Colonial Legacy

This section of the Curriculum Checklist supports art and design educators to interogate their curriculum, ensuring it meets criteria around Colonial Legacy.

Colonial Legacy

The term ‘colonial legacies’ characterises the lasting influences and outcomes of colonialism and European expansion which expose the interplay between colonial interventions and domestic decision-making in contemporary policy-making throughout contemporary economic, political and social structures. The intimate relationship between capitalism and therefore Europe’s growth and Africa’s developmental stagnation, ‘underdevelopment’ signals centuries of exploitation and metropolitan imperialism, principally leading to stalled industrialisation and lack of technology. 

Source: Rodney How Europe undeveloped Africa  (1972) by Walter Rodney

Key Question:  In your curriculum planning is there an awareness of the impact of colonial rule and the richness of pre-colonial civilisations & communities? 


  • If you refer to art, craft or design that is currently held in European museums, but which originates from other countries or civilisations, do you explore:
  • How those pieces came to be held there?
  • How the objects were originally intended to be used?
  • If the object should remain in the possession of a museum?

Key Question: Does the curriculum only look at black history through a lens of enslavement? 


  • Have you acknowledged for example, that African heritages are rich and varied and extend beyond the trade in enslaved peoples?

Key Question: Have you planned time and resources to properly contextualise the art and artists you are covering? 


  • Have you ensured your contextualisation is not through one lens?
  • Have you researched practices from indigenous populations that you refer to?
  • Are you aware of issues around appropriating artworks and taking them out of context which can be highly problematic? For example, First Nation, Indigenous or Aboriginal peoples and Australian paintings should not be reproduced. This is highly disrespectful & unacceptable.

Colonial Legacy Resource Examples.

  1. The colonised skin of the female nude - Centre for Creative Explorations (ongoing) by Clare Stanhope at The Centre for Creative Explorations. Avai;able to view here
  2. Africa before Transatlantic Enslavement (2019) by Understanding Slavery, Black History Month. Available to view here
  3. Possession Island [Abstraction] (1991) by Gordon Bennett. Available to view here


Click here to read and contribute to our ARAEA reading, resource and review list.