Home Forums African Artifacts/ art work/museum WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT TYPE OF ART IN ANCIENT AFRICA?

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    Victor Patrick

      Art can be also referred to as visual art, a visual object produced through imagination and skill. The term art  can be painting, decorative arts, sculpture, drawing and photography . Africa, a continent where evolution began, rise and fall of empires occurred, ventured into the creation of artistic work through out its historical moments.



      African art is the historical and modern paintings, sculpture, and other visual tradition from indigenous people of Africa and the continent itself.  It definition also is the art of the African diaspora: countries that African traditions inspired such as African American, Caribbean or South American societies. African visual art includes pottery, metalwork, sculpture, architecture, textile art and fibre art.



      The history of African art is same as Africa’s history. In Ancient Africa, conventional system of writing was absent so the history of art was reconstructed through words of the mouth, missionaries, early Europeans and Arabs travellers documentations with colonialist.  Areas such as the North African along the Mediterranean coast are not attributed with African art because the art there was influenced by the Arabs during Islamic conquest. However, the Sub-Saharan country is often attributed with the term African art.



      Thus taking a deep look at the types of African art  we would never forget to touch the prehistoric times and ancient art, Islamic art, the Christian art of the horn of  Africa and the Indigenous arts of Africa. Even the materials used played a significant role in  preserving ancient African art.



      The continent is diverse as well as old and had gone through changes since it is the cradle of mankind. Rock paintings which dates as far back as back 20,000 years old which was found in Namibia is an evidence that evolution began in the continent.



      There were multiple types of ancient African art. Ancient African art focused on three dimensional figures. Ancient African art were in different types which includes masks, sculptures, jewelry, and pottery.







      Masks were an essential type of art. Ancient African masks which were made from wood served as cerominial dance accompaniment. Dancers wore these masks to create performance art. Masks which were produced from ivory and bronze were discovered. These masks were adorned with animal fur, gems, paints and other materials.







      Ancient African sculptures were crafted in wood, bronze, ivory and terracotta.



      They were also produced in humans form and  also animal sculptures after some ancient Africa sculptures were discovered. The terracotta pottery heads and  figures from the Nigeria Nok art dating around 500 BC through to 200 AD were the earliest known sculptures.They were made from iron rich clay. This sculptures were more abstract rather than realistic.







      Ancient Africa produced this type of art which was served as everyday household items like water storage and cooking pots. Pottery was made from ceramics.Some of these pottery were adorned and painted with shapes.







      This type of art also played a key role in ancient African by showing someone’s status. In ancient Africa, jewelry was a symbol of wealth. Jewelry, in ancient Africa, was made from gold, gem stones, shells and  silver.







      Civilization began in Egypt.  Egypt is a home to popular ancient Africa monumental art and architecture . Breath taking structures like the pyramids, Sphinx and temples can be found in Egypt.  African civilizations include other countries as monumental structures as well the giant obelisks of Aksum was built in Ethiopia. The Great Mosque of Djene which was built also in Mali and the  churches in Ethiopia are great structures which are built by ancient Africans.







      Termites destroyed most of the ancient Africans’ art work so cast metals was produced and it was the only work of art that withstood termites. Bronze casting was indigenous to the Igbo-Ukwu tribe of Nigeria in the 9th century. Some archeological sites have revealed some superb bronze sculptures. The Ife people of Yoruba tribe in Nigeria began the production of fine brass and bronze castings in the 12th C after this tradition got to them.This tradition existed in Ife to the 15th C. Sometimes these small figurines are cast in pure copper.The Yoruba people who live in Benin made sculpted heads as from 15th century to this very day and these sculptures are reagarded to as the Benin bronzes, however they are also made of brass.These metal works have magical powers and are often made for kings.







      Paintings was an important type of art in ancient Africa. Paintings was eye-catching, bright, colourful and touchy. However, paintings were lesser in Africa compared to sculptures.

      Botswana had some of the earliest form of paintings in Africa. These paintings date back as far as 20,000 years ago. The San people created this paintings to display  an hunting scenario, human figures as well as animals. We however can’t ignore rock paintings which have been explained earlier.







      Textile creation is another type of art that is significant to the ancient Africa. Bambara is a cloth known as Bokolanfini.  This cloth which is  adorned with designs painted in earth is also worn for Ceremonial functions pike marriage and burial. The Bokolanfini patterns traditionally represent e reflections on life. Textiles are also produced in Bamako and other countries in Africa.   Aside from Ghana being famous for producing notable art works ranging from wood carvings, gems and figurines, they also produce textiles like Kente, an hand woven multi colored clothes. The cloth was traditionally wrap around by men and women even there are slight difference in their clothing. The cloth which is central to Ghana was worn by every tribe. TheYorubas produced indigo-coloured fabric. The ladies produced this fabric in the Yoruba community, while in the north Part of Nigeria, it is fone only by men.  Finally, Africa art has been and has continued to be an inspiration  to many modern artists like Picasso.

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