identity politics.
  4. Evidence developed skills of visual and textual analysis, communication, and organisation, verbally and in writing.
Reading List
Landau, Paul S., and Deborah D. Kaspin, eds. Images and empires: Visuality in colonial and postcolonial Africa. University of California Press, 2002.

Bajorek, Jennifer. Unfixed: Photography and decolonial imagination in West Africa. Duke University Press, 2020.

Buckley, Liam. 'Self and accessory in Gambian studio photography'. Visual Anthropology Review 16:2 (2000): 71-91.

Hayes, Patricia, 'The form of the norm: Shades of gender in South African photography of the 1980s'. Social Dynamics 37:2 (2011), 263-277.

Nwafor, Okechukwu Charles. Aso Ebi: Dress, fashion, visual culture, and urban cosmopolitanism in West Africa. University of Michigan Press, 2021. Chapter 3.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills You will develop your skills in visual and critical analysis through discussing and writing about specific images in relation to themes of African photography. Through this work you will be encouraged to articulate clear lines of argument which address and connect the theory and practice of image-making and circulation both within the African continent and beyond. The course structure and assignments will facilitate teamwork through group discussion and develop your organisation and planning skills.
KeywordsAfrican photography,colonialism,modernity,landscape,portraiture,identity,sexuality,exhibitions
Course organiserDr George Agbo
Tel: (0131 6)51 5800
Course secretaryMiss Chloe Hancock
Tel: (0131 6)50 4124
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