Fascinating and Attractive African Art

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My favorite non-Western region of art is Africa. I chose Africa because I find their artwork very fascinating with all the different, abstract textures, colors, and patterns.

Africa has a long history, considering scientists believe it is where humans first came to be. The farthest back discoveries of art were the rock paintings. These showed evidence of animals and communities being built in southern Africa around 7000 BCE. Once the farming population moved away from the Sahara after it dried up around 3000 BCE, the artist begin to move in along the Nile and produce art. The Nile is a very long river that runs through Egypt and into Africa, connecting the two through trade for around one thousand years in 2500 BCE. Discovered around 500 to 200 BCE was the first terracotta; a terracotta is a fired, unglazed clay with a mostly brown and red hint of color, it was used to make pottery and sculptures. In the ninth century trade became more popular across the Sahara, they establish trade routes to make the process of exchanging goods more efficient. The use of metals in art also began during this time. In the eleventh century artist began working for royalty and did for the next 500 years, producing art with bronze, ivory, brass, and terracotta’s. In the fifteenth century artist were also shown more resources for their art through trade, such as beads and glass. In the sixteenth century the slave trade began, the Africans that were brought to the Americas as slaves did not get to bring many personal items with them but there have been artifacts found in African burial grounds. When the colonial period in Africa began there was changes in society, through politics, trade, and religion. But after the colonial period the artistic community started to come back, using cloth to make art and photography.

African art has a specific style to it that I like most out of all other western art. Western art is referred to as “art for art’s sake” because it does not always have a meaning or symbol associated with their artwork like African art does. Traditional African art almost always has an explicit function. It almost always has a cultural or religious underlying meaning behind it.

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African art also has a high importance for skilled and beautiful art works. Beauty in African art is shown through the symmetry and smoothness of the work of art. Africans associated beautiful works of art with beliefs of good, this means good in the sense of their cultural principles. But not all artwork was beautiful or good, some was intended to be unpleasant to display an unpleasant or evil period of time or atmosphere. Many African artworks also had human or animal figures in them. Just like Roman art, African art also would make more important figures stand out more than the rest to show importance. Some African art also would have the head bigger than the rest of their body, or they would have exaggerated features. The head was used most often because in African culture the head was considered an important role in the persons calling and achievements.

African art also contained symbols, particularly of antelope, snakes, leopards, and crocodiles. Certain animals in a work of art would represent different qualities depending on the type of animal. Like the picture to the left from our textbook, this is a mask from Burkina Faso, they used masks to protect the members of their tribe. They would also pair these masks with costumes for rituals. Sometimes African art would show one animal consuming another animal which could be a representation of a problem in society or with religious leaders. Plants were also another symbol used in their art as well. Gestures of a person in African art was also considered a symbol, someone sitting down would represent stability and contemplation and a tongue out could show the use of medicines. Religion and spirituality were also very important in the African communities. They would use their art as a way to worship as well.

In conclusion, all the distinctive features of African art that I have described make it the most attractive to me.

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Fascinating and Attractive African Art. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/fascinating-and-attractive-african-art/
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