Decolonising Minds and Museums through Contemporary Art Activism

Mixed-media art installation featuring a child-sized mannequin seated at a wooden school desk, dressed in Victorian clothing made from patterned cotton fabrics, with a celestial globe replacing its head.

My article Transforming Museums, Decolonizing Minds* features in Volume 47 (Issue 4) of the Journal of Museum Education – published January 5th, 2023. This paper is one of ten in a special issue focused on Activist Pedagogies in Museum Studies and Practice.

Within this publication I examine forms of activism in which artistic expression is used to raise awareness and catalyse progressive change on matters of equality, inclusion and social justice. Focusing in particular on anti-racist and decolonial activism within art museums, experimental project spaces and collections of ethnography, selected works from the oeuvres of contemporary African diaspora artists and curators are foregrounded to highlight various ways that creative interventions conceptualised by people of colour are positively impacting on museum education and institutional change – in the UK, as well as throughout Europe and the West more broadly.

A museum-based art installation featuring a child-sized mannequin seated at a school desk, dressed in late-19th century clothing made from Dutch wax printed cotton fabric. A celestial globe replaces the head.
“Planets in My Head – Literature” (2010), by Yinka Shonibare CBE, displayed at the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam. This contemporary art installation is discussed as one of the featured decolonial interventions. Photo: Carol Ann Dixon, August 2022.

My analysis takes into consideration the transformational impacts that artists and artist-curators’ installation projects, research residencies, and exhibitions can provoke amongst museum staff, visiting audiences and wider publics.

The three featured case studies critique some of the art-political approaches and creative interventions pursued by the following contemporary art luminaries: Gabonese artist-curator, writer and educator Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro; British-Trinidadian artist-curator Zak Ové and Nigerian-British installationist and Royal Academician Yinka Shonibare CBE.

Photographic portraits of the artists Nathalie Mba Bikoro, Yinka Shonibare CBE and Zak Ove.

Readers with access to Taylor and Francis journals can read the abstract and download the full text from the following link:

Carol Ann Dixon (2022) Transforming Museums, Decolonizing Minds: Three Politically Aesthetic Interventions by African Diaspora Artists, Journal of Museum Education, 47:4, 459-475.*

Readers and site visitors without a journal subscription are welcome to search this website’s archive to view all the free access content discussing these artist-curators’ creative outputs and interventions, accessible via the keyword search options and the home page navigation tools.

Examples of related content on Museum Geographies

NATHALIE ANGUEZOMO MBA BIKORO: Memory and Museums at “AfroEuropeans V” (University of Münster, Germany), 2015

ZAK OVE: Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers – Somerset House, London, 2019

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE: ‘Jardin d’Amour’ – Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, 2007

YINKA SHONIBARE CBE: ‘The William Morris Family Album’ photographic installation – William Morris Gallery, London, 2015

*Note: The JME article was published using American English (hence “Decolonizing” rather than “Decolonising” in the title and the narrative).

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