Home Forums African Tokenized Digital Artworks (AfriSQuare NFTs) THE ELEMENTS THAT MAKE AFRICAN ART WORK UNIQUE.

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    Victory Amah


      The story of the African works of art bear a resemblance to the biblical metaphor “the rejected stone becoming the chief corner stone”. During the western world colonization, it was a form of art that was looked down on simply because they did not understand it. For a work of art to be appreciated, it has to be understood in the context of its origin and culturally cherished values.


      Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, every African art work has a symbolic meaning. These art works ranging from masks to sculptures, headdresses, carvings, dolls, cooking bowls and jewelries portray the relationship between people and unforeseen forces. They reflect belief, workmanship and in most cases status; certain artworks are only owned by renowned people, noble men or people of high status.


      These art works are mostly made with wood and clay. Most of them usually have very intricate designs which are for practical purposes, not only decorative purposes.


      These works of art have five elements; Use of human figures

      The human figure is of utmost importance. It conveys the spiritual and moral aspects of the human life. These figurines upholds religious beliefs and values. African artists thought it aesthetically pleasing and associated it with true beauty. The intention was for it to convey ideas that pertained to the reality of life. They do not portray a particular subject, it distorts and creatively demonstrates their figure; they believed if they portrayed a particular subject it could be used for voodoo. They are deeply metaphorical, conveying superstitions, powers, mythical gods, moral values, principles as well as spirits. The meaning runs deep one example can be seen from the big headed figurines; big head is attributed to being wise or intelligent. Another example is the female figurines made with swollen breasts and big stomach which portrays them as nurturers.


      The second element is Luster or luminosity.

      A rough or irregular face portrays negativity, they are considered hideous or morally tarnished. The artist takes his time to carve and give it a smooth finishing. The sculptures usually have polished well glowing appearances. They illuminate.


      The third element is the composed demeanor. The figurines are usually void of any emotions, this, maintaining dignity and poise. Artists avoid depicting any emotional outbursts. It is believed that those who are composed behave rationally which the artist tries to attribute to the art, untainted by emotions. Figures with pointed or tilted head are usually depicting a child or a person of lower status. Expressionlessness embodies dignity and permanence.


      The fourth element is youthfulness. The idea of youthfulness is power, fertility, creativity, productivity. The artist tries to portray these characteristics onto the figure. Human figures are never painted old or ill as this portrays negativity. Youthfulness is closely connected to luminosity as a smooth finishing depicts freshness. It is believed that a person’s good character radiates from the inside to the outside hence the positivity of luminosity but when a figurine is rough, it is usually intentional to portray negativity and bad character.


      The last element is symmetry and balance. This refers to the materials use in balance and proportion to create artistic pieces. This bears similarity to the western world. This falls under the category of technicality.


      Some of these arts are adorned with beads and jewelries and have very intricate designs. Even though the western world were of the notion that they were unevolved, they’ve come to understand the symbolisms and hold it in high values now. They acquire these artworks and keep them in their museums and office space.

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