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Africana Art History

Artistic forms and practices with roots on the African continent may be found throughout the world. This course examines not only the different kinds of objects and images that have been created by people in the African Diaspora, it also considers images of Africans and African descended people in Europe and the Americas by both Black and non-Black artists. We will read historical accounts and consider contemporary critical race art history writings as we try to answer questions that include: “What are African retentions and howdo they evolve over time?” “Is African American art different from American art?” “What impact did religious differences have on the artistic practices of enslaved Africans and their descendants in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies vs. the British and Dutch colonies in the Americas?” “What is the visual history of the African presence in Europe?”


Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
Associate Professor of History of Art

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw is Associate Professor of History of Art.  She studies the history of race and representation in the Americas.  She is primary faculty member in the Department of History of Art, where she serves as Undergraduate Chair, and a secondary faculty member in the Department of Africana Studies. Her first book was on the contemporary artist Kara Walker. Subsequent projects have included museum exhibitions and catalogues on nineteenth century portraits of Black sitters and a large survey of African American art in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Professor Shaw directs the Penn in Havana Summer Abroad program, which takes student to study art history and visual culture in Cuba. In May of 2014 she was honored with the School of Arts and Sciences Award for Innovation in Teaching. She received her PhD in art history from Stanford University and then held an appointment as an assistant professor of History of Art and African and African American Studies at Harvard University for five years before coming to the University of Pennsylvania in September 2005.