The following essay was rekeyed and reprinted on February 18, in Resource Library with permission of Oxford University Press. The essay was excerpted from the book Africana: If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or if you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book, please contact Oxford University Press at the following Web address: African American Art Painting, sculpture, graphic arts, and crafts developed by people of African descent in the United States and thematically and stylistically informed by African American culture.
The study of African art began in the early twentieth century, and for much of its development focused solely on the area south of the Sahara and on art forms rooted in precolonial culture, which was seen as static and timeless.
Egypt and northern Africa were seen as separate entities. The colonial and postcolonial eras were viewed as periods of decline in African art, due to what were seen as negative outside influences in materials, techniques, subject matter, style, and patronage.
In contrast, recent scholarship takes a more inclusive and historically dynamic view. The continent is treated as an integrated whole and the changes of the past century are seen as continuing the evolution that African art has experienced throughout its history.
Research today focuses on the artistic interconnections between geographic regions, ethnic groups, and time periods, and contemporary art is given equal footing with so-called traditional forms. Ancient African Art The earliest known works of art from Africa are the paintings of animals found on rocks in the Apollo 11 cave in southern Namibia so-named because they were discovered in July when the spacecraft landed on the moon.
These have been dated 26,—24, BCE, making them as old or older than the Paleolithic cave paintings of western Europe. Rock paintings and engravings are also found in East Africa and North Africa, particularly in what is now the Sahara; these depictions of animals and humans document the change from the lush, well-watered grasslands of around BCE to the arid conditions we know today.
As the Sahara became drier, its human inhabitants were forced to move, and many of them settled in the Nile Valley, where they contributed to the development of ancient Egyptian and Nubian culture and art. Despite their early date, the Nok sculptures already show visual elements characteristic of African art from later periods.
They depict facial features and body parts as abstract geometric shapes, and they alter the natural proportions of the body to emphasize the head. They portray the elaborate hairstyles and beaded body ornaments that are also an important part of the dress of many later African peoples.
During the first millennium CE the cultural features that characterized sub-Saharan African societies until the late nineteenth century were established, such as states based on sacred kingship, long-distance trade, urbanism especially in west Africaand various forms of social and religious organization.
All of these contributed to the evolution of African visual arts. Sophisticated and expressive terracotta sculptures were produced there, primarily between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. Some depict figures with the trappings of leadership, others are possibly in positions of prayer, and still others appears tormented by diseases or snakes.
Little is known about the function of these figures, since the majority of them have been illicitly excavated. Archaeologists believe they were used in domestic rituals, perhaps to ensure the solid foundation of a house and the family within it.
Jenne-Jeno was part of a vast trading network that stretched north across the Sahara and south to the forests along the coast of West Africa. There, the site of Igbo-Ukwu in southeastern Nigeria produced lavishly decorated bronze objects using an indigenously developed lostwax technique.
The technique involves coating a wax model in plaster and clay, leaving a small hole in the bottom; when the model is heated, the clay and plaster harden, and the wax melts i. Then the sculptor pours molten bronze into the cavity, and when the bronze cools, chips away the outer layer of plaster and clay.
Made in the ninth or tenth century, these were the regalia of a local priest-king. The city of Ile-Ife in southwestern Nigeria, still a political and spiritual center today, had its artistic flowering between and Christianity and Islam were introduced into Africa soon after their inception and quickly found expression in African art and architecture.
At first African Christianity was limited to Egypt and Ethiopia, where the rock-cut churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia and boldly colored illuminated manuscripts and icons constitute important contributions to Christian art. The Great Mosque at Kairouan in Tunisia, built of stone in the ninth century, is one of the oldest mosques in existence.
The Great Mosque at Jenne, the Muslim city that arose next to Jenne-Jeno, is typical of west African Islamic architecture in its use of sun-dried mud bricks and strongly projecting engaged pillars and towers along its facade.
When the earliest European explorers arrived in Africa in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they found several thriving kingdoms as well as smaller social units producing notable works of art. In the Kingdom of Benin in Nigeria, ivory carvers and brass casters produced thousands of works of art for use in court rituals that strengthened the spiritual power, authority, and grandeur of the Oba, or divine king.Abstract art uses a visual language of shape, reminiscent of African tribal masks and his own new Cubist inventions.
Analytic cubism was jointly developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, from about through Analytic cubism, the first clear manifestation of cubism.
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The term African American art means different things to different people. For some the term designates a largely racial phenomenon, describing all artistic products -- paintings, sculptures, graphic arts, crafts, architecture, etc.
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Free african art papers, essays, and research papers. My Account. Your search returned over Essay Outline on African Architecture - The reason I choose this title is that African Architecture has a close connection to nature, and the two cannot be separated. - African Architecture is an extension of Nature because it does not attempt to.