Context & Terminology

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

Key Question:  The terms ‘African art’ & ’African artist’ conflate the many diverse and varied countries and communities within the continent. In your schemes of work & curriculum planning have you avoided such terminology?


  • What part of the African continent is the art from? Do you include North Africa (Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia etc) as well as sub-Saharan Africa? Note that the inspiration, design, purpose, meaning, processes of manufacture, usage, and value of masks in Nigeria are very different from those 2000 miles away in Mozambique.

Key Question: There are some commonly used terms that are offensive. Are you using terms and names that recognise the diversity and distinctiveness within Indigenous communities?

  • Some common terms traditionally used in art projects but which are unacceptable include: Aboriginal, North American Indian, Native and Primitive.Such terminology should be avoided in your curriculum. Instead, try to research the self-chosen names of communities and nations.

Key Question: Whilst some terms are much less offensive, many are still unhelpful in tackling racism. It is important to use correct terminology but know that terminology may change over time.


  • NSEAD does not recommend the grouping of artists, makers and designers under the category of ‘BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic).This abbreviation is an administrative category that reinforces communities as ‘other’.Where possible use self-referred community names. Otherwise, use: ‘diverse ethnic communities’ or ‘global majority’.

Context & Terminology Resource Examples:

  1. Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire (2019) by Akala.Available to view here
  2. The Good Immigrant: 21 writers reflect on race in contemporary Britain (2017) by Nikesh Shukla. Availbale to view here
  3. The Essential Introduction to Aboriginal Art (25 facts) by Nici Cumpston (Barkindji) and Jilda Andrews (Yuwaalaraay). Available to view here


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