Skip to content

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 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.

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