What would a pictorial history of French-African relations look like? There would no doubt be some colonial prints in such a vast array – European explorers "discovering" fauna and flora across the Sahara desert, down the Nile, in the Congo basin; portraits of noble savages (muscular and inscrutable) staring into the distance. Iconic paintings, from Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa to Biard’s Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies, might give part of the European perspective. The debt of French modernists like Picasso and Matisse to African sculpture would have to be acknowledged.A clutch of Nkisi figures could hint at shifting Central African responses to colonial encroachment on previously independent territories in the 19th century. The migration of artists such as SA’s Gerard Sekoto to France after the Second World War could provide another angle. There would also be thousands of photographs to process: occupying armies, imperial atrocities, liberatory str...

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