Sample Research Paper on France and North Africa: The Colonized in Art


Art has vastly developed from level to level (Kinzl, 2010). This study highlights the colonization of France and North Africa through the development of art. Art is a medium of understanding the background of a region. Through art, the colonial background of France and North Africa has been highlighted (Boyes- Stone, 2009). This study offers the background information on the colonized art in France and in North Africa. The study later focuses on artwork development in given countries in North Africa.


The entire North Africa was in the control of European colonization by the last part of the nineteenth century (Burn, 1966). For instance, Algeria, and Tunisia were under the French colonial rule, and Egypt was a British protectorate. Art schools in Egypt were mainly based on academic and renaissance training. In spite of this, the French orientalist and the postimpressionist were the most widespread form of art in that period. The schools and galleries colonized by the Europeans majored on romanticized imagery of the regional scenery. After the First World War, nationalist and anti-colonialists filled North Africa (Kleiner, 2013). This was also depicted in the artistic work. Artists desired to describe their national culture in relation to their background and colonial facts. The Egyptian intellectuals focused on the secular European models, which were based on industrialization, education, and women liberation.

The first modern art movement in North Africa come from Egypt (Kleiner, 2013). Prince Yusuf Kamal, around 1908, was the first patron of the initial fine arts school. The government by then sustained art organizations. They also allowed graduates to go for further studies in Europe. This made Egypt to be the headquarters for the artistic education and modernism. Artists were then expected to have understanding of the creative discourse. This further enabled the artists to define the present Egypt. Presently, Egypt, as part of North Africa is the center for artistic intellectual, which speeded the demand for independence. The artistic intellectuals formed movements such as the Revolutionary Artistic Movements and the Wafd Party. The parties formed the main features of the Egyptian struggle for their independence. The leading artists included Kamal al-Tilmisani and Kamal al-Mallakh. The unique Egyptian modern art drew regional influences to get to the international styles. The art led to the formation of various groups and journals (The Metropolitan, 2000). These promoted personal imaginative autonomy. Moreover, it rejected fascist creativity.

Around 1950s, Arab nationalism prevailed in Egypt with the famous aspiration for the Arab United. Gamal Abdel Nasser spearheaded this aspiration. The political prominence heightened after the revolution of 1952. The monarchy based on the Britain background was thereafter overthrown (Burn, 1966). Artists could incorporate the contemporary Egyptian artistic language with their cultural background. The artistic movement reached its maximum in 1960s. This led to the opening of the government stipends and various exhibition spaces within the capital. This was promising to lead to the artistic revival. The period was however short-lived as the government took control of the art centers and art institutions. This left little space for personal initiatives. There were emerging alternatives places for experimental art by the 1990s. This is perceived to a component of the global art scene. Generally, the Egyptian artists enjoyed government support for a given period. They also took pleasure in the regional patronage (Kleiner, 2013).



Artists in North Africa

The Northern African artists greatly contrasted with the Egyptian artists. These artists were marginalized as they had limited support (Kleiner, 2013). The French perceived the self-trained artists as underdeveloped and looked down upon them when they got their work in France. The traditional Moroccan crafts were more favored than the rest of the artwork (The Metropolitan, 2000). In spite of the distance between North Africa and Europe, the artists from these places were more than twenty years behind modern western art and techniques. Early artists assumed various features such as adaptations of the illumination, naive painting, and academic styles (Kleiner, 2013). Since there were no modern institutions, artists in North Africa rejected the orientalist and neoclassical models. Many shifted to France where they assumed the new models of Abstract expressionism, among other styles. They came back after independence to become leaders of the art movement.

Thereafter, calligraphy was invented as part of the abstraction in North Africa. Algeria was perceived to be an extension of the French as it was forcefully acquired. For instance, French language was adapted in all major schools in place of Arabic. Original national history and traditions removed from the syllabus (Kleiner, 2013). The foreign presence of the French highly escalated the social movements demanding for independence. The foreigners practiced racism in all public places. This made all the artists to embrace other forms of artwork other than the orientalist model. The much appreciated Islamic style was later transformed by Muhammad Rasim to a three dimensional mini art. The new models did not penetrate to Algeria until later after they acquired their independence. The artists worked together with the writers for the revolutions and rising awareness for the need of independence.

In Tunisia, arts led in breaking from the orientalist models (Kinzl, 2010). They appreciated instead the realistic imagery of the normal life and traditional heritage. Later on, they developed their personal styles, which explored on the components of the regional crafts in glass painting, textiles and in ceramics. International designs only regained entry after 1960. There was the introduction of abstraction, which eliminated local motifs. As the period advanced, more of the personal styles were created. This openly embraced the nation’s rich traditional heritage. Later on, new artists were trained on the contemporary techniques, Moroccan crafts and the Islamic art. This greatly contributed to the public interaction through festivities of the contemporary art. Presently, such events attract both local and international artists.

Unlike the French, the Italians offered limited freedom to artists in Libya (Klenier, 2013). They also failed to influence the artist in Libya. Hence, artists did not contribute to any nationalism and independence as other artists in Northern region did. They were also internationally isolated in most of the artistic movements. The art in Libya was therefore limited to the regional architecture and landscape.

Artwork has enabled the African nations to develop economically (The Metropolitan, 2000). There has also been widespread liberalization. There is however need to spread artwork to overcome the gap between the rich and the poor. Artwork can also unify the nation and overcome the prevailing obstacles of development. This can be through appreciating of the artistic work, which depict the cultural heritage.


Art has indeed developed from the regional to the international standards in form of different designs (Kleiner, 2013). From the study, art has played a critical role in the historical background of various places, especially in North Africa. Through art, information on the colonization and fight for freedom for the nations has been embraced. Other than spreading the cultural heritage, artwork has enabled nations such as Egypt to gain its independence. This has been through rising of awareness for need of freedom through art and demanding for independence through the various art movements.


Kinzl, A. (2010). A Companion to the Classical Greek World. NY: Wiley-Blackwell.

Kleiner, F. (2013). Gardner’s Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective: Gardner’s Art through the Ages Series. (14th Ed). NY: Cengage Learning

Boyes- Stone, et al. (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Burn, A. R. (1966). The Penguin History of Greece. NY: Penguin Books

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Egypt and North Africa, 1900 A.D. to Present. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. 2000. New York