Before the 19 th century, the most important outward influence on Africa was the spread of Islam
The Modern era begins with the European exploration during the 19 th century.
At this time Christian missionaries also flooded the continent.
Towards the end of this century competition among rival European powers fueled the so-called scramble for Africa, during which England, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Portugal raced to lay claim to whatever part of the continent they could. By 1914 virtually all of Africa had fallen under colonial rule.
In the years following World War I, nationalistic movements arose across African. From the mid 1950s through the mid 19702 one colony after another gained its independence, and the present day map of Africa took shape.
From the time of the first European explorations and continuing through the colonial era, quantities of art from traditional African societies were shipped back to Western museums of natural history as artifacts of “primitive” cultures.
Toward the end of the 19 th century, however, profound changes in Western thinking about art gradually led people to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of tradition-based African “artifacts” and finally to embrace them fully as art.
When a Yoruba twin dies, the parents often consult a diviner, a specialist in ritual and spiritual practices, who may tell then that an image of a twin, or ere ibeji, must be carved to serve as a dwelling place for the deceased twin's spirit.
Figure begins as a simple sculpture bought from a market. Afterwards a diviner prescribes magical/medicinal ingredients that are plastered onto the body. It acts as a powerful agent ready to attack the forces of evil on behalf of the human client.
The Baule people believed that before life they lived in the spirit world, and had a spirit spouse whom they left behind. Those who have trouble getting married or having children have these made so that their spirit spouse may enter them. The person must treat this figure like a human, and hopefully they will one day find a real spouse.
Its glossy black surface, high forehead, elaborately plaited hairstyle decorated with combs, and refined facial features, the mask represents ideal female beauty. The mask is usually worn be a senior member of the women’s Sande society whose responsibility is to prepare Sande girls for their adult roles in society including marriage and child bearing.