This article engages with Frantz Fanon’s writings on different responses by artists among colonised peoples to the fact of their colonisation. Fanon develops a dialectical account in which an initial stage of assimilation of Western techniques and paradigms is followed by a phase of immersion in African artistic traditions. These two phases then function as prelude to a third, combative stage which is presented as the most efficacious and authentic way for artists to play their part in decolonisation. The article problematises the temporal logic and implicit hierarchies of Fanon’s account. It does so by using Jacques Rancière’s redemptive reading of early working class mobilisations in 1830s and 1840s France, prior to the advent of Marxian proletarian politics, as a counterpoint. The article here finds a different, more affirmative, nondialectical and non-historicist way of evaluating the liberatory potential of artistic practices by the colonised prior to combative decolonisation.