Oberlin College and Conservatory

Zoë Strother, Riggio Professor of African Art, Columbia University, "Humor and Violence: Seeing Europeans in Central African Art"

Tuesday, March 2 at 4:30pm to 5:30pm

Virtual Event

Please join the art department for this special lecture featuring the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s visiting scholar Professor Zoë Strother (Columbia University).

There is a long history of Central Africans depicting Europeans and Americans. Vili ivory sculptors made some of the only surviving portrayals by Africans of the worldwide slave trade. Yaka and Nkanu caricatured Europeans during boys’ initiations in order to provide models of how not to be a man. During the colonial period, Europeans appeared on a wide variety of media, including free-standing sculptures, engraved gourds, house murals, sculpted chairs. It is a paradox that some of the most light-hearted images of Europeans were produced during the periods of the worst violence, often in the form of diplomatic gifts. The talk ends with reflections by artists on the role of humor in making visible the mechanics and ethics of power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the global economy.

Z. S. Strother is Riggio Professor of African Art at Columbia University. She conducted three years of fieldwork in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has worked on other research projects in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Senegal. Her broad intellectual project is to understand the role of the image in society and its changing history. She has published widely on masquerade, architecture, and photography in Africa. Her books include Inventing Masks: Agency and History in the Art of the Central Pende and Humor and Violence: Seeing Europeans in Central African Art. Strother has been a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, NEH, ACLS, Getty Research Institute (GRI), Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art (CASVA), Michigan Society of Fellows, and the U.S. Information Agency (Fulbright). A forthcoming book to be published with the GRI is “The Uncanny Guest: Masks in Theory and Practice from Europe to Africa.”

Professor Strother's virtual visit to Oberlin is sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program and Oberlin Art History's Baldwin endowment.

Join Online

Meeting ID: 874 5464 3664
Passcode: 305940

Event Type

Arts, Lectures/Symposia/Workshops, Virtual Events


Academic, Art


Free to the public

Photo Alternate Text

Collection Wereldsmuseum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 28566. Donated by A. Boshorn to the Vereenigingsche Rotterdamsche Diergaarde, 1887.

Contact Person

Jamie Jacobs

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