Artists preferred wood, but notable works are also done in ivory and metal.
The art is rarely decorative, but made for a purpose, often for ceremonies.
Architecture is predominantly made of mud-brick; stone is rare, but can be seen in Zimbabwe and in Ethiopian churches.
Important Historical Events
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.
Patronage and Artists
Though there were not any influential documented artists, Africans had guilds that promoted their work and helped elevate the profession.
Men were builders and carvers and were permitted to wear masks. Women painted walls and created ceramics. Both sexes were weavers.
The most collectable African art originated in farming communities rather than among nomads, who desired portability.
African Art and the Western Tradition
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.
Sirigu, Ghana 1972
Men build the structures, women decorate them.
Women live in round dwellings while men live in rectangular flat-roofed houses.
Door from Royal Palace in Ikere, Nigeria 1925
Wood with pigment
Classic theme of elongated breasts symbolizes fertility
Asymmetrical composition combines narrative and symbolic scenes in horizontal rectangular panels.
Gates of Paradise
Initiation Wall Panels
Wood with pigment
Covered the walls of a 3 walled hut. Made to commemorate the day of initiation of children into tribes.
They were representations of the children who had come of age.
Finial of a Spokesperson’s staff
Ghana, Ashanti culture 1960s-70s
Wood and gold
Staff is a nearly universal symbol of authority and leadership.
Ashanti ruler held it during ceremonies and speeches.
Burkina Faso. Mossi Culture Mid 20 th century
Children represented the future and continuation of the family and the community, and they guaranteed that parents will have someone to care for them when they were old.
Represented ideal Mossi woman.
Yoruba Twin Figures
Nigeria, Yoruba culture 20 th century (Wood)
Highest rates of twin births in the world
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.
Democratic Republic of Congo 19 th century
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.
Baule culture 20 th century (Wood)
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.
Two Masks in Performance 1984
Wood with pigments
Used for initiation of young men and women into puberty.
They are taught about the world of nature spirits and about the masks that represent them.
Only boys wear each mask in turn and learn the dance steps that express the character and personality that each mask represents.
Temne Nowo Mask
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.
Wood, plant fiber, pigment
Worn at celebrations by the members of the two highest classes of the political system.
Head is fashioned as an oval into which is carved a concave, heart shaped face with narrow, raised features.
They are too small to be put on the face so they are often held in the palm or strapped onto the thigh,
Symbolizes continuity between the ancestors and the living community and are thought to be direct links to deceased relatives and past members of Bwami.
Dogon Funerary Dama
During the “dama” they would use Kanga masks
Rectangular face which supports a superstructure of planks depicting a woman, bird or lizard
Every 12-13 years a ceremony called “dama” is held to drive the souls of the deceased from the village
Dogon peoples are from Mali of West Africa
Kuba Funerary Rites
Kuba people are from the Democratic Republic of Congo
Believe that people are reincarnated after a generation or two
They perform funerary masquerades to honor the deceased men and the high-ranking from the council
For important senior title holders the Inuba appears for the ceremony
Inuba on right
Fang Ancestor Guardian
Fang people live in Southern Cameroon and Northern Gabon
Fang Ancestor Guardian
Followed an ancestral religion in which they would collect the bones and skulls of ancestors who have done great deeds
deeds – killing an elephant, trading with Europeans, having many children, or founding a community
Place bones in a bark container called nsekn o byeri
Families would carry this with them when migrating
On top of container a wooden figure called nlo byeri is placed
Fang Ancestor Guardian
Carved in naturalistic style with…
specific hair styles
fully rounded torsos
heavily muscled legs and arms
Statue also is symmetrical – similar to the layout of there villages
Head of Constantine
Major Analysis Continued
11-12 century Zinc and Brass
Hamill Gallery of African Art, Boston, Mass
Head emphasized as seat of intelligence
Heavily loaded with jewelry around chest, wrists, and ankles symbolize great wealth.
These sculptures were ‘scarified’ to represent sacrificial ceremonies to promote fertility. As stated before, fertility was a major them in African Art of the Modern Era.
Works Cited Nici, John B. AP Art History . Hauppauge: Barron's Educational Series, 2008. Print. Barrons. Stockstad, Marilyn. Art History . Vol. 3. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.