Biography

Professor Mack is an internationally-recognised authority on the arts and cultures of Africa, where his research has focused on Congo, southern Sudan, Kenya, Madagascar and Zanzibar. He has also travelled and researched in parts of West Africa. At UEA he is Professor of World Art Studies, in which capacity he has published extensively on more thematic subjects, taking a broadly anthropological approach to art, material culture and archaeology. Recent books have discussed questions of memory and art, the process of miniaturisation and most recently the cultural significance of the sea. What connects these works is an interest in the artistic and material engagement with different environments.

Professor Mack is working on a book project for completion in 2015 looking at the relationship between art in death in sub-Saharan Africa and developing a new project on coastal communities. Recent work has included a number of essays which explore drawing and pattern-making and in particular the assumptions which have underscored and in some cases misrepresented the processes involved when regarded in a cross-cultural context.

Website: http://www.sru.uea.ac.uk/faculty-john_mack.php

Career

Professor Mack is currently Chairman of UEA’s Sainsbury Institute for Art and has recently come to the end of his term of office as President of British Institute in Eastern Africa. Before joining UEA in 2004 Professor Mack was Keeper of the British Museum’s Department of Ethnography (Museum of Mankind), which he joined in 1976, and was also Senior Keeper of the British Museum as a whole from 197-2003. Although his responsibilities involved coordinating research and curatorial activities across a wide field, his specialism has been in Africa and the western Indian Ocean. He remains an advisor for the British Museum’s International African Programmes and is a recent President of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (sponsored by the British Academy). He has overseen a number of major exhibitions and gallery installations, including ‘Museum of the Mind, Art and Memory in World Cultures’ (British Museum, 2003) and The Sainsbury Africa Galleries, which opened at the British Museum in 2001.
He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2009.

Academic Background

B.A. Social Anthropology; University of Sussex (1971)

M.A. History of Ideas; University of Sussex (1972)

D.Phil, Anthropology; Oxford University (1975)

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