Premodern Worlds

Podcasts About Medieval Africa

This year’s podcast series focused on objects related to medieval Africa.

Students’ podcasts served as the collective final project for “Premodern Worlds: A History Through Literature and the Arts,” an Ignatius seminar taught by Professor Sarah McNamer at Georgetown University in Fall 2020. Students in the course sought to understand a range of artifacts within their social, political, and religious contexts.

Guest lecturers, curators, artists and critics generously shared their time and expertise with us.  For assistance with our podcasts, we wish to thank, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alisa LaGamma and Meseret Oldjira; at Oxford University, Britney Ellis; at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Matthew Edney; at Yale University, Roderick McIntosh; at the KanKouran West African Dance Company, Assane Konte; and at Georgetown University, Jane McAuliffe, Elliott Colla, Khaled Esseissah, Meredith McKittrick, Jonathan Ray, Lahra Smith, and Melissa Jones.  For their participation as guest speakers in the Premodern Worlds seminar, we would like to thank Aminatta Forna, Kate de Luna, Michelle Wang, Natsu Onoda Power, Avni Kulkarni, and Jonathan Ray, Georgetown University; Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post; Ilya Dines, the Library of Congress; Anny Gaul, University of Maryland; and Elina Gertsman, Case Western University.  Finally, special thanks to Clare Reid, M.A. student in the Department of English at Georgetown University, for completing all cover artwork, and to Isaac Solly, who served as student course assistant.

We welcome comments on our podcasts; please click here to submit any feedback.

Catalan Atlas, Majorca, 1375.

Podcast written and produced by Lily Geiser.

Interview: Dr. Matthew Edney, professor of geography and Project Director for the History of Cartography project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abraham Cresques. Atlas of Maritime Charts (The Catalan Atlas), Majorca, 1375. Illuminated parchment mounted on six wooden panels. Each panel 64.5 x 25 cm. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, France, Ms. Espagnol 30. Find the museum page here.

Leaf from the Blue Qur’an, Tunisia, Iraq, or Iran, 9th-10th century.

Podcast written and produced by Madeline Tirschwell.

Interview: Jane McAuliffe, Distinguished Senior Research Fellow at the Georgetown Berkley Center, former Dean of Georgetown College, former Director of the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, and Qur’an specialist.

Leaf from the Blue Qur’an, Tunisia, Iraq, or Iran, 9th-10th century C.E. Ink, color, gold, and silver on indigo-colored parchment. Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, M.A., Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Francis H. Burr Memorial Fund, 1967.23. Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Caravans of Gold exhibit; find the museum page here.

Mary and Child, Ethiopia, Tigray, late 15th century (Solomonic).

Podcast written and produced by Louie Pham.

Interview: Meseret G. Oldjira, doctoral candidate at the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and fellow at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mary and Child, Ethiopia, late 15th century. Tempera on wood. Left panel: 25.4 x 19.05 x 1.91 cm, right panel: 25.4 x 19.05 x 1.91 cm. Walters Gallery of Art; find the museum page here.

Buffalo, Middle Niger Civilization, 9th-14th century.

Podcast written and produced by Ollie Shirley.

Interview: Dr. Meredith McKittrick, professor specializing in environment, culture, and politics in southern Africa in the Department of History at Georgetown University.

Interview: Dr. Roderick McIntosh, professor of Anthropology at Yale University and Curator of Anthropology at the Peabody Museum. 

Buffalo, Mali, 9th-14th century. Bronze. 22.9 x 12.7 x 34.3 cm. Private collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art; find the museum page here.

Ivory casket, Sicily, 12th century.

Podcast written and produced by Ian Gould.

Interview: Dr. Jonathan Ray, professor of religious studies and specialist in medieval Jewish history in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Georgetown University.

Ivory casket, Sicily, 12th century. Ivory, tempera, brass, gold leaf. 9.5 x 15.9 x 9.7 cm. Art Institute of Chicago, Samuel P. Avery Endowment, 1926.389. Caravans of Gold exhibit, find the museum page here.

Camel Saddle, Algeria, date unknown (probably 20th century).

Podcast written and produced by Faysal al-Kibbi.

Interview: Dr. Elliott Colla, professor of Arab literature, culture, and politics in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University.

Camel saddle, Algerian Sahara, Tuareg, probably 20th century. Leather, rawhide, wood, parchment or vellum, wool, silk, tin-plated metal, brass-plated metal, iron, copper alloy, and cheetah skin. 75 x 71 x 46 cm. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, M.A., gift of the Estate of Dr. Lloyd Cabot Briggs, 1975, 975-32-50/11927. Caravans of Gold exhibit; find the museum page here.

Mother and Child, Mali, 15th-early 20th century.

Podcast written and produced by Alexandra Henn.

Interview: Dr. Alisa LaGamma, Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Curator in Charge of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Department at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mother and Child, Mali, Bamana peoples, 15th-early 20th century. Wood. 118.1 x 35.6 x 35.6 cm. Private collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art; find the museum page here.

Bala Players, Mali, 15th-16th century.

Podcast written and produced by Suzie Gregory.

Interview: Assane Konte, co-founder and director of KanKouran West African Dance Company.

Bala Players, Dogon peoples, 15th-16th century. Hardwood with organic materials, iron. 44.1 x 25.4 x 17.8 cm. Private collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art; find the museum page here.

Coins, Morocco or Tunisia, 10th-14th century.

Podcast written and produced by Olivia Czech.

Interview: Dr. Khaled Esseissah, professor specializing in the Islamic and African diasporas in the African Studies Program at Georgetown University.

Coins, Morocco or Tunisia, 10th-14th century. Gold. Dimensions variable. Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac, Paris (74.1964.2.1-.7). The Met Fifth Avenue; find the museum page here.

Black Queen of Sheba, Stift Klosterneuburg, Austria, 1181-1350.

Podcast written and produced by Kyla Fraser.

Interview: Dr. Lahra Smith, Director of the African Studies Program at Georgetown University and a specialist in migration and political development in Africa.

Verdun Altar, Stift Klosterneuburg, Austria, 1181-1350. Copper, enamel. Stift Klosterneuburg monastery; find the museum page here.

Soapstone birds of Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe, 14th-15th century.

Podcast coming soon! Written and produced by Isabella King.

Interview: Britney Ellis, Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University specializing in art history and museum studies.

Soapstone bird, Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe, 14th-15th century. Site under construction; more detailed information to come.