Postcolonial art refers to art produced in response to the aftermath of colonial rule, frequently addressing issues of national and cultural identity, race and ethnicity
Postcolonial theory, which underpins postcolonial art, does not simply relate to the time after which a nation gains independence from its colonial ruler. It analyses and responds to the cultural legacies of colonialism and the human consequences of controlling a country in order to exploit the native people and their land. In doing this it also addresses how the society and culture of non-European peoples were seen from the perspective of Western cultural knowledge; how this was used to subjugate people into a colony of the European Mother Country; and the resulting identities of ‘coloniser’ and ‘colonised’.
Explore a selection of work by artists in Tate’s collection who address issues of national and cultural identity, race and ethnicity in the aftermath of colonial rule. Read the image captions for more infomration:
A theoretical framework: Frantz Fanon
Martinique-born intellectual Frantz Fanon was one of the leading anti-colonial thinkers of the twentieth century, and provided a theoretical framework for interpreting the oppression of the individual under imperialism – a significant element of much postcolonial art. An important influence on Fanon’s ideas was his teacher and mentor Aimé Césaire one of the leaders of the Négritude movement. In books such as Wretched of the Earth first published in 1961, Fanon analysed the effects of colonialism and decolonization and the role of class, race, national culture and violence in the struggle for national liberation. This and other books initiated the investigation of diversity and hierarchy in postcolonial cultures undertaken by writers such as Edward Said, Stuart Hall and Homi Bhabha.
Artist and Empire
Explore the online guide to this 2015 exhibition which examines how the histories of the British Empire have shaped art past and present, bringing together extraordinary and unexpected works to explore how artists from Britain and around the world have responded to the dramas, tragedies and experiences of the Empire.
Artists’ Perspectives: Avenue Patrice Lumumba by Lamia Joreige
Artist Lamia Joreige reflects on Guy Tillim’s powerful photographs of the ruins of colonial architecture in Africa through which he explores the struggle for independence against colonialism.
Sonia Boyce: From Tarzan to Rambo
Explore this resource to discover the themes, materials and processes used by artist Sonia Boyce to create artwork From Tarzan to Rambo in which she explores the complex interweaving of black history with media stereotypes of blackness and whiteness.
Tate Triennial 2009 Prologue 1: Okwui Enwezor: Specious Modernity: Speculations on the end of Postcolonial Utopia
Watch curator, poet and cultural theorist Okwui Enwezor discuss modernity in relation to postcolonial art in this video.
After Post-Colonialism: Transnationalism or Essentialism?
Watch video recordings from the 2010 Tate Modern symposium After Post-Colonialism: Transnationalism or Essentialism? discussing the implications of regional narratives of contemporary art in a global context.
Myths of the Other audio recording
Artist Paul Gauguin’s ambivalent identification with and distancing from his ‘native’ subjects is analysed by an artist and a group of scholars from the areas of art history, anthropology and cultural theory in light of current post colonial thought.
Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art
Benin artist Meshac Gaba’s multi-room installation is the artist’s response to the lack of contemporary art in American and European museums