Media Primitivism

Technological Art in Africa

Media Primitivism

The Visual Arts of Africa and its Diasporas

More about this series

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 79 illustrations, incl. 16 in color Published: October 2020

African Studies, Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Media Studies > Media Technologies

In Media Primitivism Delinda Collier provides a sweeping new understanding of technological media in African art, rethinking the assumptions that have conceptualized African art as unmediated, primary, and natural. Collier responds to these preoccupations by exploring African artworks that challenge these narratives. From one of the first works of electronic music, Halim El-Dabh’s Ta’abir Al-Zaar (1944), and Souleymane Cissé's 1987 film, Yeelen, to contemporary digital art, Collier argues that African media must be understood in relation to other modes of transfer and transmutation that have significant colonial and postcolonial histories, such as extractive mining and electricity. Collier reorients modern African art within a larger constellation of philosophies of aesthetics and technology, demonstrating how pivotal artworks transcend the distinctions between the constructed and the elemental, thereby expanding ideas about mediation and about what African art can do.


“Delinda Collier's Media Primitivism is a remarkable journey into the intellectual development of twentieth-century African art and how art objects themselves resist the categories accorded to them. Theoretically sophisticated and brilliantly argued, Media Primitivism poses a serious challenge to those who like their African art suspended in a primordial past.” — Steven Nelson, author of From Cameroon to Paris: Mousgoum Architecture In and Out of Africa

Media Primitivism is an important book that will resituate both media history and the historiography of African art. Delinda Collier convincingly argues that, from electronic music to world cinema, African technologies are not additions to electricity-based media but function as the very basis of them. The historiography is thrilling, the aesthetic analyses compelling, and the theoretical synthesis at times breathtaking.” — Laura U. Marks, author of Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Delinda Collier is Associate Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of Repainting the Walls of Lunda: Information Colonialism and Angolan Art.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. African Art History and the Medium Concept  1
1. Film as Light, Film as Indigenous  31
2. Electronic Sound as Trance ad Resonance  61
3. The Song as Private Property  93
4. Artificial Blackness, or Extraction as Abstraction  119
5. "The Earth and the Substratum Are Not Enough"  153
6. The Seed and the Field  183
Afterword  211
Notes  215
Bibliography  237
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0969-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0883-5