Newest Assignments and Dates (If assignment is online it shall be stated below)

  • 03-17-2008 - 03-21-2008 -Spring Break (FREEDOM)
  • 03-21-2008 -Art History Outline and images
  • Still during spring break: Read Lord of the Flies for techniques/devices, 3 allusions due.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Art History-Africa Summary

Art of Africa in the Modern Era


Traditional and Contemporary Africa:

  • 2nd largest continent in the world
  • Geographically ranges from deserts to tropical rain forests, from flat grasslands to mountains
  • There are more than 1,000 different languages
    • Grouped into five linguistic families
    • Represent unique cultures with their own history, culture, and art forms
  • Before the 19th century the most important influence in Africa had been the religious culture of Islam
  • The modern era begins with the European exploration and subsequent colonization of the African continent
    • European ships first visited Sub-Sahara Africa in the 15th century
    • Contact was limited to the costal regions for the first several hundred years
    • As slavery was eliminated explorers began to explore the un-mapped regions of Africa
    • They were followed by Christian missionaries
      • Their reports fueled popular interest in Africa
    • Drawn by the potential wealth of resources European governments began to seek territorial concessions
      • Diplomacy became force and created competition amount rival powers fueled the scramble for Africa
      • By 1914 all of Africa had fallen under colonial rule
  • Following WW I
    • Nationalistic movements arose across Africa
      • Leaders did not advocate a return to earlier forms, but wanted the transformation of colonial divisions into Western-style states governed by Africans
      • From 1945-1970s colonies gained independence
  • Africa has affected and has been affected by contacts with different people
    • During the 20th century the art of African societies played a pivotal role in revitalizing the Western art tradition
    • The formal inventiveness and expressive power of African sculptures were sources of inspiration for European artists
    • Modern African artists who have come of age in post-colonial culture that mingles European and African elements can draw on the influence of many cultures
      • Established a place in international art scene along with European, American, and Asian counterparts
  • Europeans always shipped African art back to western societies, but they were placed into natural history museums rather than art museums until the end of the 19th century
  • Traditional societies persists in Africa
    • Within and across political borders
    • Art plays a vital role in the spiritual and social life of the communities
      • Used to express ideas and their relation to the world and as a tool to help them survive

Children and the Continuity of Life

  • Children represent he future of the family and community
  • Provide a form of "social security" (parents will have someone to take care of them when they get old)
  • In the harsh environments of Africa, life is fragile
    • In some areas half of all infants die before the age of five and the average life expectancy may be as low as 40
    • Women have kids hoping they will make it to adulthood
      • It is a disaster for a woman to not have a child for the woman, husband, and the husbands lineage
        • Unusual for man to be blamed as the cause for infertility
      • Woman who have trouble having children appeal for help using special offerings, sometimes including art
        • 25-2 Doll (Biiga)

          Mossi culture; wood

          People of Burkina Faso made it


          Plaything for little girls

          Shows ideals of mature beauty

          Elaborate hair styles, lovely clothing, developed breasts

          Wears hair as most little girls do: long projecting lock over face

          Elongated breasts recall the practice of stretching by massaging for lactation

          Scars at the naval mimic those applied to women following the birth of their 1st child

        • Children do not out grow their Biiga dolls; when they marry the young woman brings it with her to her husbands home as a fertility aid
          • If she has trouble giving birth she will carry the doll on her back as she would a baby
          • After giving birth it is placed on a new clean mat before the baby is placed there
          • Before she nurses the baby the doll is held to her breast
  • The Yoruba people of Nigeria have the highest birth rate of twins
    • The birth of twins is a joyful occasion, but also troubling
      • More delicate than single babies; one or more may die
    • Africans believe that a dead child's spirit continues its life in a spirit world and that the parent's care and affection may reach it there
      • If a twin dies the parents consult a diviner (specialist in ritual and spiritual practices) who may tell them that an image of a twin, or ere ibeji must be carved
      • Parents send the artist food as the image is being carved as payment
      • When it is finished the mother carried the image around like a real baby
      • She dances home accompanied by the women of the village
      • The figure is placed on a shrine and is clothed and given food
    • It is believed that the spirit of a dead twin honored may bring the parents luck and blessings
      • 25-3
        Akiode. Twin Figures (ere ibeji)

        Yourba culture; wood


        Encourage the birth and growth of children, the figures encourage the birth of children and

        emphasize health and well-being

        Have glossy surfaces, rings of fat as evidence they were well fed and marks of mature adulthood

        Represent hope fort he future, for survival, and prosperity

  • Initiation
    • Concentrated and the acquisition of knowledge may be supplemented by physical tests and trial of endurance to prove that the candidate is equal tot eh hardships of adult life
      • Bwa people of Burkina Faso initiate men and women at the start of puberty
        • They are separated from playmates by being 'kidnapped' by older relatives (Explained in the community by saying they were eaten by wild beasts)
        • Striped of clothing and made to sleep on the ground without blankets
        • Taught about the world of nature spirits and about the wooden masks that represent them
          • They have seen these masks all their lives, but they learn that they are made from wood and are worn by their older brothers and cousins
        • They memorize the stories of each spirit and how to make a costume from hemp to be worn with the masks
          • Only boys wear the masks and so only they learn the dance moves to express the character and personality it represents
        • When they return they have a ceremony to show the community what they have learned
          • 25-4 Two Masks in Performance

            Dossi, Burkina Faso, Bwa Culture

            Wood, mineral pigments, and fiber

            Importance marked by tall narrow plank

            Abstract and represent the spirits that have taken neither human nor animal form

            Graphics are easily identified

            The crescent at the top represent eh quarter moon, under which the initiation is held

            White triangle represent bull roarers (sacred sound makers)

            'X' represents the scar that every initiated Bwa wears as a mark of devotion

            Zigzags represent the path of the ancestors

            The red hook is supposed to be the beak of a hornbill

      • Mende people of Sierra Leone initiate girls through an organized society of women called Sande
        • Includes the ritual bath in a river
        • After the girls return to the village to meet their husbands
        • Sande women wear black gloves and stockings, black costumes of shredded raffia fibers that cover entire body, and black masks called nowo
          • 25-5 Female Ancestral Mask (Nowo)

            Sierra Leonne, Mende Culture


            High glossy forehead, plaited hair style decorated with combs, and creases of abundance around

            the neck represents the Mende ideal of female beauty

            Compared to an African butterfly; therefore the girls are like beautiful butterflies emerging from

            Its ugly chrysalis

      • Lega people from the forests have a political system based on voluntarily association
        called bwami
        • Bwami has six levels, 80% of males belong to Bwami and aspire to get to the highest level
        • Woman can become bwami as well, though they can't be a higher level than their husbands
        • Promotion from one grade to the next takes many years
        • Based on individuals characteristics and ability to pay initiation fees
          • One cannot pay the fees on their own, they need support from their families, this encourages a close community
        • Promotes lifelong growth in moral character and understanding of the relationship of the individual to the community
        • Initiations held in the plaza and dances and songs are performed
        • Values and ideals of the particular level are explained through proverbs
        • Standards are illustrated by natural and crafted objects, which are presented to the initiate as signs of membership
          • Bwami Mask

            Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lega Culture

            Wood, kaolin, and hemp fibers

            Associated with yananio, the second highest grade

            Head fashioned into an oval into which a concave, heart shaped face is carved

            Masks are colored white with clay and fitted with a beard made from hemp fibers

            Displayed by holding in the hand or attached to a thigh

The Spirit World

  • Spirits are believed to inhabit the fields that produce crops, the river that provides fish, the forest that is home to game, ect.
  • Families include spirits as well; ancestors and children unborn
  • To communicate with these spirits African societies rely on a specialist
    • Provides link between the supernatural and human worlds
    • Opening the lines of communication through payer, sacrifice, offerings, magic, and divination
    • Lobi people of Burkina Faso believe the spirits of nature are known as thila and control every aspect of life
      • Community brought together by the same thil and agree to regulate by its rules, called zoser
      • Rules can be compared to those binding religious communities around the world
      • No system of rule other than zoser
      • Thila are invisible, but when adversity strike the Lobi may consult a diviner to who may perscribe the carving of a wooden figure called boteba (gives a thila a physical form)
        • 25-7 Spirit Figure (Boteba)

          Burkina Faso, Lobi Culture


          In a pose of mourning

          Boteba mourns so that the owner won't have to be sad

          Takes on the burdan of grief

        • Thought of as a living being who can see, move, and communicate with other boteba and with its owner
        • Owner can address the spirit and it gives form to directly, seeking its protection or aid
    • Kongo and Songye people of the Congo create the mort potent images of power in African art
      • The best known of these are large wooden nkonde, which bristle with nails, pins, blades, and other sharp objects
        • Start out as simple and unadorned wooden figures that may be purchased from a carver at a market
        • Drawing on vast knowledge, the diviner prescribes magical ingredients called bilongo specific to the clients problems
          • Ingreadients are drawn from plants, animals, and minerals
          • Added to figure
        • Bilongo transform the figure into a living being with frightful powers
        • Some bring the figure to life by embodying the spirit of an ancestor
        • Others endow the figure with powers or focus the powers in a certain direction
          • To activate the power clients drive a nail into the figure to get the spirit's attention
            • 25-8 Power Figue (Nkisi Nkonde)

              Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kongo Culture

              Wood, nails, pins, blades, and other materials

              Plain and wooden when first created, bilongo added specific to the owner

              Nail punched in to get the attention of the spirit

    • Some African peoples see the spirit world as a parallel realm where spirits have families, ect. Such as the Baule people in Cote d'lvoire
      • Believe that we lived in the spirit world before we were born
      • People who do not achieve their gender specific role (such as a man not getting married or a woman not having children ) may dream of their spirit spouse
      • Dviner may prescribe the carving of an image of the spirit spouse
        • A man has a female figure carved (blolo bla) and a woman has a male figure carved (Blolo bian)
        • Figures display the most admired and desirable marks of beauty so that the spirit spouses may inhabit them
        • Broadly naturalistic, with swelling, fully founded musculature and careful attention to detail of hairstyle, jewelry, and scarification patterns
        • Figures are cared for by owner, they are fed, oiled, and clothed
          • Believed that if they are well cared for the spirits will return the balance to the human life and everything will run smoothly
            • 25-9 Spirit Spouse (blolo bla)

              Cote d'lvoire, Baule Culture


              Especial attention to details

  • Nature spirits are common in African art and major deities are generally considered to be far removed from everyday life and are thus rarely depicted
    • Such is the case with the creator god of the Yourba people, Olodumare
      • People have a sizable pantheon of lesser gods, or orisha, who serve as intermediates between Olodumare and his creation
        • One of these commonly depicted is Eshu, the messenger of the gods
          • He is a trickster and the people acknowledge that humans slip up when it is important not to and thus recognize and pay tribute to Eshu
          • Associated with two eternal sources of human conflict: sex and money
          • He is shown with long hair because the people associated long hair with excess libidinous energy and unrestrained sexuality
          • Shrines are erected to eshu wherever there was a possibility of conflict
          • May be represent as male or female, a young prankster or an old man
            • 25-10 Dance Staff Depicting Eshu

              Nigeria, Yourba Culture


              Shown as a boy blowing a loud noise to annoy people and also as a wise old man

              Two faces are joined by hair

              Heads crown a dance want meant to be carried in performances by priests and followers of Eshu


  • Art in Africa is used to indentify those who hold power, to validate their right to kingship or their authority as representatives, and to communicate the rules for moral behavior
    • Ashanti people of Ghana
      • Admire fine language
      • Government system includes the special post of spokesperson to the ruler
      • Advisers carry staffs of office
        • 25-1 Kojo Bonsu. Finial of a Spokesperson's Staff

          Ghana, Ashanti Culture

          Example of the art of leadership

          Illustrates a story that has multiple meanings when told by a witty owner

          Carved in 1960s-70s

      • Use gold for jewelry as do other peoples in the regions, but Ashanti thought of gold as a major source of power
        • Used it for trade
      • Renowned for the beauty of their woven textiles called kente
        • Weaving was introduced in the 1700s from Sudan
        • Weavers work on small, light, horizontal looms that produce long narrow strips of cloth
          • Lay out the long warp threads in a bright colorful pattern
          • Weft threads are woven through the warp to produce complex patterns
          • Longs strips produced by the loom are then cut to size and sewn together to form large rectangles of finished kente cloth
            • Kente Cloth

              Ghana, Ashanti Culture


              Originally reserved for state regalia

              Man wore a single huge piece wrapped like a toga with no belt and the right shoulder bare

              Women wore two pieces, a skirt and a shawl

              Begins with a warp pattern that alternate red, green, and yellow (oyokoman ogya da mu)

              Traditionally only the king was allowed to wear this pattern

    • Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo produced elaborate and sophisticated political art
      • Kings were memorialized by portrait sculpture called ndop
        • Royal Portrait Figure (ndop) of Shyaam a-mbul

          Democratic Republic of the Congo, Baluba Culture, Kuba Kingdom


          While the king was alive his ndop was believed to be his double

          After death it was believed to embody his spirit, which was thought to have power over the fertility of the land and his subjects

          On the front of his dais is a board for playing mancala (he supposedly introduced he game)

        • Did not try to capture a physical likeness of each king-Each king is identified by an icon called ibol carved as port of the dais on which he is seated
          • Refers to a skill for which the king was noted or an important event that took place during his lifetime
        • Also feature carved representation of royal regalia including a wide belt of cowrie shells
        • Below this is a braided belt that can be untied
        • Rings on the forearms were worn by the king and his mother
        • Wear a distinctive cap with a projecting bill
    • Kings of the Yoruba people manifested their power through the large, complex palaces in which they lived
      • In the typical palace the principal rooms opened into a veranda with elaborately carved posts fronting a courtyard
      • Highly descriptive figure carving covered doors
        • 25-13 Olowe of Ise. Door from Royal Palace in Ikere, Nigeria

          Yourba Culture

          Wood, pigment

          Asymmetrical composition combines narrative and symbolic scenes in horizontal rectangular panels

          Tall figures carved in profile end in heads facing out to confront the viewer

          Long necks and elaborate hairstyles make them appear taller

          Figures are in such high relief that the upper portions are carved in the round

        Olowe worked from early 1900s until his death in 1938

    • Not all of African people centralized power in a single ruler
      • Most of SE Nigeria depended on a council
      • Anang Ibibio people of Nigeria were ruled by a man's society called Ekpo
        • Expressed power in part through art
          • Especially large, cark, frightening masks
            • 25-14 Ekpo Mask

              Nirergia, Anang Ibibio Culture


              Given repulsive qualities

              Swollen features, matte black skin, eneven teeth

              Skulls at top are images of death

              Scar on forehead symbolizes the membership in the diviner's cult

          • In rituals it is the mask not the person committing the actions
          • Worn when a person is punishing another (executions)

Death and Ancestors

  • Africans believe that death is not the end, but a transition from one phase of life to another
  • Mark the initiation of the newly dead into the community of the spirits
    • Death begins with separation from the community
    • A period of isolation and trial follows
    • Then reintegrated into a community
  • Dogon people of Mali-Collective funeral rite with masks is held every 12-13 years (called dama)
    • Masks perform to the sound of gunfire to drive the soul of the dead from the village
      • 25-15 Kanaga Mask

        Mali, Dogon Culture


        Most common

        Rectangular face supports a superstructure of planks that depict a woman, bird, or lizard with splayed


    • For a deceased man, men from the community engage in a mock battle on the roof of his home are participate in ritual hunts
    • For a woman, the women of the village small her cooking vessels on the threshold of her home
    • Portions of dama are reminders of human activities the dead will no longer do
  • Fang people near the Atlantic coast follow an ancestral religion in which the long bones and skulls of ancestors who have performed great deeds are collected and placed together in a cylindrical container called nsekh o byeri
    • Deed honored include killing an elephant, being the first the trade with the Europeans, have a lot of kids, or founding a particular lineage of the community
    • On the top of the container was a wooden figure called nlo byeri, which represent the ancestors and guards their relics from malevolent spirit forces
      • Carved in naturalistic style with carefully arranged hairstyle with fully rounded torso, heavily muscled legs and arms
      • Frequent applications of cleansing and purifying palm oil
      • Strong symmetry of the statue is notable
      • Layout Fang Village is also symmetrical with pairs of houses facing each other across a large public meeting house
        • 25-16 Reliquary Guardian (nlo byeri)

          Gabon, Fang Culture


          Carved in naturalistic style with carefully arranged hairstyle

          Fully rounded torso, heavily muscled legs and arms

          Frequent applications of cleansing and purifying palm oil

    • Culture emphasizes the necessity of imposing order on a disorderly world
    • Strived to achieve balance between the opposing forces of chaos and older, male and female, pure and impure, ect.
    • Value an attitude of quiet composure, of reflection, and tranquility
      • Embodied in the powerful symmetry
  • The most complex funerary art in Africa are the memorial ancestral screens made by the Ijo people of SE Nigeria
    • Groups of Ijo men organized themselves into economic associations called canoe houses, and the head of canoe houses had much power and authority in the community
    • When the head of the house died a screen was made in his memory
      • Made of pieces of wood and cane that were joined, nailed, bounds, and pegged together
      • Each screen commemorates a specific individual the central figure was not intended as a physical likeness
        • Identity communicated through attributes of status that the deceased had the right to wear
          • 25-17 Ancestral Screen (duen fobara)

            Abonnema village, Nigeria. Ijo culture

            "Foreheads of the dead"

            Made of pieces of wood and cane that were joined, nailed, bounds, and pegged together

            Wears a hat the shows that he is a member of an important men's society called Peri

            Flanked by assistants, followers, or supporters of the canoe house

            Originally held weapons

      • Screens were placed in the ancestral altars of the canoe house

Contemporary Art

  • As new experiences pose new challenges or offer new opportunities, art change with them
    • Adaption of modern materials to traditional forms
    • Others have made use of European textiles, plastics, metals, ect. to enhance their art
    • Some Yourba have used photos and bright colored plastic children's dolls in place of traditional ere ibeji
    • Guro people continue to commission masks dressed with costly textiles and other materials
      • Now they paint them with oil based enamel paints, endowing the traditional form with new range of brilliance of color
      • Added inscriptions in French and depictions of contemporary figures to sculptural forms
        • 25-18 Spirit Mask in Performance

          Cote d'lvoire, Guro culture

          Polychrome wood

  • African artists study art in Europe and the US
    • Ouattara:
      • Born in Cote d'lvoire
      • Received French and traditional African schooling
        • 25-19 Ouattara. Nok Culture

          Acylic and mixed mediums on mood

          Dense with allusions to Africa's artistic and spiritual heritage

          Name refers to a culture that thrived in Nigeria and whose naturalistic use of terra-cotta sculpture are

          the earliest known figurative art from Sub-Sahara

          Thickly applied paint has built up a surface reminiscent of the painted adobe walls

          Conical horns at the upper corners evoke the ancestral shrines common in rural communities

          Motif of concentric circles at the center looks like the traditional bull-roarer sound maker

  • Ceramics have also caught the international attention
    • Traditionally made by women
    • Allowed women from traditional communities to attain a measure of economic independence
    • Women do not usually share their pottery income with their husband but keep it for food for themselves and their children
    • Some women have achieved broader recognition as artists
      • Magdalene Odundo
        • Work displays the flawless surfaces of traditional Kenyan pottery
        • Forms her pots using the same coiling technique as her Kenyan ancestors
        • Draws inspiration from a tremendous variety of coursed
          • African and non-African
            • Magdalene Odundo. Asymmetrical Angled Piece

              Reduced red clay


              Flawless surface like traditional Kenyan pottery





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