Art Term

Postcolonial art

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’.

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.

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Postcolonial art at Tate

  • Tate Modern

    Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art

    3 Jul – 22 Sep 2013

    Tate Modern installation Meschac Gaba’s Museum of Contemporary African Art blurs the boundaries between art and the everyday. Summer 2013

  • Tate Britain

    Artist and Empire

    25 Nov 2015 – 10 Apr 2016

    This autumn Tate Britain presents a major exhibition of art associated with the British Empire from the 16th century to the present day.