African Art


African Art Essay, Research Paper

The traditional art of Africa plays a major part in the

African society. Most ceremonies and activities (such as singing,

dancing, storytelling, ect.) 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


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


There are three basic themes of African art. The first is the

dualism between bush and village. African tribes wear masks and

headresses: the male is represented by the elephant, the most powerful

of bush creatures and the female is delicately coiffed 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 leatherwork. 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


African art is traditionally essential and optimistic. Without

art, there would be no African culture.

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