Pan-African Aesthetics: Past, Present, Future

A Hybrid Pedagogical Model

During Wintersession 2021, students in a RISD course entitled Pan-African Aesthetics: Past, Present, Future examined the way that diverse cultural elements from the African Diaspora have been deployed together in visual and popular culture from the early 20th century to present day. Alongside professor and SEI fellow Dr. Jane'a Johnson, they questioned the history, purpose, political implications, and possible limitations of a Pan-African aesthetic. 

Throughout the course, students explored works in the collection related to Pan-Africanism and considered them through the lens of various texts by writers and scholars such as Tanisha C. Ford, Langston Hughes, Kobena Mercer, and Sheree Renée Thomas. Their final assignment was to develop a creative project consisting of a curated Instagram feed, using an object from the museum’s collection as the point of departure and engaging with the course's assigned texts. The examples shared here display the students' inventive uses of the platform and visionary interpretations of the themes and ideas they distilled from their selected works.


Student Object Studies


Black Hair Future by Nailah Golden

Nailah Golden envisions future possibilities of Black hairstyling, inspired by Zanele Muholi's Kodwa I, Amsterdam.


Les Jeunes Mélomanes SIDE A + SIDE B by Quinn Benson

Quinn Benson contemplates a vinyl record pictured in Sanlé Sory's The Young Music Lovers (Les Jeunes Mélomanes), and imagines the songs it contains.


Rediscovering Diasporic by Celeste Jackson

Inspired by the same Sanlé Sory photograph, Celeste Jackson explores Black youth occupying space in movements from La Sape to Noirwave.