College of Human Sciences

Decolonise art history

Prof Bernadette Van Haute

The inaugural lecture of Prof Bernadette Van Haute, Art and Music, entitled Visual arts and intercultural encounters: The tangled histories of Africa and Europe, took place on 13 November 2018.

She said that the title of the lecture reflected not only her research interests in the art histories of both Africa and Europe but also the focus of her latest project, namely the representation of the black African in seventeenth-century Flemish art.

"Using examples of artworks by Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck - two famous Flemish artists of the seventeenth century - I compare the different ways in which they portrayed the African subject in their work, testifying to the ambivalent perception of the racial other."

Van Haute argued that Van Dyck’s interpretation of the trope of the black African was paternalistic and that he used humour to render the ethnic other less ambiguous and less threatening. "This type of research helps us to frame new ways to decolonise art history - an objective that is high on Unisa’s agenda of transformation," she concluded.

You can read the inaugural lecture here.


The person behind the professor


I’m always up for?

A challenge


And I would never try?

Underwater activities like diving


If you were one of the Big Five, which would you be and why?

The rhinoceros because of its independence and limited tolerance


What book are you currently reading?

Home/Land: Women, citizenship, photographies, edited by Marion Arnold and Marsha Meskimmon (2016, Liverpool University Press) - Marion Arnold was my mentor when she was still in SA and employed by Unisa.


What’s the number one skill or practice that has contributed to your success in academia?

Perseverance or structured commitment combined with passion


Who would you most like to have dinner with in your academic field, and why?

That is a tricky question because that person, while in my mind the most outstanding art historian, may turn out to be a total disappointment as a dinner companion. I suppose that my academic heroes are not human in the sense that they surpass all physical limitations.


* Compiled by Sharon Farrell, Editor: Internal Communication, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019-07-02 00:00:00.0