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The traditional art of Africa consists basically of masks and figures of magico-religious significance, decorative objects used for personal decoration, and symbol of rank or importance.

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Introduction

The traditional art of Africa consists basically of masks and figures of magico-religious significance, decorative objects used for personal decoration, and symbol of rank or importance. Most of these objects are in some way associated to ceremonial and other structured activities (such as singing, dancing, drumming, and storytelling), without which the visual arts could not work in traditional African culture. The forms and functions of traditional African art are very mixed. Sculpture is usually considered Africa's greatest triumph in art, although sculpture is found in many parts of Africa, this means of expression occurs with the highest amount in western and central Africa. Most of the sculptures are made of wood, but objects are also made of metal, stone, terra-cotta, mud, beadwork, ivory, and other materials. In southern and eastern Africa there are ancient rock paintings dedicated to the SAN (Bushman) people. The only other main rock art tradition in Africa is that of Algeria, Libya, and Chad, the work of the prehistoric people of the Sahara. Islamic influence is seen all over the west African grassland and the east African coast. ...read more.

Middle

masks and figures representing legendary ancestors dance or receive sacrifices. Forms in the western Sudan tend to be somewhat fancy, plain, and angular. Central Sudanic Region Centered in northern Nigeria, the central Sudan is dominated by the Muslim HAUSA and FULANI peoples, who have developed numerous city-states. Central Sudanic art is mostly nonrepresentational and includes mud architecture, sometimes with molded, low-relief decoration; embroidered textiles; elaborate coiffure; metal and beadwork jewelry; and leatherwork decorated with geometric applique. Some peoples in the central Sudanic carve masks or figures; these objects show a remarkable similarity to the art of the western Sudanic peoples. This suggests ancient connections across the savanna belt. West Guinea Coast Region This region consists of Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the densely forested coastal portion of Guinea and southwestern Ivory Coast. Tribes make characteristic masks and figures from the area. Forms in the west Guinea Coast are generally softer, shinier, and more rounded than in the close western Sudanic region. Carved wood masks are the important art form in the region, where they perform a massive variety of jobs. ...read more.

Conclusion

Perhaps the prime generators of art in these groups are the initiation rites that mark the passage of boys from adolescence to manhood. Masks, figures, costumes, and wonderful theatrical effects are part of these initiations, functioning often as academic devices to instruct the boys in their culture and in proper manly behavior. The Kuba of central Zaire, in addition to complicated initiation rites, have complex courtly art forms, including royal portrait statues, elegant cups, drums, containers, dolls, and numerous regalia for persons of high rank. Eastern Sudanic Region The artistic production of most of the peoples in this area is restricted to decorative art, but a few groups in the southern Republic of the Sudan and southwest Ethiopia, including the carve wood figures to celebrate ancestors. This tradition probably relates more to the ancient pagan art still discernible in a broad arc across southern Asia than to the majority of African styles. East and Southern African Region and Madagascar Apart from Bushman paintings and engravings, eastern and southern Africa have only a few distinctive pattern styles. The dominant arts in this region are architecture and architectural decorations. Madagascar, the only large island lying off Africa's coast. Certain raffia textiles made by the ikat process find their closest parallels in Indonesia. ...read more.

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