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ART 391: African Art: Background Research & Keywords


Find information by using KEYWORDS. You can develop keywords by searching reference sources, books, websites, and thesauri, among other materials.

Create keyword lists to better search library tools such as the library catalog and databases. 

Be sure to think broadly and narrowly about your topic when developing your keywords.

A more in-depth look at keywords

Why Use Background Research Materials?

It is important to gather background information. It can supply context for a better understanding of a topic and is a great way to develop keywords.

Background information on a topic can be gathered from a variety of sources, including textbooks, books, reference materials like encyclopedias, and reputable websites.

Background Info Databases & Web Resources

Keyword Hunting

When searching for African Art, use keywords and filters that narrow down the medium, location, or time period for better results. Look and see if there are alternate spellings in the subject headings section of a relevant record.


  • Use geographic filters like regions ("West Africa", "Sub-Saharan Africa"), country names (Tanzania, the Gambia), or geological features (Lake Tanzanika, the Namib Desert, the Nile River)
  • Ethnic group names (Yoruba, Poro)
  • Use the filters (usually on the left-hand side of a database) for getting the time period right

What medium or work type are you searching for?

  • Sculpture or installations
  • Performing Arts or Performance Art or Performance
  • Fashion, Costume or Jewelry
  • Paintings
  • Graphic design or illustration
  • Prints
  • Drawings

Background Texts


Peek, Philip M. & Yankah, Kwesi. African Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2004.

  • Ref GR350 .A33 2004

Bostrom, Antonia. The Encyclopedia of Sculpture, Volume One. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2004.

  • Ref NB198 .E53 2004 v. 1

Course Reserves

Many of the print books SU Libraries owns on the topic of African Art are placed in Course Reserves.

Go to the GAC Library Service Desk to check them out! Check here to see the materials available.