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Sarah Van Beurden


Weatherhead Fellow

Affiliation at time of award:
Associate Professor, History and African-American and African Studies
Ohio State University

Paulla Ebron, SAR Wenner-Gren Fellow, 2022-2023

Sarah Van Beurden
Photo courtesy of Sarah Van Beurden

Congo Crafted: Histories of Making (1880s–1980s)

This book offers the first history of craft making in Central Africa. It studies the lives and afterlives of three disappeared and forgotten colonial craft genres in Congo: ivory carving, Congolese lace-making, and Christian arts. Rendering these genres and the communities from which they emerged visible again, tracing the global circulation of such objects, and elucidating their historical contexts connects intimate, daily histories of colonialism with its larger structural impacts and its eventual decline. The first part of the book focuses on the practices of objectmaking and their socio-economic ramifications, while the second considers the afterlives of things, providing both a history of the circulation and use of objects themselves as well as the artistic practices they influenced. Methodologically, the project is innovative in reconstituting object archives. Conceptually, it considers ‘making’ as an economic, cultural, and social practice in which regimes of value meshed with creative imaginations, colonial social codification and gender construction.