Elizabeth Perrill

Elizabeth Perrill

Teaching and Service

Professor Perrill offers courses in her expertise areas of African Art Histories, Histories of Ceramics, and Global Modernisms. She also regularly develops seminars focusing on the impacts of World’s Fairs, Biennales, Triennales, and Art Fairs on the production and perceptions of contemporary art. Perrill received her Ph.D. in African Art History at Indiana University, Bloomington and joined the UNCG School of Art in 2008. 

At UNCG, Perrill regularly serves on Master of Fine Arts committees and is Affiliated Faculty with the African American and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) Program. In her roles as Director of the Humanities Network and Consortium (HNAC, 2019-2023), Consulting Curator of African Art at the North Carolina Museum of Art (2012-2018), and Board Member at StarWorks Art Centre (2020-present), Perrill has worked to enrich humanities, African art, and ceramics in North Carolina. She is proud to contribute to national and international scholarly pedagogy and dialogue through her service on the AP Art History Development Board (2016-2021), as a Research Fellow with the University of South Africa (2022-2024), and as an external reviewer on numerous South African MA and PhD committees. 

Research interests/Areas of expertise

  • Southern African/African Contemporary Art
  • Zulu and Nguni Identity Politics
  • History of and Contemporary Ceramics
  • Economies of Art and Biennale Culture
  • Exhibition Practices in African and Ceramic Arts


Dr. Perrill’s second book, Burnished: Zulu Ceramics between Urban and Rural South Africa (2022, https://iupress.org/9780253061874/burnished/), analyzes the aesthetic and economic transformations impacting Zulu ceramics during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This publication won a 2020 Millard Meiss Publication Award (https://www.collegeart.org/programs/publishing-grants/meiss/past-winners)  from the College Art Association. Her first book, Zulu Pottery (2012), was released as part of a South African educational series and has been used to support indigenous knowledge curricula within the South Africa secondary school system. Perrill’s doctoral research focused on the economic and aesthetic transformation of contemporary Zulu ceramics between the 1960s and the 2000s, utilizing both archival research and oral histories.

As a tribute to the community of artists with whom she continues to work, Perrill developed the catalog and touring exhibition Ukucwebezela: To Shine, which opened at the African Art Center in Durban, South Africa and traveled to the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College, the Indiana University Art Museum, and UNCG’s Gatewood Gallery. Perrill has continued her curatorial pursuits as a consulting-curator of African Art with the North Carolina Museum of Art and as part of a range of international exhibitions.

Committed to the use of focused life-histories as an ethical research model that integrates artists’ contributions and guidance into the process of art historical research, Perrill has worked for over fifteen years with members of the South African ceramics community. Since 2004, she has responded to artists’ concerns that research on contemporary arts must engage with and reveal the international economic networks that have shaped both concepts of Zulu identity and contemporary art production in South Africa.

Perrill’s most recent project is focused on the preservation of at-risk archives in Durban, South Africa and a collaboration with South African scholars on the development of archival metadata utilizing vocabulary and historical narratives drawn from community interviews and collaborative viewing sessions. Her long-term research interests involve documenting the holdings and provenance of a wide range of Southern African ceramics in global collections. 

Campus Weekly: 

Global Art History, AP to UNCG