African Art APAH

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African Art APAH

  1. 1. Ancient African Art By: Kavita Sinha, Jason Seidman, and Phil Hochman (8000 BCE - 2000 CE)
  2. 2. Map of Africa ● ● ● ● ● ● 2nd largest, most populated continent Includes 54 individual countries Mediterranean Sea to the north Suez Canal, Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast Indian Ocean to the east and southeast Atlantic Ocean to the west
  3. 3. Key Ideas ● Much African art is created around spirituality, the spirit world, and the role of ancestors in our lives ● African artists prefer wood, but notable works are also done in ivory and metal ● African art is rarely decorative, but made for a purpose, often for ceremonies ● African architecture is predominantly made of mud-brick; stone is rare, but can be seen in Zimbabwe and in Ethiopian churches
  4. 4. Issues Present in Art ● Family and Respect for Elders ● ● ● Believed both things were key components of life Many sculptures are representations of family ancestors ● sculptures carved to venerate their spirits Fertility of women and the land ● ● ● Highly regarded Spirits of the forest or those associated with natural phenomenon were respected and worshipped Sculptures of suckling mothers are extremely common
  5. 5. Major Stylistic Periods CIVILIZATION TIME PERIOD LOCATION Nok 500 BCE - 200 CE Nigeria Great Zimbabwe 11th - 15th centuries Zimbabwe Ife Culture 11th - 12th centuries Nigeria Aksum 1200 - 1527 Ethiopia Benin 13th - 19th centuries Nigeria Mende 19th - 20th centuries Sierra Leone Kongo 19th - 20th centuries Congo
  6. 6. Historical Events ● ● ● 1000 - 300 BCE Phoenicians and Greeks form settlements along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa to extend trade routes across the Sahara 600 - 700 CE Islamic Empire spread across North Africa and Islamic merchants often visited, spreading Islamic culture. Gold taken from West Africa helped Islamic culture flourish ● East Africa was part of maritime trade in the Indian Ocean. The language of Swahili developed from interactions (conflict) with Arabic-speaking merchants. Port cities such as Kilwa, Mombasa, and Mogadishu arose 1400 CE Europeans traveled down the Atlantic Ocean along the coast of Africa. They rediscovered the continent.
  7. 7. Patronage and Artistic Life ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● African objects are unsigned and undated (tradition relies on oral records of history) Artists worked on commission ● lived with patrons until the commission was completed Apprenticeship training was the standard Artists had guilds that promoted their work and elevated their profession Men were builders and carvers and could wear masks Women painted walls and created ceramics ● In Sierra Leone and Liberia, women wore masks during coming-of-age ceremonies Both were weavers Most collectable art originated in farming communities - bronze and wood sculpture Nomadic people produced more body art Art imported into Europe during the Renaissance more as curiosities than artistic objects ● accepted into European artistic circles in the early twentieth century
  8. 8. Architecture ● ● ● ● ● Built to be cool and comfortable ● provide relief from the hot African weather Often built using mud-brick walls and thatched roofs Mud-brick was easy and inexpensive to make ● Had to be carefully maintained during rainy seasons Timbers were horizontally placed as maintenance ladders Usually avoided stonework in architecture and sculpture ● makes the royal complex at Zimbabwe unique
  9. 9. Great Zimbabwe Great Zimbabwe, fourteenth century, Zimbabwe ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Prosperous trading center and royal complex Stone enclosure, probably a royal residence ● said to be the capital of the Queen of Sheba Constructed of granite slabs Oldest stone monument of the Sahara ● Built between 1100 and 1450 CE Walls 30 feet high Conical tower modeled on traditional shape of grain silos Control over food symbolized wealth and power Walls slope inward toward the top ● Provides support since no mortar was used Internal and external passageway are tightly bounded, narrow, and long
  10. 10. Images of Great Zimbabwe Arial View Internal Passageway
  11. 11. Sculpture ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Art is mostly portable - very few large sculptures Wood is the favored material ● Trees were honored and symbolically repaid for the branches taken from them Ivory was used as a sign of rank or prestige Metal shows strength and durability/restricted to royalty Stone is extremely rare Figures are usually frontal Symmetry is used sometimes No preliminary sketches Stiffness to all works Heads are disproportionately large - intelligence Sexual characteristics are enlarged Bodies are immature and small, fingers are rare Physical reality is avoided Important sculpture always created for a purpose Nok heads were major works of African sculpture
  12. 12. Nok Head Nok Head, 500 BCE-200 CE, terra-cotta, Nigeria ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● May have been part of a full-sized figure Triangular eyes High arching eyebrows parallels sagging underside of eyes; voids of the irises draws attention Mouth indicates speech; nose barely modeled - widely spaced flaring nostrils Holes for airing out large ceramics during firing in eyes, nostrils, mouth Human head appears cylindrical Each of the large buns of the hairstyle is pierced with a hole that may have held ornamental feathers May represent ordinary people dressed for special occasions, or it may portray people of high status Some figures had necklaces, bracelets, etc. Used as ancestor portrayal, grave marker, charms
  13. 13. Contemporary Art ● ● ● ● ● ● Pioneered in 1950s and 1960s Colonial period & Years after World War II ● African artists trained in the techniques of European art Most contemporary works have ties to traditional African folklore, belief systems, and imagery Use of new mediums such as oils and silk screening ● Break from the traditional wooden masks/sculptures, cloths, and body painting Contemporary artists borrow from traditional predecessors of the Western world ● Ex. Pablo Picasso Julie Mehretu Julie Mehretu RENEGADE DELIRIUM 2002
  14. 14. Dispersion Julie Mehretu, Dispersion, 2002 ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Ink and acrylic on canvas Collection of Nicolas and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn New York Start seeing abstract works of African art Works show the transitional movement of people uprooted by choice or force to create new identities during a time of globalization and change ● change of African tradition Work has a conceptual complexity Suggests the difficulty of creating and negotiating a communal space in the contemporary world Also suggests a new kind of space - “cyberspace” ● results in room for artistic exploration Rift divides the painting in half - separation of two worlds
  15. 15. Jackson Pollock Similarities ● ● ● ● ● ● Western equivalent to the work of Julie Mehretu Nonobjective Abstract Freedom of expression Swooping lines No defined figures Differences ● ● ● Pollock leaves no open spaces Does not paint over architectural plans No predetermined size of painting Jackson Pollock UNTITLED NO. 3 1948
  16. 16. Textiles ● ● ● ● ● ● Made from cotton, animal fibers, grass fibers Woven cloth made on narrow and horizontal looms Motifs and patterns of cloth produced by a variety of techniques ● resist dyeing, tie dyeing, direct painting on the fabric Cloth indicates status, personal, and group identity Often worn to beautify, complement, and enhance the body Adire ● White cotton ● Painted with cassava starch and dropped in indigo dye ● Areas covered in starch remain white
  17. 17. Kente Cloth Kente Cloth, Ashanti Culture, Ghana ● ● ● ● ● ● ● 20th century Silk Weaving introduced in Ghana during the seventeenth century Light, horizontal looms that produce long, narrow strips of cloth Originally reserved for state regalia Man wore a single piece, wrapped like a toga with no belt and the right shoulder bare Women wore two pieces - skirt and shawl
  18. 18. Masks ● ● ● ● Masks carved in wood and metal Costumed dancers don masks and assume the power of the spirit it represents Role of the mask is never decorative, but functional and spiritual Works have powers that are symbolically greater than their visual representation Mende Mask of Sierra Leone (Nowo), twentieth century, wood ● ● ● ● ● ● ● Female ancestor spirits High forehead = wisdom Used for initiation rites to adulthood Symbolic of the chrysalis of a butterfly Shiny black surface Small horizontal features Elaborate hairstyle decorated with combs
  19. 19. Glossary 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Ciré perdue: the lost wax process; a bronze casting method in which a figure is modeled in clay and covered with wax and then recovered with clay; when fired in a kiln, the wax melts away, leaving a channel between the two layers of clay which can be used as a mold for liquid metal Fetish: an object believed to possess magical powers Finials: knoblike architectural decorations usually found at the top point of a spire, pinnacle, canopy, or gable; also found on furniture or the top of a staff Jijora: the idea of floating between the concrete and the abstract; not too realistic Kente: Ashanti woven textiles Nowo: black masks worn by the Mende women to initiate young girls into adulthood Scarification: scarring of the skin in patterns by cutting with a knife; when the cut heals, a raised pattern is created, which is painted Shaman: keeper of the power figure

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