African/African Diaspora

Cynthia Becker

beckerpix725 Commonwealth Ave, Rm 305B
Boston, Massachusetts 02215
Telephone: (617) 353-1471
Fax: (617) 353-3243

curriculum vitae

Associate Professor; African Art.
B.A., University of New Orleans; M.A., Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Professor Cynthia Becker is a scholar of African arts specializing in the arts of the Imazighen (Berbers) in northwestern Africa, specifically Morocco, Algeria, and Niger. Her research has been supported by a Fulbright grant and several grants from the American Institute of Maghreb Studies. Professor Becker has served as a consultant for numerous museum exhibitions and published articles on the visual and performing arts of the Imazighen as well as the trans-Saharan slave trade. Her book Amazigh Arts in Morocco: Women Shaping Berber Identity was published by the University of Texas Press in July of 2006. She is currently working on a book about the Afro-Islamic aesthetics and ceremonial practices of the Gnawa that considers the history of the trans-Saharan slave trade and its implications on material culture in both western and northern Africa. Other projects include the visual expression of Amazigh consciousness by contemporary painters/activists, the influence of Sufism on contemporary Moroccan art, and the visual culture and history of the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans (her hometown).

Selected Publications

Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection

Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermes Collection    
(New York: Museum for African Art, 2009)
by Kristyne Loughran and Cynthia Becker
In Photographic Encounters on the North African Stage, art historian Cynthia Becker discusses how at the end of the nineteenth century, when archaeological monuments in North Africa were being explored, several prominent European photographers captured the landscapes and people of this region. Many of the images were used in postcards, while others remained hidden in little known collections. Photographs by George Washington Wilson, Etienne and Louis Neurdein, and Pascal Sabah, among others, complement and contextualize the jewelry in Desert Jewels, providing a comprehensive look into the distinct regional characteristics of North African society, art, and design.


Amazigh Arts in Morocco

Amazigh Arts in Morocco     (Texas, 2006)
Women Shaping Berber Identity
An unprecedented examination of the relationships of art, gender, and identity among the Amazigh (Berber) people of Morocco.
In southeastern Morocco, around the oasis of Tafilalet, the Ait Khabbash people weave brightly colored carpets, embroider indigo head coverings, paint their faces with saffron, and wear ornate jewelry. Their extraordinarily detailed arts are rich in cultural symbolism; they are always breathtakingly beautiful—and they are typically made by women. Like other Amazigh (Berber) groups (but in contrast to the Arab societies of North Africa), the Ait Khabbash have entrusted their artistic responsibilities to women. Cynthia Becker spent years in Morocco living among these women and, through family connections and female fellowship, achieved unprecedented access to the artistic rituals of the Ait Khabbash. The result is more than a stunning examination of the arts themselves, it is also an illumination of women's roles in Islamic North Africa and the many ways in which women negotiate complex social and religious issues.