Race / Art History

The Art History Program is pleased to announce a year-long series of talks by scholars working at the intersections of art history and critical race studies, spanning disparate chronological periods and geographic regions.  Given the present moment of intensified critical attention to systemic racism and anti-Black violence, and the activism thus sparked, Race / Art History joins other efforts across art history’s institutions to envision our field’s participation in this conjuncture, including the interrogation of the Eurocentric origins that underpin our discipline.  With Race / Art History, the Art History Program seeks to create both a critical and a constructive platform that illuminates the historical complicities of our discipline while demonstrating how the tools and practices of art history can respond to the urgent demands of antiracist analysis.  

Lectures will take place via Zoom at 4:30pm. Please see the schedule of talks below.

Register here to attend:


Tuesday, May 4 | Andrea Achi, Assistant Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Masked Dancers and Praises for Mother Mary: A Nubian Wall Painting and Its Implications for Pre-Modern Critical Race Studies”

In the southwest annex of the monastery in Dongola, Nubia, a mid-twelfth-century painting of masked dancers playing musical instruments abuts a votive image of the Virgin Hodegetria (“she who points the way”). Unlike typical Byzantine depictions of this iconographic type, where the Virgin points to the Child Jesus as a source of salvation, this representation of Mary gestures toward the group of dancers. Surrounding the scene, Old Nubian inscriptions evoke Marian prayers on behalf of the Queen Mother in the event of a future king’s birth. This talk will discuss this scene, the inscriptions, and other textual and visual evidence pointing to a circulation of northeast and central African Christians in Nubia during the medieval period. The paper will also consider how and if we should incorporate such evidence into the broader discussion of pre-modern critical race studies.

Mother of God with Child, Faras (Nubia), ca. 800-850. Tempera, 57.5 x 52 cm. Warsaw, National Museum, MNW 234103.

Race / Art History is organized by the Art History Program and sponsored by the Samuel Silipo ’85 Distinguished Visitor’s Fund of the Department of Art and Art History, with co-sponsorship from the Office of Academic Affairs. In addition, this lecture is generously co-sponsored by African Studies and the Medieval Studies Program.

Details and registration information for the subsequent lecture to be posted soon.

 Lecture Series: Race / Art History poster

poster for Huey Copeland lecture

poster for Kailani Polzak lecture

Osayimwese lecture poster