Home Forums African Artifacts/ art work/museum WHAT ARE THE FUNCTIONS OF AFRICAN ARTS?

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    Basay Sada

      African art served a purpose as an agent of religion, social stability, and social control by portraying the modern and historical paintings, sculptures and other visual culture from native or indigenous Africans and the entire continent. In the study of African art, there are important visual art forms across Africa which includes pottery, metalwork, sculpture, architecture, textile art and fibre art.



      The African continent has many countries and cultures, which makes it difficult to classiffy its art under just one heading. The term “African art” usually refers mainly to the art of Sub-Saharan Africa, which means it does not usually include the art of the North African areas along the Mediterranean coast, due to the fact that those areas had long been part of different traditions. In other words, the artistic trends and periods of the Mediterranean coast of Africa are recorded to have their own unique art movements, names and traditional. Their arts had formed part of Berber or Islamic art for more than a millennium, although with many particular local characteristics.



      The Art of Ethiopia has a long Christian tradition and differs from that of most of Africa which has been influenced by traditional African religion (with Islam in the north) until the 20th century. However, one can say that prehistoric and ancient art, Islamic art of West Africa, the Christian art of East Africa, and the traditional artifacts of these and other regions are what makes African Arts.



      Historically, wood is the best-known medium of African sculpture, and other natural materials that have not survived from earlier than a few centuries ago. Although from a number of areas, rare older Pottery and metal figures can be found. They includes copper alloys, ivory, pottery, iron, unfired clay, and, infrequently, stone.



      Dating in the Middle Stone Age, some of the earliest decorative objects, such as shell beads and evidence of paint, have been discovered in some parts of Africa.  In the continent, the important elements in the art of many people are masks, along with human figures, and are often highly Stylized. Also important to note is that there exist in vast variety of styles, which often vary within the same context of origin and depending on the use of the object. Although, wide regional trends are apparent, in the sense that sculpture is most common among “groups of settled cultivators in the areas drained by the Niger and Congo rivers” in West Africa, this is according to research.




      Functions of African Art



      One peculiar fact about African arts is that it depicts deeper meanings that only Africans or people who ever lived in any African country can relate to easily. What this means is that African arts create memories and portray traditional religion, communal settings, African family background etc.



      Below are the amazing functions of African art you need to know of:



      For Ostentation Purposes


      With an amazing long history of ancient historical beliefs, there are original versions of some sculptures in African art that were worshiped as gods, and used as remembrance of past heroes and so on. Most of these original artworks can be kept in possession and safe since they cannot be found anywhere else, and then the older they stay, they increase in auction values with time. In many African society, these types of artworks are considered as sacred.



      The oldest African art in existence includes that of ancient Egypt, dating from the 8th millennium B.C.E., while in the sub-Saharan Africa, where most objects in the DMA originated, dates from the 1st millennium B.C.E. In the DMA’s collections, the oldest works of art are a terracotta male figure from the modern state of Sokoto in northwestern Nigeria, which dates from between 200 B.C.E and 200 C.E. (1994.195.McD). Also on that same record is a standing female figure, from a pre-Dogon culture in Mali. This work of arts is conservatively dated from the 11th to 13th century (1974.Sc.1). What follows these are cast copper alloy figures and a carved ivory waist pendant from the Benin kingdom. These cast copper alloy figure and carved ivory waist pendant dated from the 16th to 18th century. The survival of all these today makes them a real source of information to the people for various purposes, thanks to the reconstruction of Africa’s art history.



      For remembrance of past African Heroes


      There are 52 countries in Africa and each country has diverse of cultural beliefs and background. In Nigeria for instance, the Igbo culture history have Eri, a devine figure who according to folklore, who was sent from heaven to begin civilization. While in the Yoruba culture history, there are significant people like Moremi, Sango, Obatala as heroes. These heroes are known among the Yoruba’s because of their heroic significance. Early African artists made statues and carvings to represent and remember their courage many years after they lived. Today, the artworks are remade and kept to remember history.



      For remembrance of the past


      In most African countries like Zambia, the creation of arts is a prized pastime and artists often use any found objects as media. Detailed bronze sculptures are fashioned by the Dogon, however, these are for religious purposes and therefore are kept hidden away. While in Gabon, Bieri, boxes carved with protective figures are made by the Fang people to hold and protect the remains of their ancestors. Some of the oldest examples of paintings come from Botswana and these paintings were made over 20,000 years ago by the the San people, to depict scenes of hunting, human figures, and animals. The paintings of African arts are often very colorful and intellectually stimulating.



      • For Interior Decor


      Most of the African art designs we find we find in our homes today are used vastly as home beautifiers, through hanging the paintings on the wall. Aside the use of paintings for African arts, there are sculptures and so many others that could be used for decoration. African Enthusiasts uses African art decorate their living room, kitchen, bedroom, even offices to make make them beautiful.



      • As Cultural, Emotional triggers


      Africa being a multi cultural continent boasts of differentials in how Africans relate to their history or past experiences. In some parts of the continent, some view artworks as a way of remembering the gods they worshiped in their village, some view artworks as a way of remembering their childhood experiences before the advent of technology, while lot of people might perceive mother’s love in an African home. People can have their emotion triggered when they spot a work of art, since they can relate to the story the art is telling. People who have a deeper connection with Africa from past till present and when they see such paintings, they’re reminded of the past through appreciation of the painting.



      African art has had an important influence on European Modernist art, drawing inspiration by their interest in abstract depiction. The appreciation of this African sculpture has been attributed the concept of “African art”, as viewed by American and European artists and art historians.

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