African Art

Amazing Features Depicted in the Beautiful African Arts

Art is a fascinating thing. It is a depiction of thoughts, visions, and the culture of a place. Africa is a significantly vast and diverse continent with a glorious history crossing several eras that saw many empires and civilizations’ rise and fall. The African arts forms, mainly through paintings, craft forms, and sculptures, are a distinctive part of African identity.

Africa is famous as a region filled with enchanting diversity. The diversity in its culture, identities, different languages, cultural beliefs and traditions, living environments, and utmost historical experiences all glorify the ethnicity of the continent. With such diverse cultures and traditions across the continent, Africa displays art in various forms and mesmerizing designs.

 

African Arts

Image Source: Pixabay

The following are the significant major types of African art we can see and widely recognize:

  • African Masks
  • Wooden Figural sculptures
  • Bright Metalwork
  • Rich Textile Work
  • Intricate Basketry
  • Delicate Ceramics
  • African Carvings

History of African Arts

The origin of African art dates back to long, long years, even before it was recorded! The first African rock art forms exists in Sahara (present-day Nigeria) and date back to around 6000-year-old. The earliest identified African sculptures belong to Nigeria’s Nok culture, crafted around the 500 BCE period. There are rich elements of sub-Saharan Africa, art forms of western tribes, rich ancient Egyptian art forms, and traditional southern craft forms. It saw a massive contribution to the African art’s ethnicity. In addition to religious and cultural significance, African arts have traces of nature through abstract representations of animals, plants, humans, natural designs, and structures.

A central way of art forms visible in sub-Saharan Africa during the 10th century, with structures like Igbo Ukwu bronze art forms and Ile Ife’s terracotta and metal artworks. The African arts cover both conventional and traditional forms. Let us look at some of the distinctive features of African Arts.

 

African Arts

Image Source: Pixabay

Popular African Masks

African masks are the most popular and sought-after art form of the continent. Any traveler who travels to Africa and looks to gather momentous would purchase African masks to display them in their artifact collection. Also, an exhibition in Africa or any African exhibition outside the country stands incomplete without the exquisite African masks from the Sub Saharan African societies. The traditional African mask is visible in one and every ceremony of Africa.

There are different significant beliefs for the use of African masks in the ceremonies. There are masks that portray tokens for a good harvest. Some portray tribal ethnic elements during war and peace, and some others again portray spiritual presence in burial ceremonies. There are again masks that signify the deceased ancestors’ holy spirits, animals, or holy creatures. Africa has around 80 different masks and is widespread across dance forms to depict performance art.

On certain ceremonial occasions, dancers adorn the African masks and perform a trance dance during the ceremonies. It is a way of connecting with ancestors through the mask and dance depicts the ‘state of mind’ during the communication. The dancers wear the masks in different ways:

  • One by covering the face with the mask vertically
  • Secondly, as helmets that cover the entire head
  • Thirdly, as head-crests that rest on the head and are usually covered by a disguise.

The African masks are primarily of wood and have decorations of beautiful paints, gems, delicate ivory, and animal fur as per the significance. The masks usually depict a human face or an animal snout and the animal shapes of African masks usually represent the animal spirits so that the person wearing the mask can communicate to the animals by themselves. The animal subjects portrayed mainly include buffalo, warthog, antelope, hyena, and hawk.

In addition to the above, African masks also include feminine beauty as a subject that portray in the form of a woman’s face. The feminine masks have beautiful almond-shaped eyes, striking curved eyelashes, and traditional ornamental elements that adorn the cheeks.

 

African Arts

Image Source: Pixabay

African Rock Paintings

Another rich and oldest known art form of Africa is the Rock paintings. Namibia’s rock paintings date back to around 27000 years old and are the world’s oldest art forms. The first African native beings created these mesmerizing paintings on rock surfaces. One of the earliest paintings among the many depicts a beautiful regular day of an ancient African person’s life and represents animals. Over the years, the rock paintings became more modern-day blends of abstract art forms. The Drakensberg Mountain Range in South Africa is a rich example of rock paintings. It is here that the discovery of around 30,000 rock paintings took place.

 

African Arts

Image Source: Pixabay

Three Dimensional Art Forms

One of striking characteristics of African arts is that the African artists mostly favor three-dimensional than two-dimensional arts. A person can always see that every African painting or intricate cloth work will always portray a three-dimensional view. The house paintings across the continent have a similarly three-dimensional design to wrap around the building. The viewer then will have to go around the house to experience the artfully and beautifully. The cloth work in three dimensional are primarily decorative and ceremonial cloth pieces and intends to transform the wearer into a beautiful living sculpture.

Because of the love for three-dimensional, the African sculptures were more in comparison to matte paintings. The African people create art forms for display purposes and use them in everyday life, especially during ceremonies and traditions. Sculptures from elements like wood, bronze, glory terracotta, and ivory and jewelry forms, ceramics, and pottery were in the form of 3-dimensional art forms.

 

African Art

Image Source: ArtCameroon

Love for Abstract art

Abstract art is famous across the globe and more so in Africa. The abstract elements of art forms of Africa also later influenced the art movements across Europe. One outstanding example of this influence is when San (Bushmen) creates the artwork portraying spirits in the most exciting way one could ever portray.  The African artworks always favor visual abstraction more than any naturalistic art representation. It is mainly because Africa’s art forms mainly depicts objects or ideas than portraying a situation involving the objects. One can see this in the portrait heads of Ile-Ife, which hugely depicted abstract people and elements. Additionally, Ancient Egyptian art, which was otherwise thought to be a realistic depiction, uses more abstract elements than anything else.

 

African Art

Image Source: Artsy

Gold and Bronze Elements

African society significantly uses bronze casting and mainly in West Africa. During the 12-14th century, African palaces and establishments had embellishments of bronze casting. The famous African art forms, ‘Akan gold weights’ dating back around 1400- 1900, had a gold element embellished through the bronze casting process.

 

African Art

Image Source: Pixabay

Human Figure

A prominent and vital theme of African arts is the depiction of human forms and images. Humans are the principal element of a majority of African art forms. In many art forms, humans collaborate with animals. There were also art forms that portray semi-human semi-animal depictions. The oldest identified clay figure art form from Southern Africa was an enchanting combination of human and animal atop cylindrical heads. The figure dates back to 400-600 AD.

In ancient times during trade between Africa and Europe, human depictions came into European pottery, which later seeped into African art cultures. A significant example is the Sapi culture that created rich ivory saltcellars. During the fifteenth-century, when Portugal actively traded with the culture, the art forms saw hybrids of African and European art designs and human figures depicted in those arts.

Performance art

A distinctive feature of African art is that it is meant more for performance than for static purposes. The utilitarianism and three-dimensional art forms of Africa are in use across ceremonies, traditions, collaborative programs, and other cultural events. Like, African masks and intricate costumes that are popular in communal and religious events.

African Arts

Image Source: Pixabay

Traditional art

Traditional art is a prevalent form of African art found in exhibitions and museums. These are the statues of wood or ivory, decorated with shells, metal embellishments, and nails. In addition to this, traditional art also comprises decorative cloth pieces, a commonly used element of ceremonies and cultural events. The most complex form of African textiles is the rich colors, strip-woven Kente cloth in Ghana.

 

African Arts

Image Source: Pixabay

African Art Influence

African arts have a rich and long history. Until recently, when someone mentions ‘African art,’ people mostly referred to the art forms of Black Africa (which is the art creators from sub-Saharan Africa). It left out the non-black races from North Africa, black races from the Horn of Africa, and Ancient Egypt’s art forms. However, recent movements and awareness by African art historians and expert scholars have led to the inclusion of the broader art forms of all cultures under the African continent’s geographic demography. It is to make the world understand more about African art and that it is a section of a culture and a visual representation of all African cultures. The audience will then have a greater understanding of the diversity and the richness of African art.

African arts is interesting, multi-functional, and entertaining. The regional diversity of African art forms is an exciting thing to learn and understand. Since the 19th century, African art forms have become tremendously popular and presently serve as decorative ornaments. So next time you’re in Africa, don’t miss out on the beautiful art forms and grab a mask or two for your home!

2 thoughts on “Amazing Features Depicted in the Beautiful African Arts

Leave a Reply