As students of African art begin to consider the African past, they must also consider how Western conceptions of "race" and "racial" difference have influenced our notions of the African past. These ideas, which have usually contrasted the presumed inferiority of black peoples with the superiority of whites, arose in Western societies as Europeans sought to justify their enslavement of Africans and the subsequent colonization of Africa. Historians now recognize that ideas of racial inferiority have inspired the belief that in the past African peoples lived in a state of primitive barbarism. At the same time, they have realized that many of the European writings which they use to reconstruct the African past -- such as accounts by nineteenth-century missionaries and travelers, for example -- are themselves tainted by these same notions of African inferiority.—James Giblin
Trayvon Martin photographed in a hoodieDavid Hammons, In the ‘Hood, 1993
This realization has led historians to seek out alternative sources of information less influenced by European preoccupation with racial difference. These alternative sources include writings by Africans (which are found in only a few portions of Sub-Saharan Africa before the twentieth century), the much fuller bodies of oral tradition which are found throughout Africa, the vocabularies and structures of African languages themselves, and the physical artifacts uncovered by archaeologists. African art is also one of these alternative sources of information. Like the other alternative sources, it helps us to understand African history not from the standpoint of Europeans, but from the perspective of Africans themselves. —James Giblin
The Sahara Desert stretches 3000 miles across northern Africa - from the Atlanticocean in the west to the Red Sea on the east. Its width spans from theMediterranean Sea on the north and extends 1200 miles to the south to centralAfrica. It covers an area of approximately 3.5 million square miles, occupyingportions of Morocco, WesternSahara, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Ethiopa, Eritrea and Somalia..
Take a moment to look at the geography of North Africa on this topographic map
Unique Geographical Featuresof North Africa• Coastline (on the Mediterranean sea)• Sahara Desert (arid)—an ocean of sand• The Sahel (semiarid)—capable of sustaining pasturage or small-scale crops, in places• Mountains (The Atlas Mountain range)
Unique Cultural Features ofNorth Africa• Strong Islamic presence • History of Islamic rule • Arabic language • Islamic religious forms• Strong European presence, particularly French • French language • Morocco drew many US writers, like Paul and Jane Bowles, William S. Burroughs • Significant number of prominent French intellectuals are from Algeria: Albert Camus, Louis Althusser, Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Rancière• Existing nomadic peoples (generally referred to as the Berbers)
Taghit Oasis and Township, Sahara, North Africa
Relating Aesthetics to Way of Life• Tuareg art is: – Portable (nomadic people) • Lightweight materials and small objects – Useful • virtually everything that is carried is ornamented, but nothing is carried that has no function) – Designed for beauty in motion
Tuareg, perfumed powder container, late 19th/early 20thc.
Key Cultural Groups fromCentral Africa:The Chokwe Chibinda Ilunga mid-19th century Africa, northeastern Angola, Chokwe people Wood, hair, and hide 16 x 6 x 6 in. (40.6 x 15.2 x 15.2 cm)
Key Cultural Groups from Central Africa:The Chokwe Chokwe (people) ChibindaIlunga (type of figure) He is a royal ancestor of the Chokwe people. ChibindaIlunga became a culture hero and model for Chokwe chiefs because of his great hunting and leadership skills. What qualities of good leadership and manhood are represented here? ChibindaIlunga How are these traits visible in the form of Figure, 19th–20th century the figure? Chokwe Angola Wood
Key Cultural Groups from Central Africa:The Kongo Kongo (people) NkisiNkonde (type of figure) NkisiNkonde 20th century Kongopeople [today: live in Zaire] wood, iron, mirror, clay
Nkisi Nkonde Figures (plural: Minkinsi Minkonde) • Each blade and nail in the figure represents a kind of contract between two parties. The nkisinkondeserves as a powerful witness who holds the parties to their agreement.
•The nkisinkondeexpresses the idea ofcaptured forces held under control. Itis only powerful, however, when filledwith ‗medicines‘ or magicalingredients (known as bilongo).• A ritual specialist (known as anganga), would construct theseobjects and select the appropriatebilongoto fill their concealed cavities.