Monday, 18 July 2011

China unearthed in Africa: Chinese ceramics from archaeological excavations in Southern Africa

This lecture was held on July 12, 2011 at the Oriental Ceramic Society in London, UK by Alexander Duffey

This lecture traces the earliest contacts of China with Africa and shows how Chinese ceramics found their way into the interior of sub-Saharan Africa from as early as the 8th century onwards. Although much of the trade in Chinese ceramics was done by intermediaries, there were periods in which the Chinese entered into active contact with African communities. Recent archaeological excavations in the sub-Saharan interior, as well as marine archaeology, have brought new facts to light to reveal that Chinese ceramics from as early as the Tang and Song dynasties found their way into the Southern African hinterland. Such early Chinese ceramics have been found at Great Zimbabwe and Dhlo-Dhlo in Zimbabwe, Shashi in Botswana, Mapungubwe and Shroda in South Africa and Chibuene, Inhambane and Sena in Mozambique. In addition, superb examples of early Ming export porcelain have been found at many excavation sites in sub-Saharan Africa and also at various wreck sites of Portuguese and Dutch ships along the Mozambique and South African East coast. Recent finds and conclusions will be highlighted in this lecture.

Alexander Duffey studied History of Art at the University of Pretoria, where he became Associate-Professor in the Department of Art History in 1988 as well as Head of History of Art in the new Department Visual Arts and Art History. He has been the Head Curator of the Heritage Collections of the university since 2004 and from 2005 until 2008 he drafted new policies for the establishment of the University of Pretoria Art and Heritage Committee. He has been a Board Member of the National Cultural History Museum and Council member of the South African Association of Art Historians and Council member of the National Heritage Council. At present he is a Council member of the Pretoria Arts Association, the Heritage Objects Forum of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and the Art Advisory Committee of the South African Academy for Science and Arts. He is the author of numerous scientific publications and a number of books on South African art and culture. In June 2009 he was awarded the Stals Prize for his contribution to History of Art in South Africa and on 18 November 2009 he received the honorary medal of the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA) for his contribution to Art and History of Art in South Africa.

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