Catholicism and Independence in West African Visual Culture, 1960–1985
This new project examines the influence of Catholicism on state-affiliated art and architecture created in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal in the decades following their independence. Though the leaders of newly independent West African countries were often Catholic, the influence of their religious convictions upon their philosophical and political actions has long remained unexamined by scholars. Historian Elizabeth Foster’s African Catholic (2019) has begun to reveal the powerful influence of Catholicism on Black internationalist thought and politics, but its effects on African visual and material culture have remained largely unexamined. Applying visual materials toward these questions, I argue that the church provided a site for the international performance of statehood and Africanity. My preliminary research on the Catholic art and architecture associated with West African independence has laid the groundwork for two publications—the first on a basilica in Yamoussoukro, titled “Nôtre Dame de la Paix,” for World Architecture and Society (2021); and, in ARTMargins (2020), a critical discussion of the essay “Art and Peace” (1966) by the Catholic pioneer of negritude thought Alioune Diop (1910–1980).
Lauren Taylor will be assistant professor of art history and African studies at The Pennsylvania State University in fall 2022.