HISTART 393-002

Undergraduate Seminar: Arts of the Saharan Crossroads

MW 10:00-11:30am
3 Credit Seminar
This course fulfills the LSA Humanities distribution requirement

We often imagine the Sahara, the largest desert in the world, to be devoid of human life—a vast barrier dividing the African continent in two. In reality, however, diverse communities have made the desert their home for millennia. The Sahara has been—and continues to be—an important site of human movement and encounter, a crossroads for merchants, migrants, pilgrims, and performers. In this course, we examine diverse forms of human expression, including architecture, visual arts, devotional practices, and music, to explore the rich history of artistic production and exchange fostered in and through these Saharan crossroads. Beginning with medieval trans-Saharan caravan routes, how have iconographies, art forms, and ideas moved across West Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe? From the architecture of mosques to performances of ritual possession to the visual language of textiles, how do shared aesthetics and artistic practices reveal historical and contemporary connections between communities in North and West Africa? And what are different ways that artists working today evoke and engage the Sahara as an idea, a natural resource, and a repository of cultural histories in their own creative practices and identities?

HISTART Distribution Requirements: A. Middle East (includes Western and Central Asia, and North Africa), B. Sub-Saharan Africa, 2. Medieval, 4. Modern and Contemporary.

Textbooks/Other Materials: No required materials