African Art


The traditional art of Africa plays a major part in the
African society. Most ceremonies and activities (such as singing,
dancing, storytelling, etc.) can not function without visual art. It
can also be used as an implement and insignia of rank or prestige, or
have a religious significance. African art consists mainly of
sculptures, paintings, fetishes, masks, figures, and decorative
objects.
Sculptures are considered to be the greatest achievement for
African art. A majority of the sculptures are done in wood but are
also made of metal, stone, terra-cotta, mud, beadwork, ivory, and
other materials. It is found in many parts of Africa but mainly in
western and central Africa. Many ancient rock paintings have been
found in Southern and Eastern Africa. These paintings are believed to
be attributed to the SAN (Bushman) people. Masks and fetishes are
often used to scare off bad things such as evil spirits, witches or
ghosts. They are also used to bring about a desired end-break a bad
habit, improve ones love life, or kill a natural or supernatural
enemy.
There are three basic themes of African art. The first is the
dualism between bush and village. African tribes wear masks and
headdresses: the male is represented by the elephant, the most powerful
of bush creatures and the female is delicately coifed to express
refinement and civilization. The second theme of African art is the
problematic relationships between the sexes. African tribes use art as
a therapeutic device to deal with the problems and issues dealing with
the relations between the sexes. The third theme is the struggle to
control natural or supernatural forces to achieve a desired end.
African tribes often use masks in ceremonies (called Gelede) to
please and honor the forces.
For each region in Africa, there is a different style of
Art. The western Sudanic Region have masks and figures representing
legendary ancestors and religious sacrifices. The central Sudanic
Region art includes mud architecture, embroidered textiles, elaborate
Coiffure, metal and beadwork jewelry, and leather work. This style
usually doesn’t represent anything special. The west Guinea Coast
Region use masks and figures to police ceremonies, punish people for
doing something wrong, settle land-owning problems and start or end
wars. The Central Guinea Coast Region art employs aristocratic
materials. Specialized artists creature works of art for the leaders
that include: stools, drums, cloth, pottery, terra-cotta, figures,
miniature masks, combs, mirrors, pipes, and carved musical
instruments.
African art is traditionally essential and optimistic. Without
art, there would be no African culture.