Z. S. Strother

Z. S. Strother

Arts of Africa
Ph.D., Yale University


Professor Zoë Strother is a specialist in Central and West African art history, with a special focus on the 20th-21st centuries. She has conducted research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mali, and Senegal. Her broad intellectual project is to understand the relationship between the image and the social imaginary and its changing history. She has also studied the representation of Africa in the European imaginary through past or future projects addressing: Sara Baartman (the “Hottentot Venus”); Carl Einstein; Vladimir Markov; Leni Riefenstahl. Her current research concentrates on the history of iconoclasm in Africa.

Believing that it is imperative to situate African art in dialogue with other fields and disciplines, she also serves as contributing editor for Res: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics and associate editor for Art in Translation, a new e-journal seeking to make available in English critical texts on visuality from around the world.


Professor Strother has received numerous distinctions, including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art (CASVA), Getty Foundation, Michigan Society of Fellows, U.S. Information Agency (Fulbright). Her book, Inventing Masks, received the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association for “original scholarship and excellence that makes significant contributions to our understanding of African and African Diasporic arts,” 1998-2000.

Sample Courses

Introduction to the Arts of Africa
Yoruba and the Diaspora
Masquerade: Rhetoric/Theory/Practice
“Primitivism” – From Europe to Africa and Back Again
Contemporary Arts of Africa
Restitution or Repatriation of Cultural Heritage: New Directions? 


Humor and Violence: Seeing Europeans in Central African Art, 1850-1997Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016.
Honorable Mention, African Studies Association’s 2017 Melville J. Herskovits Prize “for the best scholarly work on Africa published in English" in 2016. 

Vladimir Markov and Russian Primitivism: A Charter for the Avant-Garde (with Jeremy Howard and Irēna Bužinska). Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015.

Pende. Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2008. 

Inventing Masks: Agency and History in the Art of the Central PendeUniversity of Chicago Press, 1998. [Paper 1999.]

Sample Articles

“Les iconoclasmes en Afrique: emergence d’un sujet d’étude.” Perspective : actualité en histoire de l'art (Revue scientifique de l'Institut national d’histoire de l’art). Special issue: “Détruire.” 2018-2, pp. 219-246.

Op-Ed. “Eurocentrism still sets the terms of restitution of African art: A selective view of cultural heritage continues the colonialist paradigm” (posted online Jan. 8, 2019).

Breaking juju,” breaking trade: Museums and the culture of iconoclasm in southern Nigeria.” Res: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics 67-68 (2016/2017), 21-41.

“Meteoric Realities.  Toma Muteba Luntumbue in conversation with Z.S. Strother.  Translated from the French by Ngara Noémie N”Diaye. Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art 41 (Nov. 2017): 166-175. 

“Meteoric Realities.  The Fourth Biennale of Lubumbashi.” Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art 41 (Nov. 2017): 176-187. 

“`A Photograph Steals the Soul’: The History of an Idea.” In Portraiture and Photography in Africa, ed. John Peffer and Elisabeth Cameron. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013, 177-212.

“Looking for Africa in Carl Einstein’s Negerplastik.” African Arts 46:4 (Winter 2013): 8-21. (Also published as:  “À la recherche de l’Afrique dans Negerplastik de Carl Einstein,” Gradhiva n.s., 2011 no. 14, pp. 31-55, 257-59).

* The article on Einstein has been selected for free distribution and may be accessed through the MIT Press Journals website: 

"Architecture Against the State: The Virtues of Impermanence in the Kibulu of Eastern Pende Chiefs in Central Africa". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 63: 3 (September 2004), pp.272-95.

"African Works." Guest editor for special issue of RES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics devoted to methodology. (#39: Spring 2001). "Editorial. African Works: Anxious Encounters in the Visual Arts," pp. 5-23.

“From Performative Utterance to Performative Object: Pende Theories of Speech, Blood Sacrifice, and Power Objects.” RES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics 37 (Spring 2000), pp. 49-71.

"Display of the Body Hottentot". In Africans on Stage," ed. Bernth Lindfors. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999, pp. 1-61.

Selected Publications